, a startup focused on solar energy technology, has closed on $15.6 million in funding.

The firm has received $5.2 million and will receive the remaining funds based on development milestones.

Sencera focuses on photovoltaic modules and thin film systems for use in solar panels. The initial funds are to be used to build its first factory, which will be in Charlotte.

Funds also will be used for development of modules based on microcrystalline silicon.

"This investment will help us outfit the first full manufacturing line and will accelerate process development on our thin-film, silicon-based photovoltaic modules,” Sencera Chief Executive Officer Rusty Jewett said in a statement. “We anticipate reduced manufacturing costs over traditional modules, with Sencera’s module-production costs expected to be below $1 per peak watt.”

Reducing production costs is a challenge for the emerging solar power industry.

The new funding follows $3.6 million that the company secured from Quercus Trust and Michael Draper of Equinox Securities. They also provided the additional funding.

Sencera was launched in 2003 with an initial focus on so-called thin-film transistor and integrated circuits.

The company hopes to employ 75 people by 2011.

In July, Sencera announced its plans for the plant with a pledge to invest more than $36 million over three years. The company received a $62,000 One North Carolina Fund grant along with local incentives.