Thin-film solar printing startup raises $70M

Nanosolar, the company that prints thin-film solar cells, will live to see another day thanks to new and old investors. Money isn't the company's only challenge.

Nanosolar, the San Jose, Calif.,-based thin-film solar company has raised $70 million in new capital to expand production of its printed solar cells and panel manufacturing, fund research and development to improve efficiency and bring its tech to market faster. The funding round, which the company described as over-subscribed, included investments from OnPoint Technologies, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Ohana Holdings and Family Offices.

Nanosolar doesn’t fabricate its thin-film solar cells made from copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). It prints CIGS using a nanoparticle ink onto aluminum foil, a method Nanosolar says reduces manufacturing costs. The company then assembles the cells into solar panels. Check out this company produced video for an overview of the technology.

Nanosolar announced in February it had  landed a new investor and raised $20 million to help scale up its thin-film solar factory and fund new projects. At the time, I wrote the company, which has a history of missed production targets and management shakeups, would live to see another day.

This latest funding round appears to have extended its life expectancy. However, the company faces a number of challenges and competition from other thin-film manufacturers that have shipped far more product.

Lux Research issued in January a good news-bad news report on the future of CIGS. Lux Research forecast the CIGS market would nearly double in size to $2.35 billion in 2015. However, Lux also predicted only a few companies would survive the significant capital challenges ahead.

Lux projected at the time that venture capital money would dry up for CIGS manufacturers, forcing companies to seek out strategic partnerships. Lux tapped Solar Frontier as the clear winner in the industry in terms of overal execution and its progress in emerging markets, such as India. Lux didn't give Nanosolar as positive of a review, saying it along with other startups Ascent Solar, Heliovolt and Soltecture needed to get their act together now or risk failure.



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