Clean energy funding: Ex-Tesla CTO raises $40 million to recycle batteries, plus nuclear fusion and fission


$40 million for recycling batteries

Redwood Materials, the startup founded by ex-Tesla CTO JB Straubel raised a reported $40 million in venture capital from Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Capricorn Investment Group. Redwood raised $2 million in 2017, according to a regulatory filing. David Danielson, managing director at Breakthrough (and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy), is listed as an investor in Redwood on LinkedIn. Redwood aims to recycle old cell phone and device batteries into electric vehicle batteries. David Snydacker of Lilac Solutions, a lithium extraction technology startup, writes, “For batteries, recycling is going to be essential in the long term. Near term, old cell phone batteries are a great source of cobalt in particular.” Breakthrough has invested in Lilac as well as QuantumScape, Fervo Energy and Form Energy.

$5 million for solar software and IR data collection

Raptor Maps, a solar software and data collection company, has raised $5 million in Series A funding to build up its solar lifecycle management software platform. Funding was co-led by Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital and Buoyant Ventures, along with Congruent Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Y Combinator. The company has collected project data from more than 25 GW of installations across 35 countries, with customers like Enel Green Power and asset owner Greenbacker Renewable Energy. The data is collected via infrared imaging from both airplanes and unmanned drones. The large set of data that Raptor has collected is used to show customers the status of their inverters, combiner boxes, tilts on trackers and site issues like vegetation, flooding and security risk.

$12 million for metal hydrogen batteries

Battery startup EnerVenue launched with $12 million in seed funding from Doug Kimmelman and Peter Lee to develop nickel-hydrogen batteries for large-scale renewable and storage applications. The company claims that metal-hydrogen batteries operate from -40° to 140°F and have a 30-year lifespan with the ability to go through more than 30,000 cycles without degradation.

Nuclear fusion and fission

Chevron Technology Ventures made a Series A investment in nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy. The value of the investment was not disclosed. Zap has also received DOE funding. Oil-and-gas firm Equinor invested in nuclear fusion startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems.

Bill Gates’ nuclear venture, TerraPower, has changed course away from its original unorthodox reactor design to build “small advanced nuclear power stations that can store electricity to supplement grids increasingly supplied by intermittent sources like solar and wind powerm,” according to Reuters. The nuclear startup raised a $35 million financing round a decade ago from Gates, Charles River Ventures and Khosla Ventures. According to the  report, the design of the 345-MW plants is liquid sodium-cooled and would store reactor power in tanks of molten salt.

California funds zinc manganese batteries

Anzode was awarded a $1.7 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop alternatives to lithium ion batteries. The startup claims, “Zinc has failed to perform up to expectations in rechargeable batteries. Dendrite growth and shape change, both of which cause premature failure, have prevented the large-scale commercialization of rechargeable zinc systems. Anzode has successfully solved these issues unlocking the full electrochemical potential of zinc.”  

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