Last summer, wildfires in California burned down over four million acres of the golden state. The destruction also led to a newly termed problem for a lot of communities—Public Safety Power Shutoffs for communities in California that were forced to go days without electrical power because of the dangers posed by power lines in the parched, drought-ridden portions of the state.
All Power Labs (APL) can help California manage the forest fuels that led to these wildfires and can provide clean energy remotely. And, APL’s biochar as output from their biomass conversion process can help sequester carbon in the soil that in turn grows food.
APL is currently executing on funding contracts with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and CAL FIRE. If they can successfully process woody biomass chips through their clean gasification process, California may have a solution that can turn the immense amounts of forest fire fuel from dry trees into grid-tied or off-grid electricity.
Investors sometimes reasonably question hard-tech ventures, such as APL, that utilize grant funding to run pilot tests as this strategy does not always nail product-market fit and therefore reduce the chances of becoming viable businesses. From my vantage point, I have seen this shift over the last few years as grant-funding agencies are becoming more adept at designing programs to better lead to product-market fit and to private investment rounds.
Recently, investors have increasingly placed bets on cleantech, hard-tech, and ag-tech ventures as so many of our communities have serious problems to contend with and many stakeholders are willing to support potential solutions with their hearts, minds, and wallets. APL recently closed a series A investment round, perhaps indicating additional public- to private-investment momentum for cleantech ventures.
APL is also embarking on a similar biomass conversion project in the Yosemite National Forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California. With successful pilot projects and increased visibility, APL may help California mitigate our state’s wildfire season and minimize Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPSs) for those communities in the path of potential wildfires this summer and next.
About The Author
Jeff Macon is the venture development manager at Fresno State’s Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Center where he supports the technology commercialization and business development of ventures providing solutions to Californians and communities beyond.