A View from Kevin Bullis
GE Funds 10 Energy Startups
$68 million goes to wireless charging, smart buildings, cooler LEDs and other tech.
Today GE announced that it and its venture capital partners are investing $63 million in ten companies developing alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies. Here are some interesting ones.
Witricity’s technology, which TR featured as part of our annual TR10 list in 2008, transmits power wirelessly over distances of a couple of meters by manipulating magnetic fields. Maybe it will help make electric vehicles more popular: you could charge by simply parking over one of the company’s devices.
GMZ Energy makes thermoelectric materials, which convert heat into electricity—TR wrote about the technology in 2008. The researchers who founded the company improved the performance of a thermoelectric material by 40 percent by crushing it to form fine, nanoscale powders, then packing the powders to form thin wafers.
Project Frog designs and builds kits for making efficient and inexpensive buildings. The kits are adapted for specific locations and can be designed to use zero net energy, which means they generate as much as they consume.
Nuventix has developed a method to keep LEDs from getting hot, which reduces their efficiency. Typically LEDs are cooled with heat sinks, but those are bulky. The company has developed a small and quiet air-cooling system —based on the company’s demo, it looks a lot like a speaker. A diaphragm quickly forces air through a channel, creating a jet that cools the LED.
VPhase cuts home energy use by reducing the voltage that enters a house, while still maintaining the level needed for appliances and electronics to function properly. It’s based on voltage regulation used in commercial and industrial settings, but made cheaper for home use.
Here’s a complete list of the companies:
Ember, Boston, Massachusetts (Communications and software)
GMZ Energy, Waltham, Massachusetts (solar systems and services; co-investment with KPCB)
Hara, San Mateo, California (Communications and software; co-investment with KPCB)
Nuventix, Austin, Texas (Building efficiency)
On-Ramp Wireless, San Diego, California (Communications and software)
Project Frog, San Francisco, California (Building efficiency; co-investment with RockPort Capital)
SunRun, San Francisco, California (Residential solar systems and services; co-investment with Foundation Capital)
Viridity Energy, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania (Communications and software)
VPhase, Manchester, United Kingdom (Building efficiency)
WiTricity, Watertown, Massachusetts (Communications and software)