Maker of silicon wafer manufacturing equipment Leading Edge Equipment Technologies announced today the closing of $7.6 million in Series A financing led by Prime Impact Fund, Clean Energy Ventures and DSM Venturing.
“Leading Edge’s technology is poised to structurally disrupt solar panel manufacturing,” said Matthew Nordan, Managing Director at Prime Impact Fund. “As solar accelerates globally, Leading Edge provides an unusual opportunity to increase panel efficiency, reduce cost, and slash greenhouse gas emissions from the panel production process.”
Leading Edge makes a drop-in manufacturing technology that produces kerfless, single-crystal silicon wafers. This manufacturing technology reduces wafer costs by 50%, increases commercial solar panel power by up to 7%, and reduces manufacturing emissions by over 50%.
“After critical technology demonstrations and the development of a new commercial tool, we are now ready to launch this technology into market in 2021,” said Rick Schwerdtfeger, CEO of Leading Edge who joined the team in 2020 to lead commercialization. “Having recently secured a 31,000-sq-ft facility and doubled the size of our team, we will use this new funding to prepare for our 2021 commercial pilots.”
Current silicon wafer production technology is a seven-step process in which large silicon ingots, created in large and energy-intensive furnaces, are wire-sawn into wafers. According to the company, this approach is extremely wasteful, incurs high energy costs, and produces low-quality wafers that reduce solar panel efficiency. Leading Edge’s manufacturing equipment uses its patented Floating Silicon Method to produce silicon wafers through ribbons. This reduces the production process to a single step while also consuming less energy and producing almost no waste product.
“Despite intense growth in the solar industry over the last decade, many manufacturers have struggled to remain profitable, competing on market share and marginal cost reductions. We’re excited to empower manufacturers with a game-changing competitive advantage and unlock cost-effective, high-efficiency solar power,” said Alison Greenlee, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Leading Edge.
Leading Edge was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant earlier this month for $998,820 to support continued research and development of its advanced silicon wafer manufacturing process. The new funding will be used to continue development of p-type solar cells as well as more advanced n-type cell architectures. Development will be conducted at Leading Edge’s production headquarters outside Boston, Massachusetts.
News item from Leading Edge