By Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

Silicon + evolution = Silevo.

Silevo Inc. is formally coming out of stealth mode on Wednesday, or a company's period of temporary secrecy, where it has been under cover since 2007. The Fremont-based company was formerly known as Sierra Solar Power and was founded by two former Applied Materials employees, CTO Dr. Jianming Fu and CEO Zheng Xu.

"It was born Sierra Solar Power, and we didn't really have any ties to the Sierras, even though they imply a green environment," said Chris Beitel, the company's vice president of business development and marketing regarding the name change.

The U.S. Delaware company decided, just before the Solar Power International 2011 trade show in Dallas next week, that it was ready to publicly announce what it has been hiding all these years, in an exclusive interview with the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

It also recently raised $33 million in funding from China-based New Margin Ventures, along with existing investors China-based GSR Ventures, which invests in early and growth stage tech companies with substantial operations in China, and DT Capital Partners, which is based in China and has an office in Menlo Park.

Silevo is looking to be a panel provider in the already competitive solar space, with its solar modules that have "tunneling junction" architecture. The company claims its branded Triex technology evolves silicon-based photovoltaics to deliver high-efficiency, low-cost manufacturing and optimal energy harvest.

The company said it has validated its cells demonstrating between 20 percent to 21 percent conversion efficiency, with room to increase that to up to 24 percent. In addition, Beitel said that with traditional solar cells or wafers, a 200 watt panel, for example, loses 0.5 percent per degree it is heated up. His company's technology decays at half of that rate, providing more power.

It is accelerating trial installations with undisclosed customers, focused on the residential rooftop space, with potential commercial and utility applications.

One key differentiator is that its technology is "silver free" â¿¿ meaning that it has eliminated the costs of silver pastes used by other manufacturers. It instead uses a copper-based metallization scheme. Beitel said the costs of silver have tripled in recent months and are only expected to continue to increase.

The new round of funding is to be used to build a high-volume, 32-megawatt manufacturing facility in Hangzhou, China, as well as advancing the company's research at its Fremont headquarters, where it has a 1-megawatt pilot production line. The company also previously received a $3 million technology grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for equipment in 2009.

It expects to start shipping product from its Chinese facility in the first half of 2012, Beitel said. The company's long-term plan is to potentially take the company public in 2014 or earlier, and enter into a partnership with a more established U.S. player in the space.

The company occupies about 28,000 square feet in Fremont and has 30 employees. It expects to have a headcount of about 50 by year's end. It has raised about $55 million to date.

Click here to read the press release from Silevo.

Written by Lisa Sibley. She can be reached at 408.299.1830 or

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

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