6 startups that could shape California’s clean energy transition

February 14, 2024

From more aerodynamic trucks, through to non-flammable batteries, we’re proud to announce the six winners of the CalSEED program’s sixth annual Prototype Awards.

Funded through the California Energy Commission’s US$130 million-a-year EPIC program, these awards aim to surface some of the most cutting edge clean energy technologies being developed in California, and ultimately help them commercialize faster.

The awardees were selected through a rigorous business plan competition, closely coordinated with Cleantech Open (CTO), where companies demonstrated the commercial promise of their innovations. Each winner will receive US$500,000 to bring their technology closer to market.

“The companies selected for these awards not only showed commercial promise, but they demonstrated how scaling their technology could result in other benefits that go beyond reducing emissions and cutting costs. There is something about each of these innovations that is easier to install, easier to manufacture, and easier to deploy, and these things can increase access and resilience.”

Joy Larson, Director of CalSEED at New Energy Nexus

Community Energy Labs: simplifying building control systems

Community Energy Labs (CEL) has developed a cheaper and simpler building control system, which can increase energy savings by up to 23%, reduce peak demand by up to 30%, and drive adoption of renewables through load shifting. Due to the low up-front costs, customers pay back their initial investment in months, not years.

Building control systems are the systems that typically automate centralized control of a building’s HVAC, electrical, lighting, shading, access control, and security systems. CEL’s solutions can be installed in under a week (as opposed to months or years for transitional Building Automation Systems), requiring minimal intervention or engineering.

“With the CalSEED Prototype Aware we plan to build support tools that smooth customer acquisition and onboarding in a friendly, consistent, and scalable way. The proposed enhancements are central to supporting CEL’s go-to-market strategy and ability to convert pilots and demonstrate scalability to potential investors.”

Tanya Barham, CEO at Community Energy Labs

Community Energy Labs

Tyfast: more efficient, robust batteries

Tyfast is building high-performance Lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) in heavy duty, construction, and military vehicle applications.

Tyfast has developed a proprietary vanadium-based anode called LVO, which delivers 10-times faster charging (in less than 10 minutes) resulting in shorter downtimes, and increasing the lifecycle 10-fold. It can also be charged at sub-zero temperatures (-40C).

With the CalSEED Prototype Award, we aim to fabricate and deliver >5 Ah Li-ion cells to our diesel OEM customers for evaluation of this breakthrough technology at the cell and early module/pack level.

GJ la O’, CEO at Tyfast

Solvari: ready-to-install residential solar

Solvari SR is a ready-to-install, all-in-one residential solar panel that ships as a single unit with everything needed to install it. It installs four-times faster than current options, reducing cost by as much as 25%.

Rooftop solar typically has an average of 425 individual parts for a typical 7kW residential solar system. Solvari has simplified this to only 22 modules, resulting in a 50% reduction in operation and installation costs.

Solvari plans on completing two key automation manufacturing stations of the Solvari SR product to reduce manufacturing costs. We will also complete certification of the Solvari SR module to close out its final market requirement.

Samuel Truthseeker, Founder and CEO at Solvari

Ariya: developing non-flammable batteries

Ariya Energy is developing a proprietary, low-cost, non-flammable battery for stationary storage. The team estimates that this battery can save commercial and industrial ratepayers up to 25% on their electricity bill, and residential ratepayers up to 20%.

Ariya’s battery uses a water-based electrolyte and zinc, making the battery both non-flammable much more robust. A lower cost  is achieved with readily available (inexpensive) materials that can easily be recycled. The low battery price could enable a “Energy Storage as a Service” (eSaaS) that provides storage as a guaranteed service for a monthly fee. Little or no upfront payment is required, and the monthly fee never exceeds the ratepayer’s monthly savings.

“With the Prototype Award, we will perform further technical development of our low cost stationary energy storage battery.  Specifically, we plan to increase the storage capacity of our prototype battery to bring it closer to commercialization.”

Arthur Kariya, Founder at Ariya

Aeromutable: making trucks more aerodynamic

Aeromutable is developing more aerodynamic trucks, with a simple, low-profile device added to the back of trucks. It could improve the energy efficiency of the trucking industry by up to 16%.

The design changes the aerodynamic signature of a tractor trailer to minimize drag and reduce energy consumption and emissions by injecting air into the back of the trailer in a unique way.

Unlike the static technologies on the market today, this technology provides dynamic, real-time aerodynamic optimization.

To accelerate our entry to market, Aeromutable is proposing to develop a faster testing method. By leveraging additional testing platforms that will allow us to work both on in-house development and advancing our on-road testing through commercial developmental pilots we can demonstrate performance improvements our device provides for heavy vehicles.

Sandra Manosalvas-Kjono, Co-Founder and COO at Aeromutable

Climformatics: localized near-to-long term prediction of extreme weather events

Climformatics builds models to simulate the global climate using state-of-the-art, Nobel-Prize winning algorithms. It predicts with a high degree of certainty the climate and weather state for long-term timescales at specific geographic locations.

Climformatics has developed innovative technology using climate and weather models together with machine learning that can anticipate the extreme climate events well before they are imminent (beyond a week or two). This data empowers utilities to prepare and protect their installations.

… the “CALSEED Prototype award will help Climformatics build an innovative decision support tool for energy utilities and grid operators to help them decide how to meet the increased energy demand for cooling and at the same time mitigate the fire-risk ignition.”

Subarna Bhattacharyya, Co-Founder and CEO at Climformatics

About CalSEED

CalSEED is funded through the CEC’s EPIC program which invests approximately $120M annually for innovative clean energy technologies and approaches benefiting the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities. Through the CalSEED initiative $25M will be deployed to back over 80 startups in coming years. CalSEED is administered by New Energy Nexus.