Friday, 18 April 2008

Clean Sweep 36

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

In a corporate deal, Coventry-based Geothermal International has raised up to £15m from utility group Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).
SSE takes a 20% stake in the company which, as the name might suggest, designs and installs ground-source heating and cooling systems - with over 1300 systems totalling over 90MW capacity installed since 2000, mostly in the commercial building sector.
The deal gives SSE a foothold in the rapidly-growing geothermal sector, complementing its extensive renewables holdings - the utility reckons it has around 1,900MW of renewable generation capacity, bolstered by its acquisition of Anglo-Irish wind developer Airtricity earlier this year. The group's also active in areas such as fuel cell research.

Private equity seems to be looking at the public market for clean investments. One Equity Partners, a fund manager for JP Morgan, is investing $150m in AIM-listed Clipper Windpower. One Equity will pay a price equivalent to lower of 48p, or Clipper's share price average over five days up to 4 May, with the California-based company retaining the option of cancelling the deal if its share price drops dramatically.
The funding will help the turbine manufacturer clear debt and deliver its new 2.5MW Liberty turbine. California-based Clipper also raised $50m from institutional investors last month.
The UK Crown Estate has meanwhile agreed to buy the prototype of Clipper's new offshore turbine, the mammoth 7.5MW 'Britannia'. The Guardian has details.

Elsewhere on AIM, investment big shot Vincent Tchenguiz is reportedly mulling a take-private of renewables generator Econergy International. Econergy's share price, which has fallen by around two-thirds in the past six months, perked up very slightly on the news.

Across the pond, VCs have been a bit more active, with deals in the three big energy arenas.
In solar, thin-film silicon developer Optisolar raised just under $3m from Kensington Capital Partners towards a new Californian manufacturing plans and some 10MW solar farms in sunny Ontario.
In wind, small vertical-axis turbine (or 'Windspire') developer Mariah Power raised a post-seed $500,000 from Greenhouse Capital Partners and Big Sky Partners. The Nevada-based company is targeting a $10m first round.
And in biofuels, Greenline Industries raised $20m from Leaf Clean Energy. The California company is commercialising a water-free production process for biodiesel from seed oils and animal fats (a tougher sell to your traditional green consumer, I'd imagine).

Fund news
UK clean energy quango supreme Carbon Trust has scooped a fairly high profile name for its VC wing - former BVCA chief executive Peter Linthwaite, who joins CT Investment Partners as managing partner. Linthwaite, a veteran of Murray Johnstone and Royal London Private Equity, will 'look to develop further CTIP’s leading market position in the rapidly growing clean energy sector'.
Carbon Trust Investments is one of the most active investors in the UK cleantech - recent investments include power supply unit developer CamSemi and biofuel fermentation group Green Biologics.

Big news for funds across Asia - seen by many as the real big market for cleantech. Asian Development Bank is putting up to $100m into each of five selected clean energy VCs. The lucky five are MAP Clean Energy Fund, China Environment Fund III, GEF South Asia Clean Energy Fund, Asia Clean Energy Fund and China Clean Energy Capital. Environmental Finance has the details.

Further reading
European wind energy is one area that's seen its peak of investment, according to new figures from the Cleantech Group. Along with your bog-standard bio-ethanol, European wind deals peaked in mid-2006, while the sun started to set on thin-film solar in 2007.
First quarter figures for 2008 for investment across all cleantech categories in North America, Europe and Israel still totalled $1.25bn - this was up 40% from Q1 2007, despite a decline on a quarter-by-quarter basis. The analyst's mood is one of "tempered optimism", with next-gen biofuels, wind turbines and new solar technologies still looking good.
Preliminary first-quarter figures from UK research house New Energy Finance (as reported by WSJ online) tell a slightly different story, however. Venture capital and private equity investment totalled $2.4bn, down from $3.7bn in Q1 '07. VC held up better than later-stage private equity, however - largely the result of the credit crunch and general market slowdown. NEF also highlights a shortage of talented management for growing clean energy firms.

In one small step for a much-vaunted new economy, the UK now has its first hydrogen gas fuelling station - in Birmingham.
The pilot station is hosted by the University of Birmingham's department of chemical engineering, which is leading a number of hydrogen-fuel research projects.
The gas is provided by Basingstoke-based Green Gases, which uses all-renewable energy to power its electrolysis process. The university has also bought five hydrogen-powered vehicles from Microcab Industries, based in nearby Coventry.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Clean Sweep 35

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.
Plenty of new deals to catch up on since last time -

Kent-based cleantech specialist Foresight has announced three new investments, worth a total £14m. All three companies, I'm proud to say, are based in Yorkshire.
Biomass fuels company Land Energy secured £5m to help roll out its services nationwide. The group aims to build a network of plants to produce wood pellets from local sources, for burning in local on-site furnaces and CHP installations. The group has offices in central London and rural North Yorkshire, where it has encountered local opposition to its plans for a pilot plant on the old Wombleton airfield.
Waste-to-energy business AWP Environmental (trading as BCB Environmental Management) meanwhile raised £6m for its proposed £18m, 9MW advanced gasification plant in Tockwith, west of York. BCB says it has £12m debt arranged for once they get planning consent.
Finally, plastics recycling group Lynwood raised £3m. Based barely a mile from where I'm sat in Halifax, Lynwood recycles plastics waste into new products including outdoor furniture and the 'invincible bucket'. The fundraising will help the group double capacity and expand nationally.

Renewables consultancy Eco2 and UEA tech transfer company Carbon Connections have launched a £6m fundraising for the currently stealthy Tidal Energy Limited. Eco2 has invested an initial £150k and says it is committed to £1m of the targeted round.
Tidal Energy is developing a free-standing tidal energy device called the Deltastream - Carbon Connections has a background PDF on the project.

Domestic energy monitoring firm Onzo has raised £2m from utility Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and asset manager Sigma Capital Group. The London-based firm produces networked displays which continually monitor and report on household energy use, helping householders to identify and fix inefficiencies and thus save money and emissions.
As well as its £1m equity investment, SSE has placed orders worth £7m; and has secured exclusive rights for Onzo's products and services in the UK and Ireland. Onzo's displays are due for launch this summer.
In the same market over the pond, Colorado-based Tendril Networks has just announced a $12m second round led by RRE Ventures. Tendril released a beta version of its own domestic energy-monitoring system earlier this year.

German fuel cell group Clean Mobile has raised a Euro3.3m first round led by local VC Earlybird Venture Capital and the US's Silicon Valley Technology Group. Seed investor High-Tech Gründerfonds also joined in.
Munich-based Clean Mobile produces drive systems based on methanol cells for light transport such electric bicycles and rickshaws.

Still in Germany, biofuel group Schmack Biogas has raised Euro7.1m in a new share issue, with Swiss-Canadian cleantech specialist Emerald Ventures taking the lot. Which might seem a little odd, given that Emerald, which backed Schmack in 2004 before its IPO, sold its stake in Schmack just over a year ago - but the group's share price has dropped around 80% since then, and is now around a third of the float price. Emerald clearly remain confident in Schmack's future.

In another Israeli water treatment deal, AqWise raised $3.6m from investors including AHMSA Steel Israel, Elron Electronic Industries and Israel Cleantech Ventures. AqWise is commercialising a microbial treatment to remove contaminants from wastewater.

In the US, biggest deal of the past few weeks is Range Fuels scooping a reported $130m (they're just saying 'greater than $100m') second round. Passport Capital led the round, alongside BlueMountain, Khosla Ventures, Leaf Clean Energy Company, and PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (with participation by the mighty CalPERS fund). The round follows a $76m government grant in November.
The money goes towards Range Fuels' pilot cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia. The firm's tipped to be the first to market with cellulosic biofuel - the tech promises to have far fewer environmental drawbacks than the relatively well-established corn-based ethanol. Rival Mascoma raised a $50m third round last month.

There's another handful of solar deals. Thin-film CIGS pioneer Nanosolar secured $50m corporate funding from French utility EDF Energies Nouvelles. EDF secures a supply of the California firm's panels from next year.
High-efficiency silicon PV producer 1366 Technologies raised a $12.4m first round led by North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners. Rather than doing anything radically new, the MIT spin-out has developed a new cell architecture which improves silicon efficiency while exploiting low-cost fabrication methods, potentially bringing energy costs down to 10c/KW by 2012.
Canadian supplier 6N Silicon has raised a $20m second round from Good Energies and existing investors Yaletown and Ventures West. The firm aims to cut the cost of silicon PV through its proprietary process for producing the extremely pure silicon demanded by PV manufacturers from cheap metallurgical-grade feedstock.
And Texan building supplier Standard Renewable Energy raised a $7m second round led by Quercus Trust. The firm aims to build a natinal dealership chain of solar installers.

Renewable chemicals group Elevance rasied a $40m first round led by TPG Growth and TPG Biotechnology Partners. A joint venture between agrichemicals giant Cargill and CalTech tech transfer group Materia, Elevance uses a olefin metathesis process (developed by CalTech's Nobel laureate Robert Grubbs) to produce a range of speciality chemicals from vegetable oils rather than from petrochemicals.

And 'smart grid' developer Gridpoint has raised $15m follow-on funding from Quercus Trust. The Washington DC business has developed an IT-based platform to help electric suppliers manage varying supply and demand. It previously announced its $49m fourth round in October last year.