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Media coverage of Hydrostor's Toronto Hydro Launch

Media coverage of Hydrostor's Toronto Hydro Launch

3M invests in Smart Energy Instruments

Canadian company develops electronic chipsets with high precision, real-time monitoring capabilities for smart grids. St. Paul, Minn. — August 19, 2014 — Today, 3M New Ventures (3M’s corporate venture organization) announced an equity investment in Smart Energy Instruments (SEI), based in Toronto, Canada, which provides electronic chipsets with precise, time-synchronized measurement capabilities for smart grid applications in the electric utility industry. Existing investors, Venturelink Funds, ArcTern Ventures (formerly MaRS Cleantech Fund) and the Ontario Capital Growth Corporation, also bolstered their support and joined the financing round of CAD $5.6M led by 3M New Ventures. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Aging grid infrastructures and the need for higher reliability and efficiency are driving the installation of more precise monitoring devices. Furthermore, the exponential growth in variable renewable energy generation, particularly solar and wind, is greatly altering system dynamic behavior, necessitating time-synchronized real-time measurements to operate the grid. According to a new report from Navigant Research, cumulative worldwide electric utility spending on asset management and condition monitoring systems will total close to USD$50 billion from 2014 to 2023.

SEI’s core chipset is a powerful computational platform with unprecedented measurement precision and low power consumption, which can be directly integrated into today’s Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs). It brings OEMs and utilities a significant competitive advantage in functions such as power quality monitoring and fault detection. Being a ubiquitous technology platform, SEI provides equipment manufacturers with the base technology for future distributed infrastructure monitoring applications, both within and beyond electrical power grids.

The investment will accelerate SEI’s product development and commercialize a number of opportunities for the deployment of SEI’s IED core chipset by global OEMs and strategic partners.

“We are honored that 3M is joining our team of investors and proud of this confirmation of SEI’s progress over the last year.” said SEI CEO Jeff Dionne. “We’ve hit several key milestones in our company’s growth, and the utility market is now primed to take full advantage of our solutions to achieve what they have been promising with smart grid technologies. We see 3M as an important strategic partner to jointly develop and commercialize innovative solutions for utilities and electrical equipment manufacturers.”

As a leading supplier to the energy industry, 3M’s Electronics and Energy Business Group is building new platforms for greater relevance to the energy sector.  SEI’s chipset platform will be a key part of 3M’s portfolio for grid automation. “We are extremely impressed with SEI’s technology and forward-thinking approach to the utility marketplace,” said Robert Visser, VP Research & Development of 3M’s Electronics and Energy Business Group. “SEI has demonstrated clear technical leadership and expertise in developing a compelling solution for the next generation of Intelligent Electronic Devices. We are excited about the opportunity to support the development of a new standard for multi-dimensional electrical measurements in the utility industry.”

“SEI’s unique technology will strengthen 3M’s leadership in the energy sector and enable the development of ubiquitous infrastructure sensing and monitoring solutions” added Stefan Gabriel, President 3M New Ventures. “We are delighted to announce our first investment in Canada in an area of such relevance for the sustainability of our future energy systems.”

 

 About Smart Energy Instruments (SEI)

Smart Energy Instruments (SEI) develops game-changing, synchronous measurement technologies for the burgeoning “smart grid” to address today’s global energy-environment challenges. SEI’s mission is to create a sustainable electricity future through higher grid efficiency, reliability and renewables integration using ubiquitous synchronized measurements. Incorporated in 2004, SEI is based in Toronto, Canada with offices in Tokyo, Japan and Silicon Valley, California. For more information, visit www.se-instruments.com.

 

About 3M 3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs about 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNews on Twitter.

 

About 3M New Ventures 3M New Ventures, headquartered in Munich, Germany, identifies and invests in innovative companies and disruptive new technologies of strategic relevance for 3M. Recent investments made by 3M New Ventures include minority stakes in TaKaDu, a leading provider of advanced analytics services to monitor water networks; Lixivia, a Chilean company that has developed an engineering process to increase recuperation of copper sulfurate; VocalZoom, working on a technology to capture quality audio signals in noisy environments. For more information, visit www.3M.com/newventures.

About ArcTern Ventures ArcTern Ventures (www.arcternventures.com) is a privately-backed Canadian venture fund focused on early-stage cleantech investing. ArcTern has a unique investment model through its partnership with one of the largest innovation centres in the world, MaRS Discovery District. Through MaRS Cleantech, ArcTern is able to provide strategic advisory services and introductions to global corporate partners.

 

Contact:

3M Media Contact: Donna Fleming Runyon, 651-736-7646 or 3M Investor Contacts: Matt Ginter, 651-733-8206

Clean-tech startups get leg-up from niche funding

Vancouver sun reports on portfolio companies Smart Energy Instruments, Sparq, Green Mantra and Hydrostor. See original article here.

Mars Cleantech 'was kind of tough,' but got firm going; Market could be worth as much as $3-trillion by 2020

Hydrostor co-founders Curtis VanWalleghem, left, and Cameron Lewis with piping for their offshore energy storage farm in Lake Ontario. Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson, National Post, Financial Post

Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer - and the widespread power failures that result with seemingly growing frequency each year. If Jeff Dionne has his way, they'll very soon be a thing of the past.

His company, Smart Energy Instruments, produces sensors that make electricity grids smarter, more stable and more efficient. In doing so, they reduce the need for fossil fuel-powered energy to keep up with demand, and minimize the strain that has increasingly led to system failures and power outages.

The company's technology could have just as easily remained another unfunded clean-tech startup idea stuck in limbo had it not been for the MaRS Cleantech Fund, a private venture-capital firm affiliated with the MaRS Innovation program that not only finds and funds up-and-coming Canadian clean-tech startups but ensures they get enough of a leg up to be viable businesses.

"When we decided to accept money from MaRS it wasn't a slam dunk," says Mr. Dionne, one of two clean-tech entrepreneurs who received initial funding from MaRS Cleantech managing partners Tom Rand and Murray McCaig in 2012. "It really wasn't MaRS's money we were attracted to; it was the kind of involvement they could bring to the table, and that they have."

But then, Mr. Rand and Mr. Mc-Caig aren't your typical venture capitalists. They are proactively involved, not only sitting on the boards of each company they invest in, but also tapping their deep networks to help each company grow.

"Companies like ours with more extensive capital projects scared off a lot of other VC investors," says Curtis VanWalleghem, chief executive of Hydrostor, one of Mr. Rand and Mr. McCaig's more recent allocations. "MaRS was kind of tough. They said, 'Go out and get a $10-million contract, and then we'll talk.' But that really forced us to step up to the plate."

Having hit their $30-million target, Mr. Rand and Mr. McCaig are already seeking to secure additional capital, most recently from Royal Bank's RBC Impact Fund, that they will put to work among additional Canadian clean-tech startups.

Its first two investments have been resounding successes: Smart Energy has test projects with several large electrical grid manufacturers and a deal with the U.S. Department of Energy. GreenMantra, meanwhile, which has a proprietary technology that allows plastics to be recycled into waxes and oils used to make asphalt and other products, is already working with the City of Vancouver.

Mr. Rand and Mr. McCaig have invested in six more clean-tech companies this past year, among them Kingston, Ont.-based Sparq Systems, which creates micro-inverters that harness solar power and distribute it back to the grid, and Toronto-based Hydrostor, which has created jellyfish-looking balloons that trap and compress air under water, creating offshore energy storage farms literally below the surface.

Toronto Hydro is working with Hydrostor to set up one such underwater field off the foot of the Leslie Street spit in Lake Ontario. The company is also talking to a few Caribbean countries, where its system could be used to store solar and wind power.

They know they are just skimming the surface. A study by Ernst & Young released this past spring found that the global clean tech sector grew a staggering US$26-billion in the past fiscal year.

But the potential is even bigger. Global clean tech markets are expected to reach $2-trillion to $3-trillion by 2020, says Mr. Rand. "If Canada gets just 2% of that market, our clean-tech industry will rival the auto sector."

Sparq Systems chief executive Randy MacEwen applauds the venture capitalists for their tenacity in continually investing in the fund through difficult economic times. "The fact that they are putting more capital to work and getting more capital into the fund is in contrast to what a lot of other clean tech firms are doing," he says.

While the heady days for clean tech funding have yet to return, Mr. Rand and Mr. McCaig continue to source and allocate money to Canadian ventures that hold the promise of changing the environmental landscape. But the biggest promise of all is to do what every venture capitalist wants and hopes for: Exit each opportunity with a tidy profit.

"That's their ultimate objective," says Mr. VanWalleghem. "Zero emissions and a no-carbon world are great, but every venture capitalist is ultimately a venture capitalist."

 

Hydrostor inks commercial storage deal in Aruba

Energy storage company signs world's first commercial PPA for underwater compressed air energy storage (UWCAES), as part of Aruba's Carbon War Room-backed plan to go carbon free by 2020. See here for press release, text below.

MaRS Cleantech Fund-supported company signs power purchase agreement with WEB Aruba N.V.

TORONTO, Oct. 23, 2013 /CNW/ - Toronto-based energy storage firm Hydrostor Inc. and WEB Aruba N.V. have signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for an underwater compressed air energy storage facility based on Hydrostor's proprietary technology.

The project will be located at the Vader Piet wind park on Aruba's southeastern coast. The project is expected to start storing power in 2014.

"Hydrostor is excited to bring our underwater compressed air energy storage technology to market in order to support island nations and coastal centres' transition to a sustainable energy future," said Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor CEO. "We are delighted to be partnering with WEB Aruba - one of the most progressive and innovative electrical utilities in the Caribbean - to demonstrate that storage paired with renewable generation offers a safe, reliable and lower cost alternative to fossil fuels. WEB Aruba's leadership in advancing the goal of 100 per cent sustainable islands is exemplary."

"Envisioning green, clean and fuel oil free water and energy production by 2020, WEB Aruba is very happy with this innovative energy storage solution," said WEB Aruba General Manager Oslin Boekhoudt. "It enables us to continue our efforts to introduce more sustainable forms of energy in the near future."

"We're excited to see Hydrostor move into their first commercial market - that's a great moment for any cleantech company," said Tom Rand, co-managing partner of the MaRS Cleantech Fund, an early investor in Hydrostor. "Hydrostor changes the game for renewables, and the WEB agreement is the first of many to come."

Hydrostor's proprietary technology is based on a simple idea: Anchor a low-cost air cavity to the bottom of a lake or ocean floor, and store energy in it by filling it with compressed air created using surplus renewable energy. The energy is discharged from the system by releasing the air stored underwater to drive a turbine recreating electricity when it is most needed - either to meet daily demand peaks or to cover periods of calm winds or cloud cover that prevent power from being harnessed.

The PPA was recently ratified during the Green Aruba IV Conference in the presence of the Aruban Minister of Finance, Communication, Utilities and Energy, Mike de Meza. The Green Aruba Conference is held annually by the Government of Aruba and is in line with its commitment to increase Aruba's sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint. The Green Aruba IV Conference was well-attended by regional stakeholders, as well as representatives from other organizations working with Aruba in the area of sustainability, including The Carbon War Room and the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), a non-profit organization managed by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy for the US Department of Energy.

About WEB Aruba N.V. WATER- EN ENERGIEBEDRIJF ARUBA N.V. - WEB (www.webaruba.com) is responsible for the production ofAruba's drinking water and power, as well as the distribution of drinking water.

About Hydrostor  Hydrostor Inc. is a privately owned Canadian company that has developed a proprietary, low-cost method of grid-scale energy storage using underwater compressed air. Hydrostor's strategy is to partner with utilities and energy producers to accelerate large-scale deployment.

About MaRS Cleantech Fund LP MaRS Cleantech Fund LP is a Canadian venture fund focused on early-stage cleantech investing. The Fund has developed a unique early-stage investment model through its partnership with one of the largest innovation centers in world, MaRS Discovery District. Through MaRS, the Fund is able to provide strategic advisory services and introductions to global corporate partners. The Fund is managed by Tom Rand (@tomrand) and Murray McCaig(@murraymccaig), experienced entrepreneurs who bring a wealth of startup experience to their portfolio companies.

SOURCE Hydrostor Inc.

 For further information:

Curtis VanWalleghem CEO, Hydrostor Inc curt@hydrostor.ca

Asja Dongen Media Relations, WEB Aruba N.V. addongen@webaruba.com

SEI Announces Partnership with Hitachi High Tech

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - Smart Energy Instruments (SEI), a Toronto-based cleantech company with a unique solution to improve electric grid reliability, and Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation of Japan, today unveiled the first component of SEI's planned chipset product line for smart grid applications in an event at MaRS Discovery District. Full news release here.

"To turn a grid into a smart grid, you need visibility. Highly detailed, real-time visibility on the grid is what SEI's chipset provides. It's so detailed you can even see which direction power is flowing," said Tom Rand, co-managing director, MaRS Cleantech Fund and SEI Board member. "Without low-cost, high-granularity visibility into the grid there's just no 'smart' to 'smart grid.' SEI provides unparalleled visibility at a highly competitive price."

This move enables SEI to leverage the global reach and robust supply chains of HHT to bring their smart-grid solution to global OEMs, like GE, Siemens, ABB, etc. MarS Cleantech Fund has co-invested in three rounds in SEI.