Methane to Megawatts: LOCI Controls raises $756k in Seed Funding for Landfill Gas Technology

Last week Boston startup Loci Controls announced it raised $756,000 in its first seed round to finance the commercialization of the company’s hardware and software-enabled landfill gas-to-energy technology. Investors in the round are CommonAngels and LaunchCapital, along with angel investors Will HermanStan Miroshnik and Warren Katz.

The seed funding will also be used to add to the company’s growing engineering team and build systems at landfills across the northeast. More specifically, Loci plans to deploy a system in late April at the Crapo Hill Landfill and CommonWealth Resource Management Corp. in New Bedford, Mass.

Founding in 2012 by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates, Andrew Campanella and Melinda Hale, while Hale was earning her PhD in mechanical engineering and Campanella was finishing his master’s in system design and management.

Methane Monitoring

It’s common for landfills to collect methane, and according to the company, more than half already have developed landfill gas-to-liquid energy plants.

The collection of the gas is currently manually monitored and controlled, requiring workers to maintain the system at the well extraction site. Currently testing at three pilot sites in Massachusetts and Vermont, LOCI’s technology automates the methane collection process at landfills by providing a wireless sensor network. The Loci system offers tailored alerts, a custom algorithm that predicts needed adjustments to the gas collection system, and automatic controls to monitor gas production.

Testing at Vermont pilot site

Prior Funding

This seed funding follows a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for $40,000 this January as part of the organization’s Catalyst Program, which invests in early-stage researchers and companies. Loci is also currently part of the inaugural class of Boston’s hardware seed-stage fund, Bolt, which provided initial funding, mentorship, equipment and a prototyping facility. In January last year, Loci was named a semi-finalist in MIT’s Accelerate program earning it a $1,000 prize.

Market Potential

The landfill-gas-to-energy waste management market offers entrepreneurs a lot of room for growth. As of October 2012, there were at least 605 operational projects in 48 states that together generated about 1,858 megawatts (MW) of electricity annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As of April 2011, EPA estimates that about 510 additional landfills are candidates for landfill-gas-to-energy projects, with the potential to produce an additional 1,165 MW of electricity.

As Cleantech IQ previously reported, BoAML analysts estimate the waste management market in the U.S. alone is worth $1 trillion today, which includes municipal solid waste, industrial waste, waste-to-energy and sustainable packaging.

Loci has the potential to fill a gap in a market seeking solutions. The principal landfill operator in the U.S., Waste Management, has long recognized the opportunities and necessity for investment in waste to energy technologies. The company has built up a portfolio of about 30 companies across the cleantech spectrum over the past seven years. Today Waste Management’s investments focus on three themes: transportation, recycling and the conversion of materials into energy.

“We transcend a whole lot of subsectors, but the best way to think about it is we look for innovations that can take any fraction of our waste materials and convert them to something of higher value,” said Joe Vaillancourt, VP of corporate venturing at Waste Management, at the Cleantech Innovation Summit . “Our long-term goal is we are trying to position our company for a non-landfill reality at some point in the future

In 2013, Recycling & Waste companies took in $420 million in venture capital funding across 72 deals, according to data from the Cleantech Group.

Other notable recent Recycling & Waste fundings include:

3/17/14 – Redwave Energy, founded in 2011, received $1 million in debt funding, following a $1 million venture capital funding in May 2013 and $2 million in venture capital funding in March 2012. It is backed by Northwater Capital, according to the company’s website. RedWave is currently in the first phase of developing unique technology to generate renewable energy from the previously untapped infrared (IR) and near IR spectrum. Initial development is focused on energy capture from relatively low quality waste heat.

3/13/14 – Recovery Technology Solutions received $7.5 million from US Renewables Group, topping off a $24 million Series A round. It received $16.5 million in in Sept 2013. The company created to commercialize a proprietary disruptive process technology for the recycling of asphalt shingles and the extraction and recovery of asphalt cement, fiberglass/felt, mineral aggregates and mineral fillers to be reused in the shingle manufacturing and asphalt pavement industry.

2/28/14 – Bowman Power, UK waste to heat technology startup raised $4.55 million in venture round funding from existing shareholders Octopus Investments, Fjord Capital and angel investors. Bowman is in the business of recovering useful energy from waste heat in order to build more fuel efficient power plants which improves payback and reduces emissions.

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