Infinia, Backed by Paul Allen and Vinod Khosla, Raises $3M For Engines of the Sun

10/26/09Follow @xconomy

Infinia, the Kennewick, WA-based company developing solar-powered engines that generate electricity, has raised $3.25 million in new debt financing as it pushes through the final year before it starts selling its product on the market.

The company raised $3.25 million in debt and options out of a total financing round worth as much as $10.5 million, according to a regulatory filing today. The document doesn’t say who was behind the latest financing, but Infinia has raised $84 million in capital before this latest round, from a syndicate that includes billionaire Paul Allen and famed venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Infinia, as I described in this profile back in August, is using satellite dishes that capture rays of sunlight and channel them to a focal point that contains a Stirling engine. This is a device that converts concentrated heat from the sun, converting it into mechanical work that powers a piston to generate electricity. This device is more efficient at converting solar energy into electricity than other solar technologies, and can be made to last 25 years without any maintenance, or oil, or water. Infinia CEO J.D. Sitton told me back in August that his company had $2 billion worth of orders, and that it hoped to start bringing its first product to the market by the end of September 2010.

While the regulatory document doesn’t say who provided the latest round of debt financing, it lists five members of Infinia’s board. The directors, besides Infinia’s Sitton, include Sharon Clayton of MCC Global in Malibu, CA; Bill Gross of Idealab in Pasadena, CA; John Small of GLG Partners in New York; and Richard Shorten of Silver Mine Capital in New Canaan, CT.

Sitton couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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  • Greg Schneible

    September 2010 is almost 2 years from the original launch date. We just keep burning through VC money and taking on debt without delivering anything. The Detroit manufacturing strategy isn’t working either. How can you count on Detroit to make anything that runs for 25 years without maintenance. Sounds like the perpetual motion machine, huh?

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  • Bob

    It’s very peculiar that Infinia CEO, J.D. Sitton, would risk jail by continuing to make the far-fetched claim that Infinia has $2 billion dollars in orders without identifying the irresponsible company or companies that would be unwise enough to purchase solar power from Infinia at $6/watt rather than from FirstSolar with its CdTe photovoltaic cells at $1/watt.

    During an earlier stage of Infinia existence where about ninety dedicated employees (eventually to be discarded) struggled to overcome top management incompetence to deliver Stirling engines per government contract, J.D. Sitton thought it wise to invite and provide a tour of the Infinia facility to the CEO, Neill Lane, of the company’s main competitor, Sun Power, Inc. of Athens, Ohio. Within a year, Infinia’s lucrative government contract would be stripped from them and handed over to Sun Power.

    I’m sure that many who lost their jobs wonder why most Infinia engineers were not consulted on the questionable merits of Stirling solar schemes with the retention only of those obediently agreeable or silent employees lacking any engineering integrity that supported the unsupportable technical claims of irresponsible company sales shills.

    I’m sure they also wonder which and how many Infinia intellectual property rights have been traded to venture capitalists in exchange for wasted cash.

    Things seem very strange and very wrong at Infinia. Time will tell.

  • Vin Jal

    An Indian cement company, Dalmia, is setting up a 10 MW plant based on Infinia’s ISS systems in Rajasthan, India. Here is the project report http://www.dalmiacement.com/home/DPR_Dalmia_Solar_19-08-09.pdf

    There are several other documents related to this at http://www.dalmiacement.com/home/power.htm

  • Vin Jal

    Infinia is setting very high expectations in the Solar community. There are inherent design issues in Stirling engines which may cause this technology to fail -> 1. moving parts 2. Helium leakage, 3. the large area of land required compared to PV [ 10-20 acres/MW for Stirling vs. 3.5 - 4 acres/MW for PV]. Infinia has not even sold a single finished product in the market and they have not even gone into production. Their claim of 35-40% efficiency may not be realistic. A more realistic efficiency would be in the 20% -25% range.

    With 2nd and 3rd generation PV technology production ramping up and their efficiencies getting upto 25%, they may prove to better than Dish Stirling technologies. The key disadvantage that will prove to be the downfall of Dish Stirling technologies is the area required for installation. PV requires less than 4 acres per MW and this keeps coming down with the advent of newer technologies whereas Dish Stirling requires 10-15 acres per MW. Scale that up and land use goes up exponentially compared to PV.
    Infinia has a peak market potential of 10 -15 years, so they better ramp up their production before 2nd and 3rd generation PV hits the market.

  • Greg Packer

    Attention : Paul Allen
    Dear Sir,
    We have designed world first technology, ie an Atomic Hydrogen reactor (non Nuclear)This system uses the same hydrogen fuel over and over again, produces 3-3500 deg c . Once hot all electronics can be shut off ,but the system continues on producing heat. Some of the process has been proven in Laboratories in France , some proven by Nasa ,we have changed this to suit our design.We are looking for 1,2,3-10 meg Stirling engines to run with this plant. O/S Countries are waiting for this orders pending for $1billion now .This reactor also produces water from the atmosphere .Investors wanted! Regards Greg Packer