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Ecotality buys Innergy for mobile-solar and battery technology

Through acquisitions, Ecotality looks to "roll up" several clean-energy companies and become profitable next year.

What the clean-energy industry needs more of is profitable companies and fewer science experiments.

So says Jonathan Read, the CEO of Ecotality, which announced on Thursday that its has signed an agreement to buy Innergy Power. The price was $3 million, Read said.

Solar power in the field. Innergy Power

San Diego-based Innergy makes solar panels and batteries for mobile applications, such as solar-powered phones, remote surveillance cameras or off-grid lighting. It also manufactures sealed lead acid batteries that can be combined with small solar panels.

The acquisition is part of Ecotality's plan to "roll up" different clean-electricity companies into a diversified and profitable business, Read said. A public company, Ecotality expects to be profitable next year, he said.

The company in June bought Fuel Cell Store, which sells hydrogen fuel cell gear to universities and labs, and it intends to announce another acquisition related to plug-in hybrid vehicles in the near future.

It also has a hydrogen-producing technology with Hydratus through a partnership with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

What binds these diversified businesses together is clean electricity, Read said.

"We would like a mesh technology to work for us from clean power to end-user applications," he said.

The strategy is to assemble different product lines and find areas of cross-pollination. For example, by buying Innergy, it gains manufacturing capability in rechargeable batteries that can be used in its hydrogen product lines.

The company also intends to use the money from commercial products and invest in "science projects," or more speculative energy technologies that have not yet reached commercial applications, Read said.

"Something that's missing in the clean-energy space is the move to commercialization and profitability. For every development project (at Ecotality) that's pure science will be two commercial businesses," he said.

The company is also looking at wind and energy efficiency.

After finishing its acquisition of Innergy in the fall, Ecotality intends to expand its storage and solar-panel production.