Thin-film solar maker MiaSole snags $55M from investors

Times are tough for solar thin-film makers. And while Silicon Valley startup MiaSolé just received a boost with $55 million in venture capital, its challenges aren't over yet.

MiaSolé announced today that it's raised $55 million from investors, a much-need injection of cash that could buy the Silicon Valley startup enough time to attract the major partners and additional investors necessary to scale up its operations.

MiaSolé makes solar panels using copper indium gallium selenide to convert sunlight into electricity. The company makes its solar panels by depositing the materials on a flexible stainless steel substrate, producing all of the layers necessary for its solar cell in a single continuous process. This so-called sputtering process cuts manufacturing time and production costs, the company has said.

In a Lux Research report released in early 2012 MiaSolé was among several companies pinpointed for its potential to emerge as an early champion of sputtering technology. Emphasis on "potential." Miasole also was considered a company at risk, largely because it doesn't have a big-time partner.

The company might lack a major partner like some of its thin-film solar rivals. It has made strides with the efficiency of its panels. MiaSole increased panel efficiency by more than 30 percent from 2011 to 2012. It's producing solar panels with an average conversion efficiency rate of 14 percent and says it's on track to make 15 percent efficient panels by the end of the year. Higher efficiency rate will reduce the cost of its CIGS panels to less than 80 cents a watt, CEO John Carrington told Bloomberg in a report today. If that pans out, it would put MiaSole in direct competition with traditional cheaper, and more abundant silicon-based solar panels.

Photo: Flickr user zzzack, CC 2.0

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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