Suniva raises $75M

Silicon photovoltaic cell developer Suniva Inc. announced last week that it completed a $75 million financing round led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

The funding will be used to expand manufacturing capacity at Suniva’s Norcross, Ga.-based plant by 64 megawatts to 100 MW per year, the company said.

Suniva’s announcement comes as funding for cleantech startups is recovering following a sharp falloff earlier this year brought on by the global credit crisis.

“I wish I could say that it was an easy process, but money has been tight in this market and I think venture firms and private equity firms are extremely careful,” Suniva CEO John Baumstark said in an interview.

Warburg Pincus Managing Director Chansoo Joung said Suniva stood out from other solar companies because of its high-efficiency, low-cost technology.

“From the front lines I can attest that there are a great deal of cleantech and solar investment opportunities. We looked at quite a bit of solar and learned quickly that the majority of the industry is commodity,” Joung said, adding that Suniva’s management is “best in class, and capable of running a much bigger business.”

APEX Venture Partners and returning Suniva investors New Enterprise Associates, HIG Ventures and Advanced Equities also participated in the Series C round of financing, Suniva said.

Though it began production at its Georgia plant only late last year, Suniva’s customers already include Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp., Germany’s Solon SE and India’s Titan Energy.

Suniva, which also has its headquarters in Norcross, plans to expand its team in Asia and Europe to be closer to its customers, Baumstark said, adding that it is also building up its team in the United States to take advantage of what it expects will soon become a major solar market.

A lack of available credit for solar projects has hampered growth in the U.S. solar market, but funds from the U.S. government’s economic stimulus program and improved financing conditions bode well for the market next year, Suniva said.

“There is tremendous opportunity here, and probably 2010 will be a very big year in the U.S.,” Baumstark said.

The company has no timeline for going public, Baumstark said, but plans to do so once the market for public offerings recovers. —Nichola Groom, Reuters