CalSEED awards $2.7 million to clean energy startups in California

February 10, 2021

Six early stage clean energy innovations were selected to receive $450,000 each


Oakland, CA, 10 February 2021
– The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) program is pleased to announce Antora Energy, EnZinc, Icarus RT, ReJoule, SiLi-ion, and Takachar as the winners of the third annual Prototype Awards. The awardees were selected through a rigorous business plan competition where companies demonstrated the significant commercial promise of their energy innovations, each winner will receive $450,000.

The business plan competition is closely coordinated with Cleantech Open (CTO). Eligible CalSEED Concept Awardees participate in CTO’s accelerator program, where they receive tools and insights to develop a business plan and pitch that become the basis of the competition’s application package. The competition is judged by CalSEED’s technical advisory committee, made up of clean energy experts volunteering their time and expertise to select the most promising clean energy innovations of the future.

CalSEED is funded through the California Energy Commission’s EPIC program, which invests approximately $120 million annually for innovative clean energy technologies and approaches benefiting the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities.

“The CEC is proud to support entrepreneurs who are shaping California’s clean energy future,” said CEC Chair David Hochschild. “This funding through our EPIC program will help turn these early-stage prototypes into innovative commercial products that will help meet the state’s short- and long-term climate and energy goals.”

One of these long-term goals is energy storage. “The Wall St. Journal did a full page spread last weekend on how critical batteries are in the 21st century. People are waking up to the significance of energy storage just in time for our prototype awardees. Many are startups working on upgrading California’s efforts in this critical space: 6 companies advancing new battery chemistries, grid-scale storage and EV battery diagnostics to add to the pipeline of storage companies supported by the CEC and CalSEED in the recent past. Now is the time to keep investing in this critical sector. Charge on!” said Danny Kennedy, Chief Energy Officer of New Energy Nexus.

Investment is needed to continue momentum on these new ideas. “The commercialization landscape for new innovations has really shifted as a result of COVID-19, so the timing of these grants are crucial for startups.” said Joy Larson, Program Director of CalSEED at New Energy Nexus. “With so much economic uncertainty, these 6 companies are bringing solutions to two of the biggest energy challenges we face: scalable energy storage and wildfire prevention. We can support promising innovation and the growth of businesses while achieving California’s climate goals at the same time.”

Watch calseed.fund for updates on the next round of CalSEED funding.

Details of companies awarded a total of $2.7 million:

Antora Energy is building a low-cost thermal battery for grid-scale energy storage. By combining inexpensive thermal storage media at high temperatures with high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic energy conversion, this technology will support the widespread integration of renewable resources on the electricity grid.

EnZinc is building a prototype of a zinc sponge anode technology that allows zinc, for the first time, to be used in a family of high performance rechargeable batteries that provides a safer, more cost effective high-performance alternative to lead-acid and lithium-based batteries.

Icarus RT will demonstrate a hybrid PV/Thermal solar plus storage system that converts stored thermal waste heat to usable power during peak demand evening hours and nighttime and increases PV panel efficiency up to 12%, extending panel lifetime and lifetime performance and reducing the return on investment to 3 years for a 100 kW system.

ReJoule will demonstrate a fast and accurate EV battery diagnostics tool that measures critical health metrics, allowing users to quickly grade the health of large-format lithium ion battery packs without the need for disassembly, reducing test time and labor costs. This will provide insight into how batteries degrade, helping to improve operational efficiency, and ultimately reduce cost throughout the EV battery supply chain.

SiLi-ion will advance development of a “drop-in” additive that is easy to manufacture and cost-effective for lithium ion battery manufacturers, that enables up to 40% increase in storage capacity compared to state-of-the-art devices.

Takachar is building small-scale, low-cost, portable equipment to convert crop and forest waste biomass in remote areas into higher-value products such as solid fuel, fertilizer, and other specialty chemicals. Takachar’s system is will significantly reducing the logistics cost of hauling loose, wet, and bulky biomass to centralized conversion facilities, while also removing woody residues and reducing the risk of wildfires that disproportionately affect rural, underserved communities located at the wildland interface.

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About CalSEED
CalSEED is an initiative made possible by the California Energy Commission. The CalSEED initiative will provide $24 million in grants over five years to support innovators working on early-stage clean energy concepts. CalSEED is administered by New Energy Nexus.

About New Energy Nexus
New Energy Nexus is a non-profit international organization that strives towards an
abundant world with a 100% clean energy economy for 100% of the population in the
shortest time possible. To achieve this goal, we support diverse clean energy
entrepreneurs with funds, accelerators and networks. We started in California and now
operate programs in New York, China, India, Southeast Asia and East Africa.
For more information, please go to newenergynexus.com.

About the California Energy Commission
The California Energy Commission is leading the state to a 100 percent clean energy future. It has seven core responsibilities: developing renewable energy, transforming transportation, increasing energy efficiency, investing in energy innovation, advancing state energy policy, certifying thermal power plants, and preparing for energy emergencies.
For more information, go to energy.ca.gov.