Bill Gates leads $US44m funding round to automate and accelerate solar PV construction

Bill Gates’ multi billion dollar clean energy fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures has led a $US44 million ($A63 million) Series B funding round to automate the development, construction, and operation of large scale solar plants. 

The recipient of the funding – solar technology company Terabase Energy – has built the first fully digital platform which it says can manage the life cycle of utility scale solar, from land acquisition to plant construction.

In a bid to compress the labour-intensive construction process, Terabase combines this cloud-based software with automated technologies to eliminate the manual lifting of panels and steel, improving health and safety outcomes for workers who frequently operate in challenging conditions.

Terabase announced it had received the second round funding from a consortium of investors led by Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Prelude Ventures, taking the solar company’s total valuation to $US52 million. 

Breakthrough Energy says that while considerable industry attention has been given to improving solar technology, the ‘means and methods of engineering [utility-scale plants] have been largely unchanged.’

“The way the industry designs and builds large scale projects needs to be rethought if we are to reach the very rapid growth required to meet net-zero goals. Terabase’s solution has tremendous potential to reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of large scale solar,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy’s Business Lead. 

Terabase CEO and co-founder Matt Campell called the investment a ‘validation of [Terabase’s] vision for rapidly deploying solar at Terawatt scale’. 

“It took fifty years for the world to build the first Terawatt (one million Megawatts) of solar, but we need at least 50 additional Terawatts built as quickly as possible to meet global decarbonisation targets,” he said.

“This round of funding will allow us to continue to expand our team and make the investments necessary to achieve our mission.”

Gate’s latest clean-tech investment was announced just days after Breakthrough Energy Ventures led a $20 million  funding round into air conditioning startup Blue Frontier, which aims to eliminate the use of environmentally damaging refrigerants in everyday air conditioner units. 


Anna Pradhan is a Melbourne-based writer covering climate and environment.

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