Picasolar Inc., one of the five startups to watch for 2014 as tagged by The City Wire, announced a recent $1.2 million capital infusion from public and private investors.
The investment funds came on top of funding through a prestigious SunShot Award by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“These investments are crucial toward helping Picasolar grow as a company,” said Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar’s CEO. “Some of these investors had never invested in an Arkansas company. Our patent-pending technology could save an average-sized solar panel manufacturer $120 million annually, making the panels, and solar energy, more affordable for consumers.”
He said the $1.2 million was raised through $600,000 from private investors that was matched dollar-for-dollar by the Arkansas Development Finance Authority through the authority’s co-investment fund.
Gene Eagle, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, said, “We are excited to be able to partner with a company like Picasolar. This company has a strong team with experience and skills to move the company forward. Emerging businesses like Picasolar are significant creators of new, high-paying jobs in Arkansas.”
Separate from the equity investments, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a SunShot Tier 1 Incubator Award to Picasolar last month. The $800,000 award through the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative will be matched by $200,000 from Picasolar, bringing the one-year project to $1 million.
Picasolar’s sister company, Silicon Solar Solutions received a SunShot incubator award a year ago targeted for early-stage assistance to help startup companies commercialize their inventions while encouraging private sector investment.
The new award for Picasolar is intended to accelerate the transition of early stage functional prototypes to manufacturing and a commercially relevant prototype made in the lab.
Both Picasolar and Silicon Solar Solutions are Genesis Technology Incubator clients at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park at the University of Arkansas.
Hutchings founded Silicon Solar Solutions in 2008 while a graduate student at the university. In January 2013, the company submitted an application for a full patent on a self-aligned hydrogenated selective emitter for N-type solar cells. The emitter, invented by Seth Shumate, a doctoral candidate at the UA and chief technology officer for Picasolar, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15%. If successful, the emitter represents the single largest technology leap in solar power in 40 years, Hutchings said.