The promise of data, algorithms and energy efficiency has convinced energy innovator NRG Energy to back startup EcoFactor.
Startups using smart algorithms and big data continue to attract venture capital funding.
Energy software company Tendril has snapped up intellectual property, employees and a San Francisco office from Recurve, the startup (formerly called Sustainable Spaces) which develops and sells software to help energy auditors determine the most cost-efficient energy efficiency measures for their customers.
Despite the seemingly downward short-term trend for cleantech investing, corporations and investors continue to back the green building sector. On Wednesday San Francisco–based energy-efficient building company Project Frog announced that it has raised $22 million from GE and a group of investors.
When four-year-old EcoFactor, which makes software that intelligently manages connected thermostats, officially launched last November, a lot of folks took notice — Apparently including investors. EcoFactor announced this morning that it has raised another $3.5 million from RockPort Capital Partners.
As wind farm developments have soared in the U.S., turbine makers are finding they can barely keep up. Northern Power Systems said its parent company, Wind Power Holdings, has completed a $37 million round of financing to boost its turbine manufacturing business, led by RockPort Capital Partners and Allen & Company.
Barre, Vt.-based Northern Power says it plans to use the funding to not only scale up manufacturing of its small-scale 100 kilowatt Northwind 100 turbines but also accelerate development of a much larger 2.2 megawatt turbine which it plans to sell to industrial wind farm developers. Currently, the company says its Northwind turbine is available within a six-month lead time, a pretty quick turnaround considering that giants like GE are reporting a $12
mbillion backlog on wind turbine orders.
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It’s not that hard to make new buildings greener; it’s the ones already built that are a big problem. That’s where a startup like Sustainable Spaces comes in — the company founded by Matt Golden in 2004 will analyze your home and sell various green retrofits, like better insulation and more-efficient heating and cooling systems. This morning the company said it had raised $6 million in its first round of venture funds from RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures.
Golden previously told us that the company had been scaling up and had been working on this first round for the past few months. The team has now grown to several dozen employees, and earlier this year took seed capital from angel investors Blueshift Partners. Also unusual for a cleantech startup: Sustainable Spaces says it’s already profitable.
Home retrofits are exactly the kind of low-tech solution that get less attention but will make real differences in climate change. Golden says with houses responsible for a little under a quarter of U.S. emissions, leaky heating and cooling ducts could account for as much as 2 to 3 percent of electricity used in the U.S. Sustainable Spaces can reduce an existing home’s energy expenditure by 10 to 50 percent, Golden says; the startup has done around 400 retrofits in the Bay Area.
For now, though, there are a few hurdles to the green home retrofit market. First it can be seen as a luxury for higher-end home owners. Sure your energy bill will go down, but it could be hard to convince a family with a variety of bills to pay to invest in leaky air ducts first. Then there’s the regulatory market, which hasn’t really stepped up to encourage retrofits. Golden would like to see more incentives for energy efficiency remakes.
The solar industry is just starting to understand the benefits of distributed solar inverters — the devices that convert direct current (DC) to grid-usable alternating current (AC). While most solar panels use a centralized inverter, inverter-maker Enphase Energy says slapping a cell phone-sized distributed inverter on the back of every solar panel can help harvest 5 to 25 percent more energy. Investors are getting it too, and this morning Enphase says it has raised $15 million in new funding led by RockPort Capital Partners, and including Third Point Ventures and Applied Ventures (VC arm of Applied Materials).
Enphase CEO Paul Nahi says the company plans to use the money to keep growing to meet what it says is “tremendous demand.” Nahi says the company has sold about 1,000 inverter systems, half for residential systems and half to commercial installations; Enphase sells its systems through the traditional inverter channel of solar installers.
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Amazon (AMZN), I have often pointed out, is a harbinger of technology trends that eventually gain mainstream acceptance. Contextual matching of information and community-powered feedback and ratings systems are two such examples.
Their recent foray into infraweb-services such as EC2 (processing on demand) and S3 (storage on demand) is helping to kick-start interest in “utility computing.” Entrepreneurs, in particular, are finding inspiration in the early success of Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Over the past month we saw the emergence of Nirvanix, a San Diego-based on-demand storage service provider that recently raised $12 million from Mission Ventures and Valhalla Partners, along with previous investors Windward Ventures. Rackspace is pushing its own version of a computing utility, Mosso.
Today, I got a chance to meet with executives from XCalibre Communications, a 10-year-old hosting provider based in Scotland that is going to launch its utility computing service at the Future of Web Apps conference in London.
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By Carleen Hawn
I’m just as impressed as everyone else by Disney’s announcement Wednesday that it will pay as much as $700 million for the “tween” social networking site, Club Penguin. Impressed, because it’s a huge amount of money – $200 million more than what Sony and News Corp. were rumored to be bidding for the barely two-year-old Canadian company back in May.
Impressed, but not surprised. We’ve written previously about the market value of Club Penguin, and for an earlier story in Business2.0, I got to hear from a ton of kids about why they are addicted to the game. I even picked out my own waddling avatar and played the game myself for a while.
Read More about Did Club Penguin Sell-Up or Sell-Out?