Friday, 31 October 2008

Clean Sweep 48

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

Waste treatment firm Morgan Everett has raised £1.45 million growth funding. The round includes £750,000 from PUK Ventures, the venture capital arm of Partnerships UK; the Sustainable Technology Fund, which previously joined in a £1.25 million round in July 2007; and private investors.
The new funding allows the Hampshire-based firm to increase production of its Autobin waste destruction system. This uses thermal pyrolysis to convert most forms of municipal waste into inert ash at source. The firm says that energy recovery may be possible in some applications.

Electricity demand management developer RLtec (also known as Responsive Load) secured a £550,000 round, and the promise of a further £300,000 from keystone investor Low Carbon Accelerator if it hits milestone targets.
LCA contributed £300,000 in the current round, with the remainder from a private investor. LCA also converted a £900,000 loan announced in December 2007 into shares, giving it a 77% stake of the London-based company.
RLtec produces demand-control systems for domestic appliances, and works with both appliance manufacturers and electric grid operators.

Terra Firma Capital Partners is preparing to invest £1.2bn in UK wind farms, according to reports. The buyout house aims to build some 800MW of onshore capacity, via its Infinis renewables business. Infinis was created in 2006 when Terra Firma sold on the core business of Waste Recycling Group but retained its waste-to-energy business as a cornerstone for further renewables investment.

Dutch biofuel-to-pharma R&D group Avantium Technologies has raised a Euro18m round led by biomedical specialist Aescap Ventures. Previous investors Capricorn Cleantech Fund, ING Corporate Investments and Navitas Capital also joined the round.
A spin-out from oil group Shell, Amsterdam-based Avantium uses a high-throughput approach to develop advanced biofuels and bioplastics. It also has a pharmaceutical research programme aimed at improving the performance of existing drugs by crystallisation, hence Aescap's interest.

Meanwhile in the US, Californian biobutanol developer Cobalt Biofuels raised a $25m third round led by LSP and Pinnacle Ventures. The funding goes towards a pilot production plant.

A few more solar deals, as ever. CPV developer Soliant Energy took a $25m round from investors including Convexa Capital, GE Energy and founding investor Rockport Capital Partners. The California company, founded in 2005 by a team from Nasa's JPL, produces rooftop solar concentrator panels with triple-junction silicon cells.
Innovalight, a California firm making PV cells with its proprietary 'silicon ink', raised a $5m follow-on package from Leader Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. The firm raised $28m a year ago.
And Maryland-based solar installer Standard Solar took a $8.5m second round from Truecast Capital.

Lighting efficiency firm Adura Technologies raised a $5m first round from Vantagepoint Venture Partners and Claremont Creek Ventures. The San Francisco firm provides turnkey energy management systems combining lighting control hardware and software, which it says can cut lighting bills (and emissions) by around half.

And Canada's NxtGen Emissions Controls has closed a US$15.4m second round led by Altira Group. NxtGen has miniaturised syngas technology used in petroleum refineries for use in diesel vehicle engines. The company aims to sell its emissions reduction systems to OEMs worldwide.

Further reading
New Energy Finance presents Q3 investment figures (PDF), showing a fall in public and private investment in cleantech - $4.4bn total, down from the record $5.8bn in Q2. Early-stage VC remains buoyant, however, with the biggest fall in the public markets. Hardly unexpected, really.
Across the water, VCs at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in Seattle reckon that cleantech may remain a bright spot in the economic landscape. As Greentech Media reports, everyone's expecting a short-term slowdown but the long-term prospects look good.

The Carbon Trust has announced an agreement with five international energy companies to kickstart the Offshore Wind Accelerator programme. The £30m, five-year initiative aims to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10 per cent or more through a combination of wind farm cost reductions and performance improvements.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Clean Sweep 47

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

Italian renewables group ICQ Holding has secured Euro20.5m from Milan-based environmental investor Ambienta. Ambienta takes a 15.4% stake in ICQ, with an option to increase to 26.5% on an extra investment of Euro20m.
ICQ has developed a portfolio of 1200MW of wind, hydroelectric and biogas projects for clients, and is currently working to build 400MW of its own generation capacity.

Erstwhile stealthy solar developer Solyndra hit the headlines after unveiling its thin-film tech and making noise about the amount of VC money it's raised. Their press release didn't mention figures, but the CEO told interviewers that they've raised $600m from investors including the Virgin Green Fund, Madrone Capital Partners, RockPort Capital Partners, Argonaut Capital Partners, Redpoint Ventures, US Venture Partners and CMEA Ventures - but, according to other reports, the company failed to raise its target $350m in its latest funding drive.
Still, they've got an interesting tech in the highly competitive (and, arguably, over-heated) CIGS thin-film space. Solyndra applies its photovoltaic film to glass cylinders which are packed into metal frames - the idea is they can harvest sunlight from a much wider directional range than flat panels, and are easier and cheaper to install on rooftops than conventional crystalline panels. The firm claims an efficiency of 12-14%, and is already shipping product from its first 110MW factory in, where else, Silicon Valley.

Still in sunny California, solar thermal developer Ausra announced a $60.6m round led by Canada's KERN Partners. Founding investors Khosla Ventures and KPCB also joined in, as did Al Gore's London-based Generation Investment Management.
The money goes towards completing Ausra's pilot 5MW solar thermal plant near Bakersfield, and other R&D activities. The company's also developing a 177MW plant for Pacific Gas and Electric.
Ausra previously announced a $30m round in February this year. There's no further word on their IPO plans.

KPCB also led a $75m round in smart grid company Silver Spring Networks, in the first disclosed investment from its dedicated Green Growth cleantech fund. California-based Silver Springs produces IP-based monitoring devices which sit inside domestic electricity meters, helping consumers manage consumption and suppliers improve efficiency and reliability.

Further reading
Third quarter figures compiled by the US-based Cleantech Group show record investment, again - $2.6bn across 158 companies in North America, Europe, India and China. That brings the total for the year to date to $6.6bn, topping last year's annual total.
The quarterly numbers were boosted by a handful of big deals like Nanosolar's $300m and Gridpoint's $120m. Cleantech Group also mentions the $200m round which CIGS developer SoloPower was rumoured to have closed last month (as far as I can tell, it's not yet been confirmed).
It's likely to be a peak for the near future at least - group analysts predict a slowdown as companies struggle to secure the big rounds they need to move into commercial production. The VCs still have money, but they'll be toughening terms as other sources dry up, and supporting debt for the big deals will remain sticky.

Ambitious proposals from British Waterways to generate up to 100MW of renewable energy capacity along its canals and rivers. They're looking at up to 50 wind turbines, as well as small hydroelectric installations. Development costs will be covered by Partnerships for Renewables, a joint venture between the Carbon Trust quango and HSBC bank.
A good idea, though I can't imagine there'll be too many canal-side turbines in my bit of the Pennines - the canals are all at the valley bottoms, while the wind's all up on the tops.

And does the new UK government's new Department of Energy and Climate Change mean there'll be more support for our renewable energy and other cleantech companies, and a smoother move towards a sustainable energy sector? The Renewable Energy Association and others say that they look forward to working with Ed Miliband. But based on the recent damning review by the International Energy Agency, we've got a long way to go...