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.

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