Monday, 29 September 2008

Clean Sweep 46

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

A US cleantech firm has established a new global headquarters in Cambridge after raising its first VC funding in the UK. Colorado-based Vairex raised £4m from London-based Entrepreneurs Fund (the parent fund of cleantech stalwart Good Energies) and Conduit Ventures, along with local business angels.
Vairex produces air management technology for fuel cells and systems to reduce particulate emissions from diesel engines. The new funding goes towards product development and pilot production facilities, as well as expanding the firm's global presence. The firm says its move to Cambridge aims 'to capitalise on the commercial and development opportunities available in a region regarded as a hotbed for high-tech and cleantech companies'.

University spin-out Magnomatics has raised £500,000 seed funding from the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund and Fusion IP, the tech transfer wing of the University of Sheffield. The firm develops high-efficiency magnetic gearboxes for applications including wind turbines and hybrid cars.

Swedish fuel cell developer myFC has raised SKr22m (£1.8m) from investors including STING Capital, KTH Chalmers Capital and the Sixth Swedish Pension Fund.
The Stockholm-based company is developing proton exchange membrane fuel cells for mobile phones and laptops.

French renewables developer JMB Energie has raised an undisclosed round from investors led by Demeter Partners. The Béziers-based group operates wind and solar energy installations, and is also active in hydroelectric and biomass.
Environment/energy specialist Demeter also announced a first close of Euro125m on its new Demeter 2 cleantech fund. Target for the fund, which was launched in May, is Euro 200m.

Danish recycling tech group Shark Solutions raised DKr10m (£1m) from state investment fund Vaekstfonden. The Svinninge firm develops innovative equipment for the recycling industry, including mobile glass separators and compactors.

Bigger numbers over the pond, as utility-scale solar developer SolarReserve raised a $140m second round led by Good Energies and Citi Alternative Investments. The California company is aiming to build over 5GW worth of 50-300MW solar thermal plants around the world.
The firm holds exclusive global rights to Rocketdyne's molten salt power tower technology. As the name suggests, this uses huge mirror arrays to concentrate solar heat onto molten salt - the hot liquid then stores the energy until it's needed to drive a steam turbine. SolarReserve says that the tech 'represents a unique blend of liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise' - it really is rocket science!

Another Californian concentrating solar prospect, GreenVolts, meanwhile raised a $30m second round from Oak Investment Partners. The funding paves the way towards the company's first full-scale CPV installations.

In other solar deals, thin-film developer Sencera completed a $15.6m round led by Quercus Trust and Equinox Securities, towards its first, 35MW module factory; and single-crystal silicon substrate producer Confluence Solar raised a $12.7m first round led by Convexa Capital.

Algal biofuel group Sapphire Energy announced a second round of around $50m. Exact numbers (or investor identities) weren't released, but the San Diego firm said its total funding was now 'substantially more than $100 million', and it announced a $50m round in June. Sapphire says it now has enough funds to move to full commercial feasibility, but is likely to ask for more from existing investors as it moves towards its target of 10,000b/d production.

Smart grid developer GridPoint raised $120m from undisclosed investors. The Virginia firm will use the cash for acquisitions, starting with V2Green which is developing tech to help power supplies manage the demands of plug-in vehicles.

Also in electric vehicles, motorcycle developer Brammo raised $10m from investors including Chrysalix Energy Ventures and Best Buy Venture Capital. The money helps the Oregon firm take its whizzy-looking Enertia bike into commercial production.

Californian flywheel energy storage business Pentadyne Power closed a $22m round from undisclosed investors. A year ago, the firm was planning a $30m flotation on AIM - market turmoil since has presumably put paid to that.

Rechargeable nickel-zinc battery developer Powergenix is still planning an IPO, following a $30m fourth round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. The San Diego firm says a float won't happen for at least a year, however.

Finally, a trio of water purification deals - LA-based NanoH2O raised $15m for its next-gen reverse osmosis membranes; Canada's Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies completed a $10.5m round from Vantagepoint and London-based Foursome Investments for its pollutant-into-fertiliser tech; and Israel's BioPetroClean raised $5m from 21 Ventures for its bacterial treatment process.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Cleantech 100

Today sees the launch of the Cleantech 100, a new listing of Europe's 'hottest 100 private cleantech companies', compiled by the good folk at Library House and published by the Guardian newspaper.

German thin-film solar developer Odersun takes the top spot - its CIS-based modules were used in many of the buildings for the Beijing Olympics. A couple of lower-profile UK energy management firms take the silver and bronze positions - DeepStream Technologies and CamSemi.

After the top ten, firms are arranged by sector - from upstream, via the various generation techs, through to consumption, efficiency and transport. Lots of familiar names for regular readers of Clean Ventures, and a few less familiar.

A quick count of the basic list finds that just over half the firms are from the UK, including some from each category. That's possibly a reflection of bias in the predominantly UK-based selection panel, but it certainly shows the breadth of innovation here in developing new products and services and even, dare I say it, in manufacturing - that's got to be good news given the current dire state of the country's core financial services sector. But to give fair dues, the presence here of Europe's most sophisticated VC market (likely to be relatively undamaged by the furore in the main banking markets) must also be a factor in the success of the UK cleantech sector.

The listing is linked to Library House's Essential Cleantech 2008 event in London next week. Places may still be available.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Clean Sweep 45

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

Electronic cooling tech firm 4energy has raised £2m from Carbon Trust Investments and Catapult Venture Managers. The Nottinghamshire-based company produces passive cooling systems that can replace energy-intensive air-conditioning in ICT equipment rooms. Its CoolFlow system promises energy savings of up to 90% over conventional AC.
4energy has a solid list of domestic clients including Vodafone, EDF Energy and Scottish Power Energy Networks, and is eyeing international markets - especially those with a growing telecom infrastructure such as the BRIC economies.

Energy monitor group Green Energy Options (aka GEO) has raised £800,000 growth funding. Angel group Thames Valley Investment Network contributed £250k, with match funding from Bank of Scotland Corporate's growth capital wing, and the remainder from individual investors.
Cambridge-based GEO produces a range of displays and accessories which allow households to monitor and reduce their energy use.
UK rival Onzo raised £2m from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Sigma Capital Group in April.

French windfarm developer Valorem has closed a Euro16m second round from existing shareholders including Avenir Enterprises Gestion, Crédit Agricole Private Equity and Grand Sud Ouest Capital. The funding will allow the firm to finance its own wind projects - it's aiming at over 100MW installed capacity by 2010.

A clean(ish?) investment from an oil-and-gas specialist - Energy Ventures has pumped NKr45m (Euro5.7m) into tech developer Energreen. The Norwegian firm is developing a turbine, dubbed RotaChoke, which can generate energy from pressure drops in fluid process systems. The tech will allow on- and off-shore operations to reduce their own use of fossil fuels, and thus pump out oil and gas in a cleaner and cheaper fashion. It just about makes sense, I suppose...

Meanwhile in Finland, 'personal solar energy harvesting' developer Suntrica has raised undisclosed early-stage funding from state-backed VC Veraventure and Hong Kong's Yellow Dragon Enterprises. Suntrica is developing advanced PV chargers for phones, laptops and suchlike.

German solar supplier Concentrator Optics has raised an undisclosed round from Capricorn Venture Partners, via its Capricorn Cleantech Fund. Concentrator Optics, as the name suggests, produces optics for concentrating photovoltaic applications, and is building a factory for its Fresnel lenses (with a nominal capacity of 100MW) in Marburg, Germany.

German fuel cell start-up Enymotion meanwhile raised undisclosed seed funding from our old friends at High-Tech Gründerfonds and Zukunftsfonds Heilbronn. The firm is developing fuel cell systems for mobile leisure use which can be powered by conventional fuels such as camping gas.

A couple of vehicular investments from the States. Plug-in hybrid developer Fisker Automotive has completed a $65m third round led by a new Qatari investor, and also taking in current shareholders Palo Alto Investors and KPCB.
And electric bus tech developer Adura Systems received a further cash injection from New Frontier Renewable Energy as it works on raising its first full $10m round.

Solar tech company EnPhase closed a $15m third round led by RockPort. The California firm produces a compact inverter to convert DC from small-scale PV into AC for the grid.

Fund news
London-based cleantech VC WHEB Ventures has announced a first close of its second dedicated fund at £57m. Committed investors include family trusts for the Rothschilds and the Bamfords of JCB fame. WHEB is aiming to raise a total pot of £150m, which should make it Europe's largest dedicated cleantech VC fund.

New Nordic investor Sustainable Technologies Fund has raised Euro58m from institutional investors for its maiden fund. The fund will provide expansion capital for Nordic firms in renewable energy, energy efficiency, renewable materials and green chemicals, recycling and purification technologies.

Fortis Investments is raising a Euro400m clean energy fund. The fund, anchored with Euro50m from its Belgian bank parent, will focus on project finance for wind, small hydroelectric, solar PV and biomass installations.

Further reading
Some slight encouragement in the UK government's new paper on manufacturing strategy. The paper outlines proposals (albeit in fairly wafty terms) to support the move to the low-carbon economy 'as the response to climate change creates both new challenges and opportunities for manufacturing firms':
Recent analysis suggests that there are significant opportunities for UK manufacturers to benefit from developments in clean technologies and products[...]
Ernst and Young identify the ability to attract capital including venture capital due to the existence of strong financial markets; the supply of high quality services to start and promote a new business (including strong software and business/management services); and the presence of a sophisticated and high tech manufacturing base as the key characteristics underpinning current advantage in these sectors.

The paper also proposes measures to remove barriers to wider deployment of renewable energy, and to support electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

A new report from Greentech Media and the Prometheus Institute on the growth of thin-film solar - they're predicting eight-fold growth to over 4GW worth of production by 2010, with amorphous silicon making up half of that. Cadmium telluride may end up as a niche tech, while CIGS is yet to reach breakthrough.

And from the Cleantech Forum in Washington DC - cleantech insiders weigh Wall Street turmoil. While the weight of money in funds means that VC is likely to continue to roll, project finance looks to get tougher and the IPO route doesn't look at all cheery. Interesting times, to be sure...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Clean Sweep 44

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

UK wind turbine developer Quiet Revolution has raised £7m growth funding. German energy group RWE Innogy provided £6m, with the rest from undisclosed private investors.
The London-based firm produces small vertical-axis turbines for distributed generation. The firm says they're particularly suited for use in built-up areas where conventional fan-style turbines just aren't efficient. Around 30 are already in place around the UK, mostly 6KW turbines on sites including supermarkets and new residential developments.
Quiet Revolution is also developing a larger 50KW turbine and a 2.5KW model for domestic buyers. Earlier this year, the firm announced a new manufacturing plant in Pembroke Dock, with support from Welsh Assembly Government.

In another growth investment led by an energy group, France's EDF-Energies Nouvelles and Truffle Capital have invested Euro1m in solar installer Photon Technologies. Photon provides turnkey solar installations for domestic and commercial customers, as well as dedicated solar plants. The firm also has a 25% stake in a PV-grade silicon production plant in Provence.

EDF also joined in a $300m 'strategic equity financing' in California's Nanosolar, as did fellow utility AES. EDF previously announced a $50m investment in the thin-film CIGS developer back in April. More details from Nanosolar themselves.
Still in thin-film solar, AVA Solar raised a $104m second round from new and existing investors led by DCM. The money goes towards completing the CdTe developer's 200MW/a factory in its Colorado home.

DCM also led a $19m third round in water treatment firm Miox. The New Mexico company provides advanced water treatment systems for municipal drinking water.

Norwegian wind tech developer Chapdrive meanwhile secured NKr30m (Euro3.75m) follow-on funding from existing investors Northzone Ventures, Hafslund Venture and StatoilHydro Venture. The firm, which is developing a patented hydraulic transmission mechanism to make off-shore wind turbines more efficient, raised NKr14.3m in July 2007. Jens Anders Jensen, formerly on the board of Danish wind giant Vestas, joins as CEO.

Also in wind, California-based Makani Power took a further $5m from The prolific philanthropy'n'VC arm of the IT giant previously invested $10m in 2006. Makani is developing high-altitude wind energy systems, which closely resemble great big kites.

A couple of big-name investors enjoyed profitable exits from wind investments. Good Energies sold its stake in two Romanian wind farm projects to utility group CEZ in a deal worth Euro1.1bn. With a total capacity of 600MW, the adjacent projects together form Europe's largest onshore wind farm. Full details (pdf).
And 3i sold its minority stake in Belgian renewables developer Electrawinds to majority stakeholders for an undisclosed sum. 3i invested Euro30m in 2006, and says it achieved its five-year growth targets in just two years.

Elsewhere, microbial biofuel firm Solazyme closed a $45m third round, with new investors Braemar and Lightspeed joining the Roda Group and Harris & Harris. As well as biofuels, the San Francisco firm is engineering microbes to produce commodity chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Waste-to-energy developer MaxWest Environmental Systems raised $10m from AIM-listed investor Leaf Clean Energy. MaxWest is commercialising a commercial-grade system for producing energy from what it tactfully calls biosolids in municipal and agricultural wastewater.

And Indian electronics recycler Attero Recycling raised $6.3m from NEA-IndoUS Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson towards its 100,000 sq ft facility in Roorkee. The firm is also developing new mechanical separation techniques with an unidentified US partner, as well as in-house metallurgical processes.