Company has raised $104 million; initial public offering planned
PETALUMA — Enphase Energy is the winner in the Leadership category, clearly ahead of the pack of new, green technology companies in the North Bay.
Founded just five years ago, the maker of microinverters for residential and commercial solar installations has the fastest growing markets, distribution network and staff of any technology company since the heady growth of Telecom Valley 10 years ago.
Enphase has raised more than $104 million in venture capital and could raise up to $100 million more with a public offering it filed for last month.
The company addressed the pain point of solar systems: expensive, bulky, prone-to-fail inverter technology that takes energy generated by strings of panes and converts it from DC to AC, generating lots of heat in the process.
“Heat is the single biggest enemy of reliability,” said Enphase President Paul Nahi. “But it had been drilled into [solar installers] that this is the way solar works. And the technological leap required to solve that problem was so dramatic that it was never even discussed.”
Mr. Nahi, the former head of a semiconductor designer company, joined Telecom Valley optics engineers Martin Fornage and Raghu Belur to market a chip-driven microinverter that controls each solar panel and transmits data over the Web.
The technology boosts energy harvest by five to 25 percent, lowers the cost of the system installation and represents a huge increase safety and reliability, according to Mr. Nahi.
Enphase was the first to market with microinverters, and competitors will have to play catchup in a big way. The company already boasts over 25,000 installer customers and has shipped 750,000 units to date.
Not yet profitable, Ensphase can point to significant sales growth. Revenues in 2010 were $61.66 million, up from $20.20 million in 2009. For the first three months of 2011, The company shipped 123,000 units, or almost the same as it shipped for the entire year of 2009.
Enphase has launched an aggressive assault on the European market, where solar systems are largely government-subsidized and traditional inverter technology holds sway. Enphase opened offices in France and Italy this year.
“With our system designed to surpass the European standards for solar electrical equipment, now is the time to build a local sales and support team to develop and commercialize this significant opportunity,” said Mr. Nahi.
Enphase’s headquarters will remain in Sonoma County, where the company has just signed a lease on a 96,000-square-foot space on North McDowell Boulevard.
The building was last occupied by departing telecom giant Alcatel/Lucent.
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