FloDesign Wind Turbine Gets $35 Million and a Danish CEO

1/19/10Follow @wroush

Wilbraham, MA-based FloDesign Wind Turbine, whose radical jet-engine-like design for a new form of wind turbine has whisked it from the world of student business plan competitions to national prominence in under three years, says it has raised a big chunk of new cash and installed a new chief executive.

In an announcement today, FloDesign said it closed a $34.5 million Series B funding round in December. The backers include California-based Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers—the firm that supplied most of FloDesign’s Series A round—as well as three new investors, Goldman Sachs, Technology Partners, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. The latest round brings FloDesign’s total funding to about $40 million, not counting an $8.3 million Department of Energy grant awarded to the company last fall.

FloDesign also said that Stanley Kowalski, the company’s founder and original CEO, has taken the position of vice president, and that the CEO role has been filled by newcomer Lars Andersen. A 20-year veteran of the power generation and renewable energy industries, Andersen was previously president of the China operations of Vestas, the Danish firm that is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines.

Andersen’s job will be to manage FloDesign’s transition from “a research and development organization to a leading renewable energy manufacturing company,” the firm said in its announcement. It’s commonplace, when manfacturing startups are nearing the commercialization stage and require more capital, for investors and directors to look for a new chief executive with more business development experience. That appears to be what’s happening at FloDesign, although neither Kowalski nor Andersen, who is traveling today, were available to comment on the transition.

Andersen trained as an engineer at the the Engineering College of Aarhus in Denmark and has held positions at ABB Power Generation in Switzerland and engineering consulting firm Black and Veatch in the US. In a prepared statement, Andersen said “I am very pleased with the prominent venture investors who are backing this company. It will be an exciting journey to build a world‐class company applying leading edge technology in the wind sector.”

FloDesign remains secretive about its wind-turbine designs—it hasn’t shown off its latest turbines in public, and the company’s website is password-protected. (A staffer once told me this was largely due to fears of intellectual property theft among partners at Kleiner Perkins.) But if the company has stayed true to its early design concepts, then its turbines feature tube- or cage-like enclosures that supposedly make them more efficient at extracting energy from wind than conventional open-fan turbines. The best open-fan turbines can convert only about 59 percent of the kinetic energy in wind into electricity, a phenomenon known as the Betz Limit.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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