Before the tragic passing of the late, great Prince, he funded solar energy startups, and now that funding could help young clean-tech firms work their way around Trump’s attempt to halt research.
The music icon anonymously invested around $25 million in Powerhouse, a rare for-profit incubator that links solar entrepreneurs with investors.
The incubator, based in Oakland, California, could give renewable energy innovations the leg-up it needs when President Trump looks to slash funds for early-stage energy projects through the U.S. Department of Energy.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), an initiative to support cutting-edge energy technologies.
The funding for the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would decrease by 70% compared to the rising level during last year. Trump also want to cancel the department’s clean energy and auto loan programs.
Powerhouse gained more power after being backed by Prince and is also providing crucial funding just as a venture capital investors are shifting away from the clean-tech sector.
This is not Prince’s first and only secret solar funding. He supported #YesWeCode, an organization that educated urban youth on technology, and also helped raise awareness of Black Lives Matter movement. Prince also donated to Green for All, an organization co-founded by Van Jones in Oakland.
Prince joined the solar startup space after a 2011 conversation with Jones, who later became a green-jobs adviser to former President Obama and is now a commentator on CNN.
According to Jones, he said,
“He [Prince] asked, ‘If I have a quarter-million dollars, what can I do with it? My wife said he should put solar panels all over Oakland.”
Now with Prince’s grant, Jones was able to bring in Solar Mosaic founder Billy Parish, who moved his rookie crowdfunding platforms from Arizona to Oakland. From there, Parish met Emily Kirsch who worked with Solar Mosaic on its first four projects before co-founding Powerhouse.
Only in the early stages, the incubators have already helped 43 startups get on their feet, including Avalon Battery, which makes energy storage systems with advanced rechargeable batteries.
Powerhouse and Powerhouse startups have generated $52 million in revenue, raised over $287 million in capital, employed 390 people, and have collectively led to the instillation of 242 megawatts of solar power in the U.S.
Moreover, the incubator has helped make Oakland a hive for clean-tech finance, according to Bloomberg. Thirteen companies and six industry organizations are all working near Powerhouse’s offices across the bay from San Francisco.
According to Jones, Princes involvement in the solar project ended after he passed in April 2016, and he wanted his involvement to remain anonymous.