Camarillo-based Cool Planet Energy Systems said on Friday that it had raised $29.9 million of what it expects to be a $100 million funding round for its first grass-to-fuel plant production facility.
Cool Planet, which has received funding from Google Ventures and BP in the past, has designed a machine that uses heat and pressure to turn grass and other feedstocks into a fuel that can be blended with ordinary gasoline. Its total funding is at least $54 million to date and it has about 100 employees.
The company has been running a pilot production facility called “Strawberry Fields” in Camarillo. The fuel has been tested in vehicles on Google’s campus.
But the bulk of the new investment won’t necessarily end up in Ventura County. In April, the company said that it may move its headquarters to Denver.
Colorado officials offered the firm a generous subsidy – the Denver Business Journal reported the tax incentive package was worth up to $3.1 million – but Cool Planet’s move away from Ventura County was likely inevitable due to logistics. The company’s fuel-producing machines are housed in shipping containers and are most economically transported by rail.
“It’s more of a central location for putting the plants out, and it’s easier to ship going east or west,” Mike Rocke, head of business development at the firm, told the Business Times in April.
While a handful of executives will move to the new headquarters, Rocke said that Cool Planet will keep its Camarillo facility.
“The plan is to continue to do R&D in Camarillo,” Rocke said in April. “That facility will stay, but as we go commercial we’re looking for other places to put both a headquarters and a manufacturing facility.”
Indeed, Cool Planet’s ability to make container-sized plants that can be daisy chained together to produce massive amounts of fuel is key to its business plan. By locating the plants near feedstock sources, the company estimates it can produce $1.50-a-gallon gasoline without government subsidies.
“An innovative part of our concept is that we’re building small distributed facilities. Then we can enjoy the economic benefits of mass producing these units in a central location,” CEO Howard Janzen told the Business Times last year.
Cool Planet’s investors include General Electric, Google Ventures, BP, ConocoPhillips, NRG and the Constellation Energy division of Exelon.