PVT Solar Obtains $13.7 Million in Series B Round of Financing

PVT Solar, a Berkeley, California company that designs, manufactures, and markets the Echo solar system, recently announced that it closed a $13.7 million Series B financing round. Sigma Partners led this round of financing and was joined by Khosla Ventures and Energy & Environment Investment, Japan. In 2009, Khosla Ventures led PVT Solar's initial round of financing. The following video illustrates the company's Echo system.

PVT Solar also announced that Vikas Desai has been appointed CEO. Desai was previously vice president and general manager of SunPower Corporation's residential and light commercial business unit, which he grew to $1 billion in annualized revenues.

"The Echo solar system is the best solar solution available to homeowners today, it is a game changing technology," said Fahri Diner, managing director, Sigma Partners. "We're impressed that the Echo solar system has achieved significant traction in the market so quickly, and that PVT Solar has secured Meritage Homes, Joseph Carl Homes, and other leading homebuilders as customers. Additionally, Vikas Desai's management and engineering expertise — and that of his team — will help ensure PVT Solar's continued steady growth."

"PVT Solar is extremely focused on delivering a superior customer experience," noted Desai. "To that end, we've added two key individuals with a proven track record in this area. Steve Walden (previously with Masco Corporation) is PVT Solar's new director of national sales, and Mike Harshfield (previously with McDonald's) has been named director of field operations. These hires will enhance PVT Solar sales, channel development, field operations and installation efforts — generating sales, driving deployment, and accelerating adoption of Echo solar energy systems."

"We've built a team with a successful track record of innovation and achievement," said Desai. "We're very proud to be adding such outstanding professional talent and acumen to our team as we scale up our operations and accelerate our growth to meet the increased demand for Echo." 

Battery Company Sakti3 Receives $4.2 Million from General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures

Sakti3 Sakti3, Inc., an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based developer of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, announced earlier this month that it received an investment of $4.2 million from General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures to advance the firm’s manufacturing capabilities. The companies also plan to work together to speed commercialization of Sakti3 battery cells. These two investors join previous investors Khosla Ventures and Beringea.  In April of this year Sakti3 received $7 million in Series B financing from Khosla Ventures and Beringea.

“These investments by General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures bring us not only capital, but partnerships that will speed our commercialization efforts,” said Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3. “Our product planning in the automotive and portables sectors will be accelerated by working with these two preeminent firms. The General Motors agreement partners us with a company that is clearly a global leader in vehicle electrification. Itochu Technology Ventures has a strong focus on energy technologies, and on growth markets in Asia. We’re very pleased to have engaged investors who will help us purposefully and quickly create our target products and address key regional markets.”

"GM Ventures is making strategic investments in new technology to support our core automotive business," said Jon Lauckner, president GM Ventures, LLC. "Our objective is to identify start-up companies that offer the best future technology for our vehicles, including next generation propulsion systems. In this case, our investment in Sakti3 gives us access to an innovative battery technology that has the potential to be a mainstream solution for electrically-driven cars and trucks of the future."

The following video contains additional background on Sakti3.

Coulomb Technologies Raises $15 Million in Series C Funding

Coulomb Technologies Coulomb Technologies, a company that is developing an electric vehicle (EV) charging station infrastructure, announced earlier this month that it secured $15 million in Series C funding. Joining existing investors Rho Ventures, Voyager Capital, Siemens Venture Capital GmbH, and Hartford Ventures (a strategic investment division of The Hartford Financial Services Group) are new investors Harbor Pacific Capital, LS Cable Ltd., and LS Industrial Systems Co., Ltd.

Coulomb will use the funds to help accelerate product development of its ChargePoint Network, enhance customer support, and increase sales. The following video provides a demonstration of a ChargePoint Networked Charging Station and additional information on Coulomb's solutions:

“Coulomb sales have increased dramatically in 2010,” said Richard Lowenthal CEO of Coulomb Technologies. “This significant growth has given us an opportunity to further expand our operations and superior technology of the ChargePoint Network to meet the worldwide demand of networked infrastructure for electric vehicles. We are proud to welcome our new investors Harbor Pacific Capital and LS to our company. We are also pleased our existing investors Rho Ventures, Siemens Venture Capital, Voyager Capital and Hartford Ventures have furthered their investment in Coulomb.”

“Coulomb continues to make great strides as an emerging leader in the EV infrastructure space. They are quickly expanding their footprint and building a compelling, sustainable business,” said Mark Leschly, Managing Partner of Rho Ventures.

Coulomb Technologies' corporate headquarters are in Campbell, California and it has operations in India.

Solaria Raises $65 Million in Series D Financing

Solaria Solaria, a manufacturer of solar photovoltaic modules, announced earlier this month that it has concluded its Series D round of financing with a total amount raised of $65 million.  This figure was $20 million above the company’s original target and included a $10 million growth loan facility from Western Technologies Inc (WTI).

Adams Street Partners, Cycad Group, and WTI recently joined the Series D round, which was led by CMEA Capital and DBL Investors, following a May 2010 close that included Sigma Partners, NGEN Partners, Mitsui Ventures and Savitr Capital. enXco (an EDF Energies Nouvelles Company) also participated in the final close with a small investment.

Solaria will use the newly raised funds to increase availability of their solar modules, which are designed specifically for ground-mounted tracking systems. The company states that its proprietary manufacturing processes require only a fraction of the capital expenditure per watt of manufacturing capacity needed by standard industry processes. Solaria modules are available to customers in North America, Europe, and Asia.

“We’re accelerating production to meet strong demand for our new modules,” said Dan Shugar, CEO of Solaria. “We appreciate our customers and investors’ confidence in Solaria’s ability to deliver a reliable, cost effective product that advances the deployment of industrial and utility-scale solar power plants.”

“We are very pleased to make an investment in Solaria, as we believe they have developed a superior low concentration solar technology ideal for large solar tracking systems,” said Tom Berman, Partner, Adams Street Partners.

“Solaria’s technology promises an aggressive price/performance metric, focused on meeting increased demand from utilities, independent power producers, integrators, and other energy providers who are focused on affordably deploying solar power in the years ahead,” said David Kirkpatrick, vice president of solar development for enXco.

“WTI is pleased to continue its relationship with Solaria and to help them grow to the next phase. WTI is investing in Solaria because they’re gaining solid traction in the solar market, securing leading customers, and partnering with key players in the industry,” said Dan Holman, investment principal, WTI.

Solaria’s corporate headquarters are in Fremont, California and it has operations in Germany and India.  Some additional background on the company is available in the following presentation (in two parts) from Suvi Sharma, President of Solaria.

BT Imaging Raises $3.8 Million from Investors Including Applied Ventures

BT Imaging BT Imaging, a Surry Hills, Australia-based company that provides a suite of luminescence-based inspection and quality control systems for the photovoltaic manufacturing industry, announced today the completion of its Series A2 round of financing for a total of total of US $3.8 million (A$4.5 million). This round of financing includes existing investors Allen & Buckeridge and Uniseed, and new investor Applied Ventures (the venture capital division of Applied Materials). The company said it will use the funds to accelerate product development, launch global expansion plans, and strengthen and defend its portfolio.

According to BT Imaging, its inspection and quality control systems are used by Tier 1 wafer and cell manufacturers in Europe, Australia, Taiwan, China, and Japan.  An overview of some products in BT Imaging's portfolio is illustrated below.

BT Imaging Products

“Securing additional funding in this challenging economic environment demonstrates investor confidence in BT Imaging’s products and management,” stated Ian Maxwell, CEO of BT Imaging. “Due to the yield and efficiency gains that our products enable, we are experiencing strong demand from manufacturers in multiple segments of the photovoltaic manufacturing industry. This financing provides us with additional R&D and product development capability, putting the company at least a year ahead of its original roadmap. Not only can we enhance our current offerings, we can also provide the photovoltaic industry with new solutions to address critical yield challenges. As the world’s largest supplier of equipment to the PV solar industry, we are very pleased that Applied Materials recognizes the unique strength of BTi’s technologies and its potential for widespread adoption.”

“As the solar industry continues to expand, we see an increasing need to address quality control applications to achieve higher production yields and optimized efficiency,” stated J. Christopher Moran, Vice President and General Manager of Applied Ventures. “Our investment in BT Imaging aligns well with Applied Ventures’ strategy of fostering innovative technology to help drive down the cost per watt of solar power.”

Viridity Software Raises $8 Million in Series B Funding

Viridity Software, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based company that provides software to increase the energy efficiency and productivity of data centers, announced last week that it raised $8 million in Series B funding from current investors Battery Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners.  Viridity previously raised $7 million in a series A round. 

The company said that it will use the funds to expand the development of its software platform (called EnergyCenter) and accelerate its go-to-market activities.  The following video provides an overview of Viridity's EnergyCenter:

“Viridity has tapped into what we believe is a large, growing and prime market opportunity,” said Jamie Goldstein, North Bridge Venture Partners.  “That is, the need for business organizations to take control of the uncontrollable time and expense associated with managing data center power and cooling.”

“We have been very impressed with the extraordinary progress Viridity Software has made to date,” said Sunil Dhaliwal, Battery Ventures.  “The additional funds underscore our unyielding confidence in the future of the energy resource management space, as well as Viridity’s ability to lead it from both a technology innovation and world-class customer service and support standpoint.”

“We are honored to have venture capital firms of Battery Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners caliber as our investors and as members of our Board of Directors.  They are organizations that are synonymous with innovation, creating value and enormous success,” said Bob Steinkrauss, President and CEO, Viridity Software.

$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.

Smart Grid Company Trilliant Raises $106 Million in Financing

TrilliantTrilliant, a smart grid communication company with headquarters in Redwood City, California, announced earlier this month that it closed a $106 million round of financing.

The round was led by Investor Growth Capital (the venture division of Sweden's Investor AB), VantagePoint Venture Partners, ABB, and GE. The financing was coordinated by Deutsche Bank and includes a significant credit facility from a major venture credit provider as well as continuing financial support from existing investors MissionPoint Capital Partners and zouk ventures. The company said that it will use the funds to finance its continued expansion.

Trilliant was founded in 1985 and provides electric utilities with a smart grid communication network solution (illustrated below). The company currently has more than 200 utility customers, including Hydro One in Ontario, Canada, which has deployed more than one million smart meters deployed across 350,000 square miles.


"Our new investors represent some of the largest and most trusted companies in the utility industry," according to Andy White, president and CEO of Trilliant. "Their combined industry experience, financial strength, and global footprint will provide us with the resources to expand our Smart Grid solutions across North America and to a global marketplace. The strength and caliber of our partners will give current and future customers confidence that they have chosen a long-term market leader."

"Trilliant has demonstrated a proven track record of helping utilities successfully deploy large-scale Smart Grid solutions," according to Dr. Albert Kim, managing director at Investor Growth Capital. "It is clear that Trilliant’s combination of product differentiation and project implementation expertise provides utilities with the most functional, expandable and cost-effective path to a Smart Grid communications network. IGC has been tracking the Smart Grid arena for many years and we have grown increasingly excited recently about the tremendous opportunities. We could not be more enthusiastic to be leading such an influential syndicate of institutional and strategic investors."

“The global Smart Grid market represents a transformation of how utilities and consumers interact with energy supply and demand,” said Stephan Dolezalek, head of the CleanTech Practice at VantagePoint Venture Partners. “This transformation requires a combination of technological leadership, financial strength and significant corporate backing from global players. We believe that this financing and this team of participants clearly puts Trilliant at the forefront of this market and provides utilities with validated solutions and real-world expertise to realize the long-term benefits from a Smart Grid communications network.”

“Today’s utilities are looking for a unique combination of proven deployments, scalable, globally applicable solutions, and product leadership,” added Girish Nadkarni, Managing Director of ABB Technology Ventures. “We invest in companies that have technologies of strategic interest to us and as Trilliant addresses all three issues, it makes them a compelling choice. We look forward to lending our global expertise and presence to them.”

“GE and Trilliant are aligned around a common vision to modernize the power grid to support the energy needs of our 21st century society. Our companies have a shared commitment to bringing enhanced communications and information technology to our power grid. Through real-time knowledge and information sharing, a smarter grid will empower consumers to manage energy usage and costs, optimize the integration of cleaner energy sources, and drive increased energy efficiencies,” according to Luke Clemente, General Manager, Metering and Sensing for GE’s Digital Energy business. “Our investment in Trilliant strengthens our collaborative efforts to bring metering and consumer solutions to a wide variety of Smart Grid opportunities."

For more information:

Eric Feng (Hulu CTO) to Join Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers As Partner and Technical Advisor to Al Gore

Eric Feng, who is currently serving as Chief Technical Officer of Hulu, announced earlier this month that he will be joining the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) as partner and technical advisor to former Vice President Al Gore.  Al Gore has served as a partner at KPCB since November 2007.

For more information:

Tony Blair Joins Khosla Ventures as Senior Advisor

Khosla VenturesKhosla Ventures, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm that focuses on cleantech and information technology startups, announced in May that Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his team at Tony Blair Associates will serve as Senior Advisors to the firm. In this role, Tony Blair Associates will provide strategic advice to Khosla Ventures' portfolio of green technology companies.  Among his current activities, Tony Blair leads the Breaking the Climate Deadlock initiative, a strategic partnership with The Climate Group which is working with world leaders to build consensus on a new comprehensive international climate policy framework.

"I have always admired Mr. Blair's early and consistent commitment to addressing climate change," said Mr. Khosla. "His goals align so well with our own mission to support disruptive startups in the cleantech space and to find technology solutions that can achieve unsubsidized market competitiveness for green technologies. We believe in attempting to achieve the 'Chindia price point,' the price at which even developing countries will voluntarily adopt these carbon efficient technologies. It's a price that is either cheaper than fossil alternatives or can achieve less than one year payback for efficiency investments, and is the key to scalable global adoption of environmentally beneficial technologies. With Tony's advice and influence, we will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to devise practical solutions that can solve today's most pressing crisis at a global scale while creating new jobs, new businesses and new sources of sustainable growth. Many more Google, Apple and Facebook-like new companies will be created in the environmental space based on breakthrough black swan technologies."

"Solving the climate crisis is more than just a political agenda item — it's an urgent priority that requires innovation, creativity, and ambition," said Tony Blair. "I share a clear vision with Vinod, one of the earliest leaders in cleantech investment, that entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond will have a tremendous impact on our environmental future. Vinod's portfolio companies are galvanizing scientific and technological know-how into businesses that can make a huge difference in reducing carbon and other emissions, and I look forward to dedicating a portion of my time to help them move us toward a more sustainable tomorrow. The Khosla Ventures organization is particularly effective in assisting entrepreneurs to develop and deploy their technologies all over the world."