Ice Energy has closed $33 million in funding to make hybrid air conditioners that store cheaper electrical power at night for daytime cooling, the company said Tuesday.

The funding represents the first tranche of preferred financing for the Windsor, Colo., company. In addition to leading the deal, Energy Capital Partners has committed to spending up to $150 million more to finance energy-storage projects for utilities. 

Ice Energy has developed air conditioners that include the company's technology for storing energy in ice. Each system freezes water in an insulated tank at night, when electricity is cheaper, and uses the ice to chill the refrigerant -- instead of using the usual power-hungry condensers -- during the day. The system sends refrigerant through a modified evaporator coil, eliminating the need to run a compressor (see product specs). 

The compressor and the rest of the conventional air-conditioning components run as usual at night, when water is frozen again for next-day use. Ice Energy claims its technology can reduce power use from 6 kilowatts to as little as 300 watts.

Ice Energy isn't only marketing its products to businesses and homeowners as a way to lower their electric bills. The company, founded in 2003, also is targeting utilities looking to reduce peak-time energy demand and to store power generated by wind- and solar-energy projects. Wind farms tend to generate more electricity at night, while solar power plants are only active during the day.

Both Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., two of the largest utilities in California, subsidize the purchase and installation of energy-efficient air conditioners. 

In May, Honeywell launched a $4.5 million program for Edison to replace 300 commercial rooftop air conditioners with Ice Energy's Ice Bear units. PG&E chose Ice Energy as a provider for its "Shift & Save" program that offers rebates to the utility's commercial customers for replacing old cooling systems.

Other energy-storage companies are targeting the utility market as well. MegaWatt Storage Farms, a startup in Los Altos, Calif., is looking to develop and operate energy-storage centers for utilities, for example (see Q&A: MegaWatt Storage Targets Utilities). 

PSEG Global, a New Jersey energy company that owns the Public Service Electric and Gas Co. utility, launched a joint venture earlier this year to bring a compressed-air energy-storage technology to the market by licensing it to others (see Startup ES&P to Store Electricity in the Air).

In 2007, Ice Energy closed a $25 million round of funding from Goldman Sachs, Good Energies and Second Avenue Partners and Sail Venture Partners. Earth2tech reported that Ice Energy also raised a $10 million seed round.

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