Hot on the heels of the latest group of Ecomagination challenge winners, GE has announced that it has joined an $8 million funding round for CoolPlanet Biofuels, a startup that turns cellulosic waste (i.e. plant waste and woodchips) into biofuel. The funding round was led by North Bridge Venture Partners.
CoolPlanet Biofuels, a California-based startup, claims that it is "developing a revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor that directly inputs raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residues and non-food fuel crops, and produces distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional hydrocarbon fuel." The only byproduct from the process is biochar, a coal-like substance that can either be burned for fuel or buried as a soil conditioner for farmland.
It's not an entirely unique idea. Carbonscape, a New Zealand startup, also produces biofuel that yields a biochar byproduct.
But the investment is a smart move for GE. CoolPlanet is quickly gaining steam as a player in the biofuels market (it grabbed $3.5 million in its first funding round last year). The global fuel market is approximately $4 trillion each year, and while biofuels are only a small part of that at the moment, they're poised to become increasingly important as traditional fuel prices rise. And when that happens, GE and CoolPlanet will be there to reap the rewards.