eSolar and Wildlands Conservancy Have Something Else in Common: An Investor

quercustrust_logoPour enough cash into greentech startups and environmental efforts, and sooner or later a couple of your investments might cross paths — especially in a time when large-scale solar projects planned for the Mojave Desert are coming under fire from environmental groups concerned about desert species and habitats.

For venture capitalist David Gelbaum, it’s sooner: The former hedge fund and mathematician’s firm, Quercus Trust, is one of at least six major backers for eSolar, a solar thermal developer that won praise from the non-profit Wildlands Conservancy last week for siting its latest project — the 5 MW Sierra SunTower — on “disturbed lands,” rather than “pristine California desert.” Director David Myers summed up his stance like so: “We can’t say enough great things about eSolar.”

That works out nicely for Gelbaum, because guess who sits on the Conservancy’s board and has become the group’s biggest backer? None other than the VC himself, according to Green Wombat.

It should be said that the Wildlands Conservancy has provided one of the louder voices of support for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to ban renewable energy projects on vast swaths of the Mojave, as NYT’s Green Inc. noted recently. So while it’s unlikely that Myers showed up at eSolar’s SunTower event last week simply because of Gelbaum’s interest, the desert development issue has positioned the Conservancy in staunch opposition to some of eSolar’s potential competitors. For example, Myers has called solar thermal startup BrightSource Energy’s planned 500 MW project in the Mojave, which is among those that would be halted under Feinstein’s legislation, “devastating.”

As for Gelbaum, it makes sense for a millionaire environmentalist to back both green advocacy work and alternative energy ventures. With any luck, his investments will continue to get along.