Thursday, 5 July 2007

Clean Sweep 5

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.

In the first of three deals for European university spin-outs, London-based photovoltaic developer QuantaSol (NB - nowt at the company's website as yet) has secured a £1.35m investment round. The round is led by by Imperial Innovations Group, the tech transfer wing of London's Imperial College, which takes a 24% stake in the company. AIM-listed specialist investor Low Carbon Accelerator, private investment fund NetScientific Ltd and and broker subsidiary Numis Corporation also took part in the round.
QuantaSol is based on 'Quantum Well Photovoltaic' tech developed by Prof Keith Barnham of Imperial and colleagues in Sheffield and Italy. The cells use gallium arsenide and other III-V semiconductors to improve photovoltaic efficiency, for use in utility-scale concentrating PV power generation.

Dresden-based Heliatek has secured financing of at least Euro3.2m from corporates BASF and Bosch, plus venture investors Wellington Partners and the state-backed High-Tech Grunderfonds. Heliatek, a spin-out from the Technical University of Dresden and University of Ulm, is developing solar cell technology based on organic semiconductors. The company says the cells can bring energy costs down to Euro1 per peak Watt, opening a subsidy-free market for solar energy.

Norwegian wind power developer ChapDrive has secured NKr14.3m (Euro2.25m) funding from NorthZone Ventures, Hafslund Ventures and Statoil New Energy. ChapDrive is developing a patented hydraulic transmission mechanism to make off-shore wind turbines more efficient, based on research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The company has a 300kW prototype operating near Trondheim, with support from Shell, Norsk Hydro and others.

Solaire Direct (NB - website en Francais) meanwhile raised a Euro6.1m round from investors including TechFund, Schneider Electric Ventures, and Demeter Partners. Founded in late 2006, Solaire Direct claims to be the first photovoltaic specialist dedicated to France, designing and managing PV installations from the domestic to the utility level.

Further reading
Red Herring reports from the GreenVest 2007 conference in San Francisco, where the VCs are still bringing the buzz: What emerged from GreenVest was overwhelming enthusiasm for the sector, tempered by a sober assessment of the challenges of slowing climate change, dealing with mixed signals from policy-makers, and revolutionizing a decades-old energy infrastructure.

FT environment editor Fiona Harvey takes an overview of 'sustainable entrepreneurship' for Forum for the Future's Green Futures magazine, including caveats about taking 'dumb money' from less talented VCs.

And finally
Irish tech developer Steorn raised eyebrows last year when it announced, via a full-page ad in the Economist, that it had come up with a free energy device. A crack team of 22 volunteer scientists have been examining the claims since January, but Steorn is now offering its tech to the public eye. For one week only, the Kinetica gallery in Spitalfields market is exhibiting Steorn's 'Orbo' device as it perpetually spins a clear polycarbonate wheel with absolutely no supply of external energy or power supply attached. A live webcam feed is promised on Steorn's site here. More at Steorn's press announcement here.
So can this really be the holy grail of cleantech, a source of free and pollutionless energy, working on some as-yet-unexplained magnetic principle? This Barnum-like exhibition will hardly quell the sceptics, I fear. Meanwhile, the world eagerly awaits the findings of Steorn's appointed experts.
[Update, Fri 6th - Steorn's demo has been indefinitely postponed thanks to "technical problems [...] primarily due to excessive heat from the lighting in the main display area". Whoopsie.]

No comments: