Clean-Driven Solaicx Sees $1M Green

For the past 30 years, Bill Yerkes has been committed to one goal – making photovoltaic cells commercially viable.

That may finally be coming true for the longtime cell energy expert.

Solaicx, a maker of silicon wafers used for photovoltaic applications, is expected to announce Tuesday it raised $1 million from individual investors.

The seed money will be rolled into a $3 million Series A round of institutional funding that the company plans to raise by the middle of the year.

Solaicx is also planning to raise a $3 million Series B round by the end of 2004, bringing the company’s total funding to $7 million.

The oversubscribed round comes on the heels of the company opening a new office and laboratory in Los Gatos, Calif., and the filing of a number of U.S. patents.

In addition, Solaicx late last year also appointed longtime cell energy expert Yerkes as its CTO. While working at the Spectrolab division of Textron, Yerkes oversaw the development of the solar array left behind on the moon by Apollo 11 and later founded what became ARCO Solar, the largest photovoltaic manufacturer in the world.

Solaicx claims that is offers a cost-effective challenge to the dominance of traditionally generated electricity.

Company reps say they are focused on affecting the cost of the usually expensive wafer, which is the principal component of 86% of solar cells made today and accounts for 50% of all photovoltaic units. Solaicx says it cuts the cost of manufacturing such units by 75%.

So far the company says that it is in talks with two top manufacturers representing a third of the solar panel manufacturing market.

The company will use the funding to develop its production equipment, build its manufacturing infrastructure, ramp up product development and launch its products.

Its initial product release is slated for October 2004. Solaicx will initially base its manufacturing operations in the San Francisco Bay Area and later house manufacturing in the Pacific Northwest.

Investments in so-called “clean technology” rose last year and were expected to total more than $1.3 billion invested, according to a study released by Cleantech Venture Network, an organization backed by private equity investors in clean energy technology.

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