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Solazyme Top Investor Backs Battery Maker Gridtential

Roda Group, the venture capital investor that’s the largest shareholder in the biofuel company Solazyme Inc., is backing a startup using advanced production techniques to improve storage performance of standard lead-acid batteries.

Gridtential Energy Inc. received a $1 million seed investment from Roda, the San Jose, California-based battery company said today in an e-mailed statement. It will use the money to develop and test a prototype product by next year, with the goal of starting commercial sales in 2016, according to Chief Executive Officer Christiaan Beekhuis.

Gridtential is adapting the same battery technology used in automobiles. Beekhuis expects to improve charging time and energy storage capacity by using systems developed by Intevac Inc., a provider of capital equipment for the disk drive and solar industries.

“What we’re doing is applying a modern manufacturing method from the semiconductor industry to battery technology,” Beekhuis said by telephone.

The company is eyeing the traction-battery market, which spends about $3 billion a year on batteries for golf carts, forklifts and other small vehicles, and the stationary market for systems to power telecommunications gear and store energy from solar panels, worth about $5 billion annually, he said.

Gridtential isn’t planning to make products for the $22 billion a year car-battery market. It may eventually consider larger applications for grid storage, he said.

Roda, based in Berkeley, California, owns about 9 percent of Solazyme, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Closely held Gridtential was founded in 2010 and was previously funded by its founders and a grant from the California Energy Commission, Beekhuis said.

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