Bill Gates-backed startup is using robots to build enormous solar farms

To fight climate change, we must 'deploy clean technologies at a much larger scale'
Chris Young
A solar farm
  • Breakthrough Energy Ventures just co-led a $44 million funding round for an automated solar farm construction farm
  • The startup, Terabase Energy, aims to build "terawatt scale" solar farms using robotic arms
  • Bill Gates recently pledged to give away massive amounts of his money to charities and important causes

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate change solution-focused VC firm backed by the likes of Bill Gates, has joined a $44 million backing of solar startup Terabase Energy, a press statement reveals.

The VC firm co-led the Terabase deal alongside investor Prelude Ventures, and is known for its backing of Amp Robotics and Lime. The round brings Terabase Energy's total funding to $52 million.

According to the company's co-founder and CEO, Matt Campbell, Terabase Energy's goal is to build "terawatt scale" solar farms using robots.

Automation accelerates solar farm construction

The firm's automated, on-site factory uses robotic arms that lift and attach large solar panels to sun trackers. This computerized production can run 24/7, allowing it to accelerate plant construction while cutting construction costs. Terabase also builds software tools for managing the design and construction of solar farms.

"This investment is validation of our vision for rapidly deploying solar at the Terawatt scale," Campbell said. "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 decarbonization targets."

Terabase has been relatively secretive about its technology so far, though it has deployed its services to paying customers. The company's first commercial project reportedly installed 10 megawatts worth of panels. As a point of reference, there are one million megawatts in a terawatt, so the startup will have a long road ahead to meet its terawatt scale goals. "Our only hope to truly solve the climate crisis is to deploy clean technologies at a much larger scale to reach different areas of the economy than before. The Terabase platform is an exciting innovation to deploy more solar faster, and we are delighted to be a Terabase partner," said Sheldon Kimber, CEO of Intersect Power, a Terabase customer.

Bill Gates' climate change funding

Breakthrough Energy Ventures was founded by Bill Gates, and it has a wealthy and illustrious group of board members, including Jeff Bezos and Masayoshi Son. The VC firm recently also backed Arizona-based Source Global, a startup that draws water out of thin air. Source Global draws in ambient air using fans and collects water via condensation using a specially made panel.

Gates recently announced he aims to gradually erase himself from the world's richest list and that he will start by donating $20 billion of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF).

The Microsoft founder has spent much of his wealth backing climate change solutions and startups. However, his track record was recently questioned — rather childishly — by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk posted an unflattering picture of Gates on social media around the same time details emerged that Musk refused to collaborate with Gates after he found out the Microsoft founder held a short position on Tesla. Musk said at the time that Tesla was doing more than any other company to fight the effects of climate change.

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