EXCLUSIVE: Will this Norwegian startup revolutionize the energy business from North Carolina?

by / Monday, 20 October 2014 / Published in Smartgrid-CI Blog

The mystery investor that purchased a former Philip Morris facility now promises to revolutionize energy storage and to create 2500 jobs in three years. But where does the money come from?

By PATRICK LEVY

We are starting to know a little more about the Victory Industrial Park, the new name for the former Philip Morris facility purchased a few weeks ago in North Carolina by Alevo Battery Inc., the company that made this acquisition for $68.5M; a little more but not too much. We did not learn it from its executives or its website which remains mysteriously mute, but from Julian Tanner its communication representative and CEO of London based PR firm Axicom, and from local authority representatives.

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Alevo is ready to invest 100’s of millions of dollars and create 2,500 jobs in the Concord, NC area. “This is a very large manufacturing project and Concord will be the first of several others the company is planning to build.”, says a company representative. Alevo claims they have already “talked to all utility companies in the U.S.A” and promise that they will “make a major announcements on October 28″, in conjunction with Duke Energy.

What exactly will Alevo be manufacturing? According to the Independent Tribune, Alevo: “Has created a patented battery technology that can capture unused electricity as it travels from Point A to Point B and store it to reduce waste” and “Those products will be combined with smart-grid applications and company services to create “huge” benefits for industry, consumers and the region.”

Some stakeholders consider this new technology “revolutionary”, and with “unbelievable” implications for utilities: “especially in terms of the potential to produce renewable energy like wind and solar cost-effectively on a global scale.”

In a presentation document submitted to the EPA in May, this new battery was introduced as: “safer than conventional lead-acid designs. It lasts longer and can be charged and discharged faster with less wear on the units.” If all of this is true, no doubt Alevo’s battery is a breakthrough that will change the renewable energy landscape.

But, what do we know exactly with this company?

Alevo was created in Karlsruhe Germany as Alevo Battery Technology GMBH by a group of Norwegian businessmen led by Jostein Eikeland. Eikeland and his partners Stein Christiansen and Christopher Christiansen filed in 2011 and 2012, four patents related to battery technology. The first one is about “a charger configured to charge at least one battery used in transportation means or stationary equipment, includes a plurality of power connections configured to couple to a plurality of power sources. The charger is adapted to receive power from the plurality of power sources simultaneously.” The second one is about: “a system [that] includes a plurality of rechargeable batteries, a housing in form of a storage facility configured to house the plurality of rechargeable batteries, and a bi-directional charger coupled to a power grid at one end and coupled to the plurality of rechargeable batteries at another end, and configured to charge the plurality of rechargeable batteries.” The third one is about: “an apparatus [that] includes a connection unit configured to connect to a power line, a control arm coupled to the connection unit and capable of raising the connection unit for connection to the power line, a housing unit capable of storing one or more battery modules; and a control center configured to communicate with one or more entities, wherein the control center is further configured to initiate flow of electricity through the connection unit.” And the last one is about: “an apparatus [that] includes a base plate, one or more lifting mechanisms coupled to the base plate and configured to elevate the base plate, at least one connector coupled to the base plate, an insulation layer coupled to the base plate and at least one connector; one or more power inputs configured to allow electricity flow to or from the at least one connector; and a control unit coupled to the one or more power inputs and configured to control the flow of electricity.”

It is quite difficult to get an exact idea of the implications of these patents even from their detailed description.

But who are these entrepreneurs? Jostein Eikeland claims on his blog that he is a:”visionary serial entrepreneur who has participated or is involved in multiple business sectors: technology, automotive, energy storage and environmental” and “known by some as the “Cloudfather” because he coined the phrase Application Service Provider”. Unfortunately, his bio does not tell much more. We don’t have any idea what business he was involved in and who considers him the “cloudfather”. Jostein Eikeland and his business partners set up four companies in Florida, all headquartered in Boca Raton; Alevo Inc., Clydemont Finance Services, LLC, Professional Environmental Technologies, Inc. and a Victory Truck & Bus Company.

There is very little information in the European media, but a the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv published an article in June 2014 saying that “Hashish Baron Gjermund Cappelen holds shares for NOK 5.1 million ($0.78M) in financial man Jostein Eikeland new company Alevo.” Eric Cameron, one of Alevo’s Executive claims that: “No one knew Cappelen was involved in criminal drug trafficking”. Unfortunately the whole article is not available on line and we could not get more information but Cappelen is currently under investigation in Norway for drug trafficking and money laundering

Another Norwegian newspaper the Tondsberg Blad told in its August 28, 2014 issue that Eikeland went bankrupt in 2009 (which is nothing illegal} and that his house was recently posted for forced sale.

It is very little information and not very positive for someone who should have much higher profile. There are quite a few unknown in the Alevo Initiative in North Carolina. The creation of 2,500 jobs costs a lot of money where will the “hundreds of millions of dollars” mentioned by the company representtives come from? Same question about the M68.5M needed to purchase the former Philip Morris site.The only investor we have been able to find is a James McDougall, who defines himself on his LinkedIn profile as a “Cleantech CEO, Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist”. McDougall has been briefly involved in Alevo Battery’s management in Germany as an interim CEO from October 2013 to January 2014 at a time when the company was forming an “R&D and pilot production subsidiary”. Nothing says that he is the person the founding team is relying on for raising the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for the project but Tanner ensures that the “financing [of the project] is secure”.

We could find reports about the company or its founders in the Norwegian media but absolutely nothing in the German media. Alevo Battery GMBH is a very low profile company and so are its possible investors, maybe because the technology is so revolutionary that they want to avoid raising too much interest for now. We are looking forward to October 28 press conference to learn more about this technology breakthrough and about the utilities that decided to jump in.

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