eSolar Announces $40 Million Investment from GE


eSolar, an Idealab company based in Pasadena, CA that produces scalable solar thermal power plant technology, announced earlier this month that GE will invest up to $40 million in the company. In addition, Paul Browning, president and CEO of Thermal Products for GE Energy, will join eSolar's Board of Directors. eSolar was founded in 2007 and has received more than $185 million in financing from organizinations including NRG Energy, Oak Investment Partners,, ACME Group, and Quercus Trust.

An overview of eSolar's modular solar thermal technology is described in the following video:

In June, GE and eSolar announced a license agreement which will enable GE to incorporate eSolar technology into GE's recently announced Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plants and standalone solar thermal power plants.

An ISCC power plant features a combined-cycle system including a gas turbine, steam turbine, generators and a heat recovery steam generator, as well as a field of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower to produce high temperature steam. During the day, steam generated in the solar field is fed into the water-steam system of the combined-cycle plant, creating extra megawatts of electricity without using any additional natural gas. During the night or during periods of cloud cover, the power plant remains fully dispatchable using natural gas.

GE states that their ISCC power plants are capable of delivering fuel efficiencies in excess of 70 percent. “Adding eSolar’s high temperature tower technology to our combined cycle product offering allows us to offer an integrated solution with unparalleled efficiency, full dispatchability, and a market competitive cost of electricity,” said Browning. “It allows us to offer a power plant that creates more value for customers.”

He added, “Intermittent renewable energy has always worked in tandem with flexible natural gas through grid integration. As renewable uptake increases around the world, we recognize the need for combined cycle gas turbine technology that delivers both flexibility and world class efficiency. We believe that this combination of flexible and efficient gas with renewables can help meet near and long term global targets for climate change, cost and reliability. It is the future of power generation.

GE was granted exclusive worldwide rights to eSolar’s modular technology for ISCC, excluding China and India. Together the two companies are targeting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States, and are working on a 530 MW project in Turkey with Turkish investor and power project developer MetCap Energy, which will feature 50 MW of eSolar concentrated solar thermal tower technology integrated with GE’s new FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant.

“Our partnership with GE moves our innovative technology to the next stage. Together, we are able to bring to market a power plant solution that drives down the cost of solar and meets the growing demand for renewable energy generation,” said John Van Scoter, President and CEO of eSolar. “Building on our proven technology, this investment will fund the development of next-generation, modular solutions that enhance the cost competitiveness of solar, such as molten salt storage technology. We welcome Mr. Browning to our board as a valuable asset in driving the strategic direction of the company during this time of rapid growth.”

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$200 Million “ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid” Competition Announced by GE, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital

Earlier this month GE announced the ecomagination Challenge. This is a $200 million innovation competition launched in partnership with Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, Wired).

The ecomagination Challenge seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies.  Proposals are sought in three categories — Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. This competition is open from now until September 30, 2010 to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.  Entries may be submitted via the ecomagination Challenge website

Selected entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:

  • Investment: The $200 million capital pledge of GE and its partners will be invested globally into promising start-ups and ideas
  • Validation: Evaluate entrant’s business strategy through in-depth discussions with GE’s technical and commercial teams
  • Distribution: Explore partnership opportunities with GE to scale a business and create global reach
  • Development: Leverage GE‘s technical infrastructure and GE Global Research Centers to accelerate technology and product development
  • Growth: Explore opportunities for utilizing existing GE customer to take Challenge products to market

In addition, five entrants will receive a $100,000 “innovation challenge award” acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world.”

GE CMO Beth Comstock said, “We took on a challenge when we launched ecomagination five years ago and we have learned about the power of partnerships to deliver clean energy solutions today. The challenge announced today is about collaboration and harnessing the promise of fledgling ideas and businesses to transform our energy future. We are confident in people’s willingness to change the way the world uses energy and in the ideas that will make this possible.”

“The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students,” said Chris Anderson, who is serving as an advisor on the Challenge. 

“Modernization of global electricity transmission and distribution systems have simply not kept pace with our society’s growing demand for clean and highly reliable power,” said Gina Domanig, Managing Partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. “Smart Grid innovation has been a significant area of investment focus for Emerald over the past decade and we are pleased to be a partner in the GE ecomagination Challenge.”

Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Koontz said, “Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change. We’re pleased to support GE’s initiative to engage the entrepreneurial community, and the powerful innovation engine it represents, in this effort.”

“Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is committed to a sustainable energy environment and are working to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel-based energy through our growing portfolio of innovative Greentech companies,” said Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be a part of the GE ecomagination Challenge, and we are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations.”

RockPort Capital General Partner Chuck McDermott said, “The electric power grid is the central nervous system of the global economy. Though today’s grid is a 20th century engineering marvel, the smart grid of tomorrow promises to revolutionize how we manage our homes, offices and factories and to maximize the use of next-generation clean energy resources. Through this challenge, we will match the best ideas and best entrepreneurs with GE’s commitment to innovation, unparalleled technical knowledge and its deep penetration into the most vital areas of the world’s energy infrastructure. Working together we can transform yesterday’s grid into a 21st century marvel.”

A video of the formal announcement of the ecomagination Challenge follows below.

Soliant Energy Receives Approximately $21 Million in Funding

Soliant Energy

Soliant Energy, a Monrovia, CA-based developer of solar technology solutions for the commercial rooftop market, announced at this week's Solar Power International '08 that it raised nearly $21 million in venture capital.  This financing was led by the venture capital group of GE Energy Financial Services, which invested $2.5 million.  Soliant’s other investors participated in this funding round, led by Convexa Capital. Previous Soliant Energy investors include RockPort Capital Partners, Nth Power, Trinity Ventures, and Rincon Venture Partners.

Art Buckland, Soliant's CEO, said, "GE's strategic investment is validation that our approach provides commercial customers with the lowest-cost solar electricity at the plug."

“Concentrating photovoltaic solar power is especially viable for space-constrained applications such as commercial rooftops, and Soliant is well positioned with its elegant design, market-leading efficiency and potential for low installed cost per kilowatt hour of energy produced,” said Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services.

Soliant Energy was founded in 2005 and was known as Practical Instruments until early 2007.  Using solar concentrators and other features, the company is developing products that it states will provide significant value for the commercial rooftop market.  Soliant Energy is aiming to open a 40-megawatt production plant and ship its first products for commercial rooftop applications in late 2009. Additional backgroound on Soliant Energy is available in this 2007 interview of founder Brad Hines (MP3 file, right-click to download). 

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GE and Google Announce Clean Energy Partnership

GE and Google Announce Clean Energy Partnership

Today, GE and Google announced a partnership to improve the U.S. electricity infrastructure as well as its connection with future electric transportation.  The companies released a fact sheet that provides an overview of the components of this partnership.  Highlights include:

1. Policy partnership
GE and Google will advocate for federal policies to support improvements in the U.S. electricity system.  Their Initial policy priorities include:

  • Planning, siting, and cost allocation for the transmission capacity necessary to enable large scale deployment of renewable electricity generation in the United States
  • Development and deployment of a "smart" electricity grid that will empower utilities and end users to manage electricity more efficiently and with lower emission

2. Collaboration on advanced energy technologies
GE and Google will work together to develop and deploy renewable energy and plug-in vehicle related technologies. Initial areas of collaboration include:

Both GE and Google are involved in a number of clean energy initiatives (the links at the end of this post provide some examples).  Also, in a separate announcement, Greenhouse Gas Services (GHGS) (a venture between GE Energy Financial Services and The AES Corporation) announced an agreement today with Google (see related post).  In addition, the following video features a discussion at the recent Google Zeitgeist ’08 Americas conference between Dr. Eric Schmidt (CEO and Chair, Google) and Jeffery Immelt (CEO and Chair, GE).

A123 Systems Files Registration Statement with SEC for IPO; Discloses $102.1 Million in Additional Equity Financing

A123 Systems

A123 Systems, a company that develops and manufactures lithium-ion batteries and battery systems for the transportation, electric grid services, and portable power markets, announced in August that it filed a S-1 registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed initial public offering (IPO) of up to $175 million of its common stock on the NASDAQ Global Market under the ticker symbol "AONE".  You can view this filing by clicking on the image below:

A123 Systems S-1

A123 Systems was founded in 2001 to commercialize new battery technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company began selling its first products commercially in the first quarter of 2006.  The company’s revenue was $34.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2006, $41.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2007, and $10.3 million for the three months ended March 31, 2008.

A key source of A123 Systems’ revenue to date has been Black & Decker, to which A123 Systems has supplied batteries for their portable power tools.  The company also operates in other market segments, including transportation and electric grid services. A123 Systems has acquired a number of companies over the years including Hymotion.  The following video provides an illustration of some of A123 Systems’ technology in the transportation sector:

Investors in A123 Systems include General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Alliance Capital, Motorola, Qualcomm, North Bridge Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, CMEA Ventures, FA Technology Ventures, OnPoint, Carruth Management, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Desh Deshpande (A123 Systems’ board chair). 

In A123 Systems’ S-1 filing, the company stated that it raised $102,085,005 in equity financing (6,152,553 shares of Series E convertible preferred stock at $16.59 per share) after March 31, 2008.  The company also stated that it had received aggregate net proceeds of approximately $266.1 million since its founding from the financing activities of private placements of preferred stock, common stock, convertible promissory notes, demand notes, term loans, revolving credit facilities and other credit facilities.

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