Tag Archives: Morgan Solar

Episode 4 of the Clean Break podcast

Climate and energy news and views. In this episode host Tyler Hamilton interviews John Paul Morgan, co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Toronto-based solar technology company Morgan Solar. It has the potential to be one of the lowest cost solar module makers in the world. Can it deliver?


Enbridge makes another clean tech investment — this time in flywheel storage

temporalEnbridge Inc. is emerging as major corporate venturing partners in the Canadian cleantech scene. It has already acquired more than $3 billion in renewable energy assets — a combination of solar, wind, geothermal and run-of-river hydro. It has invested in concentrated solar PV manufacturer Morgan Solar and hydrogen tech firm Hydrogenics. It has pursued innovative waste-heat capture at its compressor stations in combination with fuel cell technology. Now, it is throwing its financial support behind flywheel storage innovator Temporal Power.

Temporal, based in Mississauga, Ontario, announced this week it has completed a $10 million Series B equity financing, with Enbridge Emerging Technology Inc. one of the lead investors along with Northwater Intellectual Property Fund (which was also lead investor in the company’s Series A financing in July 2011). Northwater Capital, it should be noted, is the money behind NRStor, a company with plans to develop Canada’s first energy storage park. NRStor, using Temporal Power flywheels, has already won a contract with Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, which will see the flywheels being used to provide regulation services on the provincial grid. Annette Verschuren, former CEO of Home Depot Canada, is heading up the NRStor initiative.

Temporal Power describes its flywheel technology as a  “quantum leap forward” because of its capability of storing 50 times more energy than most flywheels and enabling a power output that is five times higher per unit than its nearest grid-scale competitor. “Using its proprietary flywheel energy storage technology, Temporal Power’s scalable power storage plants offer utilities and power generation companies the ability to deliver efficient and cost-effective fast response capabilities for balancing energy and improving power quality on the electrical grid,” the company said in a statement.

Globe and Mail today has a nice summary of the various energy storage initiatives going on in Ontario — from conventional pumped storage to Temporal’s flywheels and advanced compressed-air energy storage.

Oil and gas delivery giant Enbridge Inc. makes first solar tech investment, throws $10 million into Morgan Solar

Gotta say, I found this a surprising one. Enbridge Inc., the Calgary-based oil/natural gas pipeline and delivery company, is investing $10 million in concentrated solar PV manufacturer Morgan Solar, which is based in Toronto. I say surprising because Enbridge, while it has invested in solar, wind and geothermal projects before — the kind that generate immediate cash flow and come with an acceptable level of risk — has never really put its money behind a greentech play, with the exception of fuel cells. It may be true that $10 million is couch change for this multibillion-dollar corporate giant, but keeping in mind this $10 million could have been spent elsewhere, this is an intriguing move by Enbridge.

Does it want to be in the same club as integrated oil company Cenovus, which has captured many headlines related to its venture investments in everything from fusion power to water desalination technology? Not sure, but perhaps this is the first of more tech investments to come — as sign that corporate capital is playing a more important role in a country where venture capital is hard to come by.

Morgan Solar, mind you, hasn’t had a tough time raising capital. In March 2011 it aimed to raise up to $25 million (U.S.), but with Enbridge joining the party the round is oversubscribed at $28.8 million. The interest in Morgan Solar is understandable. It has developed an inexpensive and innovative light-guide solar optic that captures and directs incoming sunlight into a tiny, high-efficiency, finger-nail sized PV chip, achieving a balance of cost, efficiency, weight, and low-profile (i.e. the system is really thin) that may be unrivaled in the market. The company says its systems cost less to build, ship, deploy and maintain than competing technologies. Indeed, it’s bold enough to say that its Sun Simba product will offer a lower Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) “than solar technologies on the market today, or known to be under development.”

It should be pointed out that Enbridge owns three solar facilities that together represent 100 megawatts of capacity. Most of that comes from its 80 MW Sarnia Solar Project, which until recently was the largest operating PV facility in the world. It’s unclear whether Enbridge eyes using Morgan Solar’s CPV systems in future projects, but the potential certainly exists for collaboration on smaller demonstration projects. The reality, however, is that Enbridge has so far let others take on solar development risks. It then steps in and buys finished, operational projects that are already generating cash.

Morgan has other partners in the mix, some of them strategic. Iberdrola S.A., one of the world’s largest renewable-energy utilities, is a strategic investor, as is Nypro Inc., a contract manufacturer specializing in precision injection molding. Nypro, for example, makes the light-guide optic for Morgan Solar.

Morgan Solar, by the way, was recently named — for the second time — to Corporate Knights’ Next 10 list of most promising Canadian cleantech companies.

Morgan Solar snags $16.5 million on way to closing Series B funding round

News that Toronto-based Morgan Solar raised another $16.5 million leaked out last week but the concentrated solar PV company is about to confirm the details, which include the fact that strategic investors Iberdrola and Nypro have returned for more. They join newcomer The Frost Group LLC, a private investment firm based in Miami that is led by Dr. Phillip Frost, who is also chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals and CEO and chairman of OPKO Health, a publicly traded healthcare company that develops and commercializes a wide variety of medical products. The $16.5 million represents the bulk of what Morgan Solar is trying to raise in this round. For the rest, it’s aiming to bring aboard another strategic investor that has experience with project finance or develpment capabilities.

Morgan Solar is in the middle of ramping up. This year it expects to complete a number of demonstration projects at sites in Ontario and the United States. It’s establishing a manufacturing facility in San Diego, and it’s expanding its existing manufacturing and R&D presence in Ontario. The company’s Sun Simba product allows for the creation of super-thin CPV modules using proprietary light-guide solar optics, which continue to be unique in the industry as far as I can tell. Morgan Solar promises to deliver solar power — without subsidies — at costs that are grid competitive, and the company says it can offer this low-cost solar option this year, not in five years.

Personally, I look forward to checking out Morgan’s Ontario demonstration sites once they are complete, and I sincerely hope the Ontario government figured out a way to accommodate the company in the province’s feed-in-tariff program. Apparently there were some hiccups because the province’s local content rules didn’t account for the availability of CPV systems. Tisk, tisk.

The Canadian connection: a roundup of Canuckish cleantech news

My friends over at Earth2Tech are reporting that Toronto-based Morgan Solar, a promising concentrated solar PV startup, is heading into its round B of financing and hopes to raise between $20 and $25 million. Up until now the company has raised about $20 million, slightly less than half from private investors and the rest through government grants. Morgan Solar, in my talks with them, is serious about keeping its R&D and some manufacturing in Toronto, but it sees the first major volume happening at a new facility it plans to build in California. I don’t think Morgan will have trouble raising the money. I’ve seen the technology, know the founders well, and have talked to their early investors. There is solid commitment there and a sense that what the company is working on is truly ground-breaking. 

Montreal-based 5N Plus, meanwhile, is diversifying its business through acquisition. The company is the main supplier of cadmium telluride to First Solar and others, such as Abound Solar. But analysts were concerned 5N wasn’t diversified enough and was too dependent on its business with First Solar. So 5N decided this week to acquire Belgian-based MCP Group, which is a producer of specialty metals such as bismuth, gallium, indium and selenium. This allows 5N to tap into the market for CIGS solar cells (that is, copper indium gallium selenide cells), but also a whole range of other products: LEDs, flat-panel displays, fuel cells and other forms of energy storage.

Heading to the West Coast, biomass gasification expert Nexterra has raised $15 million in equity financing from Tandem Expansion Funds and ARC Financial. Nexterra makes small-scale biomass CHP systems based on the gasification of biomass. The systems are ideal for distributed generation in a hospital, university, industrial or municipal setting, and because it is ultra low emission it is a good fit for urban environments. The company has a solid partnership with General Electric and just snagged some government funding for a large biomass-based CHP system at the University of British Columbia, which says the 2-megawatt system when it’s up and running in 2012 will reduce its demand for natural gas by 12 per cent.

In Florida, algae-to-ethanol startup Algenol has acquired its German partner Cyano Biofuels GmbH. Okay, the company isn’t based in Canada, but Algenol’s founder Paul Woods is a Canadian who grew up in the Toronto area and kickstarted the natural gas retail market in Ontario before moving south. And some of Algenol’s core innovation comes out of the University of Toronto, so I consider the company an honourary Canadian corporate citizen. Cyano Biofuels is an expert in producing hybrid algae that can produce ethanol, and Algenol was already a minority shareholder in the company. Algenol saw the all-out acquisition as a way to accelerate the commercialization of its Direct-to-Ethanol process using genetically enhanced cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. I’m a fan of Algenol, which is the focus of a chapter in my upcoming book Mad Like Tesla.

Finally, Sustainable Development Technology Canada issued another round of grants to 17 companies doing cleantechie stuff. I’ll go through some of these in more detail later, either as part of a Clean Break column or a quick post. But check out the list — there are some interesting projects there. As I’ve always said, SDTC funding rounds are like Christmas time for cleantech news junkies like myself.