Enphase Energy, a start-up that makes microinverters for solar panels, has signed on venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as part of a $63 million round of financing.
The Petaluma, Calif.-based company said on Thursday that Kleiner Perkins' investment is the bulk of a second installment of one funding round, with the first tranche being $40 million in March of this year.
With the money, Enphase Energy plans to ramp up its production of its microinverters, which do DC-to-AC power conversion on individual solar panels. It also has plans to expand outside of the U.S. and Canada and into Europe, said Raghu Belur, a co-founder and vice president of marketing.
"We are growing rapidly. This is growth capital," Belur said. The company has raised between $100 million and $110 million altogether.
When the company launched in early 2008, there was a significant amount of skepticism around the reliability and efficiency of microinverters.
Since then, Enphase says it has shipped 300,000 units and gained 12 percent of inverter sales in the first quarter this year. Belur said the technology matches the cost of traditional centralized inverters, which convert direct current (DC) from solar photovoltaic panels into household alternating current (AC).
Microinverters, which are attached to the racking system of solar panels, also convert DC to AC. But having an inverter on every panel helps the overall performance because shading on one panel won't affect others connected to it. Belur said that microinverters can produce between 5 percent and 25 percent more energy than centralized inverters. Installation is also simplified and thus cheaper, he said.
The system also gathers information on panels so people can use Web-enabled devices to see performance. The data is transferred via the power lines and sent to a gateway device, which uses a home broadband connection to send information to Enphase.
The company is now in the process of working with solar panel manufacturers to have the microinverters embedded directly onto a panel, rather than have them installed in the field, Belur said. The company is also looking at ways to enhance its software with more analytics, he added.