Minnesota Energy Alley launched; announces six startups for the 2024 Demonstration Cohort Program

March 14, 2024
A new statewide initiative, Minnesota Energy Alley, has launched – and is now providing support to a select group of startups who are making Minnesota’s clean energy future a reality. The new public-private partnership run by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) and Grid Catalyst is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce and is part of a larger focus on driving innovation to secure the state’s energy and economic development future.

Startups will demonstrate their technologies with partners in higher education, utilities, and government

MINNEAPOLIS — A new statewide initiative, Minnesota Energy Alley, has launched – and is now providing support to a select group of startups who are making Minnesota’s clean energy future a reality. The new public-private partnership run by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) and Grid Catalyst is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce and is part of a larger focus on driving innovation to secure the state’s energy and economic development future.

The initiative leverages Minnesota’s technological expertise, industry leadership, and collaborative spirit to drive the transition to a clean energy economy. In its inaugural year, Minnesota Energy Alley is providing seed funding to six startups participating in Grid Catalyst’s 2024 Demonstration Cohort and supporting other entrepreneur training and development. These partnership efforts are building a more investment-ready energy innovation ecosystem and commercializing emerging technologies faster.

Through a competitive selection and review process, six startups have been chosen for the first demonstration cohort funded by this initiative:

“It is exciting to see CEEM and Grid Catalyst launch Energy Alley and fund six startups that bring innovation to clean energy actions in Minnesota. These are the types of investments that help support Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework and that will strengthen Minnesota now and as we transition to a clean energy future,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold.

CEEM envisions Minnesota Energy Alley as a critical tool to increase Minnesota’s market and economic competitiveness at a time of unprecedented global investment in emerging energy and clean technologies. The initiative focuses on emulating the success embodied by Medical Alley — the gold standard for sector partnership and innovation. Minnesota Energy Alley plans to leverage similar strengths, including industry leadership, research, and public-private partnerships. The timing is crucial, with S&P predicting investments of $800 billion in clean energy technology in 2024 and reaching $1 trillion by 2030.

“CEEM is thrilled to embark on this important initiative with Grid Catalyst and the Minnesota Department of Commerce,” said Gregg Mast, Executive Director of CEEM. “The range of innovative technologies being developed by this inaugural cohort of startup companies, together with their local partners, is poised to significantly accelerate progress towards net zero across our economy. We look forward to the positive impact these projects will have in growing jobs and elevating Minnesota’s energy innovation ecosystem.”

The 2024 Demonstration Cohort has been matched with leading energy partners from around the state, including American Engineering Testing, Inc. (AET), the Center for Microgrid Research at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota Power, and the City of Saint Paul. One of the more intricate demonstration projects is in the early stages of project scoping, and that partnership will be announced later this year.

Both Minnesota-based startups were launched through researchers from the University of Minnesota — Carba and Aza Power Systems. “Carba is grateful for the opportunity to be matched with the City of Saint Paul as a demonstration partner for our innovative carbon sequestration technology,” said Andrew Jones, CEO and co-founder of Carba. “We believe our process can help the city advance its climate action goals, and we are excited to begin exploring what’s possible with their team. As a homegrown Minnesota business, we are grateful for the program’s support as we scale our technology and expand our impact.”

These demonstration projects are a critical step in the commercialization process for startups. Proving out their technology in real-world applications will attract investors and new customers, with long-term potential for manufacturing partnerships and regional job growth. Accelerated energy ventures also access nearly twice as much financing, earn 50% higher revenue growth, and average 16% more full-time hires.

More About the 2024 Demonstration Cohort Finalists

Carba – Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Carba is an innovative cleantech company leading the charge in carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions, with decades of scientific experience and expertise in biomass pyrolysis and utilization, reactor engineering, and biomass conversion technologies. Their demonstration partner is the City of Saint Paul, exploring the processing of city-produced biomass for sequestration or other use applications, focused on meeting the City’s climate goals.

Aza Power Systems – Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Aza Power Systems has a portfolio of technologies that enable the use of renewable ammonia as a combustion fuel. With these technologies, any combustion device, be it an engine, turbine, or burner, can be made 100% carbon-free. Ammonia (NH3) is a complementary fuel to hydrogen, and together, they enable decarbonization in many large industrial markets, such as maritime, mining, industrial heat, and power generation. Aza will demonstrate their technology at the Center for Microgrid Research at the University of St. Thomas.

Blip Energy – Based in Illinois

Blip Energy is defining a new smart home category with an affordable, plug-and-play battery system. A hybrid hardware/software solution for energy management that works in any home without barriers around permitting and installation, Blip leverages its back-end algorithm to optimize energy costs for any and every household and supplies critical backup power in case of an outage. This distributed network of IOT batteries at the grid edge provides grid operators with the tools and data they need to stabilize the grid and lower operating costs – to support a better, smarter grid for all of us. Blip is demonstrating its technology with Minnesota Power as part of their continued efforts to deliver resilient and reliable energy while meeting ambitious decarbonization goals. The battery will also be tested in advanced applications with the Center for Microgrid Research at the University of St. Thomas.

NeoCharge – Based in California

NeoCharge is a cleantech company leading the way in home electrification and electric vehicle (EV) charging. Their core hardware offering, the Smart Splitter, allows for affordable and accessible home EV charging by tapping into existing 240-volt outlets. This negates the need for expensive electrical panel upgrades and rewiring, saving homeowners and renters an average of $2,000. Their software platform, NeoCharge Connect, is designed to optimize home energy usage, cut carbon emissions, and enable utility bill savings through seamless integrations with utilities, EVs, and home energy devices. NeoCharge is demonstrating its technology and the potential for demand-side utility savings with the Center for Microgrid Research at the University of St. Thomas.

Prezerv – Based in Massachusetts

Prezerv offers an innovative platform that combines artificial intelligence, advanced signal processing, and 3D radar scanning to provide accurate 3D maps of underground utilities. Prezerv’s platform is designed to solve the problems caused by non-visible underground lines that are accidentally encountered during civil and energy infrastructure projects, causing costly delays, property damages, personal injuries, and environmental harm. By quickly and automatically generating 3D maps, the platform will accelerate and save costs for many construction projects and provide significant environmental benefits. Prezerv will demonstrate its technology with AET at a Minnesota construction site this year.

SolarSteam – Based in Alberta, Canada

SolarSteam, delivering renewable heat to industrial and institutional clients through novel enclosed concentrated solar technology, is a game-changer to decarbonize some of the highest emitting and hardest-to-abate industry segments. The design concentrates the sun’s thermal energy to directly heat fluids to produce steam or hot water which can be utilized for industrial processes, space heating and cooling, and agricultural technology applications. SolarSteam is exploring demonstration projects with two Minnesota hosts, to be named later this year.

Applications for the 2025 Demonstration Cohort will open in June 2024.

 

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About Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM)
CEEM is an industry-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the business case for clean energy in Minnesota. CEEM provides a unified voice for clean energy business across the state. Our mission is to provide educational leadership, collaboration, and policy analysis that accelerates clean energy market growth and smart energy policies. To learn more, visit: www.cleanenergyeconomymn.org.

About Grid Catalyst

Launched in 2021, the mission of Grid Catalyst is to create equitable pathways for entrepreneurs and technologies to solve northern climate challenges. This is done collaboratively with partners in local and state government, industry, nonprofit, and community organizations to address gaps in the development of clean energy and climate technology in our region. The program includes connecting entrepreneurs to project demonstration, mentorship and development, and investments to grow their businesses. The latest cycle of the Demonstration Cohort was also made possible through a Strategic Award from the IN2 Channel Partner Network, a partnership between Wells Fargo and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute is a key collaborator for the IN2 partnership. To learn more, visit: www.gridcatalyst.org.

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