Monday, 24 March 2008

Clean Sweep 34

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

Update on a story from last month - 3i Infrastructure, a specialist investment vehicle backed by the private equity giant, appears to be losing its bid for UK renewables group Novera Energy.
Infinis, the renewables group backed by private equity group Terra Firma, has launched a rival bid and, according to a Reuters report just before Easter, has secured 28.1% of Novera.
Infinis is focused on generating power from landfill gas, and would seem a good match for Novera's portfolio of windfarms, landfill gas generators, waste gasification facilities and sludge treatment plants.
The outcome of the takeover battle must wait, however, until a court case between Novera and Waste Recycling Group is resolved. Either way, the battle would seem to confirm the attractions of the sector for later-stage investors.

An existing 3i renewables investee, Electrawinds, has meanwhile raised Euro20m from GIMV, Gemeentelijke Holding and Dexia Group.
Based in Belgium, Electrawinds secured Euro31m from 3i in December 2006. The new money comes as a subordinated loan with warrants, rather than as new equity.

In one of those deals that's promoted as cleantech but seems rather lateral, Sweden's Nortel has secured Euro15m from investors led by Northzone Ventures, Eqvitec and Creandum. Norstel develops silicon carbide wafers for power electronics - applications include hybrid cars. The wafers promise to halve energy loss from devices, compared with traditional silicon.

Across the pond, the big news is the $72m fifth round for lighting group Luminus. The syndicated deal, led by Braemar Energy Ventures, is the largest to date in the solid-state lighting sector.
Massachusetts-based Luminus is aiming at a mass market for its low-power 'photonic lattice' LEDs, based on tech developed at MIT, including general commercial and consumer lighting.

Still in Massachusetts, water treatment start-up Environmental Operating Solutions raised a $2.5m first round led by Stuart Mill Venture Partners. The company produces chemicals for removing nitrogen from wastewater - EOS's treatment, unlike established methanol-based chemicals, are derived from agricultural crops rather than from natural gas.

A couple of previously stealthy start-ups revealed more details about exactly what they're up to. MIT spin-out GMZ Energy, which won backing a year ago from cleantech stalwarts Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has revealed more about its nanostructured thermoelectric materials which promise more energy-efficient cooling and heat recovery products. The company's website remains scanty, but the Industry Standard has the meat.
And in California, Oorja Protonics has unveiled its direct methanol fuel cell tech and aimed itself at the material handling vehicle market (ie, forklifts and the like). The firm's investors include Sequoia Capital and DAG Ventures.

Further reading
US research group Clean Edge has released its state-of-the-nation paper, Clean energy trends 2008:
Amid a challenging economic outlook—plummeting housing prices, rising foreclosure rates, record-high oil prices, sinking consumer confidence, looming recession—2007 was another banner year for clean energy, with no signs of a slowdown in 2008. Solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, energy intelligence, hybrid- and all-electric vehicles, advanced batteries, green buildings, and other clean-energy-related technologies and markets provided bright spots in an otherwise sluggish economy.
Headline figures include a 40% increase in turnover for solar PV, wind, biofuels, and fuel cell companies, up to $77.3 billion in 2007. The report also notes cleantech's increasing move into the mainstream of investment and policy.
Highlighted trends to watch include electric car start-ups; urban sustainability; the dominance of the US windpower industry by overseas players; geothermal power; and cleaner shipping.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Clean Sweep 33

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

UK wave energy developer ORECon has netted a $24m first round from an international syndicate of VCs. London-based Advent Venture Partners led the deal, joined by pan-European house Wellington Partners, Venrock of the US, and Nordic tech specialist North Zone.
A spin-out from the University of Plymouth, ORECon is developing a moored wave energy device based on the established oscillating water column design. The firm's patent-protected multi-resonant chamber (MRC) technology, which uses a range of chambers of differing specifications on a single platform, promises to be more efficient than other configurations. The new funding goes towards deploying a full-scale prototype with a potential power output of 1.5MW.
The firm is also in negotiations for a slot on WaveHub, Cornwall's offshore plug-in socket for wave energy test rigs which secured planning permission in September.
ORECon's early development was funded by a DTI Smart grant and backing from the Carbon Trust.

French climate change consultancy Eco-Carbone has secured Euro2.1m funding from Paris-based Truffle Capital. Eco-Carbone specialises in advising coal mine operators on capturing methane emissions, with extensive contracts in China. The firm also produces biodiesels from jatropha, with sites in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mali and Brazil.

Spanish renewables group Gamesa has sold its solar business to US private equity house First Reserve for Euro261m. Gamesa Solar develops, constructs and manages solar PV plants, and has a 6MWp/a production facility in Sevilla. The sale leaves Gamesa focused on its core business of wind turbine manufacturing and operation.

Norway's top electric car developer Think Global has topped up its $60m round from last July with $4m from US giant General Electric. In a double-deal, GE also put $20m into US battery developer A123Systems, which has just signed up with Think to supply the carmaker with its 'Nanophosphate' Li-ion cells.

In the biggest deal of the week across the pond, biofuel developer Mascoma raised a $50m third round from a syndicate including cleantech regulars Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and VantagePoint Venture Partners. The Massachusetts firm is a leader in so-called cellulosic ethanol - converting organic waste to fuel, thus avoiding most of the problems associated with crop-based biofuels.

Fund news
London-based Environmental Technologies Fund has closed its first fund at £110m, £10m ahead of the original target. Investors including Robeco, the Co-operative Insurance Society and F&C join previously announced LPs Swiss Re and the European Investment Fund (EIF).
A fairly broad-minded cleantech specialist, ETF has two investments under its belt, as reported here - £13m in metal processing group Metalysis, announced last July, and £5m in micro-power group Perpetuum in October.

Further reading
Annual investment stats for 2007 are still coming in. Globally, venture investors put $3bn in 221 cleantech companies, according to figures from Dow Jones Venturesource, up from $2.1bn in 173 companies in 2006. The US accounted for 83% of that, and venture investors remain bullish about the sector.
The UK's own New Energy Finance meanwhile revised its year-end figures for the second time - they counted $148.4bn total new investment (including public-market investment) in clean energy companies and projects, some $50bn higher than their first estimate. Geographic diversification was the key trend of the year, NEF notes.

Interesting research from McKinsey Quarterly on how corporates view climate change: 60% of responding execs say it's an important strategic issue, but the portion actually taking action is rather less. Meanwhile, 61% say the issues around climate change provide an opportunity to boost profits - not least, from adroit operation around new emissions regulations expected by 80% of respondents.

And intriguing news from Swansea University on potentially VC-worthy technology now in the early stages of development - solar power from paint. Dr Dave Worsley of the university's Materials Research Centre is working with metals group Corus on developing low-light solar cells which can be applied as a paint to steel assemblies such as building cladding. The idea came after a doctorate student started looking at how sunlight degrades regular paints.