Friday, 19 December 2008

Clean Sweep 52

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment. Seems like everyone's getting their deals wrapped up before the holidays.

Climate Change Capital is backing a landfill gas project in Northern Ireland with £2m capital funding. The investment comes from its Ventus Funds, specialist venture capital trusts (VCTs) focused on renewable energy projects.
The project is a joint venture between Belfast City Council and project development company Renewable Power Systems, to generate electricity from methane gas produced by the 121 hectare Dargan Road landfill site. The scheme is forecast to produce enough electricity for 6000 homes, with a lifetime of at least 20 years.

Welsh environmental diagnostics company Envirogene has closed a £1m second round from investors including RAB Capital and Finance Wales.
Envirogene uses molecular diagnostics and nanoparticle tracking technology to monitor water quality and assist bioremediation projects. The new funding will help commercialise its water quality technologies, and develop new diagnostic tools for the oil and gas industries.

AIM-listed Ludgate Environmental Fund has led a Euro10m round in German biogas plant operator Ludgate invested Euro3m, alongside London-based pensions hedge fund Valiance. uses manure and crop waste to produce methane-rich gas, which can be either burnt on site to generate elecricity or cleaned and fed into the national gas network. The leftovers, which the firm delicately calls 'fermentation residue', is used as a high-grade fertiliser.

Belgian renewables group Electrawinds has secured an extra Euro30m capital from existing investors. Dutch VC group GIMV put in Euro25m, with the remainder from DG Infra+, and infrastructure joint venture between GIMV and Belgian investment group Dexia.
Electrawinds aims to increase its generating capacity from 80MW to 200MW by the end of 2010.
GIMV also announced the close of its new XL tech VC fund at Euro500m.

Norwegian start-up Solar Cell Repower has raised a NKr20m (cEuro2m) first round in two tranches from Nordic tech investor Northzone Ventures. State-based Innovation Norway also contributed a NKr8m grant and NKr4m loan. The firm specialises in recycling and upgrading "non prime" solar cells to meet current performance standards, and aims to build partnerships with cell and module manufacturers.
Also in Norwegian solar recycling, silicon specialists Metallkraft raised NKr33m (Euro3.5m) from Belgium's Capricorn Venture Partners. Metallkraft is developing a patented process for recycling the silicon carbine slurry used in the wafer cutting stage of standard PV cell manufacturing.

Two much-favoured US firms have raised new rounds. Thin-film solar manufacturer Konarka has raised $45m and announced 'bilateral R&D and cooperation agreements' with oil major Total. The French energy group becomes the Massachusetts-based company's largest shareholder, with just under 20%, via its Total Gas & Power USA subsidiary. Konarka last announced a $45m round in October last year.
Cellulosic ethanol group Coskata meanwhile raised a $40m third round led by private equity giant Blackstone. Money goes towards completing Coskata's pilot plant in Pittsburgh and beginning work on its first commercial plant. The Illinois firm announced a partnership with General Motors back in January. The deal is the first publicised investment from Blackstone's new Cleantech Venture Partners fund.

In other follow-on news, vertical-axis 'Windspire' turbine manufacturer Mariah Power announced it had closed its second round, led by Noventi Ventures, at an undisclosed total. Last we heard in April, it had just raised some post-seed and was working on its first round - it's easy to lose count...
Canadian ethanol tech firm Vaperma announced a C$6.9m follow-on investment, after its C$21.5m second round last November. Investors again included London-based Low Carbon Accelerator and Volvo Technology Transfer.
(Meanwhile, LCA announced the insolvency of one of its portfolio companies, Austrian solar/biomass generator group EnergyCabin, blaming the recession for lack of consumer demand. Not the last time we'll be hearing that, I suspect).

Solar start-up Lightwave Power closed a $13m first round from Quercus Trust and 21 Ventures. The firm is an offshoot from roll-ro-roll electronics manufacturing group MicroContinuum, whose printing technology Lightwave is using to produce solar nanoarrays.

Energy management group PhoenixESG announced an undisclosed 'anchor investment' from Momentum Venture Management. The New Jersey firm provides a range of data-based services for reducing energy costs and meeting environmental targets.

Israeli green chemicals developer Botanocap secured an extra $2.3m from Swiss investor BHCO Group. The firm is developing less harmful pesticides and disinfectants based on microcapsules of essential oils.

Further reading
Predictions for 2009 from the US National Venture Capital Association - it'll be a difficult year, with 92% of responding VCs predicting a slowdown of new investment. But for cleantech, 48% expect increased investment, and another 20% reckon on no change, the most optimistic results for any sector. More details (160KB PDF).
Greentech Media meanwhile crunches the latest VC totals from Ernst & Young - a record $4.6bn throughout North America, Europe, China and Israel in the first three quarters, comfortably topping 2007's end-of-year total. That equates to 13% of all VC activity. E&Y's cleantech team is still predicting a slowdown, though.

A possible driver of new cleantech investment for the UK - the Lords EU Committee is calling for the money raised from the sale of carbon permits to be invested in green technology. No definite plans, but the committee reckons that ringfencing the permit revenues is essential to maintaining the credibility of the scheme. More from the Guardian or, for the very conscientious, the full 250-page report (1.8MB PDF).

Top cleantech blog post of the season is the slideshow analysis by Rob Day and colleagues at @Ventures of what's wrong with cleantech VC. In brief: not enough exits, so that valuations and ideas of what actually works are pretty much untested; too many big rounds in too few sectors; and not enough true early-stage investors.

Finally, a Christmas message to you all. I'll be back soon with a round-up of the year, but in the meantime, I'll wish everyone a very merry holiday and a clean and prosperous 2009.

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