Silicon Ranch, solar plant operator, raises $100 million

Silicon Ranch Corporation

, an independent power producer that develops, owns, and operates solar power plants in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi, closed on a $100 million equity investment from the $50 billion Partners Group. Silicon Ranch recently completed its first projects in Colorado. Earlier this month Silicon Ranch "entered into a framework agreement for 231.6 megawatts" of First Solar's PV modules for use in Silicon Ranch projects to be constructed in 2017 and early 2018. The company is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mosaic raises $200 million solar loan facility

Mosaic, a provider of residential solar loans and financing, just closed a $200 million warehouse facility with DZ BANK (the fourth-largest bank in Germany) acting as "administrative agent and lead lender." NY Green Bank is participating in the syndicate "to further expand residential solar opportunities within New York state."

Billy Parish, CEO at Mosaic, said in a release, “With 40 percent consecutive monthly growth for over a year, we needed partners who could take us to the next level," adding, "The partnership with DZ BANK and NY Green Bank moves us toward our goal of having the ability to originate $1 billion in residential solar loans by the end of year to meet growing consumer demand for a simple, affordable solar finance solution.”

If Mosaic "aims to originate $1 billion in home solar loans in the next year," that's (very roughly) more than 200 megawatts' worth of solar loans.

Vivint Smart Home lands $100 million from Peter Thiel, et al.

Peter Thiel (co-founded PayPal, first outside investor in Facebook, one of the largest shareholders of Airbnb) and Solamere Capital (founded by Tagg Romney) just invested $100 million in Vivint Smart Home, a provider of integrated smart home devices, including door locks, thermostats, cameras and sensors. Vivint has more than 1 million customers and revenue of more than $650 million.

Aquion's sodium-ion battery gets an additional $33 million

As Stephen Lacey just reported, Aquion Energy pulled in another $33 million to support its saltwater batteries for long-duration storage, according to a filing with the SEC. Aquion hopes to raise $60 million in total.

The latest round brings the company's venture funding -- which includes equity investments and venture loans -- to $190 million. Aquion CEO Scott Pearson would not comment on the investors who participated in the round, but he did say that it includes "existing and new investors."

Aquion's long list of past investors is impressive. It includes Bill Gates, Gentry Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Bright Capital, Advanced Technology Ventures, Trinity Capital Investment and CapX Partners, Yung’s Enterprise, and Nick and Joby Pritzker.

Aquion's sodium-ion battery is designed for multi-hour applications. According to the company, its batteries can deliver a round-trip efficiency of 85 percent and perform 5,000 cycles. The company's cost target is $250 per kilowatt-hour, with the goal of getting to $160 per kilowatt-hour when its manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is at scale.

While short-duration lithium-ion batteries are dominating the market, investors are increasingly interested in batteries that can discharge over long periods of time.

ViZn's zinc-based flow battery lands another $10 million

Investments are flowing in the flow battery business, with ViZn Energy Systems the latest to raise funds to scale up its zinc-based chemistry. The startup has raised another $10 million of an ongoing round of investment, according to a regulatory filing, as just reported by GTM's Jeff St. John.

The newly disclosed investment adds to $1.4 million in April 2015 and $5.3 million added in October, and brings ViZn’s total funding in this round to $16.8 million of a target of $22.9 million. Back in June 2015, CEO Ron Van Dell told us the company was seeking about that amount to scale up from its then-pilot scale level of deployments.

Since then, ViZn has landed a 2-megawatt order with Hecate Energy for a storage project in the territory of Canadian grid operator Ontario IESO, as well as establishing a contract manufacturing relationship with Jabil. The company had raised $20 million previously from “high-net-worth individuals,” Van Dell said.

ViZn’s key differentiator is its use of zinc -- a cheap and plentiful metal, but a tricky one to use in flow batteries. Specifically, it tends to gum up the electrode materials in the cells used to generate electricity in flow batteries. ViZn’s solutions, built around technology developed by Lockheed Martin, takes into account “how to do the zinc morphology, how to manage the fluid mechanics of your design, how to deal with shunt current,” the CEO said.

Other zinc-based flow battery makers include Australia’s RedFlow Energy Storage Solutions, which is bringing a residential-sized battery to market, and U.S.-based Primus Power, which raised $25 million in September. While not a flow battery, Eos Energy Storage’s zinc-aqueous batteries have landed multi-megawatt contracts with California utilities.

Tado raised $23 million for smart thermostats and AC controls

Tado, a Munich-based maker of smart thermostat and AC control products, raised $23 million in VC funding from Inven Capital, a VC arm of energy company Cez Group, along with Siemens AG, Statkraft Venture Capital, Target Partners, Shortcut Ventures and BayBG, according to TechCrunch, which reports, "The company’s two current products are a smart thermostat -- resulting in Tado sometimes being called the Nest of Europe -- and a smart AC controller. Both enable a home’s heating/cooling to be controlled via the Tado smartphone app, with a flagship geolocation feature that means Tado is able to know when you have left home or are returning and adjusts your heating or air conditioning accordingly."

The startup has raised $57 million since its founding in 2011. Tado operates in more than 10 European countries.

RayVio's ultraviolet LEDs win $26 million

Startup RayVio just announced $26 million in funding from IPV Capital and Tsing Capital to market its UV LED disinfection technology globally. The company said in a release that its UV LED technology enables point-of-use water disinfection. Existing investors including DCM Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, Applied Ventures, Augment Ventures, Tolero Ventures and New Ground Ventures.        

VC-funded Crystal IS developed UV LEDs on aluminum-nitride substrates for germicidal water applications and was acquired by the Asahi Kasei Group, a manufacturer of compound semiconductor devices in 2012.  

While visible LED-based solid-state lighting has supplanted the incandescent, the ultraviolet spectrum is a more difficult set of wavelengths for semiconductors. Short-wavelength UV light below 280 nanometers (C-band) interferes with DNA repair in bacteria and renders water free of live bacteria. However, the output from solid-state UV-C light sources remains modest compared to the traditional sources, such as high-intensity discharge lamps. So at the moment, UV-LEDs are limited to light pens and appliances for consumer water sterilization and fall short of the wattage outputs needed for industrial and municipal water treatment applications.