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!

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