Faster and fatter algae, you say?
By Jake Mitchell
The heavy transport sector consumes more than one-third of all liquid fossil fuels used today. And airlines make up most of that demand, adding 2.5 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, with experts estimating that more than 20 percent of the planet’s CO2 emissions will come from airplanes by 2050. In their quest for environmental solutions, airlines have been aggressively searching for a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to reduce their carbon footprint.
Enter Viridos, a startup that bioengineers microalgae oil as an SAF. The startup genetically modifies algae to grow faster and fatter, which has already increased the fuel capacity of the microalgae sevenfold, according to Chief Executive Officer Oliver Fetzer. With this newfound productivity, Viridos’ production of algae oil dwarfs traditional oil crops’ (such as corn ethanol and palm biodiesel) production by as much as nine times.
The microalgae act as cell factories, converting CO2 and sunlight into energy-dense oils that can be refined into renewable diesel and jet fuel. The resulting biofuels produce 70 percent fewer heat-trapping emissions than conventional fuels, according to the company.
Also, because Viridos farms algae in saltwater, which doesn’t require arable land, it avoids using resources required for food production, including farmland and freshwater.
Viridos recently raised $25 million in Series A funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Chevron and United Airlines Ventures. To achieve commercial viability, Viridos intends to use this funding to double their production in the next two years.
The next destination for freshwater? The ocean
By Leah Garden
40 percent of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity, with up to 700 million people at risk of displacement from drought by 2030. To combat these sobering numbers, Norwegian startup Ocean Oasis is developing technology that converts salty ocean water into consumable freshwater.
Ocean Oasis builds floating desalination plants offshore that send fresh water to shore via pipes along the seabed. What separates this startup from other desalination endeavors is its commitment to net-zero emissions. Desalination, in general, is an energy-intensive process most often powered by fossil fuels. To bypass that dilemma, Ocean Oasis uses wave energy, or the power of ocean surface waves converted into energy, to power its deep ocean desalination plants.
"Desalination that uses wave energy brings a new dimension and additional opportunities to supply desalinated water without emissions," said co-founder and CEO Kristine Bangstad Fredriksen, "at a competitive cost and without the use of valuable land."
Ocean Oasis closed its recent funding round at $2.7 million. The company plans to test and scale its offshore technology, accelerating its ultimate goal to deliver fresh water to communities in need. The round was led by Unconventional Ventures, with participation from Unruly Capital, Grieg Edge, Farvatn Venture and Antler.
Charging ahead to an electric future
By Sherrie Totoki
President Joe Biden has a goal to install 500,000 EV chargers and achieve 50 percent of new light-duty vehicles sales being electric by 2030. In order to do so, drivers need to have access to reliable public charging. However, as many as 1 in 5 chargers are out of order across the U.S. This is where startup ChargerHelp! comes in.
ChargerHelp!, founded in 2020, upskills technicians through a training program that then deploys them to fix broken charging stations across the U.S. The company partners directly with charging network operators, such as Tesla, to use its reliability-as-a-service labor subscription model. While these private partnerships are a key part of their business model, ChargerHelp! also works closely with policymakers to further accelerate their services.
Most recently, ChargerHelp! partnered with FLO, a leading charging network operator, and New York state Sen. Kevin Parker on the EV Charging Reliability Transparency Act. If passed, this legislation will require disclosure of reliability data for all public EV charging stations across New York. The bill follows a similar ChargerHelp! sponsored law passed in California. This public-private partnership will allow more equitable access to reliable charging stations with ChargerHelp!’s services, further increasing the adoption of EVs.
ChargerHelp! recently closed a $17.5 million round to fuel its success even further. Its workforce development program pays technicians at least $30 an hour and shares equity in the company.
Startups are orbiting space to fight climate change
By Jake Mitchell
In 2021, California wildfires burned through 2.23 million acres, releasing 75 million metric tons of emissions. Munich-based startup OroraTech aims to prevent that by using AI and satellites to mitigate future high severity wildfires.
OroraTech developed thermal-infrared cameras which, using AI-based algorithms, measure the temperature of each pixel in real time to detect wildfires. OroraTech partners with Spire, a space-as-a-service model, to launch the cameras on satellites at an altitude of about 370 miles into the atmosphere. To date, OroraTech has launched its cameras on over 20 nanosatellites.
The cameras, from space, can home in on heat areas as small as 4 by 4 meters. This detection is then communicated to the ground in seconds via email, text or in-app notifications. Customers across six continents, from commercial enterprises to governmental organizations, use this intelligence data for risk assessment and real-time monitoring.
Wildfires are generally first detected via emergency calls and watchtowers, resulting in a delayed response time. NASA has satellites that provide views of fires, but this information is only available twice per day. Once ignited, wildfires can spread at speeds of up to 14 miles per hour.
OroraTech raised $16.5 million in Series A funding in December. The startup plans to extend its platform to a full wildfire management service which will integrate data, algorithms for fire forecasting and guidance to firefighters. By 2026, the startup expects to have 100 nanosatellites with cameras in space.
[Do you know of a startup that should be featured in upcoming editions of Climate Tech Rundown? Send your suggestions to [email protected].]