1366 Technologies Raises $15M for New Solar-Power Wafer Factory

The future is looking brighter for one Massachusetts cleantech startup.

1366 Technologies, which makes silicon wafers used in solar-power cells, has raised $15 million to help build a full-size factory with output starting at about 60 million wafers per year.

That’s enough to generate about 250 megawatts of solar electricity, which 1366 says is adequate to supply more than 30,000 U.S. households. Eventually, the company hopes to quadruple that output.

It’s a welcome note of good news for the cleantech industry, which saw its high-flying ambitions crash and burn following the Great Recession. Solar power in particular had some high-profile flameouts, including Solyndra and Evergreen Solar.

Bedford, MA-based 1366 spun out of MIT in 2007 with the goal of making solar power as cheap as coal. The company says its manufacturing method greatly simplifies the process of churning out wafers, trimming capital costs by two-thirds and slicing operating costs in half.

Earlier this year, 1366 opened a $6 million, 42,000-square-foot demonstration factory in Bedford to put some weight behind its claims of a better manufacturing process. Today’s Series C investment, led by Japan-based strategic partner Tokuyama Corporation, appears to show that the demonstration went well.

“Our Bedford operation is well-funded and cash flow from operations will be positive in 2013. This new round, led by a strong strategic partner, provides scaling capital for our next phase and is a direct result of our ability to consistently advance the technology,” CEO Frank van Mierlo said in a news release.

1366 says it has not decided on a location for the new full-scale plant. The company has now raised a total of $62 million in private financing, with investors including North Bridge Venture Partners, Polaris Ventures, Hanwha Chemical, and Ventizz Capital Fund. Its $20 million Series B round was announced in 2010.

1366 also has won substantial federal government R&D support, including a $150 million loan guarantee in 2011 and a $4 million grant in 2009.

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