Stealthy Skyline Solar comes out into the light, touts high-gain CPV technology

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Another concentrator photovoltaics company has emerged from stealth mode–Skyline Solar. The Mountain View, CA-based manufacturer of “high gain solar” (HGS) arrays for the commercial, industrial, government, and utility markets says it has achieved key product, financing, and customer milestones, including the receipt of Series A venture financing and a U.S. Department of Energy grant, the appointment of key executives and board members, construction of its first demonstration plant, the start of pilot manufacturing, and the submission of components for certification.

The start-up CPV venture has received a $24.6 million in equity investment funds from New Enterprise Associates and several other financial and strategic investors. In addition, DOE and Skyline have signed a $3 million contract under the department’s Solar America Initiative program, to accelerate development of the company’s HGS technology.
 
Led by executive chairman Bill Keating and CEO Bob MacDonald, Skyline has attracted executive talent from such relevant industries as solar, finance, manufacturing, and logistics. Its board includes current and former executives and board members of SolFocus, Suniva, Deeya Energy, Emcore, Cobalt Power Systems, and Solar Junction. 

The CPV company’s first demo plant, which was built in conjunction with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority as part of a public-private partnership, was finished eight months after Skyline banked its Series A financing.

After a year of under-sun reliability and systems testing at its headquarters, Skyline says it has submitted components of its HGS system for certification and has begun pilot manufacturing in the U.S. and Asia.

Martha Symko-Davies, research senior supervisor at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said that she and her colleagues “were impressed by Skyline’s total system approach, which packages many high-gain solar design elements into an elegant array leveraging traditional manufacturing for large scale.” She called the company “one of the first to recognize and drive the HGS systems movement toward grid parity over the next 18 months.”

Skyline claims that its novel CPV architecture delivers 10 times more energy per gram of silicon versus traditional flat-panel systems in sunny locations and offers industry-leading energy density. The HGS arrays combine industry-proven silicon cells, durable reflector materials, and single-axis tracking into a complete, easy-to-deploy system. The systems are built primarily out of commodity materials with globally available manufacturing processes from the PV and automotive industries, improving financial payback and scalability, according to the company.
 
“Skyline Solar is focused on a single goal as a company—accelerating the deployment of solar energy to meaningfully offset fossil fuel consumption,” said CEO and solar industry veteran MacDonald. “This requires rapidly achieving grid parity and dramatically improving scalability of PV systems.”

“We have a laser-like focus on real-world system performance and delivering the lowest cost of energy in the industry,” he continued. “We believe that we can help solar integrators, project developers, and project finance firms reduce the cost and complexity of system installation, while delivering a high-yield, low maintenance system for their commercial, industrial, and utility customers.”

Skyline says it is reviewing, accepting, and evaluating several other early-stage projects to demonstrate the “shovel-ready” capabilities of the HGS approach later this year. The company expects to unveil its HGS product details and system specifications, and production in 4Q2009.

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