Startup Sunday: Al Gore vehicle arms Octopus with $600m

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In this week’s Startup Sunday, three companies are making potentially disruptive innovations in solar and clean tech. 

Al Gore vehicle takes a stake in Octopus

Former Vice President Al Gore has taken a 13% stake in UK-based Octopus Energy Group through a $600 million investment made by his Generation Investment Management vehicle. Five-year-old Octopus now has a market valuation of around $4.6 billion.

Image: Octopus Energy Group

Octopus is one of the UK’s leading electricity generators, creating enough green energy to power 1.5 million homes, the company said. Its AI-backed Kraken tech platform is designed to drive the smart grid and improve the efficiency and customer service of energy suppliers.

Over the past 18 months, Octopus has launched in the U.S. and Germany, and acquired Upside Energy, a smart grid specialist. In the UK, it launched Electric Juice, an electric vehicle roaming network which has grown to more than 100,000 charge points across Europe.

Sustainability finalist

SolaBlock, which integrates pv into concrete blocks, was a chosen finalist for the Berkshire Sustainability Challenge. The Challenge provides funding awards backed by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Each square foot of a SolaBlock solar wall system can generate up to 10 W peak, and deliver up to 12 kWh per year of production. The vertical PV produces about 50-70% as much energy as a traditional tilted array, the company said, but has the added benefit of not being affected by snow cover; it also captures ground reflectivity.

The block format design was chosen to be familiar to masons and the company said the concrete is the “secret sauce” that protects the PV components, allowing them to run cooler and longer.

BlueDot closes $1 million seed round

Perovskite coating innovator BlueDot Photonics closed $1 million in seed funding from Hamamatsu Ventures USA, a unit of Japan’s Hamamatsu Phototonics K.K. to scale its work.

The company said its tech demonstrates a 10% boost in energy yield and targets improvements to 16%.

Most perovskites are applied in a solution-processing method, which BlueDot said has limitations in materials compatibility and reproducibility at high rates, and uses toxic solvents. BlueDot said it eliminates the use of solvents, instead, vaporizing perovskite powders and redepositing the material as photovoltaic thin films.

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