[AMS] This grid battery startup is raising funds to ramp up in a competitive market

By Katie Fehrenbacher
May 27, 2015

Meet a young startup with a huge util­ity deal and a lot of promise.

Tesla is only the most well-​​known com­pany that’s usinglow-​​cost bat­ter­ies and soft­ware to poten­tially change how the power grid oper­ates. There are a half dozen oth­ers, and one of those is a startup called Advanced Micro­grid Solu­tions that hopes to raise $18.8 mil­lion to com­pete in the space, accord­ing to a fil­ing.

The San Francisco-​​based com­pany, which was founded in 2012, has closed on about $7 mil­lion of the round. The fil­ing says there are 14 investors par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fund­ing, and pre­vi­ously the com­pany has only dis­closed that it has been “funded with pri­vate equity from undis­closed sources.”

Advanced Micro­grid Solu­tions takes lithium-​​ion bat­ter­ies and uses smart soft­ware to man­age bat­tery banks for both com­mer­cial and indus­trial cus­tomers as well as util­i­ties. These types of bat­tery farms can pro­vide ser­vices like backup power for the power grid dur­ing peak grid use, energy at night when paired with solar pan­els, or bat­tery energy for a build­ing when elec­tric­ity rates from the power grid are high.

Attendees take pictures of the new Tesla Energy Powerwall Home Battery during an event at Tesla Motors in Hawthorne, California
Atten­dees take pic­tures of the new Tesla Energy Pow­er­wall Home Bat­tery dur­ing an event at Tesla Motors in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia April 30, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc unveiled Tesla Energy – a suite of bat­ter­ies for homes, busi­nesses and util­i­ties – a highly-​​anticipated plan to expand its busi­ness beyond elec­tric vehi­cles. REUTERS/​Patrick T. Fal­lon – RTX1B28QPho­to­graph by Patrick Fal­lon — Reuters

Tesla is also sell­ing its Pow­er­pack bat­ter­ies to pro­vide sim­i­lar ser­vices, also using lithium-​​ion bat­ter­ies. And so is Stem. As is Green­smith Energy, Green­charge Net­works, and Coda Energy. It’s a crowded space.

Advanced Micro­grid Solu­tions emerged in the spot­light late last year after it man­aged to win a whop­ping 50 megawatt deal (across four con­tracts) with util­ity South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son. To pic­ture how large this is, there were less than 10 megawatts worth of energy stor­age installed across the entire U.S. in the first quar­ter of this year.

The startup is react­ing to a mar­ket that’s start­ing to explode. The state of Cal­i­for­nia has a man­date that says that the big three util­i­ties (SCE included) need to col­lec­tively deploy over one gigawatt of energy stor­age by 2020 (1,000 megawatts equal 1 gigawatt). Many of the com­pa­nies that won deals with SCE were large, pub­lic com­pa­nies, and Advanced Micro­grid Solu­tions was one of just a cou­ple of startups.

Alternative Energy And Jobs
SolarCity work­ers install solar elec­tri­cal pan­els on the roof of a home in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2011.Pho­to­graph by Tony Ave­lar — Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Monitor—Getty Images

Advanced Micro­grid Solu­tions also stands out because it was founded by two women and boasts more female than male exec­u­tives. The com­pany was co-​​founded by polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Susan Kennedy, who was a chief of staff to Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nors Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger and Gray Davis, as well as a for­mer com­mis­sioner for the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion. Co-​​founder Jack­a­lyne Pfan­nen­stiel pre­vi­ously chaired the Cal­i­for­nia Energy Com­mis­sion, worked at util­ity PG&E for twenty years, and was the assis­tant sec­re­tary of the U.S. Navy in charge of its energy strategy.

The startup plans to deploy the first 10 megawatt por­tion of the bat­tery deal with SCE at com­mer­cial build­ings in Orange County, Calif. by the begin­ning of 2017. The entire SCE project is meant to be done by the end of 2017. The startup will face a penalty if it can’t deliver what SCE needs.

DBL Investors Man­ag­ing Part­ner Nancy Pfund, a early investor in Tesla, is listed on the fund­ing fil­ing as a “direc­tor,” and Pfund has pre­vi­ously dis­closed that she’s an advi­sor to the company.