PETALUMA – Bucking a trend of shrinking investment in solar technology and installations, Enphase Energy secured $22.5 million and a new lead investor, the company announced today.

Previously the company, launched in June of 2008, raised $21.5 in two rounds of funding.

Enphase was the first to market with a system that includes high-efficiency microinverters, communications and Web-based analytics to maximize energy harvest and simplify design, installation and management of solar projects. The systems increase energy harvest by 5 percent to 25 percent and reduce labor costs by about 15 percent.

Enphase President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Nahi said that with solar installations and modules already well-funded investors are turning their eyes to solar storage devices.

“And you can’t have storage without inverters. Although we are no longer the only provider of highly efficient microinverters, we were started and funded well before anyone else, and we already have tens of thousands of units installed in the U.S. and Canada. By next year, we’ll have moved aggressively into Europe,” he said.

Currently Germany leads the world in solar installations per capita and Europeans are generally on the cutting edge of solar technology.

But according to Mr. Nahi, the Enphase microinverter is a particularly American phenomenon because the technology has close ties to the communications, semiconductor and software industries.

“We’re excited to be an investor in a company that is poised to extend its leadership in solar inverters,” said Jamie McJunkin, general partner at Madrone Capital, the lead investor in the new round of funding.

Bay Partners is another new investor, and the round was joined by existing investors Third Point Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners and Applied Ventures LLC. Enphase will use the funds to ramp up manufacturing, which takes place in California and overseas, accelerate new product development and expand its markets geographically.

The company sells through solar and electrical distributors and directly to solar module makers and installers.

Mr. Nahi expects the latest round of funding will carry Enphase past 2010, “and possibly to positive cash flow. Our challenge now is how to grow fast enough.” The 55-employee staff will grow to 75 to 100 within the next couple of years, he said.

“Despite a slowdown in solar investment the industry is still growing, even during the worst economic slump since the Depression. The U.S. is expected to lead the world in installations by 2011,” he said.

He believes positive state and federal legislation, falling prices on solar modules and rising utility costs will all drive the growth of solar and with it the growth of Enphase.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t lead the microinverter industry globally as well as in North America,” he said.

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