Thin-film solar panel producer raises $300m

Riverstone, Carlyle and Grazia and GLG are among the private equity investors that have helped bring Nanosolar’s total capital raised to just less than $500m. Separately, Nanosolar competitor AVA Solar has raised $104m.

Thin-film solar panel company Nanosolar has raised $300 million (€204 million) in financing, bringing the company’s total capital raised to nearly $500 million, Nanosolar chief executive Martin Roscheisen said in a blog posting. The new capital will allow Nanosolar to accelerate production expansion for its 430-megawatt San Jose factory and its 620-megawatt Berlin factory.

The majority of the $300 million transaction, closed in March, was provided by first time investors AES Solar, France-based electric energy company EDF and energy infrastructure-focused private equity firm Energy Capital Partners.

Riverstone Holdings, The Carlyle Group and power company AES are all investors in Nanosolar via AES Solar, a $1 billion joint venture to develop, own and operate utility-scale solar installations. AES and the Carlyle/Riverstone energy funds will contribute $500 million each to AES Solar over five years.

“The board of AES signed off the formation of AES Solar in parallel with the partnership and investment in Nanosolar,” Roscheisen told PEO.

Riverstone, a New York-based energy- and power-focused private equity firm, and Carlyle jointly sponsor the Carlyle/Riverstone energy funds, the third of which closed on $3.8 billion in 2006. The fourth is currently being raised and is targeting $6 billion, according to the Probitas Partners 2008 Private Equity Deskbook.

The first Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund closed in 2006 on $685 million.

A “fraction” of Nanosolar’s equity financing was contributed by new investors including long/short equity hedge fund Lone Pine Capital and the foundations of eBay’s founder and first president, Omidyar Network and Skoll Foundation respectively. Returning investors included European alternative investment manager GLG Partners, German solar investor Beck Energy and German private investment firm Grazia Equity.

Separately, thin-film solar company AVA Solar has raised $104 million in its second institutional round of equity financing.

Early-stage venture firm DCM led the financing round. Also among the firms participating were new investors GLG Partners, seed and early stage venture firm Technology Partners and real estate and private equity holding company Bohemian Companies and well as existing investor family-backed evergreen fund Invus.

The financing will be used to complete AVA’s first production facility located in Colorado with annual production capacity of 200 megawatts annually.