Solar thermal company eSolar has raised a jaw-dropping $130 million in funding from Idealab and Google.org.

Instead of burning fossil fuels to create steam that turns generators as in a traditional power plant, solar thermal plants use the sun to generate heat.

ESolar plans to develop these plants in Southwestern states, including Arizona and New Mexico, where summers are particularly long and hot.

"The more brutal the sun, the better for us," said Robert Rogan, vice president of corporate development.

A traditional power plant produces a few hundred megawatts of energy and costs several billion dollars to build. Pasadena-based eSolar plans to build smaller, modular units 33 megawatts each. An individual plant would produce enough energy to power 11,000 homes with electricity distributed on utility company grids. To power larger communities, eSolar would connect multiple solar thermal units to create a bigger plant.

The funding will be used to build a demonstration facility and deploy a commercial plant. ESolar plans to have an operational plant in Southern California later this year.

In addition to Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm and tech incubator Idealab, Oak Investment Partners and other financial backers contributed to the funding. The company was founded last year and employs 70 people.

M Is for Money

Channel M, an in-store video company, got $7 million in yet another round of venture funding.

After a $6 million cash injection in February, this company now has total funding of $24 million.

"The industry is heating up across the board," said David Teichner, the company's chief executive. "Both advertisers and venues, from banks to big-box retailers, are looking to video to help their in-store environment."

Ad spending on in-store video networks reached $1.3 billion in 2007, according to industry tracker PQ Media.

Channel M produces custom
programming for more than 20,000 screens across the country, in 7,500 retail locations including Game Stop, Blockbuster, Nordstrom and the Disney Store. The company streams music videos, video games and movie trailers from a library of licensed content, along with original material. About 20 percent is advertising.

This year, Channel M is rolling out its screens at My Gym Children's Fitness Center across 200 of its locations where it will show programming related to health and fitness.

Channel M estimates that it reaches more than 100 million consumers through its programming.

The new funds will be used to convert to Internet-based digital content delivery, an upgrade from playing the programming on DVDs.

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