Intelligent Energy

Food scraps-to-energy startup snags funding from Al Gore, First Solar chief

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Some heavy hitting investors are betting on Harvest Power, a startup that takes food scraps and yard trimmings and turns them into renewable power, soil and fertilizers.

Global investment in clean energy isn't exactly breaking records this year. But investors still appear to be willing to pour money into waste-to-energy companies like Harvest Power.

The Waltham, Mass.-based startup announced Thursday it raised $110 million from several high-profile investors, including Generation Investment Management, the fund co-founded by Al Gore; and Kleiner Perkins. The series C round of financing was led by True North Venture Partners, a new investment firm launched by First Solar interim CEO Michael Ahearn.

Harvest Power builds plants that process organic materials like food scraps and yard trimmings and converts them into biogas, soil and natural fertilizer products. The company, which was founded in 2008, designs and builds two types of anaerobic digestion systems to produce biogas, which can be burned for power or further processed into compressed natural gas fuel.

The funds raised in this latest financing round will be used to expand "its capabilities," the company said in a release. And considering the amount of food scraps and yard waste that make it into local landfills every year, the company has plenty of feedstock to expand its operations.

In 2010, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash, according to EPA. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.43 pounds per person per day.

Harvest Power didn't provide further details about how the funds would be used, although it will likely continue to expand in North America, its target market. The company already operates facilities in the Mid-Atlantic and West Coast of the United States as well as in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada.

According to the WSJ, global capacity for processing municipal solid waste using anaerobic digestion grew fivefold between 1995 and 2008. However, much of that growth has occurred in Europe. In other words, opportunity abounds in North America.

Harvest Power raised $51.7 million from investors last March to develop new technologies and expand throughout North America. Waste Management, a regular backer of waste-to-energy startups and technology, participated in the March 2011 financing round and a previous capital raise in 2010. Waste Management was not listed as a participant in this latest round.

Photo: Harvest Power, images taken of the company's organic waste management facility in Vancouver, British Columbia

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure