During the great thin-film PV scare of the late aughts, venture capitalists showered billions of dollars upon scores of largely undeserving solar startups.
The solar startup pipeline is smarter these days, as are, one hopes, the venture capitalists. Here’s a partial list of solar firms that VCs funded during this pandemic year.
Software eats the solar industry
It took a pandemic, but the U.S. solar industry, both residential and utility-scale, has finally figured out how to lower customer acquisition costs and project costs — by moving everything online and applying software.
Palmetto, a Charleston, S.C.-based software company focused on software for the solar sales and installation process, landed $29 million in Series B funding from investors including Evergy Ventures, Arctern Ventures, Shell Ventures, Greycroft, and the Leto Family Office.
Terabase Energy aims to drive down utility-scale solar power prices to below $0.01 per kWh by 2025. Using its software, automation and modeling, the startup aims to modernize solar power-plant optimization. The firm closed a $6 million Series A round to further develop its platform — led by SJF Ventures along with Powerhouse Ventures, CityLight Capital and Trancoso Partners.
Raptor Maps, a solar software and data collection company, 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.
SenseHawk, a SaaS platform that helps customers develop, build and operate solar and other infrastructure sites, raised $5.1 million in Series A1 funding led by Alpha Wave Incubation, a venture fund managed by Falcon Edge Capital and backed by ADQ, a large regional holding firm in Abu Dhabi — along with existing investor SAIF Partners.
SmartHelio, a Swiss start-up led by Indian entrepreneur Govinda Upadhyay has raised $275,000 for its deep-data driven PV diagnostic tool. The start-up says solar companies can use the SmartHelio cloud-based asset management system with inverters or data loggers or can obtain more accurate data using the company’s cloud service and sensor. Alternative Bank Schwiez participated in the funding round.
Other solar software startups in the hunt include 17TeraWatts with a software platform meant to help installers improve the solar customer experience, as well as Station A’s software to optimize renewable and DER deployment planning in the C&I building market.
Solar hardware, finance and microgrids
Jack West, the cofounder of solar mounting system startup, Zep, founded a new firm developing utility-scale solar tracker foundations. Ojjo has received $15 million in venture funding from Cthulhu and previous Zep investors for “a new way to approach solar foundation design,” with a truss system claimed to use half the tariff-rich steel of a conventional installation. Co-founded by West and Daniel Flanigan, Ojjo is helmed by CEO Helena Kimball.
Leading Edge Equipment Technologies, a startup making manufacturing equipment to produce kerfless, single-crystal silicon wafers for solar panels, closed on a $7.6 million series A led by Prime Impact Fund, Clean Energy Ventures along with DSM Venturing. Previous investors in the startup include Applied Materials, Clean Energy Venture Group and David Buzby. More here.
Swift Solar, looking to commercialize perovskite-based PV just closed on more than $8 million in seed funding, with an expected close of $9.6 million. The round was led by GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij and cryptocurrency expert James Fickel, along with Good Growth Capital, Safar Partners, Climate Capital, Jack Fuchs, and Sierra Peterson.
Zero Mass Water raised $50 million in a C1 venture round led by BlackRock, along with Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Material Impact Fund. Duke Energy also invested. The firm claims that its “hydropanel” creates drinking water from sunlight and air, “made possible by the combination of thermodynamics, materials science, and controls technology,” according to a release, and, “that its technology provides safe, clean drinking water for industrial, commercial, residential and community applications and is already installed in 45 countries.”
YouSolar, builder of a home solar-plus-battery nanogrid, closed $1 million of equity crowdfunding and “generated a pipeline of new customers in the U.S.,” according to a release.
SOLshare, a Bangladesh-based off-grid solar company, closed $1.1 million in financing from IIX Impact Partners, a crowdfunding platform for impact investing, as well as innogy New Ventures – the VC arm of German utility innogy SE, and the investment arm of Portuguese utility EDP. The company aims to bring solar microgrids to off-grid, underserved communities in Bangladesh. More than half of Bangladesh’s population has no access to electricity.
Solfácil, a solar power fintech startup in Brazil, raised $4 million in a Series A investment round led by Valor Capital Group. CEO Fabio Carrara told LABS that the company is “a traditional credit operation.” Solfácil reaches the customer through a partnership with the installer and finances the customer to buy the system from that company. Source: Reporting of Isabela Fleischmann do Amaral at LABS.
SOLS Energy of Malaysia received an undisclosed amount of funding from Petronas Ventures. The company designs, distributes, installs and maintains solar systems for residential, and small and medium enterprise sectors in Malaysia. The startup has also received funding from 500 Startups. The CEO is Raj Ridvan.
Energicity, a developer and operator of microgrid utilities in West Africa, closed on a $3.25 million seed investment, led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund. Energicity is a developer and operator of off-grid minigrids serving rural communities with subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Energicity’s mission is to provide affordable, reliable electricity that is scalable to household and commercial needs.
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