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Solar refrigerator maker Promethean Power to get funding

Spin-off from MIT's Solar Turbine Group expects to close financing to build solar-powered refrigerator in India.

Promethean Power, a company spun out of MIT to build a solar-powered refrigerator, has secured initial funding from an Indian conglomerate that will help manufacture and distribute the product.

The Solar Turbine Group is a nonprofit organization formed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of technology that developed the system Promethean Power intends to commercialize.

Parabolic troughs to generate heat and electricity. Solar Turbine Group

STG has already built some of its solar turbines in the African country of Lesotho which are used for creating hot water and electricity.

The system uses parabolic troughs to generate the heat from sunlight to heat a liquid, which creates steam to turn a turbine to make electricity. This solar thermal technology is being used at large scale for utilities. A Hawaiian company called Sopogy is building a smaller-scale trough system it intends to sell to utilities.

Promethean Power did market research and found that refrigeration in developing countries like India offers a good business opportunity, said Sorin Grama, the company's president.

Most commercial refrigerators run on diesel generators, which make up about half the cost of the overall system. It intends to make the refrigerator from commonly used car parts so it can be easily repaired in rural areas, he said.

The goal is to make a system that is also able to work by burning natural gas or biomass, which can be readily available in rural areas, said engineer Libby Weyman.

The company is in negotiations with an investor and expects to finalize something within two months, said Sam White, the company's chief operating officer, on Tuesday.

"It's quite interesting that the money is coming from India, where the product will be manufactured and distributed," White said. "Everyone is going after where the money is in the United States. We feel like we're being contrary and enjoying going after this huge untapped market."

During a presentation at the Conference on Clean Energy in Boston last month, Grama said the company was looking for $1.3 million to build an alpha system. He added that the company has partnered with ITT Bombay on the engineering and design of the product.

White said the company hopes to have an alpha product in the first year, with field testing taking place in the second year, and manufacturing beginning in its third year of operation.