Tough Times For Concentrating Solar Companies

Just two months after rival Amonix officially closed its
Nevada factory, concentrating solar startup GreenVolts has shut down most of
its operations, citing the loss of a big financial backer.

"A sudden, and unexpected change in direction from a
major strategic investor has affected GreenVolts’s access to funding," the
company says on its Web site.

"This turn of events is especially
surprising given the recent positive announcements and support from the
customers and partners of GreenVolts. The impact was at the last minute and so
severe that GreenVolts cannot continue normal operation and has reduced its
workforce to a small team to provide customer support and engage other options,
including working with potential buyers of the system, technology and IP," says the company. 

Utility company ABB is the investor that pulled its
money, reports GigaOM. In December, GreenVolts raised $35 million in funding,
and $20 million of that amount was to come from ABB, says GigaOM.

The suspension has resulted in the layoff of about 60
people from the 80-person company, which has been working on relatively
unproven concentrating PV systems for converting concentrated sunlight into
electricity.

GreenVolts was making end-to-end arrays including
modules, trackers, inverters and energy management software. Over time, the
company raised more than $120 million to commercialize its concentrating PV technology.
Since early January, it has been targeting agricultural businesses that have
plenty of land for solar development through a partnership with Independent
Solar Developers.

The company also had a $500,000 development relationship
with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help commercialize an
advanced NREL solar cell design with one of the world’s highest reported
efficiencies.


Amonix Shutters Las Vegas Factory

GreenVolts’s troubles echo those of Amonix, which in July
closed its concentrating PV factory
in Las Vegas — built with $6 million in
federal tax credits.

The plant apparently has been idle since May. Amonix’s
manufacturing partner is Flextronics.

Amonix’s technology is behind two of the world’s biggest
concentrating solar projects: the 5 megawatt (MW) Hatch Solar
Energy Center in New Mexico
owned and operated by NextEra Energy;  and the 30-megawatt utility-scale Alamosa
Solar plant
in south-central Colorado.

It is unclear what impact its closure will have on either installation.

Amonix has raised approximately $140 million in venture
capital, and word is that it is desperately seeking new funds to continue. The
company suffered a major strategic blow last December, when its CEO Brian
Robertson was killed in a plane crash, so questions about its leadership are
also working against it.

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