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Infinia Raises $50M for Stirling Solar

Infinia, a company that has spent the past 25 years working on stirling engines, just announced this afternoon that it has raised a Series B round of $50 million. Why is it raising such a sizable round now? The company, which is backed by a who’s who of entrepreneur investor firms in Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures, Bill Gross’ Idealab and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, says it will start selling its stirling engine product for solar thermal power plants by the end of this year and will use these funds to make that happen.

The stirling engine is a centuries-old technology that uses an external heat source, runs quietly, can be greenhouse gas-free and can be more efficient than an internal combustion engine. Inventors have been working on the technology since the stirling engine arrived, but stirling engines are still not used in the mainstream, just for very niche applications.

Infinia’s solar thermal stirling product is an intersection of several cleantech trends: more and more solar thermal power plants are getting ready to come online over the next few years, and with the concern over climate change, startups are working on stirling engines as an alternative to the traditional internal combustion engine.

Infinia’s CEO J.D. Sitton tells us that the company’s stirling engine can provide 3 kilowatts of AC to the user, and for the solar market it can convert sunlight to AC electricity at a rate of 24 percent — that’s pretty high. Sitton says its customers will be solar asset developers, likely in Spain and the U.S., and that the company’s technology will bring down the costs of making stirling engines.

The solar thermal company with the most power plants coming online in the U.S., Stirling Energy Systems, already uses a concentrator dish attached to a stirling engine designed to convert sunlight to electricity. Other inventors like Dean Kamen (mind behind the Segway) are working on stirling engines to power vehicles (Kamen’s built a stirling engine scooter).

Infinia’s round was led by GLG Partners and included new investor Wexford Capital, as well as existing investors Vulcan Capital, Khosla Ventures, EQUUS Total Return, Idealab and Power Play Energy. The company raised a $9.5 million Series A round in June of 2007 from Idealab, Khosla, and Vulcan, as well as a $3-4 million angel round before that from undisclosed investors.

9 Responses to “Infinia Raises $50M for Stirling Solar”

  1. Michael Nash

    I am wanting to purchase a sterling generator that will conect to my home as its main power system not so much interested in selling back power to the utility company just as they say its time to get off the grid and before regulations take charge i would like to in stall a system 50 to 400 amps? would like very much to talk with your sales rep to begin this venture. Its time you can call me nash
    thanks for your time on this matter

  2. Green energy is definitely the best solution in most cases. Technology like solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, zaps electric vehicles, EV hybrids, etc have come so far recently. Green energy even costs way less than oil and gas in many cases.

  3. Not that it’s an either/or proposition with Stirling vs. photovoltiac vs. small wind turbines, but I’ve wondered what the potential is for the technology if these were affordable enough to put on every home the way satellite dishes are. They’d be used in the same way photovoltiacs and small 1kv wind turbines can be, with utility buy back of excess power. There are a couple questions though that I’d like to get answers on. What’s the life of one of these and how do they provide under cloudy conditions.