Energy Angels Provide Key Support for Cleantech Innovation in NW and Beyond

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that it’s a form of impact investing. We believe passionately in the need to be smarter about how we produce, distribute, and consume energy. And it is, after all, among the biggest markets in the world. There is going to be demand for these technologies. We can’t keep doing things the way that we’re doing them.”

I asked him the predictable “what’s hot in cleantech” question. Johansson demurred, noting that “we’re really omnivores.”

NWEA’s omnivorous investment appetite came through in presentations from several of its portfolio companies. They include everything from hydroponic lettuce to a renewable energy retail investment fund. Here are some highlights:

Phytelligence, a Washington State University spin-out based in Pullman, WA, is trying to bring the tree fruit industry better plants faster, and offers genetic analysis so growers know what they’re growing. The company is raising a $900,000 funding round and is building a greenhouse, says CEO Chris Leyerle.

Suncrest Farms set out to deliver lettuce that’s always fresh and local by building greenhouses with advanced hydroponic setups near major metro areas. After confronting the high capital costs of this model, the company has pivoted to forming licensing and growing agreements with existing greenhouses, which can realize revenue of $30 to $35 per square foot selling premium, local lettuce, says CEO James Day. The company has a full-scale operation set up at a Whidbey Island greenhouse. It has a funding round open now, he says.

After raising $10 million earlier this year, MicroGREEN Polymers, based in Arlington, WA, continues to ramp up production of its beverage cups made from recycled PET plastic, says company controller Mark Daniel. Passengers on airlines including Alaska, Virgin, WestJet, and, in the spring, United, will be sipping hot beverages from the company’s cups. MicroGREEN—another UW spin-out—will be testing its products in stores of a coffee chain in 2014, Daniel says, without naming the chain.

Flux Drive, which makes couplings that improve efficiency in applications such as motor-driven pumps and blowers, sees a bright future after a tenuous period. “The Energy Angels have been probably the savior of Flux Drive over the last two to three years,” says founder and CEO Chip Corbin. Boeing has 20 of the company’s drives in use and plans to make them a standard piece of equipment in its Puget Sound manufacturing facilities, he says. The company is in the midst of a $4 million Series C funding round, with $1.8 million raised so far.

—Two NWEA portfolio companies—Columbia Power Technologies and Oscilla Power—are making a run at wave energy generation.

Columbia is halfway through the design of its first utility-scale generator, a direct-drive device designed for deployment in at least 60 meters of water. The company won a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy earlier this year, and is raising a Series B funding round, says CEO Reenst Lesemann.

Oscilla is developing a generator that employs magnetostrictive alloys, which can generate electricity as mechanical loads change with no moving parts, says CEO Rahul Shendure. This offers potential savings on operations and maintenance costs, which pose a major challenge to ocean energy project economics. The company plans to test a full-scale generator at a New Hampshire site in 2014. It is on the cusp of closing a $2.2 million funding, Shendure says.

Scope 5, which makes software to help corporations track all manner of sustainability data, has seen sales improve as it finds “champions” within companies who can make the sustainability business case to corporate management, says co-founder and CEO Yoram Bernet. New reference customers include Outerwall, Oakley, and Vulcan.

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One response to “Energy Angels Provide Key Support for Cleantech Innovation in NW and Beyond”

  1. Catherine says:

    Because we can about the energy technology and a savvy workforce EnerG2’s leadership and these kinds of cross sector partnerships make so much sense.