Solar Startup Wakonda Raises $9.5 Million In Series A Financing

July 21, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

Wakonda Technologies, Inc., a developer of solar photovoltaic (PV) products, announced that it has raised $9.5 million in Series A financing from ATV (Advanced Technology Ventures), General Catalyst Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, Applied Ventures, LLC (the venture capital arm of Applied Materials, Inc.) and the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund.

Wakonda states that it is developing an inexpensive, patent-pending material that enables the production of high performance solar cells. It is claimed that PV cells developed for satellites exceed 30% efficiency – said to be well above the efficiency of commercially-available silicon and thin film cells. However, the company claims that these satellite cells are very costly, as they are produced on expensive single-crystal wafers made from III-V compounds such as gallium arsenide. Wakonda’s proprietary technology and process are said to enable a low cost, commercial material to simulate the expensive single crystal III-V wafer. The result is described as a new paradigm in solar cell manufacturing that could translate into significant cost efficiencies for almost all photovoltaic market applications.

"We are actively working to reduce the cost of solar systems to make solar energy competitive with conventional electric power," said Wakonda Founder and CEO Les Fritzemeier. "We’re delighted to have the support of this top-tier group of investors to help us accomplish this goal. Their experience and track records give us additional confidence that we will achieve our commercial market objectives."

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s L. Marty Murphy noted that the low manufacturing costs and high efficiencies of Wakonda’s approach "could be a step-change for the solar industry."

The company has been developing its technology in conjunction with the Rochester Institute of Technology, where Wakonda co-founder and CTO Ryne Raffaelle leads the NanoPower Research Lab, and with Cornell University and the NASA Glenn Research Center.