Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Clean Sweep 43

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

Spanish solar developer Fotowatio has raised a Euro225m round from General Electric Energy Financial and the Landon family office. The firm is developing a string of 10-20MW PV parks around Spain, and is also looking at thermosolar and biofuel opportunities.

Italian environmental investor Ambienta has taken an 80% stake in biofuel producer Italiana Pellets. Ambienta is investing Euro5.4m equity, while banking group Intesa Sanpaolo is providing Euro31m project financing for a 120,000t/a biomass pellet plant in Pavia.

Dutch metals recycling company ReSteel has raised undisclosed launch funding from cleantech specialist Icos Capital. ReSteel, a spin-out from Delft University of Technology is commercialising a new method for recovering high quality steel and copper from waste., the investment wing of the search engine giant, squirted funds into a couple of geothermal tech developers - $6.25m for AltaRock Energy and $4m for Potter Drilling. Both firms are developing tech for enhanced geothermal systems, in which water is cycled through deep wells and its heat used to drive electricity-generating turbines.

Sticking with geothermal, Simbol Mining, joint winner of the Cleantech Group's Most Promising Technology award in July, has raised a $7.6m first round from Mohr Davidow Ventures and Firelake Capital. The California company has the tech to extract metals including lithium, much in demand for smart batteries and other clean applications, from the mineral-rich water raised by geothermal power plants.

Back above ground, Canadian solar cell developer Cyrium Technologies closed a $15m second round led by Quercus Trust. Cyrium is developing high-efficiency PV cells based on quantum dots for concentrating solar applications.

And US synthetic biofuels firm Amyris Biotechnologies has picked up a further $21m from undisclosed investors in its ongoing second round. That's on top of the $70m announced last September.

Fund news
Private equity heavyweight Blackstone Group has launched a dedicated cleantech energy group. The team is led by James Kiggen (previously at AllianceBernstein, CSFB and DLJ) and will advise the group on conventional energy investments as well as sourcing renewables deals.

Further reading
NGO The Climate Group has published a detailed report on China's Clean Revolution (2.1mb pdf). Top line -
China is already the world’s leading renewable energy producer and is over-taking more developed economies in exploiting valuable economic opportunities, creating green-collar jobs and leading development of critical low carbon technologies

Rob Day at Cleantech Investing parses the latest US VC figures - according to Ernst & Young, another record quarter for cleantech with a total $962m new investment in 41 deals. Solar still accounts for the bulk of the money.

But there's a big shift due for solar, according to a new silicon and wafer price index from New Energy Finance. They're forecasting a 43% drop in the cost of polysilicon next year as new production capacity comes online. While that should make your old-school silicon PV a lot more cost-effective, it will put a big dent in the rationale for the next-gen solar technologies (CIGS, CIS, etc) which VCs have been backing for the past couple of years.

An interesting tech on the road to commercialisation - 'anti-noise' active damping for wind turbines in residential areas. More details from the guys at the Fraunhofer Institute.

But wait - here's a relevant bit of research from the Carbon Trust on the potential for small-scale wind energy. It's a waste of time in urban areas, basically. Someone tell David Cameron...

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