Monday, 5 November 2007

Clean Sweep 21

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.
Consider this one as either late for last week or early for this - I'm having a busy couple of weeks.

Welsh battery business Atraverda has won the backing of two new European investors in a £10.4m second round. Denmark's BankInvest New Energy Solutions and Portugal's Espirito Santo Ventures led the round, with existing investors Scottish Equity Partners, Chord Capital and Finance Wales, plus US-based EnerTech Capital and OnPoint Technologies, also chipping in.
Atraverda, based in the former coal-mining town of Abertillery, is developing bi-polar batteries for use in hybrid electric vehicles, standby power and other applications. The lead-acid batteries are based on the firm's proprietary Ebonex technology, which uses a titanium sub-oxide ceramic to reduce lead content and extend battery life. The bi-polar design also increases energy density and reduces raw material demands. The new funding goes towards product and commercial development.

Dutch biomass research group Bioecon has hooked up with Silicon Valley hotshots Khosla Ventures to launch a bio-oil joint venture called KiOR. The new business will develop and commercialise Bioecon's Biomass Catalytic Cracking (BCC) process, which promises to convert lignocellulosic biomass from grass, wood and agricultural waste into a bio-oil suitable for use in transport fuels. Khosla provides an unspecified first round of funding and strategic support.

Meanwhile back in Silicon Valley, there's one big-ass fundraising for a new electric car venture known only as Project Better Place. The firm, headed by former SAP exec Shai Agassi, coyly says it has 'entered into a term sheet for its first round of funding in the amount of $200 million'. Oil and trade combine Israel Corp has put up half that amount, with Morgan Stanley, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and individual private investors making up the total.
The business model involves leasing existing battery tech to owners and maintaining a network of charging and battery exchange stations - a model which the firm compares to that of mobile phone companies. The subscription-based funding model should substantially reduce the cost and hassle of buying an electric car, and lay the infrastructure for much wider adoption. The firm predicts tipping-point saturation within ten years of rollout.

Still in California, demand response group Optimal Technologies announced a $25m second round from Goldman Sachs - $13m now, with further milestone payments over the next year.
The company says its power-management software can increase an electricity utility's supply by at least 10 per cent. It will launch both supply and demand side systems in 2008.

And San Francisco's solar concentrator business GreenVolts has raised a $10m first round led by Greenlight Energy Resources.
GreenVolt is currently working on a 2MW facility which promises to be the world's largest concentrating PV plant when it opens in late 2008. The firm says its sun-tracking concentrator systems are more efficient that that of rival SolFocus, which raised $52m two months ago.

Pioneering industry research and media company Cleantech Group has hooked up with Credit Suisse and Consensus Business Group in what they're calling a 'strategic business relationship to accelerate global investment in clean technologies'. That means new investment products and advisory services tailored for the fast-expanding sector. Credit Suisse and Consensus are together investing $10m in the Cleantech Group, according to reports.

Fund news
Kent-based VCT manager Foresight Group has held a £15m first close on its new Foresight Sustainable UK Investment Fund. The fund, which is aiming for a £20m close by the end of the year, focuses on environmental infrastructure businesses including renewable energy, waste-to-energy and recycling. Its first investment was in biomass CHP firm O-Gen UK back in June.

Further reading
An interesting list of winners of the 2007 California Clean Tech Open. The business plan competition aims to identify and support the most promising start-ups in one of the world's most active cleantech clusters. Expect some, if not all, to enjoy further VC funding before too long.

The ever-campaigning Guardian names and shames leading UK companies which it reckons aren't taking steps to cut their carbon emissions. If you're selling the goods or services that could help the recalcitrant corporates clean up their act, it may be a good time to give them a call.
Interestingly (if unsurprisingly), the sole private equity group on the FTSE 100, 3i, was among the handful of companies reporting their emission figures in confidence. Over on the Cleantech Blog, Neil Dikeman ponders the issues facing cleantech-hungry VCs trying to reduce their carbon footprints.

1 comment:

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