Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Clean Sweep 42

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

Welsh solar tech developer G24 Innovations has raised its second major investment in less than two months.
Following a $20m injection from Morgan Stanley Principal Investments in June, the Cardiff firm has secured $30m from new Luxembourg-based fund 4RAE. 4RAE partner Rijkman Groenink, formerly CEO at ABN Amro, takes a seat on the G24i board.
G24i is developing dye-sensitised thin-film solar cells based on the same titanium dioxide technology as US firm Konarka, and has European manufacturing rights to the tech.

Aldershot-based renewables group Segen has raised £1m growth funding from Cape Verde Capital. Cape Verde is the renewable energy investment wing of the Wates Family Enterprise, a family trust associated with the eponymous construction group, and takes a 20% stake in Segen.
Segen supplies and installs a range of small-scale renewable generation systems, including solar PV, wind turbines and CHP. The firm is also developing a concentrating solar pilot plant in Andalusia.

Alternative Waste Solutions, a Newcastle-based plastics recycler, has raised £6 million follow-on funding from E-Synergy and new investor Robeco. The investment goes towards expanding the firm's bottle-processing plant in Lincolnshire.
Technology specialist E-Synergy previously backed AWS in a £2 million round in January, alongside NorthStar Equity Investors.

In what must be one of Europe's largest private equity backed renewable energy deals, Blackstone has confirmed (NB: PDF) a Euro1bn+ partnership with Windland Energieerzeugungs.
Windland is building a 400MW offshore wind farm of 80 turbines off the north of Germany.

Spanish solar manufacturer DC Wafers has raised Euro3m from Pamplona-based investor Clave Mayor. DC produces polysilicon wafers for photovoltaic applications, and is also backed by Spanish VC iNova Capital.

Swedish solar tech start-up Sol Voltaics has raised undisclosed seed funding from investors including Scatec Adventure, Provider Venture Partners, Teknoinvest and Nano Future Invest.
The company is a spin-off from Lund-based nanotech firm QuNano. Both firms are based on tech developed at Lund University, with Sol Voltaic commercialising nanowire-based PV cells for solar concentrator applications.

In another solar-related deal, mid-market buyout house Granville Baird backed an MBO at Meier Vakuumtechnik. The firm, based in Bocholt, Germany, provides vacuum lamination systems for the photovoltaic industry. The buyout aims to better position the firm to respond to new opportunities in the fast-growing market.

The solar space was busy everywhere - must be the summer heat.
Recurrent Energy of New Jersey secured an initial $75m growth capital from Hudson Clean Energy Partners. Recurrent develops and operates distributed solar power systems on behalf of large-scale energy users.
New York's Wakonda Technologies raised a $9.5m first round led by Advanced Technology Partners. Wakonda is developing gallium-arsenide cells produced by a 'virtual single crystal' technique which it says can substantially reduce production costs.
And Chinese solar developer ET Solar phoned home with a $31m private placement led by NewMargin Growth Fund. ET manufactures a range of PV components and systems, from ingots and wafers through to integrated tracking systems.

Back in the US, Google.org, the investment arm of the omnipresent IT group, joined in two electric car fundraisings from its RechargeIT programme. Californian vehicle developer Aptera raised a $24m round to help bring its rather natty-looking three-wheeler to market, including $2.75m from Google.
And ActaCell of Texas raised a $5.8m first round from Google.org, DFJ Mercury, Applied Ventures and Good Energies. The company is developing lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, based on research at the University of Texas.

Water purification company HaloSource meanwhile raised a further $11.5m round from Origo Sino-India and Origo Resource Partners, plus existing investors. The firm previously raised $15m from Masdar Clean Tech Fund around a year ago.

Finally, a smallish deal in a hotly-tipped sector - carbon-management IT group Carbonetworks raised a $5m first round led by NGEN Partners. The Canadian company develops software to help corporations monitor and manage their global greenhouse gas emissions.

Phew - a busy couple of weeks in all. Don't deals usually drop off in the summer?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Clean Sweep 41

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

UK fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy has raised $13.6m growth funding from undisclosed private investors.
The Loughborough-based firm is developing hydrogen fuel cells for partners including Suzuki, Peugeot Citröen and Boeing. A joint venture with Scottish and Southern Energy is meanwhile developing CHP systems for the domestic and small business markets.
Intelligent Energy has its roots in research on proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell at Loughborough University during the 1980s, and first attracted private funding in 2001. The firm now has offices in London, the US, South Africa and Japan.

London-based Better Energy Systems has secured something shy of $5m from Californian VC TBL Capital. The firm produces solar chargers for mobile gadgets, including the well-received Solio. The new funding goes towards growing sales in North America.

Biomass fuel provider Silvigen (NB: seems you'll need a password to access their site) has raised £1.75m from Foresight Group. Based close to the Drax power station in North Yorkshire, Silvigen is currently developing a biomass processing plant to serve the power industry. The firm has secured one 10-year supply contract and is chasing more, and is also establishing a Short Rotation Forestry (SRF) programme to exploit fast-growing tree species which it says provides a return for landowners within four years.

The big news in Europe is Intel Capital's Euro24m investment in German thin-film solar group Sulfurcell, as part of a Euro85m round. Climate Change Capital, investing from its Clean Tech Private Equity Fund, co-led the round, which also involved Demeter Partners, Zouk Ventures and BankInvest plus existing investors including the Masdar Clean Tech Fund (see below for more from them).
The Berlin-based firm, a spin-out from the Hahn-Meitner Institut, is producing solar modules using CIGS and CIS photovoltaics. The investment from Intel, which last month spun off its own solar arm SpectraWatt, is a significant step outside its silicon heartland for the giant chip-maker.

Troubled CIGS rival Miasolé is meanwhile reported to be prepping a new $200-220m round. Steel giant ArcelorMittal has kicked things off with a $20m investment, the first from its new Clean Technology Venture Capital Fund - details here.

Elsewhere in solar, Sweden's Suncore has raised an undisclosed round from Stockholm-based Sustainable Technologies Fund, which takes a 30% stake in the firm. Suncore is developing a polymer-based solar thermal collector which could compete on cost and performance with established metal-based products.

The mighty Masdar Clean Tech Fund and Virgin Green Fund have bought out US recycling group DuraTherm for an undisclosed price. The company operates a major waste management plant at its Texan home, primarily serving the petrochemicals industry, and also runs remote and mobile units.

Elsewhere, smart grid developer Eka Systems closed a $18.5m fourth round, led by Flybridge Capital Partners
And water management start-up Cyber-Rain raised $1.5m from Funk Ventures (yeah, I know...) and others for its smart sprinkler control system. Another one for the cleaner- rather than the actual cleantech file, I think.

Not a venture deal but a big important one - Bahrain-based Arcapita and India's Suzlon Energy have set up a new joint venture aimed at building a 1650MW, $2bn portfolio of wind farms in Inner Mongolia. The two partners are acquiring Chinese wind energy operator Honiton Energy Holdings, which has some 50MW installed capacity and 100MW in development, as a base for the programme. Full details from Arcapita.

Further reading
More year-end figures for 2007, with the United Nations Environment Programme finding a 60% jump in global cleantech investment. New investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, including private equity, public market investment and asset finance, totalled $148bn, the report found.

Second-quarter 2008 figures from Greentech Media meanwhile reckoned on $1.3bn venture capital in 74 deals across North America, Europe, Israel and Australia, 30% on Q1. Solar power led the way, with eSolar, BrightSource Energy and Sterling Energy Systems taking $350m between them. At this rate, 2008 looks set to top last year's total $3.43bn (by Greentech's figures, that is).

Interesting paper from McKinsey on the economics of solar power. Although it's still some way off grid parity, solar in increasingly competitive, the authors conclude - and component manufacturers (many of them venture-backed) 'are making decisions now that will determine the scale, structure, and performance of this new sector'.

Finally, how to generate lots of press for your new cleantech company - simply follow the lead of MIT spin-out Covalent Solarand publish an attention-grabbing paper in Science.
The gimmick involves using organic dyes to trap sunlight as it passes through window glass and direct it onto PV strips around the edges, effectively turning your windows into electricity-generating solar concentrators. The basic idea goes back to the 1970s, but Covalent's organic dyes (as described in the Science paper) promise to make it work.
The firm won a university business competition earlier this year, and will be seeking VC or corporate funding in the next few months. Their phone's probably been pretty busy over the past few days.