Thursday, 9 August 2007

Clean Sweep 10

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

Imperial Innovations, the tech transfer wing of London's Imperial College, has led a £4.25m round in battery developer Nexeon (NB - website under development).
The Hampshire-based company is commercialising "second-generation" lithium-ion battery technology developed by Imperial's Prof Mino Green, which promises a higher energy density than current tech. Potential applications include hybrid electric vehicles, as well as rechargeable mobile devices.
Imperial Innovations contributed £1.95m to the round, with non-exec Paul Atherton chipping in a further £250k. NanoVentures, PUK Investments and Tudor Investment Corporation made up the total.
The investment comes just a month after a £1.35m syndicated round in another Imperial cleantech spin-off, solar concentration company QuantaSol.

A trio of low-energy lighting companies have closed development rounds. Canada's Group IV Semiconductor raised an unspecified (but at least $10m) second round. Garage Technology Ventures Canada led the funding alongside Khosla Ventures, BDC Venture Capital and Applied Ventures, a subsidiary of nanomanufacturing giant Applied Materials. Applied Materials will also be collaborating with Group IV on developing low-cost manufacturing process for the firm's silicon-based solid state lamps which promise to be cheaper and more efficient than conventional LEDs.
BridgeLux, a Californian high-volume LED producer, meanwhile raised a $23m third round from Chrysalix, VantagePoint and existing investors.
And Israeli lighting control firm MetroLight has raised $9m in a round led by Virgin Fuels and Gemini Israel Funds. MetroLight produces High Intensity Discharge (HID) ballasts which can halve the energy consumption of street lights and other lighting fixtures.

In another sign of growing interest in water purification tech, Clear Water Compliance Services raised a $25m first round from hedge fund Plainfield Asset Management. The Washington-based firm specialises in treating water on construction projects, ports and industrial sites.

Fund news
UK tech specialist Esprit Capital Partners has joined the global network of US-based cleantech leader Draper Fisher Jurvetson. With offices in London and Cambridge, Esprit is itself the product of recent consolidation in early-stage VC, being created in a 2006 merger of Cazenove Private Equity and Prelude Ventures. With DFJ taking a "strategic stake" in the firm, it's now rebranded as DFJ Esprit.
While Esprit hasn't been active in cleantech to date, DFJ has made some pioneering investments via its DFJ Element wing. With total funds of $292m, Element typically invests from $3-5m in early-stage ventures through to $10-15m for later-stage opportunities, using DFJ's office network to access deals worldwide. The Esprit deal should give it an additional way in to European deals.

Further reading
The rate of growth in global energy demand can be halved without compromising economic growth or consumer convenience, according to new research by McKinsey. The report, Curbing the growth of global energy demand, focuses on four sectors - residential buildings, commercial buildings, road transport, and industry - which represent 98% of global end-use demand:
an intensive focus on improving energy productivity would spur new markets for demand-side innovation and thus generate important business opportunities for manufacturers, utilities, and other companies. Yet market forces alone will not produce such outcomes.

In what could be good news for windfarm developers facing nimby opposition, researchers from Salford University found that noise complaints about existing turbines are relatively insignificant compared with complaints about other noise sources. The report focused on noise caused by aerodynamic modulation, a phenomenon which has been identified at four sites nationally but which can be avoided by improved control systems. The report, prepared for the DBERR, can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Ashley Seager, economics correspondent at the Guardian, lets fly at the UK government's record in backing renewable energy, arguing for something closer to Germany's feed-in tariff rather than the current Renewables Obligation:
Britain's use of renewables rose about 10% last year to 4.6% of all energy use. And the pace of increase slowed. In Germany it is rising much faster and is already at 13% of all energy, a share Germany proposes to double by 2020. Germany now has 200 times as much installed solar energy capacity as Britain, for example.
Britain's chances of achieving the EU target of a 20% cut in emissions by 2020 are negligible. Indeed, the government has acknowledged it will not achieve it. Germany plans to over-achieve it.[...]
So next time you hear the government claim it leads the world on climate change, do as the Germans do: burst out laughing.

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