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...

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