Politico reported that after taking office, Romney moved “to take $15 million from Massachusetts’ Renewable Energy Trust Fund — a pot of more than $150 million collected from electricity customers following passage of a 1998 energy deregulation law — and start up a new private venture capital outfit that would back green-minded state businesses with equity, loans and management advice.”
Massachusetts wasn’t alone in backing Konarka. The company’s website lists a long line of successful rounds of private financing that totaled more than $150 million. And government entities from the U.S. Department of Energy to the European Union (the company had operations in Germany as well as Lowell, Mass.) provided funding at various points.
Not entirely unlike Solyndra, Konarka had hoped to succeed by making solar power without silicon at a time when the key material was rising in price and companies were searching for less-expensive manufacturing processes. Konarka’s technology used a photo-reactive polymer material invented by co-founder and Nobel Prize winner Alan Heeger that could be printed or coated inexpensively onto flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing.
The solar cells that resulted were less efficient, but Konarka thought it could succeed through lower costs and by targeting niche uses for its “Power Plastic” cells, from solar bags to a solar “curtain wall.”
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