Venture capitalists are starting the New Year off with a deepening interest in the wind industry. About two weeks after Khosla Ventures and others invested in wind turbine maker Nordic Windpower, another wind startup, FloDesign Wind Turbine, announced yesterday that it closed a $34.5 million second round of venture funding to further develop its “high-efficiency shrouded” wind turbines that draw inspiration from the aerospace industry.
High-profile investment firm Kleiner Perkins, the only disclosed backer of the startup’s $6 million first round, led this latest funding and was joined by Goldman Sachs, Technology Partners, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. FloDesign Wind also announced that Lars Anderson, the former head of wind energy developer Vestas’ business efforts in China, joined as chief executive officer. The startup’s previous CEO and co-founder, Stanley Kowalski, will remain with the company as vice president.
FloDesign Wind so far hasn’t officially said much about its wind turbine design or business plan, since the company remains in “stealth mode,” a spokeswoman told us. The company is still working on R&D and is “moving into the next stage of actually building a company around the product,” she said. That product is a wind turbine using a “shrouded” design, a cage-like enclosure commonly used with jet engines (the image is a rendition supplied by FloDesign), as opposed to conventional turbines that use long blades.
The shrouds work off the concept that air moving through a hole will gain speed because of differences in air pressure. The web site New Energy and Fuel has an interesting write-up on the science and engineering behind the design concept.
FloDesign Wind believes its design will be able to extract 3-4 times more energy from the wind than current technologies, according to this YouTube video. The spokeswoman said this would lead to turbines that are more efficient and less costly than competing products on the market today. She wouldn’t say if the startup will look to sell or license its technology to large wind turbine manufacturers like General Electric or Denmark’s Vestas, but the addition of Anderson to the FloDesign Wind team could make a Vestas deal easier.
Wilbraham, Mass.-based FloDesign Wind was founded in 2007 as a spin-off of FloDesign Inc., a contract engineering company that applies aerospace technology to new product development. The startup already has some victories under its belt: in 2008 it won two Massachusetts Institute of Technology-sponsored competitions, the Ignite Clean Energy business presentation competition and the Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize. Just a few months after those awards, Kleiner Perkins plunked down the startup’s first venture round, and since then FloDesign Wind has also secured an $8.3 million grant under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, program.