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.

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