Silicon technology firm Intel is to sell off key assets of an internal start-p business effort to create an independent company focussed on the development and manufacture of advanced solar cell technologies.

The new company, SpectraWatt, will start life with a $50 million injection of cash from Intel Capital, as well as investments from Cogentrix Energy, PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and Solon AG. In addition to supplying photovoltaic (PV) cells to solar module makers, SpectraWatt will work on making improvements to manufacturing processes to reduce the cost of PV technology.

Germany-based Solon says it has purchased a 16 per cent share in SpectraWatt.

“SpectraWatt is a great example of technology resulting from entrepreneurial efforts inside Intel,” said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president. “This is an important investment for Intel Capital in the growing cleantech sector and we look forward to working with the company to support its expansion.”

The end-user market segment for solar technology in 2007 was approximately $30 billion, a 50 per cent increase from 2006, according to Photon Consulting. Intel is expecting the solar industry to grow at around 30-40 per cent per year as the economics of solar power approaches parity with conventional electricity generation technologies.

SpectraWatt is planning to start construction of a new manufacturing and development facility in Oregon, USA, later this year, and expects to make its first product shipments in mid-2009. Solon AG, one of the largest solar module manufacturers in Europe and a leading supplier of large-scale solar power plants, is likely to be a key customer.

Solon said in a statement: “This project will provide Solon with a new strategic partner, thus expanding the company’s supplier base. In addition, this cooperation will establish a foundation for the future development of Solon’s US business, and therefore represents yet another step in the internationalisation strategy of the company.”