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.

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