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Iberdrola Creeps Into Solar Technology Development

Oct 9, 2009 - Jennifer Kho - Green Inc

The renewable energy venture arm of Iberdrola, the big Spanish utility, has made a small investment in a Toronto photovoltaic solar company — a sign that the company is stepping up its role in developing, and not just deploying, renewable-energy technologies beyond wind power.

Morgan Solar, a developer of acrylic solar concentrators, plans to announce Friday that it has raised $4.7 million in its first round of equity funding from Inversiones Financieras Perseo, Iberdrola Renewable’s venture initiative, as well as the New Ventures Group, the venture subsidiary of the plastics manufacturer Nypro, and the investment-management firm Turnstone Capital Management, which led the round.

The financing represents a first portion on the way to a larger round of up to $8.5 million, said Nicolas Morgan, vice president of business development and marketing for Morgan Solar. The company, which previously raised about $1.5 million in seed funding and noncash contributions, said last year that it was seeking $10 million to $20 million.

Government funding, as well as reduced costs, led the company to seek less, Morgan said.

Morgan Solar plans to use the round to put together its first assembly in Toronto, install several test sites and ship its first commercial panels in 2010, after which it hopes to raise a second round of financing to build additional assemblies.

The company claims its panels will generate more electricity than conventional silicon-based solar panels – with an expected 25 to 30 percent conversion efficiency, compared to silicon-based panels that top out at 19.3 percent today – and will cost less, with a price competitive with thin-film solar panels.

While the financing isn’t huge, it’s significant that Morgan Solar won support from Iberdrola. The company is one of the world’s largest wind-energy owners and also is developing big solar projects, making it a major potential customer for Morgan Solar.

Iberdrola has been aggressively expanding its renewable-energy business in North America, buying up the Energy East Corporation last year and planning at least eight wind projects in the United States approved for stimulus financing. The company said in May that it planned to invest $8 billion in American renewable energy, including mostly – but not all – wind power, and in September said it would further increase its spending in the United States on wind.