Infinia Raises $11.5M To Make New Solar-Power Generators, Entices Paul Allen Again

[Updated: 2/5/2010, 5:45 pm Pacific, with Infinia CEO comments.] Infinia is raising another truckload of money. The Kennewick, WA-based company, backed by Paul Allen and Vinod Khosla, has snapped up $11.5 million in new equity financing out of a round that could bring in as much as $75 million over time, according to a regulatory filing.

The financing occurred on Feb. 1, and it came from 11 investors, according to the filing. Steve Hall, a managing director at Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital in Seattle, confirmed that Vulcan participated in this latest financing round. Infinia CEO J.D. Sitton, reached by phone late this afternoon, said the deal included one other existing investor, GLG Partners, a fund with more than $20 billion in assets under management.

Infinia, as I described in a profile back in August, is developing solar-powered engines to generate large amounts of electricity in a renewable way. The concept uses satellite dishes that capture rays of sunlight and channel them to a focal point that contains a single-piston Stirling engine, which is powered by the heat energy. Infinia had raised $84 million in venture capital at the time of that writing, and by October, it took on another $3.25 million in debt, followed by another $2.6 million a month later in equity and options. The new funding brings its total raised to date to more than $100 million, with another $63.5 million still open in the round.

“This is a big deal for us,” Sitton says. “It represents continuing support from our existing investors, and is a big step toward positioning us for a bigger round with new investors. When it’s done, it should be the last bit of private capital we need to get our product launched.”

J.D. Sitton

J.D. Sitton

The Infinia vision, in the words of Sitton, is exceptionally bold. Back in August, he said Infinia had lined up $2 billion worth of orders for its solar power generation product, which it expected to start rolling out commercially before the end of September 2010. The company was still working on refining the technology when we spoke then, and Sitton acknowledged there was still execution risk in getting all the necessary suppliers in line for this commercial push.

So kind of progress has Infinia made since then? The company is still working on product development, and remains on schedule to start commercializing its system by the end of September, Sitton says. The company has focused on getting all its manufacturing suppliers—who mainly serve the automotive industry now—to go through all the design and validation steps needed to show the product is made consistently and reliably before entering mass production.

Infinia currently has six pilot projects up and running around the world, Sitton says. One is … Next Page »

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