Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Clean Sweep 37

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment. Lots to catch up on again, so let's crack on!

First up, a couple of smallish deals from UK specialist investors.
Ludgate Environmental Fund has put £4m into Rapid Action Packaging, a manufacturer of 'environmentally responsible packaging', as part of a wider placing. Can throw-away sandwich-wrapping really be considered 'environmentally responsible'? Probably not, but if we've got to have it, best if it is recycled, biodegradeable, etc. Cleaner rather than clean, anyway.
And Low Carbon Accelerator has upped its investment in sewage treatment group Eco-Solids by £750,000. The Hampshire-based firm holds the rights (outside the US) to a range of technologies which can help turn waste into burnable methane or biofuel.

With spring finally here, there's been some big US money moving round the European solar market.
Malta-based SunRay Renewable Energy announced a strategic partnership with US private equity group Denham Capital, primed with an initial $200m equity commitment. The partnership aims to developer over 300MW of solar power around Europe and the Mediterranean over the next four years.
Spanish energy group Gamesa sold its solar wing to energy investor First Reserve for Euro261m. Following First Reserve's acquisition of Italy's Ener3, the deal gives the US group a pipeline of some 400MW capacity over the next four years.
Spain's own Banco Sabadell meanwhile took a 25% stake in wind and hydroelectric player Adelanta Corporación via its Sinia Renovables private equity arm. Forbes has the essesntials if you don't read Spanish.

Also attracting big money - stirling engines! Ohio-based Stirling Energy Systems raised $100m in what was effectively an acquisition by Ireland's NTR. SES is developing two large-scale solar concentrating plants in Southern California, with a total target capacity of 1750MW. The company uses stirling engines, first developed in the early 19th century, to turn the solar heat into electricity.
Washington-based stirling engine developer Infinia meanwhile topped up its previously announced $50m second round with an extra $7m tranche led by Foxconn Technology Group.

Still in solar thermal,'s favourite eSolar raised $130m from Idealab, Oak Investment Partners, and the investment wing of the search engine goliath. The California firm, which is developing what it calls pre-fab solar power plants, was sprung into the limelight in November 2007, when Google named them while launching its Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal programme.
And New Mexico's SkyFuel raised a $17m second round led by Leaf Clean Energy. SkyFuel is focused on 'line concentrating' solar installations, including an innovative linear Fresnel system and the parabolic 'SkyTrough'.

In solar PV, Ohio's cutely-named Xunlight secured a $22m second round led by Trident Capital. The funding aims to take Xunlight's thin-film silicon modules into commercial production.
Rival thin-film silicon developer Sencera meanwhile landed $3.6m from Quercus Trust. The North Carolina firm says it is working towards that magic target of solar cells costing less than $1 per watt.

Elsewhere, cellulosic ethanol developer Mascoma announced a $10m investment from Marathon Oil, bringing its second round up to a total $61m. General Motors also upped its investment in the round.
New York's TechnoSpin whipped up a $8m first round led by local VC 21Ventures. The firm is developing small wind turbines for residential and small business customers.
And Texan start-up Hydro Green Energy netted a $2.6m first round led by the Quercus Trust. The firm is developing a series of hydrokinetic power projects in Alaska and Mississippi.

Fund news
Santander Private Equity has announced a dedicated renewable energy fund, Santander Energías Renovables, with a first close of just Euro15m. Not much, chaps.

Italian environmental investor Ambienta has launched its first private equity fund, with a target closing of Euro250m. The Intesa Sanpaolo bank has committed Euro40m to kick things off.

As ever, they do things bigger in the States. Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers announced a new $500m fund. The dedicated cleantech Green Growth Fund will also be supported by the firm's other new fund, the $700m KPCB XIII. Lucky for some.

Further reading
The Times reports on a new green investment push from Britain's armed forces:
Turning all three services “green” was one of a number of new defence targets outlined last week by Paul Stein, the MoD’s science and technology director, to the Royal Aeronautical Society in London[...]
The MoD’s science and technology experts envisage more efficient engines and greater use of solar power, microbe-powered fuel cells and lightweight and remotely operated aircraft and robots.

A useful new site for any business looking to become a little cleaner (especially if they can get hold of some money for doing so) - Green Grants Machine. A new venture by grants information group j4b (who, in the interests of disclosure, I should say I did some work for several years ago) aims to help businesses identify and access the right funding programme from a pool worth over £1.2bn. The site also offers funding and policy news.

Finally, I'll be heading up to Aberdeen in a couple of weeks for the All-Energy conference. If you're also heading up and want to say hello, drop us a line.
Or if you're going to SustainabilityLive in Birmingham the same week, have a good one. You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to make sure the country's two biggest renewable energy tech conferences don't clash, wouldn't you?

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