Friday, June 20, 2008

Intel Bids on Solar Energy: Spins off Solar Energy Technology Startup

To spur new development and demand for renewable energy sources, Intel Corporation is spinning off key assets of a start-up business effort inside Intel’s New Business Initiatives group to form an independent company called SpectraWatt. Intel Capital is leading a $50 million investment round in SpectraWatt and is joined by Cogentrix Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and Solon AG.

SpectraWatt will manufacture and supply photovoltaic cells to solar module makers. In addition to focusing on advanced solar cell technologies, SpectraWatt will concentrate development efforts on improvements in current manufacturing processes and capabilities to reduce the cost of photovoltaic energy generation. SpectraWatt expects to break ground on its manufacturing and advanced technology development facility in Oregon in the second half of 2008 with first product shipments expected by mid-2009.

Solar cells are the discrete components in a solar energy generation system responsible for converting sunlight to electricity. The end-user market segment for solar technology in 2007 was approximately $30 billion, a 50% increase from 2006, according to Photon Consulting. Solar industry growth of 30 to 40% annually is expected to continue in years to come as the economics of solar, which is currently approximately twice the cost of delivered retail electricity on a per kilowatt basis, begins to approach that of traditional electricity-generation technologies.

“SpectraWatt is a great example of technology resulting from entrepreneurial efforts inside Intel. This is an important investment for Intel Capital in the growing cleantech sector and we look forward to working with the company to support its expansion,” said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president.

Intel is on track to reduce its total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2004 levels through 2010, and also recently introduced lead- and halogen-free microprocessors.

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