21 December 2011

Stion raises $130m in Korean-led funding round; partners with tool maker AVACO

Stion Corp of San Jose, CA, USA, which makes nanostructure-based CIGSSe (copper indium gallium sulphur-diselenide) thin-film photovoltaic panels, has raised $130m in an equity investment round led by AVACO of Daegu, Korea (which makes vacuum-based thin-film coating equipment for flat-panel display manufacturing) and Korean private equity funds, joined by existing investors Khosla Ventures, Taiwan Semiconductor (through VentureTech Alliance), Lightspeed Venture Partners, Braemar Energy Ventures, and General Catalyst Partners.

Founded in 2006 as Nstructures, Stion raised $15m in June 2007 in a Series B financing round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and joined by General Catalyst Partners along with previous investors Khosla Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. In June 2010, these added $20m to $50m invested by the world’s largest semiconductor foundry Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) — via its affiliate VentureTech Alliance — in a $70m Series D round of fundraising to help scale production (boosting the total raised since 2006 to $114.6m). Stion also formed a strategic partnership with TSMC covering technology licensing, supply, and joint development.

Starting with a 10MW-capacity product line in San Jose, Stion makes modules using what is claimed to be a simple, low-cost monolithically integrated circuit design. With a convenient 65cm x 165cm form factor, the glass–glass CIGSSe PV panels are designed for use in major market segments including commercial/government, residential, utility and off-grid. Stion received its UL 1703 and IEC 61646 product certifications in January.

In September, Stion opened its first mass-production facility in Hattiesburg, MS, USA and produced what was claimed to be the most efficient monolithic thin-film circuit at production scale, verified at 14.1% efficiency by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

With the new funding, Stion is continuing the planned expansion of its US manufacturing facility (the first phase of which includes a production line with an annual capacity of 100MW, entailing more than $100m of investment and 200 direct jobs in 2011 and 2012). In addition, the firm will make an initial investment of $35m to establish the subsidiary Stion Korea in order to build a thin-film PV module factory, targeted at serving the Asian and European markets.

“This investment and partnership represents an exceptional opportunity for Stion,” says president & CEO Chet Farris. “Solar has always been a global business and this investment enables Stion to address market demand in Asia and beyond,” he adds. “We have added world-class investors as well as a strategic partner with deep technical expertise.”

The transaction includes a strategic partnership with AVACO, which is expanding into flexible display and thin-film PV technology. The two parties will collaborate to develop next-generation thin-film production equipment, focusing on lowering costs, improving tool productivity, and increasing module efficiency. “The strategic partnership between AVACO and Stion will accelerate each company’s technology roadmap, thus enabling much faster growth for both parties,” comments AVACO’s chairman Jae-Gon Wee.

Tags: Stion PV CIGSSe

Visit: www.stion.com

Visit: www.avaco.co.kr

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