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Google Ventures makes first biofuel investment through CoolPlanetBiofuels

03/04/2011
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Google’s capital arm made its first investment in biofuels by funding California-based startup CoolPlanetBiofuels, a company developing clean fuels with byproducts that help remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Google Ventures’ undisclosed amount of funding follows an $8-million funding round in November 2010 led by Energy Technology Ventures, which is made up of General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips.

CoolPlanetBiofuels makes biofuels out of biomass like woodchips, crop waste, and non-food fuel crops. A solid form of carbon is produced as a byproduct that is converted into fertilizer. This newly-converted fertilizer then sequesters carbon dioxide and additional carbon trapped by the plants that grow in the soil, making it a carbon- negative product.

“The company has come up with an innovative solution to one of the world’s biggest problems,” said Wesley Chan, partner at Google Ventures.

“The technology is a win-win as the company is developing a sustainable and renewable energy source that also helps reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.”

Google’s current investment in CoolPlanet seems to be not as applicable to its core business concerning the internet and computing like Transphorm’s energy-efficient power electronics, a startup that the search-engine giant recently backed.

Conscious of its high electricity bills and its impact on the environment, Google has been taking an interest in renewable energy and sustainable practices for the past several years. Last year, it invested $38.3 million in two North Dakota wind farms and gave an unknown sum to the Atlantic Wind Connection, a 350-mile cable network from New Jersey to Virginia to connect offshore wind farms.

Google’s biofuel investment could be of use to support the automotive businesses of its portfolio. The financing arm recently invested in a car sharing startup RelayRides and Next Autoworks, a company looking to make energy-efficient cars called V Vehicle.

CoolPlanet’s financing round follows a $42-million investment last month by Google and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla in a weather insurance start-up. Analysts predict that Google’s interest in San Francisco-based WeatherBill could be to protect fuel crops that make up a large part of Khosla Venture’s investment.

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