Thursday, 27 September 2007

Clean Sweep 16

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

University spin-out EVO Electric (no online presence that I can find as yet) has raised £1.5m funding. Uni tech transfer company Imperial Innovations led the round with a £375,000 investment, and now holds 38% of EVO. Consensus Business Group, a family trust vehicle for the Tchenguiz brothers, and a group of private individuals also joined the round. Consensus previously managed Imperial Innovation's AIM listing in July 2006, and has continued to work closely with the group.
EVO is developing high power-density electric motors and generators for applications including traction motors in hybrid-electric vehicles. The axial flux technology is based on research by Michael Lamperth at Imperials' Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The UK government-backed Carbon Trust has announced a £3.5m investment in marine energy technology. The funding, part of the Trust's Technology Accelerator programme, aims to speed the commercialisation of marine power by reducing costs and introducing new device concepts. The Trust is working with three companies to cut the costs of installation, operation and maintenance - AWS Ocean Energy, which is using the Trust's support to develop its submerged Archimedes Wave Swing device; AIM-listed Ocean Power Technologies; and Norwegian group Hammerfest Strom.

German water filtration developer Weise Water Systems has raised a Euro325,000 investment from early-stage investor Leonardo Ventures. Leonardo takes a 49% stake in the membrane filtration business, which is targeting industrial markets, relief organisations and off-grid households.

Hotly tipped solar business Miasolé has raised a further $50m funding. The round, Miasolé's fourth, includes six new investors who weren't identified. Previous backers include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Garage Technology Ventures and Nippon Kouatsu Electric.
Miasolé is developing thin-film silicon-free solar cells based on copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) tech. Competitors include HelioVolt and Nanosolar.

In one of the year's biggest deals for clean(ish) tech, coal conversion group GreatPoint Energy raised a $100m third round. Dow Chemical and Citi Sustainable Development Investments led the round alongside AES Corp, Suncor Energy and existing VC backers.
GreatPoint is commercialising a catalytic process for converting coal and biomass into natural gas. The process may be a relatively efficient way of exploiting low-quality supplies such as lignites and tar sands. The company aims to locate production plants close to coal mines which can be used for carbon sequestration.

Fund news
London-based investor HgCapital has boosted its renewable energy team with a couple of new recruits and some internal promotions. Jean Perarnaud, formerely at ING Bank, and Jens Thomassen, from Crédit Agricole's Calyon investment bank, join as associate directors. Team co-founder Emma Tinker meanwhile becomes director.
HgCapital launched its Euro300m Hg Renewable Power Partners fund in 2004. Its most recent investment, in UK wind farm operator RidgeWind, brings its portfolio to over 120MW renewable energy capacity in construction or operation and 700MW in development.

Further reading
New investment stats from Ernst & Young and VentureOne show continuing growth in cleantech VC during the first half of the year. Globally, cleantech investments reached $1.1bn – European investment, at $80m in 19 deals, continues to be dwarfed by US activity ($893m in 71 deals). Cleantech's share of the overall VC market reached 4.4% in Europe (up from 1.6% in 2001) and 5.4% in the US (from 1.4%). E&Y's Gil Forer predicts continuing bullishness from VC investors and more IPOs.

The Yorkshire Post reports on plans from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward to take the lead in carbon capture. The region has three major coal-fired power stations – Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggborough – and plenty of disused mines to pump the stuff into. The RDA reckons that by already signing up the likes of BP, Shell, E.ON, Drax and Scottish and Southern Energy, it has a good chance of getting the £100m of government funding that's up for grabs.

Entertaining post from cleantech PR specialist William Brent on the dearth of clean toilet technology:
Sadly, the number of self-composting, or dry, toilets on the market is pitiful, with Biolan, Biolet and Envirolet apparently the only ones who make enough money to advertise. Nor was I able to find any evidence of a company on the Internet that has a next generation waterless toilet technology, despite the fact that only one-sixth of the world’s population is served by sewage systems[...] All of this to say there is an opening to invest in new solutions.
Maybe VCs are just too wary of seeing their money go down the pan.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Clean Sweep 15

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

Insource Energy, a waste-to-energy business set up by the UK government-backed Carbon Trust, has secured funding from Scottish and Southern Energy plc. SSE is investing up to £2.7m for a 40% stake in the business, with a further £10m on the table as the company develops.
Insource provides on-site CHP, biomass boilers and other technologies for food producers, a sector that produces some 5.6m tonnes of biodegradable waste per year in the UK. Pilot projects use anaerobic digesters to convert waste to methane, which is then fed into a CHP unit.

US energy storage developer Pentadyne has raised $14m ahead of a possible AIM listing. According to reports at the start of summer, the California company was planning to raise around $30m in an imminent IPO on the lightly-regulated London market. The firm has now announced a $14m private fundraising from Guernsey-based Loudwater Investment Partners, which specialises in pre-listing investment.
Pentadyne produces energy-efficient flywheels for use as emergency supply - typically replacing batteries as a stopgap supply between main power cutting out and back-up generators kicking in. Other applications include rail and distributed generation.

Some hefty biofuel deals across the pond. California's Amyris Biotechnologies announced the first tranche of a $70m second round from investors including DAG Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and TPG Ventures. The firm uses engineered micro-organisms to produce petrol and diesel substitutes from feedstocks including sugarcane, corn and cellulose. Amyris is also using similar synthetic biology methods to produce anti-malarial drugs from a yeast-like organism.
Rival bioproduction start-up Solazyme meanwhile raised $5m debt funding from BlueCrest Capital Finance. The California firm is looking to exploit microbial photosynthesis to produce biofuels and other chemicals from algae.
A more conventional South American operator, Pure Biofuels, secured a $30m private financing round to complete the construction of a production facility in Peru. The facility will produce biodiesel from palm feedstock, which the company claims is 35-times more efficient than corn on a fuel-per-acre basis. Pure is also looking at moving into Argentina to take advantage of pal, jatropha and canola (rape) plantations.

In solar, PV developer Solar Notion reportedly raised $10m from hedge fund Third Point. The California-based company says it is developing 'patent-pending disruptive technologies that reduce the manufacturing cost of solar panels by over 500%, while achieving the efficiency and reliability of single crystal silicon solar panels'.
Installation managers Solar Power Partners meanwhile raised a $6m first round from Globespan Capital Partners. SPP manages some 47 solar PPA installations across the US, including grocery chains, wineries and universities.
And in a corporate venture deal, GE Energy has bought a minority stake in thin-film company PrimeStar Solar. PrimeStar is commercialising cadmium telluride PV modules, a relatively mature thin-film tech. Terms weren't disclosed.

Planning permission has been granted for Wave Hub, a pioneering wave farm project off the coast of Cornwall. The £28m project centres on an 'electric socket' some 10 miles off shore, which companies developing wave energy tech can plug into for large-scale pilot programmes. Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Fred Olsen Limited and WestWave have already signed up.
The Yorkshire Post meanwhile reports 'overwhelming public support' for E.On's 300MW Humber Gateway wind farm

Further reading
Eyecatching stats from the industrious New Energy Finance, who report that European VCs are on track to record annualised gross returns of over 50% from their cleantech investments.
The details might be a bit less impressive. The study is based on 129 companies, backed by 37 investors, representing just over half of all VC-backed clean energy companies in Europe. Of those 129, 15 have IPO'd, 10 sold to trade, and 21 achieved further rounds at a higher valuation. On the down side, 19 received further rounds at a lower valuation, and 11 have been liquidated. The overall pooled gross IRR of all companies is 54.9% - obviously, such a pooled figure can be based on a few big wins and a lot of losses, and valuations for many of the companies must be a little questionable. The continuing high valuations across the sector, which many suspect of being fuelled by bubble-like behaviour, must also play a part - the Wilderhill NEX index of quoted clean energy companies was up by almost 49% during the same period. NEF's press release (available as a PDF here) has more figures, if not a thorough analysis.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Clean Sweep 14

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

Nascent wave-power company Embley Energy has won a £150,000 Applied Research grant from the Carbon Trust to develop a prototype of its Sperboy device. When floating in the sea, waves drive air into and out of a chamber within the Sperboy, driving a generator on top. The grant will fund a two-year trial of the low-maintenance buoy, which Embley says can bring the cost of marine power down to a competitive level.

Three diverse biofuel deals this week. Israeli biodiesel start-up Galten landed $10m from a syndicate led by the UK's Capital Partners. The firm is cultivating the oil-rich Jatropha plant in Ghana for conversion to fuel.
Texas-based Endicott Biofuels meanwhile raised $40m private equity from an unnamed investor(s) to build its first biodiesel facility. The company's looking to exploit animal waste, including pork and poultry fats, as a feedstock.
And Wisconsin's Virent Energy Systems raised a $21m second round from local funds Stark Investments and Venture Investors, alongside existing investors Cargill Ventures and Advantage Capital Partners. Virent is developing a catalytic process developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for converting sugars (including glycerol, a by-product of biodiesel production) into gasoline.

Those Californian solar deals just keep rolling. Thermal tech developer Ausra unveiled a circa $43m second round from cleantech big boys Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures. The firm is currently building a pilot 30MW solar thermal plant, and aims to build a 175MW installation in California, which would be the US's largest.
Solar installer SolarCity meanwhile raised $21m to expand nationally. Draper Fisher Jurvetson led the round, alongside JP Morgan and company chairman Elon Musk (who also chairs hot electric car group Tesla).

Still in California, green IT group SynapSense raised a $10m second round from Emerald Technology Ventures and existing investors DFJ Frontier, American River Ventures and Nth Power. SynapSense is developing hardware and software to reduce energy consumption in power-hungry data centres.

Fund news
US-based Expansion Capital Partners has closed its new green tech fund at $103m, well above the initial target of just $60m. The Clean Technology Fund will focus on reasonably mature US and Canadian companies.

Further reading
According to the Cleantech Network, cleantech investments in North America and Europe for Q2 2007 totalled just under $1 billion, up 10% from Q1. Of that, $154m was invested in 17 deals in Europe, down substantially on the previous year by value (even with currency effects) but up on the first quarter. $98m of that went to energy, the largest sector on both sides of the Atlantic. IPOs also did well, with 17 cleantech floats raising nearly $1.7bn - a continuing strong exit route seems likely to inspire more deals. More here.

New Energy Finance has an interesting white paper on the lessons of game theory for international emissions-reduction agreements (available as PDF here). The paper supports the transfer of clean technologies to developing economies as a strong incentive for international cooperation.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Clean Sweep 13

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

UK solar provider Solarcentury Holdings secured a £13.5m development round led by London-based cleantech specialist Zouk Ventures and Marcel Brenninkmeijer's Good Energies. Vantania Holdings Limited and Foursome Investments also chipped in alongside existing investors VantagePoint Venture Partners and Scottish and Southern Energy.
Solarcentury sells PV and solar thermal products, based on bought-in tech, to domestic, business and public sector customers - prominent installations include Cornwall's Eden Project and Manchester's CIS Tower. The firm was founded by former Greenpeace activist Jeremy Leggett in 1999, and raised a £7m first round during the 2000 tech bubble. The new funding will go towards driving further European growth.

Insulating paint group Thermilate Europe has secured a £750k funding package from Enterprise Ventures. When added to paint, Thermilate's Nasa-developed microspheres act as an extra layer of insulation, reducing energy costs. The Yorkshire firm distributes the additive globally, with the exception of North America.

In an interesting deal for European biofuel, Sweden's SEB Venture Capital has sold its 42% stake in Lithuanian biodiesel producer UAB Mestilla to Norwegian trade buyer Statoil. Mestilla is currently building the Baltics' largest biodiesel factory, with an expected capacity of 100,000 tonnes pa, to use rape or other vegetable oil as feedstock.

Loads more solar activity in sunny California, with concentrating PV developer SolFocus securing $52m of a planned $70m round. Investors included New Enterprise Associates, Moser Baer India, David Gelbaum, Metasystem Group, NGEN Partners, and Yellowstone Capital. Around half of the sum raised is going towards the firm's European subsidiary, which was boosted last month with the acquisition of Spanish PV tech developer Inspira. SolFocus is one of three companies working on a 3MW solar concentrator installation in La Mancha.
Innovative solar cell developer Solexant meanwhile raised a $4.3m first round from a VC syndicate led by X/Seed Capital. Details of the round remain vague, as do details of Solexant's technology, which I understand is based on silicon-based nanostructured cells which can capture a greater part of the infra-red spectrum.
And solar installation manager Tioga Energy has raised a further $4m in its continuing first round from existing investor Nth Power. Tioga launched in June with $10m venture backing.
In another deal with solar interest, Pennsylvania-based Plextronics closed a $21m second round led by Belgian chemicals group Solvay. Firelake Capital Management, Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures and Newlin Investment Company also joined in. Plextronics is developing printed electronic technology based on tech developed at Carnegie Mellon university - applications include printed solar cells.

In other US deals, Propel Biofuels closed a $4.75m first round from @Ventures and Nth Power. Propel is rolling out a network of biodiesel fuel sites from its Washington base.
And Ohio-based reXorce Thermionics raised $1.8m from JumpStart, mTerra Ventures and Bally Energy. The firm is developing a thermal engine, based on a carbon dioxide absorption heat pump developed by Nasa, with potential applications in waste, solar thermal and geothermal generation.

Fund news
London-based Climate Change Capital has closed its latest fund at Euro200m. The Private Equity fund will invest in expansion and later-stage deals, including buyouts, in the European clean power, clean transport, energy efficiency, waste recovery and water sectors. Target investments will be in the Euro5-20m range. CCC also manages two Carbon Funds, totalling over over Euro800m, targeted at emission-reducing projects in developing countries.

Further reading
New Energy Finance has released its annual review of clean energy VC/PE, covering 2006 and the first half of '07. NEF counts 521 deals totalling $8.6bn last year, and $10.6bn invested in the first half of this. However, demand for clean energy deals is outstripping supply, driving up company valuations - further evidence of a continuing bubble in the sector. The full report is for subscribers and those with deep pockets only, but the key points are listed in this pdf press release.

The previously-mentioned Greentech Media has now gone live with a strong mix of US-centric news and analysis. The company was founded by a team from telecoms news site Light Reading (more recently boosted with the acquisition of the highly respected Cleantech Investing blog run by @Ventures' Rob Day) and is backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Northport Private Equity.

Following the news (below) that the EU is flogging its excess wine for bioethanol, the Earth2Tech blog presents a handy A-Z of potential biofuel sources. Everything from apples to zeolites!