Thin-film PV startup Sencera completes investment placement, accelerates development

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Thin-film photovoltaic module start-up Sencera has completed a three-stage $15.6 million equity investment. Under
the terms of the deal, the Charlotte, NC-based company has received $5.2 million
in equity. The firm says the remaining investment will take place in two
equal stages of $5.2 million, based on completion of development
milestones. Quercus
Trust and Michael Draper of Equinox Securities led the most recent investment, as they had in the previous effort.

Sencera will use the proceeds to fund its first 35-MW PV module factory in Charlotte and will also speed up the development of its second-generation high-efficiency amorphous/microcrystalline silicon solar module.
In
addition to the production of 1.1 x 1.4-meter a-Si
modules, Sencera says it will enhance its R&D capabilities.

“This
investment will help us outfit the first full manufacturing line
and will accelerate process development on our thin-film silicon
based photovoltaic modules,” said CEO Rusty Jewett. “We anticipate reduced manufacturing
costs over traditional modules, with Sencera’s module production
costs expected to be below $1 per peak watt.”

Sencera has
developed plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) tools
and processes for a wide variety of materials, including the Viper manufacturing platform introduced in 2007. In 2006, high-quality
amorphous/microcrystalline silicon thin films were produced
at rates 8-10 times faster than leading thin-film module
companies, according to the company, leading to a shift in focus to to the solar sector. In 2007, The Viper(TM) PECVD manufacturing platform
was introduced. The first prototype manufacturing line, based
on the Viper, was opened in mid-2008. 

The company expansion has also benefitted from incentives from the state
of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County, and the City of Charlotte,
coupled with a grant from the North Carolina Green Fund. Sencera says it expects to employ 75 highly skilled workers at its facility
by 2011.

— Tom Cheyney

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