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FloDesign speeds quest for midsize wind turbine

With a $34.5 million round, famed VC firm Kleiner Perkins boosts its investment in the novel wind turbine maker, which uses a design inspired by jet engines.

FloDesign Wind, a company developing a wind turbine that borrows technology from jet engines, has raised a second round of venture capital and hired a new CEO.

The Wilbraham, Mass.-based company on Tuesday said initial investor Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers led a $34.5 million series B round, which included money from a Goldman Sachs managed investment fund, Technology Partners, and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

The new CEO is Lars Andersen, who was last the president of wind turbine maker Vestas in China.

With the second round of investment and new CEO, the company is seeking to shift from research and development to manufacturing. The company has been testing a prototype wind turbine for the past several months.

Although FloDesign has not yet released a product, its 150-kilowatt turbine design has gotten attention from investors, potential customers, and researchers.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu highlighted FloDesign Wind during his presentation at the Cop15 international climate treaty talks in December. FloDesign was awarded a $8.3 million grant as part of the ARPA-E program aimed at breakthrough energy technologies.

In general, the trend in wind turbines has been to make larger turbines using the familiar three-blade windmill. FloDesign Wind, which was spun out of an aerospace company, is making turbines for areas not well served by traditional ones or two-megawatt turbines, according to the company. For example, its turbines could be used in locations such as mountain ridges or sold to business or municipalities looking to make power on site.

Its turbine is built around a fan that has a shroud that surrounds it. Wind flowing through the fan and around the outside of the shroud creates an air mixture at the back of the turbine that pulls air through it quicker, according to the company.

During a presentation in September last year, former CEO Stanley Kowalski III said initial tests at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that FloDesign's turbine can produce power 40 percent cheaper than traditional turbines.