Clean Energy Trust
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Clean Energy Trust

Clean Energy Trust CEO Erik Birkerts (center), with the founders of Nikola Power, Wright Electric, Darcy Solutions, and C-Motive

Clean Energy Trust Welcomes 4 New Portfolio Companies at 2019 Co_Invest Cleantech

On Wednesday, May 22, we celebrated our cleantech community, entrepreneurs, sponsors, partners, and announced our latest investments and new portfolio companies at our annual Co_Invest Cleantech event. One prevalent theme throughout the day was how high-growth sustainable technology businesses are compounding impact and helping to address our climate challenges.

We were honored to have great speakers at the event:

  • Mindy Lubber (CERES) and Erin Ailworth (Wall Street Journal) discussed large corporations’ role in advancing climate action.
  • Jennifer Rumsey (Cummins) and Betsy Zeigler (1871) discussed how large companies can innovate and thrive amidst the clean energy transition.
  • Pratima Rangarajan of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative explored the potential for carbon capture and carbon removal technologies in a wide-ranging conversation with Energize Ventures’ Amy Francetic, while also highlighting the importance of energy efficiency.

That said, there was a lot more than keynote speakers at Co_Invest Cleantech. We heard from a number of Clean Energy Trust’s portfolio companies, who provided updates, insights, and lessons from their businesses:

  • Intellihot highlighted the manufacturing jobs they are creating in central Illinois while building the only American made tankless commercial hot water heater.
  • NovoMoto shared how they are empowering communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo with off-grid solar solutions.
  • NanoGraf shared their progress towards improving batteries utilizing advanced materials.
  • Agentis shared 5 lessons it has learned as it has grown and scaled its utility customer engagement business.
  • Wellntel showed how they make groundwater visible to communities, vineyards, and industry

In addition to these keynote conversations and portfolio company updates, we also had presentations from our newest portfolio companies. We are thrilled to share more about these 4 companies, each tackling a critical clean energy challenge with innovative technology and business models.

By providing critical external capital at early stages, particularly in the middle of the country where investment deals tend to lag behind coastal counterparts, we are able to generate an enormous impact with relatively small investments.

With these 4 investments, Clean Energy Trust now has 31 companies in our portfolio, which makes Clean Energy Trust the most active seed investors in sustainable technologies in the region.


Famed inventor and Founding Father Ben Franklin tried and failed. 300 years later PhD students at the University of Wisconsin would pick up the problem and crack the case.

The problem that so vexed Franklin was how to successfully use electrostatic energy to power a motor. He had an idea it could be done, but couldn’t figure out how. Electrostatic energy is everywhere all around us. It’s what makes your hair stand on edge or your clothes stick together out of the dryer. To date, it has been difficult to utilize efficiently.

But with C-Motive patented technology we are that much closer to a future full of electrostatic motors. Further, this lightweight high torque motor/generator eliminates the need for costly rare earth metals and costly cooling features that are required for today’s magnetic motors.

It’s a better electric motor for a better world, and we can’t wait to see what they do!

Darcy Solutions

Second, only to transportation, buildings use an incredible amount of energy. Much of this energy is used to heat and cool buildings.

Ground source heat pumps are an extremely efficient and climate-friendly method for heating and cooling buildings, relying on the stable temperature of the ground just a few feet below the surface of the ground.

Although these systems work well and are cost-effective, one significant problem is the high upfront installation costs and a long payback period that present a significant hurdle for developers…until now.

Darcy Solutions has developed proprietary technology that is poised to revolutionize geothermal energy extraction. Their ground source heat pump system yields a 20% efficiency improvement over traditional pumps. And their installation design reduces the number of holes that must be dug, significantly reducing the upfront cost and shortening the payback period from over 12 years to just 4.

Nikola Power

Energy storage is often described as the “holy grail” of renewable energy. The central questions is: How can energy be stored and deployed in the most cost-effective, efficient way?

Nikola Power is providing energy storage development and operations expertise in order to help grow and scale battery storage solutions.

Nikola Power is comprised of veteran renewable energy developers who used their deep understanding of the stakeholders and mechanics of the industry to develop end-to-end software solutions for utility customers to optimize and manage their energy storage system and leverage these tools to build new projects.

By helping more and more energy storage be deployed and integrated into the grid, Nikola Power is paving the way to incorporate and optimize larger and larger amounts of renewable energy resources and charting a path towards a decarbonized electricity grid.

Wright Electric

Wright is a plucky startup formed by dynamic entrepreneurs and engineers who thought about the biggest, boldest problem they could sink their teeth into. They focused on a common but very carbon intensive element of modern life: air travel is the most emissions-heavy activity the average person undertakes annually.

Wright Electric is working towards a future where every short flight is completed with low-emission electric airplanes. Their first aircraft, the hybrid-electric Wright One, will be able to improve fuel burn by 45%, reduce engine noise by 50%, and shorten takeoff distance by 25%. Interestingly, much of the gains in fuel efficiency are a result of being able to change the aerodynamics of the plane.

Their first plane will be ready for its maiden voyage later this year, and with impressive commercial airline partners already lined up, the future looks bright: time to slip on the aviators.

At Co_Invest Cleantech, we benefited from great speakers, great companies, and great attendees. We look forward to sharing how the businesses and organizations we highlighted grow, thrive, and compound their impact in the coming months and years.



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Ian Adams

Ian Adams

I work at Evergreen Climate Innovations in Chicago. I’m passionate about clean energy, innovation, and market driven solutions.