Concentrating Solar Companies: Hurting 0

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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