Upstart Power, a developer, and manufacturer of solid oxide fuel cells, announced the closing of a $17 million Series C financing.

ITOCHU Corporation led the round with participation from existing investors Enphase Energy, Sunnova, Rodgers Capital, H+ Partners, and Cricetus Felix Ventures.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are electrochemical devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel and oxidant directly into electrical energy. Since SOFCs produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction and not through a combustion process, they are much more efficient and environmentally benign than conventional electric power generation processes.

The main advantage of the SOFC is its ability to use not only hydrogen but also the currently available fossil fuels (such as methane, butane, or even gasoline and diesel), thus reducing operating costs and flexibility. SOFCs possess no moving parts, so the cells are free of vibration, and therefore, the noise pollution commonly associated with power generation is eliminated.

The recently raised funds will accelerate the commercialization of Upstart’s Upgen platform of next-generation on-demand backup and grid-augmenting solid oxide fuel cell generators. As part of the investment, ITOCHU and Upstart Power agreed to co-develop, manufacture, market, and sell Upstart’s SOFC products in Japan.

“We are excited about our partnership with Upstart Power, and we see tremendous synergies between Upstart’s on-demand SOFC generation platform and ITOCHU’s energy storage and solar products.  ITOCHU has extensive Grid 2.0 expertise with a deployed portfolio of over 50K residential solar and battery storage systems in Japan, networked into virtual power plants.  Upstart’s SOFC generators can augment these deployments to deliver comprehensive distributed energy solutions,” commented Hiroaki Murase, General Manager of the Sustainable Energy Business Department, ITOCHU.

In close collaboration with its commercial partners, Upstart Power is currently conducting advanced field trials of the Upgen NXG fuel cell system in preparation for a full commercial launch into the North American market in the second half of 2023.

According to Mercom’s 9M And Q3 2022 Funding and M&A Report for Storage, Grid & Efficiency. VC funding in Energy Storage in 9M 2022 fell by over 44%, with $4 billion in 73 deals compared to $7.2 billion in 60 deals in 9M 2021.