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Bill Gates joins $20m investment in efficient AC concept

USA: Blue Frontier, the developer of an air conditioning system combining sensible cooling with liquid desiccant dehumidification, has received a $20m investment co-led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

The series A equity investment is also led by the 2150 Urban Tech Sustainability Fund and VoLo Earth Ventures. Blue Frontier’s current commercialisation partner Modern Niagara is also participating in the funding round.

Based in Parkland, Florida, Blue Frontier has developed an AC system which combines dew-point-style sensible cooling with liquid desiccant dehumidification. The desiccant is recharged and stored when electricity is the cleanest or lowest cost, and later used to deliver cooling when electricity is dirty or costly. 

It integrates energy storage and air conditioning in a single device without using conventional batteries. This is said to make the system’s electricity consumption flexible and controllable so that it only occurs when renewable energy is plentiful. At the same time, this flexibility does not affect the operation of the air conditioner itself, ensuring the comfort of building occupants.

As well as eliminating the use of high GWP refrigerants, the system is also said to reduces electrical consumption by 50-90% depending on weather and usage.

Dr Daniel Betts, CEO of Blue Frontier, commented, “We are delighted to receive the support of some of the highest-profile cleantech funds who share our vision of driving decarbonisation both in the power grid and beyond – into the buildings where we live and work. Our partnership with these sustainable investors enables the immense global environmental impact of our technology – to bring affordable, efficient, sustainable air conditioning with low-cost energy storage to buildings around the world – and to reduce the cost to utilities of supplying carbon-free electricity for cooling.”

“Cooling is already a significant part of our global energy consumption and is expected to eventually surpass heating demand,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Blue Frontier’s innovation is important because it can provide cooling with higher efficiency but also improved flexibility – reducing overall load and better utilising renewable energy. This team has also developed compelling pricing models that make it an easy economic decision to swap out traditional systems.”

The Blue Frontier technology was originally developed at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with Blue Frontier obtaining rights through an exclusive license in 2018. Continued development was undertaken in conjunction with NREL and the Wells Fargo’s Innovation Incubator (IN2) program and prototypes were tested at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). 

Pilot installations in commercial buildings are scheduled for the second half of 2022. Pre-commercial Alpha unit release is expected in 2023, configured to replace commercial building rooftop units.

Related stories:

Cleantech firm collaborates on smart AC technology4 March 2022
USA/CANADA: Blue Frontier, a US company developing smart air conditioning systems combining sensible cooling with liquid desiccant dehumidification, has established a joint commercialisation partnership with Canadian manufacturer Modern Niagara. Read more…

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