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Wells Fargo Launches $10 Million Initiative to Support Cleantech Startups

Today, Wells Fargo announced its selection of four clean technology startups for the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a five-year, $10 million program to foster leading-edge environmental technologies. The program is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This marks the first philanthropy program of its kind within the financial services industry.

“To address growing climate concerns, it is absolutely crucial to accelerate investments in innovative companies that provide clean technology solutions,” said Mary Wenzel, Wells Fargo’s Head of Environmental Affairs. “We are proud to work with NREL and the community of clean technology innovators to help support startups that are providing long-term sustainable solutions.”

In this first of three selection rounds, four promising technologies were chosen from over 80 cleantech companies referred by more than 20 leading accelerators, universities and research institutes in the U.S.

The four selected companies are eligible for up to $250,000 each in cash and in-kind technical consultation and services to support the further development of their projects. Startups will receive research and testing support at NREL’s world-class research facility in Golden, Colorado, as well as coaching and mentorship from Wells Fargo’s vast network of financial and technical experts.

The recipients:

  1. Energy Storage Systems (Portland, OR) is developing an advanced flow battery that utilizes earth-abundant iron as its energy storage medium. This translates to unmatched affordability when the All-Iron Flow Battery (IFB) is used to address commercial energy storage needs.
  2. LiquidCool Solutions (Rochester, MN) is developing two forms of total immersion electronics cooling technology for large-scale data centers: Liquid Submerged Servers (LSS) and Liquid Submerged Computers (LSC). Initial testing of the LSS system has yielded 40 percent in energy savings for computer use when compared to a traditional air-cooled system
  3. SmarterShade (Chicago, IL) delivers on the promise of smart glass — significant energy savings, glare reduction and enhanced privacy impact — all in a seamless, user-controlled shading interface that lasts 4-5 times longer than blinds and shades. SmarterShade’s technology costs a fraction of the price of traditional smart glass and requires no electrical power.
  4. WattStick Systems (San Francisco, CA) is developing peel-and-stick electricity metering technology that can be safely and easily installed by nontechnical staff. By eliminating the need for sophisticated electrical installation, WattStick Systems’ technology will drastically reduce total submetering costs for commercial buildings and open the door for significant long-term energy use reduction.

“The IN2 program serves as a model for private and public sector collaboration working together for one common goal,” said Richard Adams, director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) at NREL. “We are thrilled to see how these companies will make clean energy technologies more accessible for Americans and we hope they will also serve as an inspiration to their peers in the field.”

The IN2 program launched in October 2014 and is part of Wells Fargo’s 2020 Environmental Commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits and universities. The goal is to create an ecosystem that fosters and accelerates the commercialization of promising commercial buildings technologies that can provide scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of buildings. According to the Department of Energy, nearly 40 percent of energy consumption in the U.S. today comes from buildings at an estimated cost of $413 billion.

Wells Fargo’s IN2 initiative — along with a recent grant of US$1 million to Imagine H2O, a non-profit that manages an annual water technology competition — is part of a growing trend of sustainable investing by global banks. They follow behind Citigroup’s $100 billion climate change mitigation investment, Deutsche Bank’s €1 billion investment in green bonds and the Bank of England’s climate research initiative.


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