Algenol Biofuels, with its just-announced plans to build an algae fuel demo plant in partnership with Dow Chemical, isn’t the only startup taking the demise of a well-funded algae fuel company — GreenFuel Technologies — in stride.
Today 3-year-old Solix Biofuels, which has some similarities with GreenFuel (it uses closed photobioreactors to grow algae, then turns it into biofuels and feedstocks for the chemical industry), shows it, too, is bucking up in the downturn — adding another $1.3 million to its Series A financing round, and announcing plans to start a commercial-scale demonstration of its technology within two months (“late summer”) in southwestern Colorado.
These new funds — bringing the company’s total Series A to $16.8 million — come from international investment group Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., or SAIL, and point to expansion in Asia. That’s the plan, anyway, according to Solix CEO Doug Henston. In a release this morning, he said a relationship with SAIL will help Solix deploy its technology internationally, particularly in Asia.
Before SAIL’s $1.3 million investment, Solix already had some heavyweight backers — notably the largest U.S. oil refinery operator, Valero Energy — as part of an unusual mix. The first set of investors, announced back in November 2008, also included Southern Ute Alternative Energy, which manages clean power investments for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, plus I2BF Venture Capital, Bohemian Investments and Infield Capital.
Solix’s Series A hardly matches the scale of last year’s record-breaking boom, when a $50 million round for Sapphire Energy helped bump the total investment in algae startups to $84 million during the second quarter. But it could give us an example of how players in the next generation of algae biofuel startups find — or ignore — lessons from GreenFuel about mismanagement of risky, high-cost projects in a nascent market and down economy.
For a full list of algae startups, check out our 15 Algae Startups Bringing Pond Scum to Fuel Tanks.
Graphics credit Solix