This week AEE Member and electric vehicle charging station company ChargePoint announced that it had raised $22.6 million in a round of late-stage funding. Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins doubled its equity in the company, and other existing funders such as BMW and Rho Ventures also increased their investments. ChargePoint is the world’s largest and most open electric vehicle charging network. The company sells charging stations to retail centers, government facilities, apartment complexes, and other locations in the U.S. and Europe. ChargePoint currently boasts more than 17,000 charging locations worldwide.
In other member news this week, Recurrent Energy announced its latest project: the largest solar plant in Texas. Recurrent Energy is developing the 150 MW solar power farm for Austin Energy, a city-owned utility. “It’s all about economics,” Recurrent Chief Executive (and AEE board member) Arno Harris said in an interview with FuelFix. “We’ve come to a place where costs are so low that we can offer a competitive price” for electricity on the Texas grid.
Advanced energy has other buyers, as well. As we have reported in the past, companies like Apple, Walmart, and Microsoft are investing in solar and other advanced energy resources to cut costs and increase energy security. This week USA Today reported on Walmart’s commitment to double the number of solar installations at its facilities by 2020, part of an announcement by President Obama of 300 public and private investments in energy efficiency and renewable power. Among these were Google’s announcement of a $1 million prize to develop new inverters for residential solar, and Yahoo’s commitment to construct a solar installation on its corporate campus by early next year. Then came Kohl’s, Staples, and Whole Foods, which have each committed to acquiring 100% of their electricity from advanced energy sources, whether installed onsite or purchased through renewable energy credits.
The trend is also spreading to furniture manufacturers. We have covered Ikea’s advanced energy investments previously, but this week the company announced that its 40th solar installation would go online later this summer on its newest retail store in Miami. Grand Rapids Business Journal also reported on local furniture companies Herman Miller and Steelcase investing in 100% advanced energy.
Finally, two interesting advanced energy trends this week. One is aviation biofuels, with NASA joining with international research agencies to study the use of biofuels in flight in a project called ACCESS-II (Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions). Meanwhile, Boeing has joined with Embraer S.A. to open a joint aviation biofuels research center in Brazil.
The other is some new twists in solar technologies. CNN reports on a prototype of a radical idea: “solar roads.” These are roadways with installed solar panels durable enough to drive on. Could electric vehicles be charged by the roads on which they drive? Katie Fehrenbacher, writing for GigaOM, also reported this week on QBotix, a startup that manufactures robots. The robots’ job? Tilt and tweak the angles of solar panels to better track the movement of the sun across the sky. QBotix recently raised $12M from energy companies like E.ON and Iberdrola.