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.

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