I watch the cleantech venture capital and initial public offering (IPO) numbers every quarter, because I like knowing the sorts of bets being place on green technologies and green IT initiatives. As you might expect, deals related to solar technologies often top the list in terms both of deal volume as well as dollars invested. The first quarter of 2011 was no exception, and some solar news today out of GE is likely to perpetuate that trend throughout the second quarter and, indeed, throughout 2011.
First, the GE news, which covers several different things (not all of which I will mention, by the way).
- The company is planning a 400-megawatt manufacturing facility -- the final location hasn't been picked -- that is part of GE's latest estimated $600 million investment in solar technologies. The plant will focus on advanced thin-film solar technology and it will employ 400 people.
- Speaking of which, GE has completed its acquisition of PrimeStar, which has produced a thin-film panel that has been certified by the National Renewable Energy Lab as the most efficient panel of its type ever created. That is key because of the cost metrics involved in this sort of solar. According to GE, a 1 percent increase in solar panel efficiency is the same as decreasing the system costs by 10 percent.
- Right now, GE says it has more than 100 megawatts-worth of commercial agreements pending for its solar thin film products, including panels, inverters and complete power plants.
It is worth mentioning at this point that GE is one of the world's leading wind turbine manufacturers, to boot.
According to the latest data from the Cleantech Group, which tracks moolah being invested across various clean and green technologies, the solar sector attracted the most money in the first quarter of 2011 -- $641 million over 26 deals.
I noticed that two of the biggest deals in the quarter were for thin-film solar technology players: Miasole closed a $106 million round with investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Firelake Capital and VantagePoint Venture Partners, and SoloPower snagged $13.5 million in a follow-on round from Crosslink Capital, Hudson Clean Energy and Convexa.