The Office of Naval Research (ONR) of the U.S. Navy announced that it is investing an additional $30 million into Energy Excelerator, a Honolulu, Hawaii-based program that provides startup funding for innovative energy ideas.
The Energy Excelerator¬†program is a part of ONR‚Äôs Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Program (APTEP).
The aim of the program is to fund startups involved in projects that have a potential to be the next groundbreaking energy technologies, and assist these startups in commercializing the technologies.
The $30 million being pumped into the program by ONR will not only fund the activities of such companies, but also help them attract other partners so that energy innovation can flourish.
The 17 companies that are already part of the Energy Excelerator portfolio have together attracted $38 million in funding from other sources over the past three years.
The portfolio companies include IBiS Networks, Sopogy Inc., Pacific Biodiesel, Hawaii Gas, and OpConnect, among others. This last one, previously known as Better Place HI, used Energy Excelerator to build and demonstrate the first utility-integrated EV charging infrastructure in Hawaii.
In fact, the Portland, Oregon-based OpConnect LLC just received another $650,000 to grow its presence in Hawaii. This includes $350,000 from the Ulupono Initiative in Hawaii, along with $50,000 from Drive Oregon and another $250,000 loan from the Portland Development Commission.
OpConnect now has a network that spans 270 charging stations in four states.
Dr. Richard Carlin, director of ONR‚Äôs Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, said partnerships were vital for reaching energy goals. He said this program helps small companies move their products from the lab to the market, and ONR was supporting a forward-thinking organization that could make a significant contribution towards future energy needs.
Hawaii was uniquely suited as the base for this program and energy research because of the unmatched availability of solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and wave resources.
Furthermore, the population in Hawaii is keenly aware of their dependence on imported fossil fuels and need to come up with alternative energy sources. Not to mention the high cost of electricity in the state.
Every summer, Energy Excelerator opens up its applications process, with funding awards for growth-stage startups in November, followed by seed-stage funding for new startups in January.
Seed-stage startups are eligible to receive $30,000 to $100,000 to develop and execute go-to-market strategies. Growth-stage companies may be awarded grants up to $1 million in the form of reimbursable costs, subject to the costs being shared on at least a 1-1 ratio by the recipient through private investments or revenues.
Out of the hundreds of applications they get, only 13 are chosen to address the energy challenges of Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. Specifically, they are looking for projects related to integration of renewable energy into the grid; transportation bioenergy projects; and energy efficiency for agriculture and built environment.
Apart from the Navy‚Äôs ONR, Energy Excelerator also gets funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and from its own portfolio companies, if they are successful.