Friday, 19 December 2008

Clean Sweep 52

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment. Seems like everyone's getting their deals wrapped up before the holidays.

Climate Change Capital is backing a landfill gas project in Northern Ireland with £2m capital funding. The investment comes from its Ventus Funds, specialist venture capital trusts (VCTs) focused on renewable energy projects.
The project is a joint venture between Belfast City Council and project development company Renewable Power Systems, to generate electricity from methane gas produced by the 121 hectare Dargan Road landfill site. The scheme is forecast to produce enough electricity for 6000 homes, with a lifetime of at least 20 years.

Welsh environmental diagnostics company Envirogene has closed a £1m second round from investors including RAB Capital and Finance Wales.
Envirogene uses molecular diagnostics and nanoparticle tracking technology to monitor water quality and assist bioremediation projects. The new funding will help commercialise its water quality technologies, and develop new diagnostic tools for the oil and gas industries.

AIM-listed Ludgate Environmental Fund has led a Euro10m round in German biogas plant operator Ludgate invested Euro3m, alongside London-based pensions hedge fund Valiance. uses manure and crop waste to produce methane-rich gas, which can be either burnt on site to generate elecricity or cleaned and fed into the national gas network. The leftovers, which the firm delicately calls 'fermentation residue', is used as a high-grade fertiliser.

Belgian renewables group Electrawinds has secured an extra Euro30m capital from existing investors. Dutch VC group GIMV put in Euro25m, with the remainder from DG Infra+, and infrastructure joint venture between GIMV and Belgian investment group Dexia.
Electrawinds aims to increase its generating capacity from 80MW to 200MW by the end of 2010.
GIMV also announced the close of its new XL tech VC fund at Euro500m.

Norwegian start-up Solar Cell Repower has raised a NKr20m (cEuro2m) first round in two tranches from Nordic tech investor Northzone Ventures. State-based Innovation Norway also contributed a NKr8m grant and NKr4m loan. The firm specialises in recycling and upgrading "non prime" solar cells to meet current performance standards, and aims to build partnerships with cell and module manufacturers.
Also in Norwegian solar recycling, silicon specialists Metallkraft raised NKr33m (Euro3.5m) from Belgium's Capricorn Venture Partners. Metallkraft is developing a patented process for recycling the silicon carbine slurry used in the wafer cutting stage of standard PV cell manufacturing.

Two much-favoured US firms have raised new rounds. Thin-film solar manufacturer Konarka has raised $45m and announced 'bilateral R&D and cooperation agreements' with oil major Total. The French energy group becomes the Massachusetts-based company's largest shareholder, with just under 20%, via its Total Gas & Power USA subsidiary. Konarka last announced a $45m round in October last year.
Cellulosic ethanol group Coskata meanwhile raised a $40m third round led by private equity giant Blackstone. Money goes towards completing Coskata's pilot plant in Pittsburgh and beginning work on its first commercial plant. The Illinois firm announced a partnership with General Motors back in January. The deal is the first publicised investment from Blackstone's new Cleantech Venture Partners fund.

In other follow-on news, vertical-axis 'Windspire' turbine manufacturer Mariah Power announced it had closed its second round, led by Noventi Ventures, at an undisclosed total. Last we heard in April, it had just raised some post-seed and was working on its first round - it's easy to lose count...
Canadian ethanol tech firm Vaperma announced a C$6.9m follow-on investment, after its C$21.5m second round last November. Investors again included London-based Low Carbon Accelerator and Volvo Technology Transfer.
(Meanwhile, LCA announced the insolvency of one of its portfolio companies, Austrian solar/biomass generator group EnergyCabin, blaming the recession for lack of consumer demand. Not the last time we'll be hearing that, I suspect).

Solar start-up Lightwave Power closed a $13m first round from Quercus Trust and 21 Ventures. The firm is an offshoot from roll-ro-roll electronics manufacturing group MicroContinuum, whose printing technology Lightwave is using to produce solar nanoarrays.

Energy management group PhoenixESG announced an undisclosed 'anchor investment' from Momentum Venture Management. The New Jersey firm provides a range of data-based services for reducing energy costs and meeting environmental targets.

Israeli green chemicals developer Botanocap secured an extra $2.3m from Swiss investor BHCO Group. The firm is developing less harmful pesticides and disinfectants based on microcapsules of essential oils.

Further reading
Predictions for 2009 from the US National Venture Capital Association - it'll be a difficult year, with 92% of responding VCs predicting a slowdown of new investment. But for cleantech, 48% expect increased investment, and another 20% reckon on no change, the most optimistic results for any sector. More details (160KB PDF).
Greentech Media meanwhile crunches the latest VC totals from Ernst & Young - a record $4.6bn throughout North America, Europe, China and Israel in the first three quarters, comfortably topping 2007's end-of-year total. That equates to 13% of all VC activity. E&Y's cleantech team is still predicting a slowdown, though.

A possible driver of new cleantech investment for the UK - the Lords EU Committee is calling for the money raised from the sale of carbon permits to be invested in green technology. No definite plans, but the committee reckons that ringfencing the permit revenues is essential to maintaining the credibility of the scheme. More from the Guardian or, for the very conscientious, the full 250-page report (1.8MB PDF).

Top cleantech blog post of the season is the slideshow analysis by Rob Day and colleagues at @Ventures of what's wrong with cleantech VC. In brief: not enough exits, so that valuations and ideas of what actually works are pretty much untested; too many big rounds in too few sectors; and not enough true early-stage investors.

Finally, a Christmas message to you all. I'll be back soon with a round-up of the year, but in the meantime, I'll wish everyone a very merry holiday and a clean and prosperous 2009.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Clean Sweep 51

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

UK fuel cell developer Acal Energy has raised a £3.3m round from state-backed Carbon Trust Investments, Belgian chemicals group Solvay and another un-named investor.
Cheshire-based Acal is developing small (<1kW) PEM fuel cells for domestic and transport applications, based on a proprietary 'liquid cathode' technology which replaces the standard platinum cathode. Founded in 2004, the company previously received incubator support from the Carbon Trust.
The Carbon Trust this week also announced a partnership with the CBI 'to maximise the opportunities that the move to a low carbon economy will create [for UK companies]'.

London-based Environmental Technologies Fund has led a $20m third round in Swedish biorefinery business Chemrec. Existing investors Vantage Point Venture Partners and Volvo Technology Transfer also joined in the round.
Chemrec claims to be the world leader in black liquor gasification. Rather than something you might experience after too much porter, that's a way of converting liquid biomass from pulp and paper mills into synthesis gas for biofuel production. The tech can potentially replace around two per cent of global fuel demand, according to Chemrec. The firm currently operates two plants, and is working with pulp and paper firms in Sweden and the US to develop second-gen plants on an industrial scale.

French recycling group Recupyl has raised a Euro14.5m development round from a syndicate including original investor Aloe Private Equity and new investor AGF Private Equity.
The firm provides a range of patent-protected waste treatment technologies based on hydrometallurgy, and specialises in recovering materials from electric batteries. Recupyl is also working with industrial partners on recycling fuel cells, electric and hybrid vehicle batteries, and solar panels.

US rechargeable battery developer Infinite Power Solutions closed a $13m second round led by existing investors DE Shaw Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners. A new, unnamed 'strategic investor' also joined the round.
The funding helps the Colorado company move its thin-film 'Thinergy' batteries into mass production. IPS says the cells are particularly suitable for storing energy harvested from ambient environments such as radio frequency, magnetic, solar, heat, and vibration.

A bunch of interesting US deals from November which I missed in the last round-up -
Energy tech group Danotek Motion Technologies raised $14.5mm from CMEA Ventures, StatoilHydro Ventures, and GE Energy Financial Services.
The Michigan company produces advanced permanent magnet generators and converters for applications including wind turbines and electric and hybrid vehicles.
Cellulosic ethanol group Qteros (formerly known as SunEthanol) raised a $25m second round led by Venrock and Battery Ventures. New investors include BP and Soros Fund. The firm's tech depends on what it calls the 'Q microbe', aka Clostridium phytofermentans, which eliminates the need for a separate enzymatic breakdown stage when converting biomass into fuel. The new funding helps Qteros scale up and move towards commercial production.
Sterling engine developer ReGen Power Systems has secured a $5m round from 21Ventures and the prolific Quercus Trust. The Stamford firm is working on low-temperature Stirling engines to produce up to 2MW of electricity from waste heat and steam at industrial plants. The new money will fund the production of two prototype engines, of 10KW and 500KW.

Singapore-based renewables project developer Orient Green Power has raised $55m from Olympus Capital Holdings Asia, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Indian renewables project management group Shriram EPC. Orient is developing a string of biomass, biogas and wind installations in India, with a target of 500MW capacity within five years. The company is also looking to make money by selling credits under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism.
Indian solar project developer Azure Power recently raised an undisclosed first round from Helion Venture Partners and Foundation Capital.

Fund news
Hertfordshire-based TTP Ventures has secured £20m government funding for its new £30m Enterprise Capital Fund (ECF). The fund will target cleantech SMEs, as well as early-stage IT opportunities.

An ambitious new entrant in the environmentally-focused investment market - Earth Capital Partners (no web presence yet, as far as I can find). The firm is headed by former Man Group CEO Stanley Fink (who takes the non-exec chair), and is aiming to raise $5bn from institutions and individuals within five years. Rufus Warner, formerly with Close Investments, is chief exec.
ECP is planning on launching at least six targeted funds: Environmental Opportunities Fund; Environmental Infrastructure Fund; Sector Funds; Environmental Markets Fund; Agriculture Fund; and Cleantech VC Fund. More as we hear it.

Further reading
Npower Renewables has secured government approval for its Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm, set to be the world's second largest.
The 250-turbine installation, eight miles off Conwy, Wales, will add 750MW capacity to the UK's renewables armoury. Some 4.5GW of offshore projects currently have planning approval.

Todd Woody of Green Wombat has an interesting article on the effects of the credit crunch on the US solar industry.

Cleantech Group's traditional predictions for the coming year, including a shake-out of thin-film solar, and a doubling of the failure rate for cleantech start-ups.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

CCC sets out carbon budgets

Yesterday saw the release of the first full report from the UK government's Committee on Climate Change, Building a low-carbon economy - the UK's contribution to tackling climate change.

The top line is that the CCC is urging the government to commit to unilaterally reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by at least 21% (relative to 2005 levels) by 2020 (or, if you prefer the classic Kyoto measure, by 34% relative to 1990 levels). That target should increase to 31% (42% from 1990) when (or if) a global emissions-cutting agreement is reached. In the longer-term, we're looking at a 77% reduction (80% from 1990) by 2050.

That's the simple bit. The rest of the 500+ page report is taken up by detailing a series of five-year 'carbon budgets' and considering how those budgets can be met with existing technology and policy changes.

From a cleantech point of view, the key is renewable energy generation. The CCC's findings won't present many surprises. Wind is likely to be the main contributor for the UK, with the inherent irregularity smoothed by new forms of energy storage and load balancing techniques. Solar power will be less important thanks to the UK's high latitude and low yields. The potential for tidal range generation, such as the proposed Severn barrage, depends crucially on economic assumptions and wider environmental impacts - other forms of tidal and wave power are as yet unproven. Biomass also remains questionable. Nuclear has a strong case but considerable concerns, while carbon capture and storage is essential but in need of urgent development.

The report also posits new transport technologies and energy efficiency improvements as vital in achieving the targets - as well, inevitably, as behavioural change.

The overall economic cost of all this is in line with the findings of the earlier Stern report - less than 1% of GDP by 2020 and 1-2% by 2050, a fraction of the potential costs of doing nothing. And for the companies with the right technologies, there's obviously huge opportunities.

The terms of the Committee's appointment means there's no actual proposals or predictions with regards to technology or policies, and certainly no hint of extra support or finance for the domestic cleantech industry. But while there's not much new apart from the proposed carbon budgets, there's plenty of chewy detail if you like that sort of thing.

For more detail, see the executive summary (370KB pdf) or the full report (5.5MB pdf).

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Clean Sweep 50

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

London-based Climate Change Capital Private Equity has invested Euro10m in German broadband group Power Plus Communications. PPC provides broadband over low- and medium-voltage powerlines. Climate Change Capital says this will form a key element in smart grids, allowing electricity providers to communicate with smart meters and support other applications.
PPC was spun out of German utility MVV Energie in 2002. The fund becomes the only institutional investor in the company, and is taking seats on its board.

French wind turbine manufacturer Weole Energy has raised a Euro2m round from Crédit Agricole Private Equity, via its FCPR Capenergie fund, and energy supplier Direct Energie. Founded last year, the Paris-based company produces 2-50KW turbines for residential, business and municipal use.
CAPE is also investing from its Capenergie fund in biomass methanisation unit developer Methaneo. Demeter Partners also joined in the Euro3m round, in the first investment from its FCPR Demeter 2 fund.

Demeter Partners, Schneider Electric Ventures and TechFund have increased their stakes in PV producer Solairedirect. New investor Ofivalmo Partners and insurance groups Macif, AGPM and UMR also joined in the Euro20m round. The firm previously raised Euro6.1m in July 2007.
Solairedirect is planning to build 300MW of solar parks, at a cost of around Euro1.2bn.

Across the Atlantic, hybrid-electric tech developer ISE raised a $17.5m fourth round from Siemens Venture Capital, Macquarie Clean Technology Fund and DTE Energy Ventures. Previous investors RockPort Capital Partners and NGP Energy Technology Partners also joined the round. California-based ISE produces drive systems and control software for hybrid electric trucks and buses.

Washington-based materials technology developer EnerG2 meanwhile raised a $8.5m first round to help increase production of its nano-structured ultracapacitor. The device has a large potential market in hybrid electric vehicles, and can improve efficiency in electronic goods. OVP and Firelake led the round.

Carbon management software group Clear Standards raised a $4m first round from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Kinetic Ventures. The firm says its software can track any type of commodity use or environmental impact, from energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, to water consumption and waste recycling. Rival carbon management group Planet Metrics raised $2.3m a few weeks earlier, as reported last time.
Also in green software, San Francisco's Carbonflow raised $1m from @Ventures for its carbon-trading systems.

Fund news
AIM-listed Ludgate Environmental Fund raised £18m new capital through a new share placement. South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, SVM Asset Management and Baring Asset Management are among those buying in. The fundraising brings Ludgate's total assets up to around £50m.

Kent-based cleantech specialist Foresight Group has starting raising a new fund with a target of up to £300m, according to Environmental Finance. The firm says it has secured interest from an institutional investor to anchor the new fund. The fund will follow on from its £22.5m UK Sustainable Investment Fund, which operates under HMRC's Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Other European cleantech investors currently on the fundraising trail include Aviva Investors with its European Renewable Energy Fund (Euro500m target); Spain's Taiga Mistral with a second fund targeted at Eastern European renewables (Euro50m); and Robeco with Robeco Responsible Private Equity II (Euro250m).

Further reading
Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency for England and Wales, urges a Green New Deal for the UK. Alistair Darling doesn't quite deliver in this week's pre-budget review, as Mark Lynas sets out in the Guardian (more here). Meanwhile, there's a growing campaign for a government-backed 'green investment bank' to finance renewables projects.

The Cleantech Group presents its State of the nation 'webinar' on the effects of the continuing economic mess. Capital is becoming more expensive, but the turmoil should shake out the lightweights from the sector. "We're going to see a better market emerge for cleantech that is more sustainable, more enduring," says exec chairman Nicholas Parker, as he would.

New Energy Finance looks at the prospects for wind energy in these cold economic gales. The forecast is for short-term problems with project finance, but brighter prospects in the medium- to long-run. More detail (pdf).

The feature that everyone's been talking about - Greentech's Top Eight Paranoid Companies. Only eight?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Clean Sweep 49

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

Scotland's Pelamis Wave Power has raised a £5m round from existing shareholders including Emerald Technology Ventures, Statoilhydro Venture, BlackRock, Atmos and Sustainable Performance Group. The Scottish Venture Fund, a government-backed co-investment fund, contributed £2m.
The money goes towards the firm's continuing R&D programme, as well as developing its manufacturing capabilities at a new factory in Leith. Pelamis's wave energy converter uses an articulated string of cylinders to extract electricity from the movement of the waves, via hydraulic motors. The firm hit the headlines in September when it launched its first full-scale wave farm off Portugal.

Dutch solar installer SolarTotal has raised an undisclosed investment from SET Venture Partners, the Euro50m cleantech fund backed by Chrysalix Energy and Robeco Institutional Asset Management. SolarTotal sells and installs PV systems for residential and commercial customers across much of western Europe, and is eyeing opportunities in other territories.

In the US, silicon PV developer CaliSolar raised a $51.9m second round from Hudson Clean Energy Partners, Advanced Technology Ventures and Globespan, plus a further $50m in convertible notes.
The money goes towards the firm's first commercial plant. CaliSolar makes solar cells made from refined metallurgical silicon, which is significantly cheaper than the high-grade crystalline silicon used by the semiconductor industry and conventional PV.
The price of high-grade silicon is forecast to fall dramatically from recent highs, as new manufacturing capacity comes on line, however - presumably CaliSolar's investors calculate that its tech still has enough of a price advantage.

Emissions management business Planet Metrics has closed a $2.3m first round. Cleantech VC heavyweight Draper Fisher Jurvetson invested alongside angel investors.
The California-based firm provides what it calls 'streamlined carbon modeling and visualization software' for businesses looking to analyse and reduce their emissions. Ina flagship project, Planet Metrics will be analysing the emissions of the huge International CES consumer electronics tradeshow in January.

DFJ also backed the first round for D.Light Design, a solar lighting spin-out from Stanford University. In a fairly rare deal in cleantech for the developing world, D.Light produces solar-charged LED lamps which it hopes will replace dangerous and inefficient kerosene lamps in homes across Africa and Asia.
The team of MBAs behind the company first won support from DFJ through the firm's Venture Challenge programme. The firm now has operations in China and India.

Colorado State University spin-out Solix Biofuels meanwhile raised a $10.5m first round from I2BF Venture Capital and others (including Southern Ute Alternative Energy, which manages clean power investments for the eponymous Indian tribe).
The algal biofuel firm, which has its roots in a Department of Energy programme from the 1970s, is developing a pilot plant on Southern Ute reservation land to produce algal biofuels and chemical precursors from photobioreactors.

Miles Electric Vehicles has reportedly raised $13m in a planned $40m second round. Angeleno Group, who backed the California firm's first round in January, is among those committed.
Miles specialises in 'normal'-looking electric cars and small trucks. See Earth2Tech for more.

Further reading
If you've been following the news carefully, you might have noticed that the US had some sort of election recently. Rob Day on Cleantech Investing ponders what it means for US cleantech venture capital; Ron Pernick of Clean Edge urges clean energy bonds; Jesse Jenkins takes a broader view of energy policy on; and the Guardian takes an international perspective.

Less cheery news in the UK, as BP shelves the bulk of its plans for wind farms and other renewable schemes at home (as well as in China, India and Turkey). The Guardian bears the bad news:
The decision is a major blow to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has promised to sweep away all impediments to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the green energy revolution. BP and Shell - which has also pulled out of renewables in Britain - are heavily influential among investors.
BP has advertised its green credentials widely in the UK and has a representative on the ruling board of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). But it said difficulty in getting planning permission and lower economies of scale made the UK wind sector far less attractive than that of the US.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Low Carbon Innovation Partnership

There was some fairly big news for UK cleantech venture capital announced yesterday - a new £250m fund backed by oil money.

The Qatar Investment Authority is bankrolling the new Low Carbon Innovation Partnership with £150m. UK emissions-cutting quango the Carbon Trust is contributing £10m and managing the fund through its CT Investment Partners advisory business. The Carbon Trust will be looking to raise the remainder from private sources - expect commitments from VC houses which don't have their own cleantech resources.

For more detail, see the Carbon Trust release:
The Carbon Trust - set up by the UK Government in 2001 and one of the world’s leading experts on low carbon technologies - has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) on a new Low Carbon Innovation Partnership to set up a new £250m Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund and to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar.
The Fund will seek to make venture capital investments in clean energy businesses primarily located in the UK. Selected investment opportunities in continental Europe will also be considered. In addition, the Fund will consider investing in the Gulf Region once an investment capability is established in Qatar. The Fund will begin investing with up to £150m committed from the QIA alongside the Carbon Trust’s commitment. It will look for further funding from other investors to bring the maximum amount to £250m.
The Memorandum of Understanding also includes a commitment to carry out a feasibility study to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar. It will aim to share skills and knowledge on the development, commercialisation and deployment of low carbon technology between the UK and Qatar.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Clean Sweep 48

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

Waste treatment firm Morgan Everett has raised £1.45 million growth funding. The round includes £750,000 from PUK Ventures, the venture capital arm of Partnerships UK; the Sustainable Technology Fund, which previously joined in a £1.25 million round in July 2007; and private investors.
The new funding allows the Hampshire-based firm to increase production of its Autobin waste destruction system. This uses thermal pyrolysis to convert most forms of municipal waste into inert ash at source. The firm says that energy recovery may be possible in some applications.

Electricity demand management developer RLtec (also known as Responsive Load) secured a £550,000 round, and the promise of a further £300,000 from keystone investor Low Carbon Accelerator if it hits milestone targets.
LCA contributed £300,000 in the current round, with the remainder from a private investor. LCA also converted a £900,000 loan announced in December 2007 into shares, giving it a 77% stake of the London-based company.
RLtec produces demand-control systems for domestic appliances, and works with both appliance manufacturers and electric grid operators.

Terra Firma Capital Partners is preparing to invest £1.2bn in UK wind farms, according to reports. The buyout house aims to build some 800MW of onshore capacity, via its Infinis renewables business. Infinis was created in 2006 when Terra Firma sold on the core business of Waste Recycling Group but retained its waste-to-energy business as a cornerstone for further renewables investment.

Dutch biofuel-to-pharma R&D group Avantium Technologies has raised a Euro18m round led by biomedical specialist Aescap Ventures. Previous investors Capricorn Cleantech Fund, ING Corporate Investments and Navitas Capital also joined the round.
A spin-out from oil group Shell, Amsterdam-based Avantium uses a high-throughput approach to develop advanced biofuels and bioplastics. It also has a pharmaceutical research programme aimed at improving the performance of existing drugs by crystallisation, hence Aescap's interest.

Meanwhile in the US, Californian biobutanol developer Cobalt Biofuels raised a $25m third round led by LSP and Pinnacle Ventures. The funding goes towards a pilot production plant.

A few more solar deals, as ever. CPV developer Soliant Energy took a $25m round from investors including Convexa Capital, GE Energy and founding investor Rockport Capital Partners. The California company, founded in 2005 by a team from Nasa's JPL, produces rooftop solar concentrator panels with triple-junction silicon cells.
Innovalight, a California firm making PV cells with its proprietary 'silicon ink', raised a $5m follow-on package from Leader Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. The firm raised $28m a year ago.
And Maryland-based solar installer Standard Solar took a $8.5m second round from Truecast Capital.

Lighting efficiency firm Adura Technologies raised a $5m first round from Vantagepoint Venture Partners and Claremont Creek Ventures. The San Francisco firm provides turnkey energy management systems combining lighting control hardware and software, which it says can cut lighting bills (and emissions) by around half.

And Canada's NxtGen Emissions Controls has closed a US$15.4m second round led by Altira Group. NxtGen has miniaturised syngas technology used in petroleum refineries for use in diesel vehicle engines. The company aims to sell its emissions reduction systems to OEMs worldwide.

Further reading
New Energy Finance presents Q3 investment figures (PDF), showing a fall in public and private investment in cleantech - $4.4bn total, down from the record $5.8bn in Q2. Early-stage VC remains buoyant, however, with the biggest fall in the public markets. Hardly unexpected, really.
Across the water, VCs at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in Seattle reckon that cleantech may remain a bright spot in the economic landscape. As Greentech Media reports, everyone's expecting a short-term slowdown but the long-term prospects look good.

The Carbon Trust has announced an agreement with five international energy companies to kickstart the Offshore Wind Accelerator programme. The £30m, five-year initiative aims to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10 per cent or more through a combination of wind farm cost reductions and performance improvements.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Clean Sweep 47

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

Italian renewables group ICQ Holding has secured Euro20.5m from Milan-based environmental investor Ambienta. Ambienta takes a 15.4% stake in ICQ, with an option to increase to 26.5% on an extra investment of Euro20m.
ICQ has developed a portfolio of 1200MW of wind, hydroelectric and biogas projects for clients, and is currently working to build 400MW of its own generation capacity.

Erstwhile stealthy solar developer Solyndra hit the headlines after unveiling its thin-film tech and making noise about the amount of VC money it's raised. Their press release didn't mention figures, but the CEO told interviewers that they've raised $600m from investors including the Virgin Green Fund, Madrone Capital Partners, RockPort Capital Partners, Argonaut Capital Partners, Redpoint Ventures, US Venture Partners and CMEA Ventures - but, according to other reports, the company failed to raise its target $350m in its latest funding drive.
Still, they've got an interesting tech in the highly competitive (and, arguably, over-heated) CIGS thin-film space. Solyndra applies its photovoltaic film to glass cylinders which are packed into metal frames - the idea is they can harvest sunlight from a much wider directional range than flat panels, and are easier and cheaper to install on rooftops than conventional crystalline panels. The firm claims an efficiency of 12-14%, and is already shipping product from its first 110MW factory in, where else, Silicon Valley.

Still in sunny California, solar thermal developer Ausra announced a $60.6m round led by Canada's KERN Partners. Founding investors Khosla Ventures and KPCB also joined in, as did Al Gore's London-based Generation Investment Management.
The money goes towards completing Ausra's pilot 5MW solar thermal plant near Bakersfield, and other R&D activities. The company's also developing a 177MW plant for Pacific Gas and Electric.
Ausra previously announced a $30m round in February this year. There's no further word on their IPO plans.

KPCB also led a $75m round in smart grid company Silver Spring Networks, in the first disclosed investment from its dedicated Green Growth cleantech fund. California-based Silver Springs produces IP-based monitoring devices which sit inside domestic electricity meters, helping consumers manage consumption and suppliers improve efficiency and reliability.

Further reading
Third quarter figures compiled by the US-based Cleantech Group show record investment, again - $2.6bn across 158 companies in North America, Europe, India and China. That brings the total for the year to date to $6.6bn, topping last year's annual total.
The quarterly numbers were boosted by a handful of big deals like Nanosolar's $300m and Gridpoint's $120m. Cleantech Group also mentions the $200m round which CIGS developer SoloPower was rumoured to have closed last month (as far as I can tell, it's not yet been confirmed).
It's likely to be a peak for the near future at least - group analysts predict a slowdown as companies struggle to secure the big rounds they need to move into commercial production. The VCs still have money, but they'll be toughening terms as other sources dry up, and supporting debt for the big deals will remain sticky.

Ambitious proposals from British Waterways to generate up to 100MW of renewable energy capacity along its canals and rivers. They're looking at up to 50 wind turbines, as well as small hydroelectric installations. Development costs will be covered by Partnerships for Renewables, a joint venture between the Carbon Trust quango and HSBC bank.
A good idea, though I can't imagine there'll be too many canal-side turbines in my bit of the Pennines - the canals are all at the valley bottoms, while the wind's all up on the tops.

And does the new UK government's new Department of Energy and Climate Change mean there'll be more support for our renewable energy and other cleantech companies, and a smoother move towards a sustainable energy sector? The Renewable Energy Association and others say that they look forward to working with Ed Miliband. But based on the recent damning review by the International Energy Agency, we've got a long way to go...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Clean Sweep 46

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

A US cleantech firm has established a new global headquarters in Cambridge after raising its first VC funding in the UK. Colorado-based Vairex raised £4m from London-based Entrepreneurs Fund (the parent fund of cleantech stalwart Good Energies) and Conduit Ventures, along with local business angels.
Vairex produces air management technology for fuel cells and systems to reduce particulate emissions from diesel engines. The new funding goes towards product development and pilot production facilities, as well as expanding the firm's global presence. The firm says its move to Cambridge aims 'to capitalise on the commercial and development opportunities available in a region regarded as a hotbed for high-tech and cleantech companies'.

University spin-out Magnomatics has raised £500,000 seed funding from the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund and Fusion IP, the tech transfer wing of the University of Sheffield. The firm develops high-efficiency magnetic gearboxes for applications including wind turbines and hybrid cars.

Swedish fuel cell developer myFC has raised SKr22m (£1.8m) from investors including STING Capital, KTH Chalmers Capital and the Sixth Swedish Pension Fund.
The Stockholm-based company is developing proton exchange membrane fuel cells for mobile phones and laptops.

French renewables developer JMB Energie has raised an undisclosed round from investors led by Demeter Partners. The Béziers-based group operates wind and solar energy installations, and is also active in hydroelectric and biomass.
Environment/energy specialist Demeter also announced a first close of Euro125m on its new Demeter 2 cleantech fund. Target for the fund, which was launched in May, is Euro 200m.

Danish recycling tech group Shark Solutions raised DKr10m (£1m) from state investment fund Vaekstfonden. The Svinninge firm develops innovative equipment for the recycling industry, including mobile glass separators and compactors.

Bigger numbers over the pond, as utility-scale solar developer SolarReserve raised a $140m second round led by Good Energies and Citi Alternative Investments. The California company is aiming to build over 5GW worth of 50-300MW solar thermal plants around the world.
The firm holds exclusive global rights to Rocketdyne's molten salt power tower technology. As the name suggests, this uses huge mirror arrays to concentrate solar heat onto molten salt - the hot liquid then stores the energy until it's needed to drive a steam turbine. SolarReserve says that the tech 'represents a unique blend of liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise' - it really is rocket science!

Another Californian concentrating solar prospect, GreenVolts, meanwhile raised a $30m second round from Oak Investment Partners. The funding paves the way towards the company's first full-scale CPV installations.

In other solar deals, thin-film developer Sencera completed a $15.6m round led by Quercus Trust and Equinox Securities, towards its first, 35MW module factory; and single-crystal silicon substrate producer Confluence Solar raised a $12.7m first round led by Convexa Capital.

Algal biofuel group Sapphire Energy announced a second round of around $50m. Exact numbers (or investor identities) weren't released, but the San Diego firm said its total funding was now 'substantially more than $100 million', and it announced a $50m round in June. Sapphire says it now has enough funds to move to full commercial feasibility, but is likely to ask for more from existing investors as it moves towards its target of 10,000b/d production.

Smart grid developer GridPoint raised $120m from undisclosed investors. The Virginia firm will use the cash for acquisitions, starting with V2Green which is developing tech to help power supplies manage the demands of plug-in vehicles.

Also in electric vehicles, motorcycle developer Brammo raised $10m from investors including Chrysalix Energy Ventures and Best Buy Venture Capital. The money helps the Oregon firm take its whizzy-looking Enertia bike into commercial production.

Californian flywheel energy storage business Pentadyne Power closed a $22m round from undisclosed investors. A year ago, the firm was planning a $30m flotation on AIM - market turmoil since has presumably put paid to that.

Rechargeable nickel-zinc battery developer Powergenix is still planning an IPO, following a $30m fourth round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. The San Diego firm says a float won't happen for at least a year, however.

Finally, a trio of water purification deals - LA-based NanoH2O raised $15m for its next-gen reverse osmosis membranes; Canada's Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies completed a $10.5m round from Vantagepoint and London-based Foursome Investments for its pollutant-into-fertiliser tech; and Israel's BioPetroClean raised $5m from 21 Ventures for its bacterial treatment process.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Cleantech 100

Today sees the launch of the Cleantech 100, a new listing of Europe's 'hottest 100 private cleantech companies', compiled by the good folk at Library House and published by the Guardian newspaper.

German thin-film solar developer Odersun takes the top spot - its CIS-based modules were used in many of the buildings for the Beijing Olympics. A couple of lower-profile UK energy management firms take the silver and bronze positions - DeepStream Technologies and CamSemi.

After the top ten, firms are arranged by sector - from upstream, via the various generation techs, through to consumption, efficiency and transport. Lots of familiar names for regular readers of Clean Ventures, and a few less familiar.

A quick count of the basic list finds that just over half the firms are from the UK, including some from each category. That's possibly a reflection of bias in the predominantly UK-based selection panel, but it certainly shows the breadth of innovation here in developing new products and services and even, dare I say it, in manufacturing - that's got to be good news given the current dire state of the country's core financial services sector. But to give fair dues, the presence here of Europe's most sophisticated VC market (likely to be relatively undamaged by the furore in the main banking markets) must also be a factor in the success of the UK cleantech sector.

The listing is linked to Library House's Essential Cleantech 2008 event in London next week. Places may still be available.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Clean Sweep 45

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

Electronic cooling tech firm 4energy has raised £2m from Carbon Trust Investments and Catapult Venture Managers. The Nottinghamshire-based company produces passive cooling systems that can replace energy-intensive air-conditioning in ICT equipment rooms. Its CoolFlow system promises energy savings of up to 90% over conventional AC.
4energy has a solid list of domestic clients including Vodafone, EDF Energy and Scottish Power Energy Networks, and is eyeing international markets - especially those with a growing telecom infrastructure such as the BRIC economies.

Energy monitor group Green Energy Options (aka GEO) has raised £800,000 growth funding. Angel group Thames Valley Investment Network contributed £250k, with match funding from Bank of Scotland Corporate's growth capital wing, and the remainder from individual investors.
Cambridge-based GEO produces a range of displays and accessories which allow households to monitor and reduce their energy use.
UK rival Onzo raised £2m from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Sigma Capital Group in April.

French windfarm developer Valorem has closed a Euro16m second round from existing shareholders including Avenir Enterprises Gestion, Crédit Agricole Private Equity and Grand Sud Ouest Capital. The funding will allow the firm to finance its own wind projects - it's aiming at over 100MW installed capacity by 2010.

A clean(ish?) investment from an oil-and-gas specialist - Energy Ventures has pumped NKr45m (Euro5.7m) into tech developer Energreen. The Norwegian firm is developing a turbine, dubbed RotaChoke, which can generate energy from pressure drops in fluid process systems. The tech will allow on- and off-shore operations to reduce their own use of fossil fuels, and thus pump out oil and gas in a cleaner and cheaper fashion. It just about makes sense, I suppose...

Meanwhile in Finland, 'personal solar energy harvesting' developer Suntrica has raised undisclosed early-stage funding from state-backed VC Veraventure and Hong Kong's Yellow Dragon Enterprises. Suntrica is developing advanced PV chargers for phones, laptops and suchlike.

German solar supplier Concentrator Optics has raised an undisclosed round from Capricorn Venture Partners, via its Capricorn Cleantech Fund. Concentrator Optics, as the name suggests, produces optics for concentrating photovoltaic applications, and is building a factory for its Fresnel lenses (with a nominal capacity of 100MW) in Marburg, Germany.

German fuel cell start-up Enymotion meanwhile raised undisclosed seed funding from our old friends at High-Tech Gründerfonds and Zukunftsfonds Heilbronn. The firm is developing fuel cell systems for mobile leisure use which can be powered by conventional fuels such as camping gas.

A couple of vehicular investments from the States. Plug-in hybrid developer Fisker Automotive has completed a $65m third round led by a new Qatari investor, and also taking in current shareholders Palo Alto Investors and KPCB.
And electric bus tech developer Adura Systems received a further cash injection from New Frontier Renewable Energy as it works on raising its first full $10m round.

Solar tech company EnPhase closed a $15m third round led by RockPort. The California firm produces a compact inverter to convert DC from small-scale PV into AC for the grid.

Fund news
London-based cleantech VC WHEB Ventures has announced a first close of its second dedicated fund at £57m. Committed investors include family trusts for the Rothschilds and the Bamfords of JCB fame. WHEB is aiming to raise a total pot of £150m, which should make it Europe's largest dedicated cleantech VC fund.

New Nordic investor Sustainable Technologies Fund has raised Euro58m from institutional investors for its maiden fund. The fund will provide expansion capital for Nordic firms in renewable energy, energy efficiency, renewable materials and green chemicals, recycling and purification technologies.

Fortis Investments is raising a Euro400m clean energy fund. The fund, anchored with Euro50m from its Belgian bank parent, will focus on project finance for wind, small hydroelectric, solar PV and biomass installations.

Further reading
Some slight encouragement in the UK government's new paper on manufacturing strategy. The paper outlines proposals (albeit in fairly wafty terms) to support the move to the low-carbon economy 'as the response to climate change creates both new challenges and opportunities for manufacturing firms':
Recent analysis suggests that there are significant opportunities for UK manufacturers to benefit from developments in clean technologies and products[...]
Ernst and Young identify the ability to attract capital including venture capital due to the existence of strong financial markets; the supply of high quality services to start and promote a new business (including strong software and business/management services); and the presence of a sophisticated and high tech manufacturing base as the key characteristics underpinning current advantage in these sectors.

The paper also proposes measures to remove barriers to wider deployment of renewable energy, and to support electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

A new report from Greentech Media and the Prometheus Institute on the growth of thin-film solar - they're predicting eight-fold growth to over 4GW worth of production by 2010, with amorphous silicon making up half of that. Cadmium telluride may end up as a niche tech, while CIGS is yet to reach breakthrough.

And from the Cleantech Forum in Washington DC - cleantech insiders weigh Wall Street turmoil. While the weight of money in funds means that VC is likely to continue to roll, project finance looks to get tougher and the IPO route doesn't look at all cheery. Interesting times, to be sure...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Clean Sweep 44

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

UK wind turbine developer Quiet Revolution has raised £7m growth funding. German energy group RWE Innogy provided £6m, with the rest from undisclosed private investors.
The London-based firm produces small vertical-axis turbines for distributed generation. The firm says they're particularly suited for use in built-up areas where conventional fan-style turbines just aren't efficient. Around 30 are already in place around the UK, mostly 6KW turbines on sites including supermarkets and new residential developments.
Quiet Revolution is also developing a larger 50KW turbine and a 2.5KW model for domestic buyers. Earlier this year, the firm announced a new manufacturing plant in Pembroke Dock, with support from Welsh Assembly Government.

In another growth investment led by an energy group, France's EDF-Energies Nouvelles and Truffle Capital have invested Euro1m in solar installer Photon Technologies. Photon provides turnkey solar installations for domestic and commercial customers, as well as dedicated solar plants. The firm also has a 25% stake in a PV-grade silicon production plant in Provence.

EDF also joined in a $300m 'strategic equity financing' in California's Nanosolar, as did fellow utility AES. EDF previously announced a $50m investment in the thin-film CIGS developer back in April. More details from Nanosolar themselves.
Still in thin-film solar, AVA Solar raised a $104m second round from new and existing investors led by DCM. The money goes towards completing the CdTe developer's 200MW/a factory in its Colorado home.

DCM also led a $19m third round in water treatment firm Miox. The New Mexico company provides advanced water treatment systems for municipal drinking water.

Norwegian wind tech developer Chapdrive meanwhile secured NKr30m (Euro3.75m) follow-on funding from existing investors Northzone Ventures, Hafslund Venture and StatoilHydro Venture. The firm, which is developing a patented hydraulic transmission mechanism to make off-shore wind turbines more efficient, raised NKr14.3m in July 2007. Jens Anders Jensen, formerly on the board of Danish wind giant Vestas, joins as CEO.

Also in wind, California-based Makani Power took a further $5m from The prolific philanthropy'n'VC arm of the IT giant previously invested $10m in 2006. Makani is developing high-altitude wind energy systems, which closely resemble great big kites.

A couple of big-name investors enjoyed profitable exits from wind investments. Good Energies sold its stake in two Romanian wind farm projects to utility group CEZ in a deal worth Euro1.1bn. With a total capacity of 600MW, the adjacent projects together form Europe's largest onshore wind farm. Full details (pdf).
And 3i sold its minority stake in Belgian renewables developer Electrawinds to majority stakeholders for an undisclosed sum. 3i invested Euro30m in 2006, and says it achieved its five-year growth targets in just two years.

Elsewhere, microbial biofuel firm Solazyme closed a $45m third round, with new investors Braemar and Lightspeed joining the Roda Group and Harris & Harris. As well as biofuels, the San Francisco firm is engineering microbes to produce commodity chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Waste-to-energy developer MaxWest Environmental Systems raised $10m from AIM-listed investor Leaf Clean Energy. MaxWest is commercialising a commercial-grade system for producing energy from what it tactfully calls biosolids in municipal and agricultural wastewater.

And Indian electronics recycler Attero Recycling raised $6.3m from NEA-IndoUS Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson towards its 100,000 sq ft facility in Roorkee. The firm is also developing new mechanical separation techniques with an unidentified US partner, as well as in-house metallurgical processes.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Clean Sweep 43

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

Spanish solar developer Fotowatio has raised a Euro225m round from General Electric Energy Financial and the Landon family office. The firm is developing a string of 10-20MW PV parks around Spain, and is also looking at thermosolar and biofuel opportunities.

Italian environmental investor Ambienta has taken an 80% stake in biofuel producer Italiana Pellets. Ambienta is investing Euro5.4m equity, while banking group Intesa Sanpaolo is providing Euro31m project financing for a 120,000t/a biomass pellet plant in Pavia.

Dutch metals recycling company ReSteel has raised undisclosed launch funding from cleantech specialist Icos Capital. ReSteel, a spin-out from Delft University of Technology is commercialising a new method for recovering high quality steel and copper from waste., the investment wing of the search engine giant, squirted funds into a couple of geothermal tech developers - $6.25m for AltaRock Energy and $4m for Potter Drilling. Both firms are developing tech for enhanced geothermal systems, in which water is cycled through deep wells and its heat used to drive electricity-generating turbines.

Sticking with geothermal, Simbol Mining, joint winner of the Cleantech Group's Most Promising Technology award in July, has raised a $7.6m first round from Mohr Davidow Ventures and Firelake Capital. The California company has the tech to extract metals including lithium, much in demand for smart batteries and other clean applications, from the mineral-rich water raised by geothermal power plants.

Back above ground, Canadian solar cell developer Cyrium Technologies closed a $15m second round led by Quercus Trust. Cyrium is developing high-efficiency PV cells based on quantum dots for concentrating solar applications.

And US synthetic biofuels firm Amyris Biotechnologies has picked up a further $21m from undisclosed investors in its ongoing second round. That's on top of the $70m announced last September.

Fund news
Private equity heavyweight Blackstone Group has launched a dedicated cleantech energy group. The team is led by James Kiggen (previously at AllianceBernstein, CSFB and DLJ) and will advise the group on conventional energy investments as well as sourcing renewables deals.

Further reading
NGO The Climate Group has published a detailed report on China's Clean Revolution (2.1mb pdf). Top line -
China is already the world’s leading renewable energy producer and is over-taking more developed economies in exploiting valuable economic opportunities, creating green-collar jobs and leading development of critical low carbon technologies

Rob Day at Cleantech Investing parses the latest US VC figures - according to Ernst & Young, another record quarter for cleantech with a total $962m new investment in 41 deals. Solar still accounts for the bulk of the money.

But there's a big shift due for solar, according to a new silicon and wafer price index from New Energy Finance. They're forecasting a 43% drop in the cost of polysilicon next year as new production capacity comes online. While that should make your old-school silicon PV a lot more cost-effective, it will put a big dent in the rationale for the next-gen solar technologies (CIGS, CIS, etc) which VCs have been backing for the past couple of years.

An interesting tech on the road to commercialisation - 'anti-noise' active damping for wind turbines in residential areas. More details from the guys at the Fraunhofer Institute.

But wait - here's a relevant bit of research from the Carbon Trust on the potential for small-scale wind energy. It's a waste of time in urban areas, basically. Someone tell David Cameron...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Clean Sweep 42

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

Welsh solar tech developer G24 Innovations has raised its second major investment in less than two months.
Following a $20m injection from Morgan Stanley Principal Investments in June, the Cardiff firm has secured $30m from new Luxembourg-based fund 4RAE. 4RAE partner Rijkman Groenink, formerly CEO at ABN Amro, takes a seat on the G24i board.
G24i is developing dye-sensitised thin-film solar cells based on the same titanium dioxide technology as US firm Konarka, and has European manufacturing rights to the tech.

Aldershot-based renewables group Segen has raised £1m growth funding from Cape Verde Capital. Cape Verde is the renewable energy investment wing of the Wates Family Enterprise, a family trust associated with the eponymous construction group, and takes a 20% stake in Segen.
Segen supplies and installs a range of small-scale renewable generation systems, including solar PV, wind turbines and CHP. The firm is also developing a concentrating solar pilot plant in Andalusia.

Alternative Waste Solutions, a Newcastle-based plastics recycler, has raised £6 million follow-on funding from E-Synergy and new investor Robeco. The investment goes towards expanding the firm's bottle-processing plant in Lincolnshire.
Technology specialist E-Synergy previously backed AWS in a £2 million round in January, alongside NorthStar Equity Investors.

In what must be one of Europe's largest private equity backed renewable energy deals, Blackstone has confirmed (NB: PDF) a Euro1bn+ partnership with Windland Energieerzeugungs.
Windland is building a 400MW offshore wind farm of 80 turbines off the north of Germany.

Spanish solar manufacturer DC Wafers has raised Euro3m from Pamplona-based investor Clave Mayor. DC produces polysilicon wafers for photovoltaic applications, and is also backed by Spanish VC iNova Capital.

Swedish solar tech start-up Sol Voltaics has raised undisclosed seed funding from investors including Scatec Adventure, Provider Venture Partners, Teknoinvest and Nano Future Invest.
The company is a spin-off from Lund-based nanotech firm QuNano. Both firms are based on tech developed at Lund University, with Sol Voltaic commercialising nanowire-based PV cells for solar concentrator applications.

In another solar-related deal, mid-market buyout house Granville Baird backed an MBO at Meier Vakuumtechnik. The firm, based in Bocholt, Germany, provides vacuum lamination systems for the photovoltaic industry. The buyout aims to better position the firm to respond to new opportunities in the fast-growing market.

The solar space was busy everywhere - must be the summer heat.
Recurrent Energy of New Jersey secured an initial $75m growth capital from Hudson Clean Energy Partners. Recurrent develops and operates distributed solar power systems on behalf of large-scale energy users.
New York's Wakonda Technologies raised a $9.5m first round led by Advanced Technology Partners. Wakonda is developing gallium-arsenide cells produced by a 'virtual single crystal' technique which it says can substantially reduce production costs.
And Chinese solar developer ET Solar phoned home with a $31m private placement led by NewMargin Growth Fund. ET manufactures a range of PV components and systems, from ingots and wafers through to integrated tracking systems.

Back in the US,, the investment arm of the omnipresent IT group, joined in two electric car fundraisings from its RechargeIT programme. Californian vehicle developer Aptera raised a $24m round to help bring its rather natty-looking three-wheeler to market, including $2.75m from Google.
And ActaCell of Texas raised a $5.8m first round from, DFJ Mercury, Applied Ventures and Good Energies. The company is developing lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, based on research at the University of Texas.

Water purification company HaloSource meanwhile raised a further $11.5m round from Origo Sino-India and Origo Resource Partners, plus existing investors. The firm previously raised $15m from Masdar Clean Tech Fund around a year ago.

Finally, a smallish deal in a hotly-tipped sector - carbon-management IT group Carbonetworks raised a $5m first round led by NGEN Partners. The Canadian company develops software to help corporations monitor and manage their global greenhouse gas emissions.

Phew - a busy couple of weeks in all. Don't deals usually drop off in the summer?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Clean Sweep 41

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

UK fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy has raised $13.6m growth funding from undisclosed private investors.
The Loughborough-based firm is developing hydrogen fuel cells for partners including Suzuki, Peugeot Citröen and Boeing. A joint venture with Scottish and Southern Energy is meanwhile developing CHP systems for the domestic and small business markets.
Intelligent Energy has its roots in research on proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell at Loughborough University during the 1980s, and first attracted private funding in 2001. The firm now has offices in London, the US, South Africa and Japan.

London-based Better Energy Systems has secured something shy of $5m from Californian VC TBL Capital. The firm produces solar chargers for mobile gadgets, including the well-received Solio. The new funding goes towards growing sales in North America.

Biomass fuel provider Silvigen (NB: seems you'll need a password to access their site) has raised £1.75m from Foresight Group. Based close to the Drax power station in North Yorkshire, Silvigen is currently developing a biomass processing plant to serve the power industry. The firm has secured one 10-year supply contract and is chasing more, and is also establishing a Short Rotation Forestry (SRF) programme to exploit fast-growing tree species which it says provides a return for landowners within four years.

The big news in Europe is Intel Capital's Euro24m investment in German thin-film solar group Sulfurcell, as part of a Euro85m round. Climate Change Capital, investing from its Clean Tech Private Equity Fund, co-led the round, which also involved Demeter Partners, Zouk Ventures and BankInvest plus existing investors including the Masdar Clean Tech Fund (see below for more from them).
The Berlin-based firm, a spin-out from the Hahn-Meitner Institut, is producing solar modules using CIGS and CIS photovoltaics. The investment from Intel, which last month spun off its own solar arm SpectraWatt, is a significant step outside its silicon heartland for the giant chip-maker.

Troubled CIGS rival Miasolé is meanwhile reported to be prepping a new $200-220m round. Steel giant ArcelorMittal has kicked things off with a $20m investment, the first from its new Clean Technology Venture Capital Fund - details here.

Elsewhere in solar, Sweden's Suncore has raised an undisclosed round from Stockholm-based Sustainable Technologies Fund, which takes a 30% stake in the firm. Suncore is developing a polymer-based solar thermal collector which could compete on cost and performance with established metal-based products.

The mighty Masdar Clean Tech Fund and Virgin Green Fund have bought out US recycling group DuraTherm for an undisclosed price. The company operates a major waste management plant at its Texan home, primarily serving the petrochemicals industry, and also runs remote and mobile units.

Elsewhere, smart grid developer Eka Systems closed a $18.5m fourth round, led by Flybridge Capital Partners
And water management start-up Cyber-Rain raised $1.5m from Funk Ventures (yeah, I know...) and others for its smart sprinkler control system. Another one for the cleaner- rather than the actual cleantech file, I think.

Not a venture deal but a big important one - Bahrain-based Arcapita and India's Suzlon Energy have set up a new joint venture aimed at building a 1650MW, $2bn portfolio of wind farms in Inner Mongolia. The two partners are acquiring Chinese wind energy operator Honiton Energy Holdings, which has some 50MW installed capacity and 100MW in development, as a base for the programme. Full details from Arcapita.

Further reading
More year-end figures for 2007, with the United Nations Environment Programme finding a 60% jump in global cleantech investment. New investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, including private equity, public market investment and asset finance, totalled $148bn, the report found.

Second-quarter 2008 figures from Greentech Media meanwhile reckoned on $1.3bn venture capital in 74 deals across North America, Europe, Israel and Australia, 30% on Q1. Solar power led the way, with eSolar, BrightSource Energy and Sterling Energy Systems taking $350m between them. At this rate, 2008 looks set to top last year's total $3.43bn (by Greentech's figures, that is).

Interesting paper from McKinsey on the economics of solar power. Although it's still some way off grid parity, solar in increasingly competitive, the authors conclude - and component manufacturers (many of them venture-backed) 'are making decisions now that will determine the scale, structure, and performance of this new sector'.

Finally, how to generate lots of press for your new cleantech company - simply follow the lead of MIT spin-out Covalent Solarand publish an attention-grabbing paper in Science.
The gimmick involves using organic dyes to trap sunlight as it passes through window glass and direct it onto PV strips around the edges, effectively turning your windows into electricity-generating solar concentrators. The basic idea goes back to the 1970s, but Covalent's organic dyes (as described in the Science paper) promise to make it work.
The firm won a university business competition earlier this year, and will be seeking VC or corporate funding in the next few months. Their phone's probably been pretty busy over the past few days.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Clean Sweep 40

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

Welsh solar tech developer G24i has secured a $20m investment from Morgan Stanley Principal Investments. The bank is acting as lead investor in the G24i's ongoing fundraising.
The Cardiff firm is developing dye-sensitised thin-film solar cells, based on the same titanium dioxide technology as Konarka - Konarka is backed by some heavyweight VCs including 3i, Good Energies and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and is itself a shareholder in G24i. The Welsh company has the European manufacturing rights to the tech, and is planning 'significant expansion' of its 187,000 sq ft roll-to-roll manufacturing facilities.

Dutch waste-to-energy tech developer Ensartech has raised an undisclosed development round from Icos Capital and Capricorn Cleantech Fund. Ensartech is preparing to roll out a waste smelting technology that promises 100% waste-to-energy conversion. Technical details are scarce, but the firm says that its first plant is under construction in the Netherlands, with five to ten facilities planned over the next few years.

Swedish power electronics firm TranSIC has raised a SKr24m second round from Industrifonden, Volvo Technology Transfer, and Midroc New Technology, in what's been generally promoted as a cleantech deal. The firm produces high-efficiency bipolar junction transistors, with applications including hybrid electric vehicles and solar power conversion.

Biggest deal in the US was the $50m investment in solar cell producer SpectraWatt, a spin-out from IT giant Intel. Intel Capital led the round, along with Goldman Sachs subsidiary Cogentrix Energy, PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund, and German solar developer Solon.
SpectraWatt will manufacture crystalline silicon PV cells from a new 60MW facility in Oregon. Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog has a brief interview with CEO Andrew Wilson.

In an interesting deal, rubber recycler Lehigh Technologies announced it had closed a $34.5m round from KPCB, Index Ventures and others. The money mostly goes towards the Florida firm's second recycling plant. Rubber prices have gone up 30% in the past year - the firm's chiefs say each plant can provide some $40m revenues a year.

Further reading
PM Gordon Brown unveiled proposals to meet the UK's renewables targets, with much fanfare but little that was new. Producing 15% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020 will require some £100bn investment from the private sector, with government support to be detailed following the Renewable Energy Strategy Consultation.
The proposals aim to have more than 30% of electricity generation, 14% of heat and 10% of transport fuels sourced from renewables. Issues under consideration include a feed-in tariff for small-scale generation, more waste-to-energy, and a streamlined grid connection process.
For more details, see Environmental Finance, the Guardian, and elsewhere.

Finally, something that really shouldn't happen to a newly installed wind turbine.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Clean Sweep 39

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

Power semiconductor firm Evince Technology has raised £500k seed funding from a syndicate of early-stage and cleantech specialists.
Based in Sedgefield, County Durham, Evince is developing non-silicon high-voltage devices for renewable power applications. Technical details are scanty, but according to investor Imperial Innovations, the firm has developed a device with the potential to dramatically improve the performance of sustainable energy sources such as wind turbines and fuel cells by enabling the direct connection of power electronic systems to the main electricity grid.
Imperial Innovations invested £150k in the round, alongside a £175k investment from the Low Carbon Seed Fund (run jointly by Imperial Innovations, the Carbon Trust and the Shell Foundation), and £175k from regional VC NorthStar Equity Investors.

Another recent UK deal is tangentially cleantech - Close Ventures has invested £1.35m in energy performance surveyor Vibrant Energy Surveys. The London-based firm advises on domestic energy efficiency and issues energy performance certificates which, as from this October, are required for all property transactions.

Update to a previously discussed story - private equity groups 3i Infrastructure and Terra Firma (via portfolio group Infinis) have both withdrawn their rival takeover bids for renewables group Novera Energy. For more detail, see Novera's statement (pdf).

Dutch battery firm Epyon has raised an undisclosed investment from SET Venture Partners and Chrysalix Energy. The firm is a spin-out from the Delft University of Technology, and is developing Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles which can be charged in minutes rather than hours.

A couple of algal biofuel deals over the pond: Sapphire Energy raised $50m from ARCH Venture Partners and others. The San Diego firm says it is producing 91-octane gasoline (petrol) that meets ASTM standards.
And Californian biodiesel operator Aurora Biofuels raised a $20m second round from existing investors led by Oak Investment Partners. The firm is developing algae as a source of bio-oil feedstock, which can be converted by transesterification into biodiesel.
Crop-based biodiesel producer Innovation Fuels meanwhile raised $10.5m equity from Credit Suisse, RNK Capital and Lyrical Partners. The New York firm is looking to drive consolidation by buying up existing biodiesel plants.

In an interesting solar deal, FTL Solar has raised what it calls the first phase of a planned $50m round, from Terra Firma Capital Group, the Josh Mailman Foundation, and individual investors. The New York company is developing what it calls PowerMods - tents and other flexible structures with integrated thin-film solar panels, for business, military and disaster-relief use.
Thin-film cadmium telluride developer PrimeStar Solar has raised an undisclosed round from GE Energy. The deal makes GE the majority shareholder in the Colorado company, and follows a minority investment in September 2007.
And in a solar-related deal from down under, BT Imaging raised a A$3m first round led by Allen & Buckeridge Venture Capital. The Sydney-based firm produces inspection tools for photovoltaic manufacturers.

Fund news
A new name on the block - Amplio Partners, which is seeking to raise Euro50m for its first fund. The London-based VC is focusing on early-stage renewable energy companies which have a product but need investment to achieve commercial scale. The fund is headed by Riccardo Segat, and is basically a spin-out from Obsidian Investments.

As ever, bigger numbers in the US. RockPort Capital Partners has closed its third cleantech fund at $453m. Recent investments from RockPort include high-efficiency engine developer Achates Power, mobile fuel cell firm Lilliputian Systems, and electric car group Think Global.

Further reading
The Crown Estate has announced the third round of its offshore windfarm programme - the royal property group, which owns the seabed around Britain, is looking to install a further 25GW worth of turbines by 2020. Around 8GW are currently in development under the first two rounds.
The estate is preparing to accept bids for offshore developments in designated zones, and will co-invest up to half the planning and infrastructure costs. More details here.

The Guardian reports from the Intersolar 2008 conference in Munich, and finds growing confidence about 'grid parity', that magic moment when PV-produced energy can compete with traditional sources on cost:
Jerry Stokes, head of Suntech Europe, thinks grid parity in Germany can be reached within five years. In California and Italy, where there is lots of sun and high electricity prices, he said grid parity for PV systems had already been achieved.

Some interesting comments on the UK cleantech scene from a visiting US VC - Jim Matheson of Flagship Ventures blogs on Xconomy as he travels on a UKTI jolly:
Overall there are some good projects, and there is a strong awareness around the importance of IP. That said, I do note that U.K. entrepreneurs don’t seem to think "as big" as in the U.S., and their fundraising aspirations are subsequently also smaller. I cannot tell which is cause and which is effect. That is, if VCs pushed harder to deploy more funds, would entrepreneurs get conditioned to believe they could raise more money and go for bigger prizes, or vice versa? In any case, there is a definite dearth of early stage venture capital here.
More here, here and here.
On the same blog, Mark Modzelewski takes a sceptical view at the whole cleantech VC arena.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Clean Sweep 38

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


Clean plastics company Novel Polymer Solutions has raised a £5m second round. The Malvern-based company is commercialising a new patent-protected process for manufacturing polymers with near-zero emissions of volatile organic compounds. Early target markets include replacing PVC in building, protective clothing and transport applications.
The deal was led by cleantech investor Environmental Technologies Fund, in its third investment. Advantage Growth Fund, a regional venture capital fund which first backed the company in 2003, also joined the round alongside private investors.

Dutch renewable energy group Econcern has raised Euro300m from a consortium of institutional investors. Rabobank and Delta Lloyd joined existing investor SHV to boost the firm's growth.
Econcern is developing a broad portfolio of renewable generation, from offshore wind to algal biofuels. The group says it is planning an IPO in two to four years time.

Busy times in the Netherlands, as plastics recycling group Morssinkhof Rymoplast raised an undisclosed investment from mid-market investor Egeria.
And at the venture end of things, LED tech developer CrystalQ raised an undisclosed round from Sustainability Energy Technology Fund, E2 Cleantech and private investor Benno Wiersma. The firm produces crystal wafers for low-energy LED lighting.

In the US, the big money's still following the sun. All-solar electricity supplier SunEdison raising a parcel of $131m equity and $30m debt to support its operations. Investors include Greylock Partners, HSH Nordbank, Applied Ventures, Black River Commodity Clean Energy Investment Fund, MissionPoint Capital Partners and Allco Renewable Energy Limited.
And utility-scale solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy raised $115m in its third round., BP Alternative Energy, Statoil Hydro Venture, and Black River joined existing investors VantagePoint, DBL Investors, DFJ, and Chevron Technology Ventures. The Californian firm is preparing to build its first 'power tower' plants in the Mojave desert next year.

Novel biofuel developer Gevo meanwhile raised a $17m third round from new investors Burrill and Malaysia Life Sciences Capital Fund, and existing investors Khosla Ventures and Virgin Green Fund. The Colorado-based firm is developing a range of technologies including protein-engineering agricultural waste, and tweaking the metabolism of unspecified 'host organisms'.

And Principle Power, a San Francisco renewables developer, raised $2.3m seed funding via a convertible note offering. The firm aims to develop a portfolio of renewable energy projects, with a focus on offshore wind, solar and hydro.

Fund news

Belgian VC Capricorn Venture Partners has closed its first dedicated cleantech fund with Euro100m of commitments. The firm says this was well ahead of targets. Investors include chemicals group Solvay and the European Investment Fund.

Cleantech stalwart Good Energies has a new managing director and head of venture capital in the form of George Coelho, founding director of Balderton (née Benchmark) Capital.

Further reading

KPMG scrutinises the M&A boom in the renewables sector in a new report, Turning up the heat. With valuations at record highs, half of the industry respondents say there is real risk of a bubble in the sector.

New US cleantech VC figures from Ernst & Young, showing investment up 18% to $572m in the first quarter, despite total VC falling 7%. Fastest growing sub-sectors include power and efficiency management (up a whopping 454%, from a low base), efficiency products, and solar (still). The report also notes the shift from early to later-stage deals.