Rather than rely on blinds, Soladigm (Dr.Rao Mulpuri. CEO) has a glass product that uses sensors to tell windows how to adjust light.
The Silicon Valley-based start-up said Tuesday that it raised $30 million in private equity to move forward on its plan to manufacture auto-tinting windows for energy-efficient commercial buildings. The series-C round of funding was led by DBL Investors and Nano Dimension and includes money from General Electric and existing investors Khosla Ventures and Sigma Partners.
Earlier this year, Soladigm secured $44 million in loans and grants from the state of Mississippi to construct a factory to make its "smart glass" in Olive Branch. The company also received a $3.5 million Department of Energy research and development grant and an undisclosed amount of money to finance equipment purchases, according to CEO Rao Mulpuri.
The company plans to start operating its Mississippi plant by the end of 2011 and begin shipping its product in 2012, he said.
Soladigm makes so-called electrochromatic glass, which can automatically tint when an electric charge is applied. The company's Dynamic Glass product relies on sensors to detect amounts of light and temperature. Based on that, windows can adjust to allow or block incoming light to reduce glare or heat.
Using auto-tinting windows can save 25 percent on heating and cooling energy and reduce peak-time heating by 30 percent, said Mulpuri. A lower peak-time load allows architects and building designers to purchase a smaller heating and cooling system to save money, he added.
Electrochromatic glass has been around for a long time but because of cost and performance, it has not taken hold. Mulpuri said the company has addressed issues over reliability and has lowered the cost so that the energy savings help pay for the higher price of coated windows quickly.
He declined to say what material Soladigm uses to coat glass but said the company has a license to use technology developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs for future versions of its product.
The company plans to fit into the existing window industry supply chain and sell to window manufacturers. Soladigm's primary customers are architects and designers, but Mulpuri said that Dynamic Glass isn't only for certified-green building construction and retrofits. "The product is as much about improved functionality for the end user as it is about energy efficiency," he said.