July 25, 2011 / 2:30 PM / 6 years ago

DuPont buys solar tech company Innovalight

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Chemical company DuPont said on Monday it bought solar technology start-up Innovalight Inc in a move to help double sales to the solar industry to $2 billion by 2014.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Innovalight’s silicon ink is used by solar cell makers to raise the efficiency of the semiconducting material and reduce the cost of solar power.

The venture-backed company is based in Sunnyvale, California, where it also does all of its manufacturing. Most of its customers are based in Asia, and include major Chinese solar companies JinkoSolar Holding Co Ltd, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd and JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd.

“In partnership with DuPont we can do a lot more than we would have otherwise been able to do on our own,” Conrad Burke, who had been CEO of Innovalight, said in an interview. Burke is now taking on the position of general manager, DuPont Innovalight.

DuPont is one of the world’s largest suppliers of materials to the fast-growing photovoltaic industry. It already supplies silver paste, encapsulants, resins, weather resistant backsheets and other products to solar industry manufacturers.

The company has set a goal of doubling its sales to the solar industry in the next three years, and said the acquisition of Innovalight will help it get there.

“DuPont as a company has been growing faster than the market in our solar business,” Rob Cockerill, business manager of DuPont Innovalight, said in an interview. “Innovalight will only help us to achieve those goals.”

Solar power relies on government subsidies to make it competitive with fossil fuels, and cuts in renewable energy subsidies in key European markets have put pressure on the industry to improve the technology and reduce costs.

By improving a solar cell’s ability to convert sunlight into electricity, the cost of producing power from the sun drops. According to Burke, Innovalight’s silicon ink can boost the efficiency of a solar cell by 0.8 percent.

“Which is very significant,” he said. “And that’s the product today.”

Innovalight’s silicon ink process can be integrated into existing cell manufacturing lines easily, Burke added.

In 2008, Innovalight abandoned plans to make its own solar panels, and instead chose to focus on licensing its silicon ink processes to other manufacturers.

Innovalight’s investors include Singapore’s EDB and Vertex Management, Norway’s Convexa Capital, London-based private equity firm Apax Partners and New York-based Harris & Harris.

DuPont’s shares were down 65 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $54.20 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Additional reporting by Matt Daily, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek

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