Moritz’s Cleantech Play Launches A Global Warming Sensor Network

I might not ordinarily cover a new product announcement from a cleantech portfolio company. But this one struck me for a particular reason: Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital is on the four-person board, along two members of the private equity firm HarbourVest Partners.

What’s interesting is that the company – rebranded Earth Networks Inc. today – is launching a global network of greenhouse gas sensors. Moritz typically works with Internet, outsourcing and technology companies. So is this a sign that he believes investors can make money with green technology?

(Disclosure: Moritz has put money in two other cleantech firms: A123 Systems Inc., the lithium ion battery maker, and lighting company Luxim Corp. The vast majority of his investments are not cleantech.)

Earth Networks, formerly AWS Convergence Technologies, sees itself addressing a big, unmet need. Greenhouse gas measurements need to be more dispersed and localized.

To address this need, Earth Networks will spend $25 million over five years to build a global network of 100 sensors – 50 in the United States, 25 in Europe and 25 through the rest of the world. The network will be up and running in about a year and initially measure CO2 and methane, two top greenhouse gases.

“We’re talking about taking the pulse of the planet,” says Chief Executive Robert Marshall.

Earth Networks already owns the WeatherBug global weather network and sells meteorological data to energy companies, federal governments and scientists. So it is a natural to take on the project.

Earth Networks also appears to believe it can make money from global warming. The company has growing revenue, growing profitability and will fund the investment from cash flow, says Marshall.

There so far are no plans to raise new venture money or to push for liquidity, through an event such as an IPO.  “There’s nobody that is anxious for liquidity,” says Marshall, referring to his investors.