Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 2

In Part 2, I profile six (6) more early stage solar companies who pitched their business plans at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum.

Combined CPV and Heat

Ascendant Energy Company, Inc. is commercializing the Low Concentration Solar Cogenerator™ module to extract electricity and heat from sunlight. The Solar Cogenerator uses a faceted trough concentrator to focus sunlight onto silicon solar cells laminated to a heat sink with active cooling. CEO Chris Strata claims the Solar Cogenerator increases solar electric power 5.5 times and thermal power 25 times versus unconcentrated silicon solar cells. Ascendant worked with Spire Corporation (SPIR) to develop a prototype. Ascendant is targeting commercial and enterprise customers with large flat roofs and plans beta installations in 2007. Ascendant is seeking $2 Million Series A funding to begin pilot production.

HelioDynamics, Inc. has developed Combined Heat and Power solar concentration collectors with trough arranged reflectors that track and focus sunlight onto a receiver with silicon solar cells. Water is used to cool the receiver and deliver heat for hot water, heating, or cooling applications. HelioDynamics has two versions of the product. Harmony is a 1-axis solar collector delivering 1.5kW of electricity and 10kW of heat or 12kW of heat only. Concerto has 2-axis tracking and can drive a 125kW generator or turbine with heat only. CEO Anders Jepsen is targeting commercial and industrial customers and off-grid installations in sun rich locations. HelioDynamics is seeking $2 Million Series A funding to move from beta testing to pilot production.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).

Los Alamos Renewable Energy, LLC (LARE) has developed a solar power plant which generates electricity and fuel during sunny days and burns fuel at night or as required. The SOLAREC, Solar Reduction of Carbon Dioxide, process uses a mirror array dish to concentrate sunlight onto a football sized receiver to heat CO2 driving a gas turbine and producing CO (carbon monoxide). The CO is used to produce hydrogen fuel and byproduct CO2 is reprocessed so the SOLAREC process is carbon neutral. LARE claims the process is almost 48% efficient, and a 100 square meter mirror dish system should yield about 25 kW of electricity and the equivalent of 24 kW as fuel. LARE is targeting off-grid and on-grid power plant sized applications scaling from 4 dishes on up to leverage large centralized turbines.


Apollo Solar, Inc. CEO John Pfeifer is developing grid tied invertors with an integrated battery backup as a follow on product to Apollo’s existing line of charge controllers. Apollo plans a transformerless design to coincide with standard and regulatory changes under slow adoption in the US market. Apollo is seeking $2.5 Million in Series A funding to develop and launch a family of grid tied inverter products.

Thin Films

MWOE Solar, LLC is building a low cost and high speed 2MW pilot production line for flexible thin film silicon (tf-Si) PV modules (sheets). The tf-Si modules are triple junction structures: a-Si (amorphous silicon), a-Si:Ge (Germanium), and a-Si:Ge achieving 8-10% conversion efficiency (12% in the lab). The technology was developed by CEO Dr. Xunming Deng at the University of Toledo. Dr. Deng claims MWOE can build a 100MW plant for $40 million or one-seventh the capital equipment cost of amorphous silicon PV plants today achieving $1 per Watt fully loaded manufacturing cost. The tf-Si modules can be used in building integrated and traditional rooftop PV applications. MWOE Solar is seeking $2 Million in Series A funding to complete the 2MW pilot by March 2007 and will need $20 Million to build a 30MW plant once production scalability has been proven.

Solexant Corp. CEO Damoder Reddy is developing high efficiency, low cost solar cells utilizing the entire solar spectrum including IR (infrared) for rooftop applications. The first generation thin film module will have two layers: a-Si and a nano composite; the second generation will add a layer with IR harvesting nanostructures. Solexant plans to adapt turnkey systems from flat panel manufacturing to achieve $2 per Watt production cost including loaded capital equipment cost. Solexant is seeking $5 Million in Series A funding to complete product development and build a pilot production line.

And that completes the glimpse of solar related companies presenting at the 19th NREL Growth Forum. Overall, I found the forum panel members to be well informed about the technologies, ask relevant questions, and offer useful advice to the presenting companies. Except for one panel member’s suggestion to Apollo Solar CEO Mr. Pfeifer:

I suggest you implement that anti-islanding feature. That sounds like your key differentiator.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    HelioDynamics should be treated very wearily. A *very* rigorous course in due diligence would be suggested.

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