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.

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