Power and automation conglomerate ABB has invested $20 million into GreenVolts, a solar startup that has revamped its business model to design and custom-build every component that goes into a solar generation station.
GreenVolts unveiled this week its new end-to-end solar power system and announced it had raised $35 million ($20 million coming from ABB) in its latest funding round. ABB will take a "substantial minority stake" in the company, according to a statement released Wednesday.
The funding announcement is important for the obvious reason: GreenVolts is a startup and fledgling companies need financing. Plus, it's well-timed. The solar industry is undergoing a painful consolidation and startup companies that want to survive and scale up need funding and partnerships with big, established players like ABB.
GreenVolts' new end-to-end systems is just as important, especially over the long term. GreenVolts makes solar concentrating photovoltaic systems -- essentially a clean-energy mashup of solar panels and solar thermal tech. The systems use mirrors and lenses to concentrate light from the sun onto super-efficient cells to produce electricity.
GreenVolts is ditching the traditional approach of sourcing parts from different suppliers and opting instead to design and make the entire concentrating solar system -- that's everything including modules, trackers, inverters and the energy management software -- on its own. According to a GreenVolts spokesperson, the company uses contract manufacturers in China to make its systems, keeping the overhead costs extremely low.
As CNET writer Martin LaMonica noted, GreenVolts has adopted a business model similar to Apple, which designs products start to end. The aim is better performance at a lower cost, a goal GreenVolts says is attainable. GreenVolts claims its fully integrated solar systems produces 30 percent to 40 percent more energy than traditional photovoltaic arrays.