Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. Photo via sagegeosystems.com

A Houston geothermal startup has announced the close of its series A round of funding.

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. The proceeds aim to fund its first commercial geopressured geothermal system facility, which will be built in Texas in Q4 of 2024. According to the company, the facility will be the first of its kind.

The venture is joined by technology investor Arch Meredith, Helium-3 Ventures and will include support from existing investors Virya, LLC, Nabors Industries Ltd., and Ignis Energy Inc.

“The first close of our Series A funding and our commercial facility are significant milestones in our mission to make geopressured geothermal system technologies a reality,” Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems, says in a news release. “The success of our GGS technologies is not only critical to Sage Geosystems becoming post-revenue, but it is an essential step in accelerating the development of this proprietary geothermal baseload approach.

"This progress would not be possible without the ongoing support from our existing investors, and we look forward to continuing this work with our new investors," she continues.

The 3-megawatt commercial facility will be called EarthStore and will use Sage’s technology that harvests energy from pressurized water from underground. The facility will be able to store energy — for short and long periods of time — and can be paired with intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It will also be able to provide baseload, dispatchable power, and inertia to the electric grid.

In 2023, Sage Geosystems debuted the EarthStore system in a full-scale commercial pilot project in Texas. The pilot produced 200 kilowatt for more than 18 hours, 1 megawatt for 30 minutes, and generated electricity with Pelton turbines. The system had a water loss of less than 2 percent and a round-trip efficiency (RTE) of 70-75.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Jai Shah of Kahuna, Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems, and Patrick Flam of Revterra. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Each week, I'm introducing you to three Houston innovators to know — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Jai Shah, CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions

Kahuna CEO Jai Shah shares how he plans on deploying the $21 million his Houston company just raised. Photo courtesy of Kahuna

With a recent $21 million series B funding round set to fuel more growth and expand an impressive client roster, Kahuna Workforce Solutions is riding a big wave into 2024.

CEO Jai Shah tells InnovationMap that the Houston skills management software service company’s Hawaiian name captures their style.

“Kahuna is that kind of expert, competent leader in a tribe or family,” Jai says. “That’s all because we had this concept of really wanting to be providing a very..family-oriented consulting approach. Treat our customers like family, and with respect, love and really just try and deliver on that promise.” Continue reading.

Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology. Photo courtesy of Sage

Geothermal energy is an integral part of decarbonizing the energy industry, and Sage Geosystems CEO Cindy Taff believes her company's tech has what it takes to lead the way.

Founded in Houston in 2020, Sage Geosystems is focused on two business lines — energy storage and geothermal. In addition to developing these technologies, Taff says Sage has "cracked the code" on both reducing costs and maximizing electricity output. Sage has customers ranging from Nabors, the world’s largest land-based drilling company, and Virya LLC, an investor in climate ventures with high impact of eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering CO2. Continue reading.

Patrick Flam, CFO of Revterra

Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. Photo via ADNOC

Revterra, which produces novel batteries made from recycled steel, has been awarded a million-dollar piloting opportunity by ADNOC following a global competition. The ADNOC Decarbonization Technology Challenge, in collaboration with AWS, bp, Hub71, and the Net Zero Technology Centre, sought to find emerging climate tech innovations that are ready for scale.

At the event in Dubai, Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. In addition to the $1 million, they will gain access to facilities and expertise at the ADNOC Research and Innovation Center in Abu Dhabi.

“We are thrilled to win this opportunity,” Patrick Flam, CFO of Revterra, says in a news release. “At Revterra, we have developed an environmentally friendly battery that doesn’t rely on metals like lithium, nickel, or cobalt.” Continue reading.

Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology. Photo courtesy of Sage

Houston sustainability startup founder on why geothermal is a 'cornerstone' tech for energy transition

Q&A

Geothermal energy is an integral part of decarbonizing the energy industry, and Sage Geosystems CEO Cindy Taff believes her company's tech has what it takes to lead the way.

Founded in Houston in 2020, Sage Geosystems is focused on two business lines — energy storage and geothermal. In addition to developing these technologies, Taff says Sage has "cracked the code" on both reducing costs and maximizing electricity output. Sage has customers ranging from Nabors, the world’s largest land-based drilling company, and Virya LLC, an investor in climate ventures with high impact of eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering CO2

In a Q&A that originally ran on EnergyCapital, she explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology.

EnergyCapital: Why do you believe geothermal has a major role to play in the energy transition?

CindyTaff: Geothermal energy is not just a contender in the energy transition; it is a cornerstone. The question isn’t if we can drive down the costs to be competitive with wind, solar, and natural gas—it’s when. As renewable credits for solar and wind begin to expire, these industries will face the reality of their “real costs.”

As a 24/7 renewable energy source, it provides a constant and reliable power supply, unlike the intermittent nature of solar and wind. Moreover, the rising costs of lithium-ion batteries, driven by the increasing scarcity of lithium and cobalt, further underscore geothermal’s economic viability.

My extensive experience in both geothermal and the O&G sector is a testament to the synergistic relationship between these industries. The skills honed in O&G are not only transferable—they are essential to advancing geothermal technologies. In summary, the O&G industry can make a huge impact to geothermal by systematically driving down costs while scaling up, which is exactly what we did for unconventional shales.

EC: When it comes to finding partners or investors, what are you looking for? What should potential partners/investors know about Sage?

CT: Our technology is ready to scale today, not five to 10 years into the future. We will deliver our first energy storage power plant in 2024 and our first enhanced geothermal power plant in 2025. We are looking for synergies with investors, such as companies with power market or O&G expertise.

In addition, we seek to partner with others who have local content and relationships in places around the world to enable us to quickly and broadly scale our technologies. Sage's technologies are extremely flexible, in that we can deliver energy storage or enhanced geothermal to the utility grid or behind-the-meter to targeted commercial customers, including a dedicated microgrid (i.e., for the U.S. Air Force). Our technologies can provide electricity to remote locations such as mining operations or to large population centers such as Houston, and everything in between.

EC: What's the biggest challenge Sage is facing as an energy transition startup and how do you plan to tackle it?

CT: A common misunderstanding about Sage is that we only do energy storage or that we only do geothermal. However, we do both and the technologies build on one another. Essentially, our energy storage technologies will allow us to "walk" before we "run" with geothermal. On a related point, at this point in the energy transition, time to commercialization and affordability of new clean technology are the leading factors in terms of climate impact. As the first geothermal company to deliver a cost-effective commercial enhanced geothermal system, we are poised to truly make a meaningful difference.

EC: As a woman in a male-dominated industry tackling a global problem, what's been your biggest lesson learned? What's your advice to fellow energy tech female founders?

CT: In my journey as a woman in the energy tech industry, I’ve been fortunate to focus on the work and the global challenges we’re addressing, rather than on any gender-based obstacles. My biggest lesson learned is that innovation and leadership know no gender. Success is driven by perseverance, vision, and collaboration.

------

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The six finalists for the sustainability category for the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards weigh in on their challenges overcome. Photos courtesy

Top Houston-based sustainability startups share their 4 biggest challenges

houston innovation awards

Six Houston-area sustainability startups have been named finalists in the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards, but they didn't achieve this recognition — as well as see success for their businesses — without any obstacles.

The finalists were asked what their biggest challenges have been. From funding to market adoption, the sustainability companies have had to overcome major obstacles to continue to develop their businesses.

The awards program — hosted by InnovationMap, and Houston Exponential — will name its winners on November 8 at the Houston Innovation Awards. The program was established to honor the best and brightest companies and individuals from the city's innovation community. Eighteen energy startups were named as finalists across all categories, but the following responses come from the finalists in the sustainability category specifically.

    Click here to secure your tickets to see who wins.

    1. Securing a commercial pilot

    "As an early-stage clean energy developer, we struggled to convince key suppliers to work on our commercial pilot project. Suppliers were skeptical of our unproven technology and, given limited inventory from COVID, preferred to prioritize larger clients. We overcame this challenge by bringing on our top suppliers as strategic investors. With a long-term equity stake in Fervo, leading oilfield services companies were willing to provide Fervo with needed drilling rigs, frack crews, pumps, and other equipment." — Tim Latimer, founder and CEO of Fervo Energy

    2. Finding funding

    "Securing funding in Houston as a solo cleantech startup founder and an immigrant with no network. Overcome that by adopting a milestone-based fundraising approach and establishing credibility through accelerator/incubator programs." — Anas Al Kassas, CEO and founder of INOVUES

    "The biggest challenge has been finding funding. Most investors are looking towards software development companies as the capital costs are low in case of a risk. Geothermal costs are high, but it is physical technology that needs to be implemented to safety transition the energy grid to reliable, green power." — Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

    3. Market adoption

    "Market adoption by convincing partners and government about WHP as a solution, which is resource-intensive. Making strides by finding the correct contacts to educate." — Janice Tran, CEO and co-founder of Kanin Energy

    "We are creating a brand new financial instrument at the intersection of carbon markets and power markets, both of which are complicated and esoteric. Our biggest challenge has been the cold-start problem associated with launching a new product that has effectively no adoption. We tackled this problem by leading the Energy Storage Solutions Consortium (a group of corporates and battery developers looking for sustainability solutions in the power space), which has opened up access to customers on both sides of our marketplace. We have also leveraged our deep networks within corporate power procurement and energy storage development to talk to key decision-makers at innovative companies with aggressive climate goals to become early adopters of our products and services." — Emma Konet, CTO and co-founder of Tierra Climate

    4. Long scale timelines

    "Scaling and commercializing industrial technologies takes time. We realized this early on and designed the eXERO technology to be scalable from the onset. We developed the technology at the nexus of traditional electrolysis and conventional gas processing, taking the best of both worlds while avoiding their main pitfalls." — Claus Nussgruber, CEO of Utility Global

    ------

    This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

    Ad Placement 300x100
    Ad Placement 300x600

    CultureMap Emails are Awesome

    Health tech startup launches Houston study improve stroke patients recovery

    now enrolling

    A Houston-born company is enrolling patients in a study to test the efficacy of nerve stimulation to improve outcomes for stroke survivors.

    Dr. Kirt Gill and Joe Upchurch founded NeuraStasis in 2021 as part of the TMC Biodesign fellowship program.

    “The idea for the company manifested during that year because both Joe and I had experiences with stroke survivors in our own lives,” Gill tells InnovationMap. It began for Gill when his former college roommate had a stroke in his twenties.

    “It’s a very unpredictable, sudden disease with ramifications not just for my best friend but for everyone in his life. I saw what it did to his family and caregivers and it's one of those things that doesn't have as many solutions for people to continue recovery and to prevent damage and that's an area that I wanted to focus myself on in my career,” Gill explains.

    Gill and Upchurch arrived at the trigeminal and vagus nerves as a potential key to helping stroke patients. Gill says that there is a growing amount of academic literature that talks about the efficacy of stimulating those nerves. The co-founders met Dr. Sean Savitz, the director of the UTHealth Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, during their fellowship. He is now their principal investigator for their clinical feasibility study, located at his facility.

    The treatment is targeted for patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke, meaning that it’s caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.

    “Rehabilitation after a stroke is intended to help the brain develop new networks to compensate for permanently damaged areas,” Gill says. “But the recovery process typically slows to essentially a standstill or plateau by three to six months after that stroke. The result is that the majority of stroke survivors, around 7.6 million in the US alone, live with a form of disability that prevents complete independence afterwards.”

    NeuraStasis’ technology is intended to help patients who are past that window. They accomplish that with a non-invasive brain-stimulation device that targets the trigeminal and vagus nerves.

    “Think of it kind of like a wearable headset that enables stimulation to be delivered, paired to survivors going through rehabilitation action. So the goal here is to help reinforce and rewire networks as they're performing specific tasks that they're looking to improve upon,” Gill explains.

    The study, which hopes to enroll around 25 subjects, is intended to help people with residual arm and hand deficits six months or more after their ischemic stroke. The patients enrolled will receive nerve stimulation three times a week for six weeks. It’s in this window that Gill says he hopes to see meaningful improvement in patients’ upper extremity deficits.

    Though NeuraStasis currently boasts just its two co-founders as full-time employees, the company is seeing healthy growth. It was selected for a $1.1 million award from the National Institutes of Health through its Blueprint MedTech program. The award was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The funding furthers NeuraStasis’ work for two years, and supports product development for work on acute stroke and for another product that will aid in emergency situations.

    Gill says that he believes “Houston has been tailor-made for medical healthcare-focused innovation.”

    NeuraStasis, he continues, has benefited greatly from its advisors and mentors from throughout the TMC, as well as the engineering talent from Rice, University of Houston and Texas A&M. And the entrepreneur says that he hopes that Houston will benefit as much from NeuraStasis’ technology as the company has from its hometown.

    “I know that there are people within the community that could benefit from our device,” he says.

    Texas Space Commission launches, Houston execs named to leadership

    future of space

    Governor Greg Abbott announced the Texas Space Commission, naming its inaugural board of directors and Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee.

    The announcement came at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and the governor was joined by Speaker Dade Phelan, Representative Greg Bonnen, Representative Dennis Paul, NASA's Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, and various aerospace industry leaders.

    According to a news release, the Texas Space Commission will aim to strengthen commercial, civil, and military aerospace activity by promoting innovation in space exploration and commercial aerospace opportunities, which will include the integration of space, aeronautics, and aviation industries as part of the Texas economy.

    The Commission will be governed by a nine-member board of directors. The board will also administer the legislatively created Space Exploration and Aeronautics Research Fund to provide grants to eligible entities.

    “Texas is home to trailblazers and innovators, and we have a rich history of traversing the final frontier: space,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick says in a news release. “Texas is and will continue to be the epicenter for the space industry across the globe, and I have total confidence that my appointees to the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee will ensure the Texas space industry remains an international powerhouse for cutting-edge space innovation.”

    TARSEC will independently identify research opportunities that will assist the state’s position in aeronautics research and development, astronautics, space commercialization, and space flight infrastructure. It also plans to fuel the integration of space, aeronautics, astronautics, and aviation industries into the Texas economy. TARSEC will be governed by an executive committee and will be composed of representatives of each higher education institution in the state.

    “Since its very inception, NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been home to manned spaceflight, propelling Texas as the national leader in the U.S. space program,” Abbott says during the announcement. “It was at Rice University where President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon—not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

    "Now, with the Texas Space Commission, our great state will have a group that is responsible for dreaming and achieving the next generation of human exploration in space," he continues. "Texas is the launchpad for Mars, innovating the technology that will colonize humanity’s first new planet. As we look into the future of space, one thing is clear: those who reach for the stars do so from the great state of Texas. I look forward to working with the Texas Space Commission, and I thank the Texas Legislature for partnering with industry and higher education institutions to secure the future of Texas' robust space industry."

    The Houston-area board of directors appointees included:

    • Gwen Griffin, chief executive officer of the Griffin Communications Group
    • John Shannon, vice president of Exploration Systems at the Boeing Company
    • Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby, co-founder and CEO of Venus Aerospace
    • Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin
    • Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, director of the Texas A&M Space Institute

    Additionally, a few Houstonians were named to the TARSEC committee, including:

    • Stephanie Murphy, CEO and executive chairman of Aegis Aerospace
    • Matt Ondler, president and former chief technology officer at Axiom Space
    • Jack “2fish” Fischer, vice president of production and operations at Intuitive Machines
    • Brian Freedman, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and vice chairman of Wellby Financial
    • David Alexander, professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University

    To see the full list of appointed board and committee members, along with their extended bios, click here.