Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Clean Sweep 75

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

Aberdeen-based marine contractor Subocean Group has raised £17m from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, plus £25m debt from HSBC.
Founded in 2005, Subocean provides a range of services to offshore operators based on skills and technology developed for the oil and gas sector. The firm is increasingly targeting offshore wind and marine energy operators for power cable installation, and expects to double turnover in the next two years.

Solar concentrator developer Whitfield Solar has raised a £2.7m round co-led by Carbon Trust Investments and private investors. Existing investors Cascade Fund and Kilsby also joined the round.
A spin-out from the University of Reading, Whitfield produces PV modules which use Fresnel lenses to concentrate light, and two-axis tracking systems.

Carbon Trust Investments has also backed waste treatment group New Earth Solutions with an additional £4m, as part of an ongoing fundraising targeted at £15m. New Earth last raised £5m in September from Ludgate Environmental Fund.

Anglo-French carbon management start-up Carbon Hub has raised a Euro1m first round from Seventure Partners and angel investors. The firm provides software and supporting services to help organisations monitor and manage emissions.

German fuel cell start-up eZelleron raised Euro2.4m from investors led by eCAPITAL and Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen.
The Dresden-based firm is commercialising high-density gas-fuelled cells for mobile phones and other portable devices.

In the US, wind turbine blade manufacturer TPI Composites raised $26m from Element Partners and existing investors including Landmark Growth Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners, Angeleno Group and GE Capital. The Arizona firm produces lightweight blades using a composites vacuum infusion technology.

GE also invested in windpower tech company Danotek Motion Technologies, via its GE Energy Financial Services division which investing a $13.2m round alongside CMEA Capital, Khosla Ventures and Energy Capital
Management. Michigan-based Danotek produces permanent magnet generators for wind turbines, as well as a range of power systems for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Smart grid leader Silver Spring Networks raised a $100m institutional round including existing investors Google Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Northgate Capital.

Solar installation manager Tioga Energy closed a $20m second round. Investors include MEMC Electronic Materials, NGEN Partners, Nth Power and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The California firm provides PV systems and power purchase agreements for commercial and public sector clients.

Fund news
London-based Earth Capital Partners has announced a first close on its EON Climate & Renewables fund. The fund, which has a target of Euro750m, will focus on solar, biogas and biomass projects in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Final close is expected by end of 2010.

Anglo-US specialists Hudson Clean Energy Partners closed its debut fund at just over $1bn. Hudson focuses on capital-intensive areas in renewable power, alternative fuels, energy storage and demand-side energy management.

Further reading
Round-up of low carbon initiatives in the UK pre-budget review.

Interesting piece from Greentech Media on problems at prolific but secretive cleantech investor Quercus Trust.
Also, number-crunching the Solyndra IPO.

Finally, congratulations to the team at New Energy Finance on their acquisition by Bloomberg.

And Merry Christmas to all Clean Ventures readers, and best wishes for a cheery, clean and lucrative 2010!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hermes to head cleantech UKIIF

Hermes Private Equity is managing a new £125m cleantech fund-of-funds anchored by UK government money.

The fund is one of two in the UK Innovation Investment Fund (UKIIF) scheme. The brainchild of science minister and erstwhile tech entrepreneur Paul Drayson, UKIIF aims to attract more institutional money into early-stage venture capital for UK tech companies. The business ministry BIS has put up £150m to anchor the fund, and has attracted a further £175m in its first close.

Hermes will be backing VC funds investing in the low-carbon and cleantech sectors, from seed to early stage. It has an initial £125m fund, including £50m from government.

The European Investment Fund will meanwhile manage an initial £200m fund, including £100m of government money, to invest across the ICT, life sciences and advanced manufacturing sectors. Both appointments are subject to contract.

Investors and tech transfer professionals in the tech start-up and spin-out space have welcomed the scheme, first announced in June. Rather than making direct investments (a strategy of limited effectiveness, which can potentially crowd out commercial VCs), the UKIIF is using public money to try and catalyse private sector investment.

In his pre-budget report, chancellor Alistair Darling also announced a string of initiatives to support domestic energy efficiency and electric vehicles. The BBC news has outline details.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Clean Sweep 74

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

After some 20 months of wrangling, UK renewables group Novera has been taken over by Infinis, a buy-and-build renewables vehicle backed by private equity group Terra Firma.
Infinis paid 77p per share for a final batch of shares to take a 50.15% stake in Novera, and is making a recommended offer at the same price for all outstanding shares. The bid represents a 60% premium on the market price for 6 October. The first takeover bid for the company was launched by 3i Infrastructure in February 2008, at a proposed 90p per share. The deal shows both the continued appetite from later-stage private equity players for renewables, and a slump in valuations.
Novera currently operates 58 sites with total 143MW capacity, mostly landfill gas, and has a substantial expansion of wind operations in the pipeline.

Norwegian solar module developer Innotech Solar has raised NKr52m (Euro6.1m) from state-backed VC Investinor. New employees invested a further NKr 2.3m.
Narvik-based Innotech acquires and upgrades sub-standard PV modules from other developers, and is also involved with power plant development.

German PV developer Heliatek closed a $27m second round led by Wellington Partners. The syndicated round also included corporate investors Bosch, RWE Innogy Ventures and BASF Venture Capital, as well as the High-Tech-Gründerfonds, eCAPITAL, the Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen and GP Bullhound Sidecar.
The funding will support a first production facility in Dresden for Heliatek's thin-film solar cells, which use organic dyes. The company was spun out of Technical University of Dresden and University of Ulm in 2006.

Sweden's Solarus has secured SKr2m (Euro192,000) from angel network
Sting Capital
. Solarus is developing a range of concentrating solar collectors, including a hybrid solar thermal and PV panel which can provide both electricity and heat.

Spanish PV developer Siliken has secured backing from Italian investor Cape Live via its Helio Capital operation. The agreement will include construction of six new solar farms, including 5MW peak capacity in Puglia and 1MW in Sicily.

Hydrogen storage developer C.En has raised an undisclosed equity round with Italian insurance house Generali Group.
Zurich-based C.En is developing a relatively lightweight capillary-based storage system that could allow mass adoption of hydrogen-fuelled road transport.

French biomass producer Alpin Pellet, a spin-out from wood products group Savoie Pan, has raised Euro2.5m growth funding from Italian investor Ambienta. Ambienta takes a 51% stake in the business, and plans expansion through new production facilities and acquisitions.

US waste-heat recovery group Electratherm raised $5.4m from undisclosed investors.
The Nevada-based firm is developing systems to generate electricity from industrial waste heat, using a closed-loop organic Rankine cycle, and recently completed its first field tests.

US-Irish energy management tech group Powervation raised undisclosed extra funding from specialist investor Braemar Energy Ventures. The firm, which produces chips which can reduce energy use in IT hardware by up to 30%, previously raised $10m from investors including SEP and Intel Capital in July.

Fund news
Very active cleantech VC Foresight Group has launched its latest fund, the Foresight Environmental Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) Fund 2, with a £20m target. Under the government-backed EIS scheme, the fund is open to individuals with at least £10,000 to invest. The fund will focus on growth and buyout opportunities in unquoted UK environmental companies.

Swiss investor Mountain Cleantech is preparing to launch a second, later-stage fund with a Euro100m target. See Environmental Finance for more.

New sustainability-focused investor Earth Capital Partners is partnering with German utility group E.On to market a Euro750m infrastructure fund. The investor, backed by former Man Group supremo Stanley Fink, also told Environmental Finance it's still on course to raise $5bn for a string of funds.

Further reading
Pre-Copenhagen fretting and wobbling is threatening cleantech investment, says UN environment chief Achin Steiner, reported in the Guardian. Carbon Finance reports on similar concerns in the emissions-trading markets.
The Copenhagen Diagnosis meanwhile presents a synthesis of climate change research published since the last IPCC report. It's not a terribly cheering read.

Also, according to the Guardian again, UK plans for a feed-in tariff are looking shaky, with final proposals now unlikely to emerge before the new year.

From the IEA, an interesting report (pdf, 2.6mb) on how transmission grids can cope with variability of significant wind generation. Most of the common complaints about intermittency and cost can be overcome, they reckon.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Clean Sweep 73

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

UK cleantech specialist Ludgate Environmental Fund has made a follow-on investment of Euro2.3m in portfolio company agri.capital. The investment bring's Ludgate's total investment up to Euro7.3m.
Münster-based agri.capital produces biogas from manure and silage feedstocks, and currently operates at 44 sites with total capacity of 32MW. The new investment will support organic growth and acquisitions.

French solar installer Eco-Energy has secured Euro4m funding from Naxicap Partners, Agregator Capital and Vatel Capital.
The Nantes-based company provides PV roof installations for agricultural and industrial buildings.

Danish wind industry supplier Skykon has raised a 'large three digit million kroner' investment from Swedish investor EQT.
Skykon is a holding company with five subsidiaries (including Scotland's Welcon Towers) offering a range of products to the wind turbine industry, from blade tooling to turnkey towers. The new funding supports new production facilities and other developments.

Fuel cell developer Powercell Sweden has secured SKr60m (Euro5.8m) from the government-backed Fouriertransform fund.
Powercell, a spin-out from Volvo Group, is developing PEM fuel cells and related technology for transport and other applications. The firm's converters can produce hydrogen gas from current fuels including petrol and diesel.
The investment is the first from the Fouriertransform fund, which is dedicated to venture investment in the automotive sector.

US biochemicals developer DNP Green Technology has closed a $12m first round led by French VC Sofinnova Partners. Other investors include Mitsui & Co Venture Partners, Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation, The Cliffton Group and AquaRIMCO.
HQ'd in New Jersey, DNP uses agricultural feedstocks to synthesise succinic acid, a precursor for a variety of plastics and other chemicals. The group also operates a joint venture with French research group ARD.

Concentrating solar tech developer Infinia has raised a further $14m, according to filings. Last year, the Washington firm raised $57m from investors including Khosla Ventures, Power Play Energy and Vulcan Capital.
Infinia is developing thermal conversion generations based on Stirling engines, and has also secured around $9.4m in government funding.

Thin-film PV developer Ampulse has closed a $8m round led by Globespan Capital Partners and El Dorado Ventures.
Colorado-based Ampulse is developing crystalline silicon thin film cells, produced using hot-wire chemical vapour deposition techniques. The firm says its tech can double module efficiency while cutting costs by 75%, compared with current thin-film Si.

Recycling services provider Recyclebank landed a $28.25m third round led by NGEN Partners and DFJ. The Philadelphia-based firm works with waste companies and local authorities to encourage consumers to recycle by giving reward points for green actions, and is expanding into the UK.
NGEN and DFJ also led a $12.2m first round in energy services group Renewable Funding. The California firm is a leading financer of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which help homeowners invest in energy efficiency and renewables projects.

Water treatment start-up MicroMedia Filtration raised $3m from Sail Venture Partners. The California firm uses a string of chemical and physical processes to produce irrigation-quality water from raw sewage.
Sail is also preparing to close its second cleantech fund at $250m, with $32 already invested.

Fund news
Scottish angel investor Par Equity and energy consultancy Senergy are jointly launching a £50m renewables fund.
The Par Sustainability Fund 1 will focus on opportunities in onshore and offshore wind, ¬geothermal, waste-to-energy and recycling, with investments of £500k-2m . Insitutional fundraising will start in the new year.

Carbon Trust Investments has been granted an extra £18m from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to invest in UK-based cleantech companies. The extra money is intended to fill a funding gap over the next 12-18 months, following a drop in commercial VC activity.

Cleantech specialist Impax Asset Management has raised an extra £15m from the Environment Agency's pension fund. The EA fund made an initial investment of £35m in Impax last year.

Olympus Capital has reportedly closed its Asia Environmental Partners fund at $250m. The fund will back around a dozen clean energy, waste and water treatment companies around Asia and India.
Also in India, the Prithvi Sustainability Innovation and Technology Fund launched with a target of $150m. The fund is though to be the first domestic specialist investor in Indian cleantech, and will target investments of $5-15m.

Dutch investment manager Robeco is raising a third cleantech fund-of-funds, to at least match its $640m Clean Tech Private Equity II. See Environmental Finance for more.

Further reading
Fred Pearce in New Scientist takes a sceptical look at the Saharan solar Desertec project. The project partners, including Munich Re, RWE, Siemens, E.On and other financial and industry players, formed a joint venture company last week to develop the Euro400bn scheme.

Details of 37 transformational energy research projects backed by $151m from the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E. Some interesting stuff, from grid-scale batteries to carbon capture.

More from Rob Day of Cleantech Investing on the broken model of cleantech VC. Entertaining comments follow.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Clean Sweep 72

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

Waste treatment group New Earth Solutions secured £5m from Ludgate Environmental Fund as part of an ongoing £15m fundraising round.
The Dorset-based group provides waste services, including a proprietary temperature-controlled composting process, for local authorities across southern and central England. Its New Earth Energy subsidiary, launched last year, offers gasification and pyrolosis waste-to-energy systems.

Scottish wind turbine manufacturer Proven Energy landed an extra £1.5m from Low Carbon Accelerator. Along with a conversion of an existing £600,000 loan into equity, the new round gives LCA an 81% stake in the company.
Ayrshire-based Proven is a leading producer of small-scale (3-15kW) turbines. The new funding aims to position the company to take advantage of the UK introduction of feed-in tariffs.

Green chemicals developer Plaxica raised £1m from existing investor Imperial Innovations, and government-backed Carbon Trust Investments and NESTA.
A spin-out from Imperial College London, Plaxica is developing a process to produce biopolymers suitable for packaging and industrial applications from sustainable feedstocks such as sugarcane.

Irish ocean power developer Wavebob raised a Euro3m interim funding package. Around half of that came as equity from BVP Investments and private backers, while Sustainable Energy Ireland and Enterprise Ireland provided grants.
Founded in 1999, Wavebob is developing a wave energy convertor invented by founder William Dick. The Kildare-based firm announced it was seeking a Euro25m round earlier this year.

Israeli PV tech group SolarEdge announced a $23m round from corporate investor GE Energy Financial Services, plus US VCs Opus Capital and Walden International, Israeli funds Genesis Partners and Vertex Venture Capital, and Singapore-based JP Capital Asia. SolarEdge provides embedded power harvesting and monitoring systems to improve the efficiency of solar panels.
GE Energy also announced investments in US smart grid firms Tendril (following its $30m third round in June) and Gridnet.

Canadian concentrating PV player Morgan Solar raised a $4.7m first round from a syndicate led by Turnstone Capital Management. Investors include the venture arms of Spanish wind developer Iberdrola, and US plastics manufacturer Nypro.
The investment helps Morgan commercialise its Sun Simba HCPV panel, which uses the firm's proprietary light-guide solar optic technology. The tech promises a low-cost way to concentrate light up to 14,000 suns, at up to 30% efficiency.

Fund news
Italian environmental VC Ambienta has closed its first fund at Euro217.5m. Institutional investors include Macquarie and Doughty Hanson.
The fund will invest across the environmental sector, from renewable energy to waste and water management, in the Euro10-30m range.

George Soros has pledged to invest $1bn in clean energy technology. No details as yet, but see Bloomberg for more.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Clean Sweep 71

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

Wave power developer Aquamarine Power raised £10m to support offshore testing of its Oyster device. Investors include Scottish & Southern Energy and Sigma Capital, who previously backed Aquamarine in 2007.
The Oyster is a hydro-electric wave energy converter, which uses the motion of the sea to pump high-pressure water to an on-shore generator. Each device has an effective peak output of 300-600kW. Edinburgh-based Aquamarine says it needs around £50m to commercialise Oyster, and will be launching another funding round shortly.

London-based smart grid operator ResponsiveLoad (aka RLTec) has secured an extra £5.8m. New investors Naxos Capital Partners and Carbon Trust Investments joined Low Carbon Accelerator (which committed an extra £1m).
LCA also announced £283 follow-on funding for quantum well PV developer QuantaSol.

Automotive fuel efficiency group Lysanda has secured a £1.3m second round from the Sustainable Technology Fund, managed by Curzon Park Capital.
Essex-based Lysanda provides emissions monitoring systems such as its Eco-Log product, which allows fleet managers to monitor their vehicles' fuel consumption and emissions based on real-time data from on-board diagnostic systems. In tests, the system delivers average fuel savings of 23%.

Wastewater treatment firm Bluewater Bio has raised a further £2m funding. Aqua Resources Fund, which invested £2.3m April put in another £1.5m.
London-based Bluewater is commercialisting an activated sludge technology called HYBACS, which can reduce the energy consumption and land requirements of treatment plants.

Welsh water monitoring firm Envirogene raised a £500k interim round from Finance Wales, RAB Capital and others. Envirogene, which raised a £1m second round last December, provides molecular diagnostics and nanoparticle tracing technology for the bioremediation and environmental monitoring sectors.

London-based I2BF Venture Capital led a $9m bridging round in South Korean ultracapacitor manufacturer Nesscap. Ultracapacitors are an emerging energy storage tech for automotive, micro-generation and other markets.
I2BF is an energy-focused subsidiary of Russian asset manager Arbat Capital Management.

Austrian biomass developer Cycleenergy secured a Euro10m second round led by the New Energy Fund run by Portugal's Banif Investment Managers. Existing investors 3i and 3TS Capital Partners also joined in.
The funding will allow Cycleenergy to double its current portfolio of three cogeneration plants.

Over the pond, greenconstruction group Serious Materials raised a $60m third round led by Mesirow Financial Capital. The deal is believed to be the largest to date for the energy-efficiency sector.
The California firm produces sustainable building materials such as energy-saving windows and non-gypsum drywall.
Also in Californian green building, Soladigm raised $20.7m - investors include the redoubtable Khosla Ventures and Sigma Partners.

More funding for a couple of Californian microbial biofuel developers: LS9 raised a $25m third round from Chevron Technology Ventures and others; and Amyris announced it had raised $41.75m of its planned $60m third round.

Still in California, solar installer Sungevity raised $6m to expand across the state. New investor Greener Capital led the round.

And San Diego's Achates Power has raised $12.12m of a planned $20m round, with existing investors including Sequoia Capital, InterWest Partners, Rockport Capital Partners and Madrone Capital Partners. Achates is developing a highly efficient diesel engine based on the Junkers Juno, but is keeping details close to its chest.

In one of those slightly tangential deals, Texas-based waste disposal group Liquid Environmental Solutions raised $20m from cleantech specialist Craton Equity Partners. LES specialises in collecting and treating grease and food waste from fast food outlets, school cafes and other establishments - if it's not then recycling it as a biofuel feedstock, it might be missing a trick.

Further reading
Cleantech VC totals topped biotech and ICT for the first time in the third quarter, according to analysis from the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. 134 cleantech companies secured a total $1.59bn, over a quarter of total VC for the quarter.
Some of the biggest individual rounds went to US companies which have secured significant government funding - including rooftop PV provider Solyndra (which last month raised a whopping $198m, mostly from existing investors) and electric car maker Tesla Motors, both of whom received around half a billion's worth of loan guarantees to fund new factories. Now, that's what I call a stimulus.
More quarterly number-crunching from New Energy Finance (pdf, 42kb) - $28.6bn new investment in clean energy, including $2.2bn VC and private equity, plus large doses of asset finance and quoted fundraisings

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced an extra £20m in government-backed venture capital for clean energy. It's not new money, though - it's part of the £405m allocated to the low carbon agenda in this year's Budget.

Li-ion battery developer A123 Systems had a successful IPO last month - Business Insider and Earth2Tech look at how its VC backers did, while Rob Day at Cleantech Investing considers what it might mean for cleantech VC in general.

Finally, cheering news for free energy fans - Ireland's Steorn are coming back undaunted!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Clean Sweep 70

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment. It's been a while since the last one, and there's been plenty happening.

Energy-efficient electronics developer Nujira raised a £10m fourth round from new investor Environmental Technologies Fund, Bank Invest, 3i, Amadeus, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and private investors. The Cambridge-based firm provides a range of technologies to improve the energy efficiency of mobile communication technology, from base stations to handsets, by reducing heat waste.

Electric car spin-out Oxford Yasa Motors (no website as yet) secured £1.45m from Seven Spires Investments. The company is commercialising lightweight electric motors, and is working with Oxfordshire engineering firm Delta Motor Sport on a high-performance coupe.
The motors are based on tech developed at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science. Initial development was supported by £75,000 seed funding from the Oxford University Challenge Seed fund managed by Isis Innovation.

Northern Ireland's Vertical Wind Energy raised a £1.2m round led by NorthStar Equity Investors.
As the name suggests, Vertical Wind Energy produces vertical-axis micro-turbines for domestic and business market. The investment from Newcastle-based NorthStar will be used to establish a new base in the North East, and to launch a new 6KW model.

Troubled Norwegian electric car group Think secured around $47m new capital (including conversion of interim financing) from investors including Ener1, Valmet Automotive and state-backed Investinor. The deal gives battery group Ener1 a 31% stake in Think.
Think also won court approval for its debt settlement plan, putting it back on the road to production.

Estonian-Austrian solar tech developer Crystalsol raised Euro2.5m seed funding from Norwegian VC Energy Future Invest and Finland's Conor Venture Partners.
A spin-out from Tallinn University of Technology, Crystalsol is commercialising PV cells based on copper zinc tin sulfoselenide (CZTS), a material which avoids the need for rare metals like indium and tellurium and which is also suitable for roll-to-roll thin-film production.

French solar installer Aviccia raised Euro2m from AXA Private Equity. The Champagne-based company designs and installs rooftop PV installations for business customers.

Swedish heat pump developer Pemtec landed SKr10m (£870,000) from Nordic cleantech specialist Sustainable Technologies Fund.
Pemtec produces energy collectors for ground source heat pump systems, which offer increased efficiency and groundwater protection.

Three water treatment deals:
BiAqua, a spin-out from the Delft University of Technology, won backing from Icos Capital for its bio-based contamination treatment technology.
Israeli membrane-based separation group BPT closed a $12m second round led by US Venture Partners and Pitango Venture Capital.
And California's Microvi Biotech closed a first round from undisclosed investors.

Deals for a whole bunch of renewable energy operators -
London private equity heavyweight Terra Firma acquired US windfarm developer EverPower in a deal valued at around $350m. Based in New York and Oregon, Everpower has over 800MW of installations in development. Cleantech VC Good Energies, which backed EverPower in 2007, also re-invested.
London-based Climate Change Capital Private Equity backed Italian solar developer Enerqos with Euro10m to support new solar farms in France, Italy and Greece.
Another Italian renewables developer, Elettrostudio Energia secured Euro5m from Crédit Agricole Private Equity. The business is a division of the Elettrostudio energy engineering group, and aims to have 250MW of wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric plant in operation by 2013.
French investor 123Venture and renewables group Frey Nouvelles Energies partnered up to back two energy developers: Solar Mimizan gets Euro2.5m, and biogas operator Mariagaz lands Euro1.5m.
Czech solar plant operator Energy 21 secured Euro15.3m from the Darby Converging Europe Mezzanine Fund (part of US-based Franklin Templeton Investments). The business aims to reach 40MW installed capacity by the end of the year.
Romanian cogeneration company Total Eurobusiness landed Euro6m (and as much again in later tranches) from Spanish investor GED.
And Israeli solar plant operator Arava Power sold a 40% stake to Siemens Project Ventures for $15m. The firm specialises in providing PV installations for kibbutzim.
In the US, utility-scale solar start-up TUUSSO Energy raised $2m from Pivotal Investments to fund early-stage development.

A couple of deals for wind services companies:
American Wind Capital announced undisclosed investment from the Barclays Natural Resource Investments team of Barclays Capital. The Connecticut firm provides landowners with upfront cash instead of longer-term lease payments for hosting wind turbines.
And Australia's Windlab Systems, which specialises in software-based wind-mapping to identify sites, raised A$10m from Lend Lease Ventures ahead of an IPO.

Much-hyped electric car group Tesla Motors has raised a $82.5m sixth round to set up retail stores. London-based Fjord Capital Partners led the deal, along with returning investors including Daimler and Aabar Investments.
California-based Tesla also recently secured a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy.

Domestic fuel cell developer ClearEdge Power reportedly raised a $15m round. The Oregon firm was backed in previous rounds by the Kohlberg Family, Big Basin Partners and Applied Ventures.

Environmental-impact software group Hara raised a $14m second round from JAFCO Ventures, Nth Power and KPCB. Based in California, Hara provides systems to help businesses monitor their energy use and emissions on a software-as-a-service model.

Solar tech start-up eIQ Energy announced $10m from NGEN Partners and Robert Bosch Venture Capital. The Californian firm has developed power-management technology that can boost PV efficiency by installing panels in parallel rather than in series.

A couple of Californian lithium battery deals:
Stealthy Seeo raised $8.6m from Khosla Ventures and others for its nano-structured lithium-polymer tech.
And CFX Battery has secured $5m of a planned $26.9m round, according to regulatory filings.

Biofuel logistics group Woodpellets.com raised a $11m second round from Monitor Clipper Partners and .406 Ventures. As the name suggests, the New Hampshire firm delivers woodpellets and other biofuels for domestic and business customers.

Canadian cleantech VC Chrysalix Energy announced its first investments from its latest fund, with some familiar names: electric motorbike developer Brammo Motorsports; waste-to-fuel group Plas2Fuel; energy long-shot General Fusion; and utility-scale battery developer Primus Power.

Also in Canada, biomass gasification developer Nexterra raised C$7.7m to commercialise its syngas production tech. Investors include BC Bioenergy Network, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, and Ethanol BC.

Fund news
Cleantech goliath Khosla Ventures confirmed it had raised over $1bn new money, including the previously-announced $250m seed fund and a large later-stage fund. It's reckoned to be the largest VC fundraising in the sector since 2007, and also the first time that Khosla's looked to outside investors. Cleantech.com interviews Mr K.

Erstwhile venture champion 3i has sold off the bulk of its European venture portfolio to DFJ Esprit for £130m. The portfolio includes a handful of cleantech plays such as Cambridge-based energy-efficient semiconductor group CamSemi.
The sale marks a decisive step in 3i's move away from its roots in venture and growth plays towards large buyouts and infrastructure investments.

Further reading
The Guardian newspaper presents the Global Cleantech 100 in association with the Cleantech Group and Carbon Trust. There's many familiar names among the world's 'top 100' cleantech firms, as selected by an expert panel.

Following the political fallout over the closure of Vestas' wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, the government comes up with a £4.4m grant for Clipper Windpower to support a new factory in the North East. The money goes towards developing the massive blades for the proposed 10MW 'Britannia' offshore turbine. The Crown Estate has already signed up for the mega-turbine.
DECC is also providing £1m for Artemis Intelligent Power to apply their hydraulic power tech to the wind sector; and £1.1m for Siemens' UK windpower arm to develop power converters for big offshore turbines.

The Carbon Trust unveils details of its tech-sharing joint venture with the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation.

Ashish Patel of Intel Capital has a gloomy view of cleantech VC valuations, in an interview by Environmental Finance.

Fun interactive guide from McKinsey on evaluating the potential of solar technologies.

Earth2Tech provides a round-up of electric and hybrid vehicles on show at the Frankfurt Motor Show. As a Yorkshireman, I particularly like the Volkswagen E-Up.

And finally, who would have reckoned that you can make efficient and affordable solar panels from human hair? The Daily Mail, apparently.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Clean Sweep 69

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

Green cement developer Novacem raised something over £1m from Imperial Innovations, the London Technology Fund and the new Royal Society Enterprise Fund.
A spin-out from Imperial College London, Novacem is developing a cement which absorbs more carbon dioxide over its lifetime than is emitted in its production. Production of regular Portland cement produces around 5% of global CO2 emissions. Novacem estimates that each tonne of conventional cement replaced by its own product will reduce net emissions by .75t of CO2. The firm aims to complete a pilot plant by the end of the year.

Semiconductor technology company Surrey NanoSystems secured £1.75m from investors led by Octopus Ventures. Seed investor IP Group also invested alongside the University of Surrey and private investors.
Spun out from the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute, Surrey NanoSystems is commercialising a low-temperature growth process for carbon nanotubes. Applications include advanced solar cells and fuel cells.

French fuel cell tech group Pragma Industries has raised Euro412,000 from Finaque, Oseo Capital and others.
Based near Biarritz, Pragma supplies test stations and components to PEM fuel cell developers, and is also developing its own 100W-10KW cells.

US biofuel group Amyris Biotechnologies has raised $24.7m of a planned $62m third round, according to a regulatory filing. Investors weren't disclosed, but previous backers include Khosla Ventures and KPCB.
The California firm uses an engineered strain of yeast to produce fuels and other chemicals, from crops and agricultural waste. The firm recently opened a demonstration plant in Brazil using local sugarcane.

KPCB has also reportedly backed water treatment company Applied Process Technology. The California-based firm is commercialising an advanced oxidation process for water treatment and remediation applications.

Controversial electric vehicle company ZAP secured up to $25m in funding from China-focused Cathaya Capital. The package included $5m equity (with options on a further $10m) and a $10m loan facility.
ZAP says it will use the investment to accelerate production and sales of its all-electric vehicles in Europe and China. The Californian firm has drawn criticism for failing to deliver on previous promises, however.

Green plastics developer Novomer announced a $14m second round led by OVP Venture Partners. Previous investors Physic Venture Partners, Flagship Venture Partners and DSM Venturing also joined the round.
The New York company is developing a catalytic method of creating polymers and industrial chemicals using carbon dioxide and monoxide as a feedstock.

Printed electronics developer Plextronics raised $14m from investors led by Belgian chemicals group Solvay. The Pennsylvania firm is commercialising LED lighting and thin-film PV products based on organic inks.

Manufacturing tech group Advanced Electron Beams closed a $14.2m third round led by Flagship Ventures. Previous investors Atlas Venture, General Catalyst Partners, RockPort Capital Partners and Agman Partners, as well as corporate investor GE, also joined in.
Massachusetts-based AEB produces electron beam devices used to sterilise products and packaging in a more energy-efficient way than the thermal and chemical technologies usually used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. The firm is also developing new applications in clean manufacturing and materials engineering.

Small turbine producer Southwest Windpower announced an undisclosed round led by PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund. Previous investors Altira, GE Energy Financial Services, NGP Energy Technology Partners, and Rockport Capital Partners also joined in. Funding goes towards global marketing of its Skystream plug-and-play residential turbine.

Energy management group Power Assure closed a $2.5m first round from DFJ and individual investors. The California firm uses software to help data centres cut their energy use by up to half.

Carbon sequestration company SunOne Solutions raised an undisclosed round from carbon finance group C-Quest Capital. The funding will support national expansion for the Nebraska firm, which specialises in agricultural sequestration projects such as conservation tillage and sustainable forestry which are eligible for carbon credits under various trading regimes.

In a potentially very interesting deal, Canadian fusion energy developer General Fusion secured C$22m funding. GrowthWorks Capital, Braemar Energy Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Ventures and The Entrepreneurs Fund provided C$9m between them, while the state-backed Sustainable Development Canadian Technology Fund is providing up to C$13.9m.
General Fusion is developing a magnetised target fusion reactor in partnership with researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and has a pat-pending technology for collapsing the plasma using low-cost pneumatics. The firm says this can potentially reduce the cost of fusion energy tenfold, allowing it to compete directly with current generation tech.
Like any fusion technology, it's a long shot, but the potential rewards are immense.

Fund news
Whimsically-named German VC The Foo has launched a Euro25m sustainability fund, and is seeking investment from ethical investment houses and individuals. The fund isn't specifically aimed at cleantech, but will have strict environmental and social criteria.

Cleantech stalwart Khosla Ventures closed its new seed-stage fund at $250m. Three quarters of the fund will be aimed at cleantech, with the rest targeted at IT. State pension fund Calpers provided $60m of the total. Khosla is also believed to be raising a $750m later-stage fund.

And NGP Energy Technology Partners has closed its second cleantech fund at $348m, ahead of its $300m target. The Washington DC investor now has around $496m under management.

Further reading
The Carbon Trust has launched an Innovation Awards competition for developers and users of low carbon technologies. Development categories include power, buildings, transport, and industry; and there's also awards for early adoption in the private and public sectors. No cash prize, but it'd be good for marketing.

Good article from the Economist a few weeks ago on Britian's looming energy crunch.

Finally, for fans of speculative fiction, here's the GreenPunk Manifesto.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Clean Sweep 68

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment. I've been laid up with a cold for the past week, so plenty to catch up on.

Cellulosic biofuel developer TMO Renewables has closed a £11m round, with Presnow, Diverso and Libra Advisors joining existing investors Jupiter Asset Management, Noble Group, and RAB Capital.
Guildford-based TMO plans to use thermophilic bacteria, as found in compost heaps, to convert cellulosic waste into ethanol. The firm completed its first demonstration unit earlier this year.

Loughborough-based fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy announced it had raised $30m new equity from existing and new investors.
Intelligent Energy produces a range of PEM fuel cell stacks and power systems, and supporting technologies, and is working with utility and industrial partners including SSE, Suzuki and Boeing. The firm previously raised $13.6m in July 2008.

Climate Change Capital Private Equity has backed a management buyout at building efficiency firm Climate Energy. The Essex-based business advises public and private sector bodies on improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. Funding was not disclosed.

Irish biomass developer Imperative Energy reportedly secured Euro30m venture funding from an un-named London-based venture firm. (Edit: Imperative has confirmed the investment as coming from Rockfield Energy Investments.)

Belgian VC Capricorn Venture Partners has doubled its investment in Norwegian silicon recycler Metallkraft. Capricorn invested NKr33m (Euro3.5m) in the firm in December 2008.
Metallkraft is commercialising a process for recycling the silicon carbine slurry used in the wafer cutting stage of standard PV cell manufacturing. In what it calls an 'ongoing share expansion programme', the Kristiansand company also secured NKr66m from Norwegian fund Investinor last month.

Biggest deal in the US came from PV cell manufacturer Suniva, which confirmed a $75m third round led by new investor Warburg Pincus. Apex Venture Partners, NEA, HIG Ventures and Advanced Equities also joined in. The round actually closed in Q2, making it the biggest solar VC deal for the first half of the year.
Georgia-based Suniva is currently preparing a second 64MW production line for its high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon cells.

Solar installer SunRun raised a $18m second round from Accel Partners and previous investor Foundation Capital. The California firm provides domestic solar electricity systems on a pay-as-you-go lease basis.

A whole bunch of smart grid and energy-monitoring deals. Sequoia Capital led a $32m third round in eMeter, a Californian provider of energy management software for consumers.
Local rival Advanced Telemetry raised an undisclosed second round from Quercus Trust and 21Ventures for its wireless energy management systems.
Energy monitoring and home security provider iControl raised a $23m third round from new investors ADT Security Services, Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital and GE Security, and existing investors Charles River Ventures, Intel Capital and KPCB.
Still in California, smart grid networking firm Grid Net raised an undisclosed third round led by Braemar Energy Ventures, plus previous investors Catamount Ventures, GE Energy Financial Services and Intel Capital.
And Californian-Irish Powervation, which produces IC-based energy management tech, announced a $10m second round from SEP, Intel Capital, Venture Tech Alliance and Fourth Level Ventures.
Intel Capital also invested in energy management group CPower, in an extension of the New York firm's second round (previously closed at $10.7m in April). CPower provides demand response, energy efficiency and other management systems for corporate clients.
It's probably safe to say this is a fairly hot sector at the moment.

Battery tech also remains popular, with thin-film lithium-polymer developer Solicore closing a $13.3m fourth round led by manufacturer Rogers Corp. Previous investors DFJ, Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, OPG Ventures and Firelake Capital also returned. The new funding goes towards ramping up production and global marketing for the Florida firm's batteries, which are used in smart cards, sensors and medical devices.
And printed carbon-zinc battery manufacturer Blue Spark Technologies announced it had raised $1.5m of a planned $5m second round, from Early Stage Partners, Sunbridge Partners and others. The Ohio firm is primarily aiming its products at the battery-assisted RFID market.

Electric car developer Coda Automotive announced a $24m second round from Angeleno Group and a host of individual investors including former Treasury chief Hank Paulson. The Californian company is preparing to launch its electric sedan, powered by Li-ion batteries, in 2010. The new funding goes towards development, marketing, and a battery production joint venture.

Fund news
Chinese cleantech investor Nature Elements Capital is looking to raise $350m to invest in clean energy projects and cleantech manufacturers. The firm is headed by KK Chan, formerly head of Chinese investments for Climate Change Capital. See Environmental Finance for more.

France's Demeter Partners announced a second close, at Euro182m, of its new Demeter 2 fund. The fund will focus on expansion capital opportunities in what Demeter calls 'eco-energies and eco-industries in France and other European countries'.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Clean Sweep 67

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

Green building firm E-Stack has raised £1.1m from growth specialist MMC Ventures. MMC manages funds under the Enterprise Investment Scheme as well as a syndicate of private investors.
A spin-out from Cambridge University, E-Stack produces and installs low-energy ventilation systems based on technology developed at the BP Institute. The firm has installed its systems at eight schools in the UK, and is working on a major retail project.

Also in Cambridge, grid tech developer GenDrive raised undisclosed funding from a business angle syndicate. The firm produces plug-and-play inverters which can connect a range of renewable generators to the grid - its TOTUS product can handle powers of 10-100KW.
Another Cambridge-based inverter developer, Enecsys raised a £6m first round last month.

French electric car developer Lumeneo raised a Euro1.6m round led by Eco-mobility Partners (a fund operated by national transport group SNCF). Objective Gazelle 2 and business angel group XMP-BA also joined in.
The funding goes towards development of Lumeneo's Smera model, a nippy little thing which resembles a four-wheeled enclosed scooter.

German water treatment firm Inge Watertechnologies has closed a Euro5m syndicated round. Baytech Venture Capital joined existing investors Taprogge Watertech, Emerald Technology Ventures, Sustainable Performance Group, Siemens Venture Capital, StoneFund and Entrepreneurs Fund.
Griefenberg-based Inge produces a range of water treatment products using its patented Multibore membrane, which is based on fibres with multiple pores of 20nm diameter arranged in a honeycomb structure.

Norwegian PV manufacturer Innotech Solar has raised a Euro6m second round from Swedish VC Sustainable Technologies Funds and seed investor NorthZone Ventures.
Innotech (formerly known as SCR) specialises in converting 'non-prime' PV cells rejected by other manufacturers into viable modules for large solar power plants. The new funding helps the company move to full-scale production.

Sweden's Mantex secured SKr12m (Euro1.1m) from the VC arm of German utility RWE Innogy. Mantex produces moisture detection systems for wood and crops, with applications in the biomass and waste treatment industries.

Inversiones Financieras Perseo, the private equity wing of Spanish utility Iberdrola is reported to be taking a 25% stake in algal developer AlgaEnergy (beware - their website may play Michael Jackson at you!).
The Madrid firm is developing a range of microalgae-based technologies for absorbing CO2 and producing biofuels and chemicals.
Iberdrola also announced it is applying for up to $500m in US economic stimulus funding for its American wind division.

Over in the US, methane-converter Prometheus Energy raised a reported $20m from the Shell Technology Ventures Fund (managed by Kenda Capital) and Black River Asset Management (part of agri giant Cargill).
Washington-based Prometheus converts low-quality methane-containing gases from landfill sites, farms, stranded oilwells and coalbeds into relatively clean-burning liquid natural gas. In many cases, the gas would otherwise be burned off or vented into the atmosphere.

California-based CPV developer SolFocus closed its third round at $77.6m. Apex Venture Partners led the round, with new investors including Demeter Partners and Advanced Equities, and previous investors New Enterprise Associates, NGEN and Yellowstone Capital.
SolFocus announced the round's first close at $47m in January. Funds go to ramp up production.

Massachusetts solar start-up Greenray meanwhile closed a $2m first round from Quercus Trust and 21Ventures. The firm produces plug-and-play PV modules for the residential market.

In another solar-related deal, printed electronics developer Kovio raised $20m from existing investors including Bessemer Venture Partners and KPCB. The California company prints silicon electronics onto thin film, using much less energy and hazardous chemicals than traditional manufacturing. Kovio is currently focused on RFID circuits and display technology, but is understood to be considering a move into thin-film PV.
And chemicals group Voltaix raised $9m from Novus Energy Partners. The New Jersey firm produces precursors for semiconductor layers in solar cells.

Domestic electronics group company Control4 raised $17.3m to develop a new range of energy management and display products. Best Buy Capital, Mercato Partners and University Venture Fund joined previous investors Foundation Capital, Frazier Technology Ventures, Thomas Weisel Venture Partners and vSpring Capital.

Energy-efficient cooling and energy systems developer Turbine Air Systems raised at least $15m (and possibly up to $50m) in a round led by Element Partners. The Houston-based group is targeting the renewables sector with products such as heat recovery systems for the geothermal and waste-to-energy markets.

Fund news
Anglo-German cleantech specialist WHEB Ventures announced a third closing of its second fund, WHEB Ventures Private Equity 2 LP, at £90m. Investors include family trusts for the Rothschilds and the Bamfords, as well as two German state-backed investors. WHEB also announced a number of new appointments in its Munich office.

Climate Change Capital raised an additional £13.85m for their Ventus Funds, bringing the total to over £50m. The Ventus Funds operate under the VCT regime, and are focused on small-to-medium onshore renewable projects in the UK.

Further reading
Results from Energy Saving Trust field trials suggest limited prospects for the domestic wind turbine market. Such small turbines do work, and have the potential to produce some 3,500GWh annually in the UK (equivalent to about 3.1% of domestic energy demand), but only if they're properly installed in appropriate locations. Previous studies found that, in most cases, output would not justify the installation costs - to be honest, the conclusions of this new report aren't radically different.

Results from the Manchester Report on potential climate change solutions, as trailed in May. Jointly run by the Manchester International Festival and the Guardian newspaper, the project identified 'twenty ideas that could save the world' - most of them familiar to regular readers, and many already in the VC-funded pipeline.

And if you missed it yesterday, the long-awaited UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and other plans from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The highlights from me; coverage in the FT and Guardian; responses from the Carbon Trust and Renewable Energy Association.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Low carbon transition plan, and more

A busy day in policy land, with a suite of strategy documents and grand green plans emerging from Whitehall.

The big one is the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, detailing how the country can meet its binding target of cutting greenhouse emissions by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020 (or, more pertinently, by 18% from 2008 levels).

Key elements, many of which have been previously announced, include producing around 30% of electricity from renewables, overseen by a new government Office for Renewable Energy Deployment; investing £3.2bn in domestic energy efficiency, with smart meters in every home by 2020; major grid investment, with a smart grid 'policy road map' due next spring; and funding up to four CCS demonstration projects, overseen, inevitably, by a new Office of Carbon Capture and Storage.

For more, see the full white paper (pdf 3.8mb).

Plans for supporting business are set out in more detail in the final version of the UK Low Carbon Industrial Strategy (pdf 1.7mb), as announced in March.

I can't see a great deal of hard new information, but there's some details of the first allocations from the £405m low-carbon and green-manufacturing support announced in April's budget: up to £120m for offshore wind; £60m for wave and tidal; £15m to establish a Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre; an extra £10m for electric vehicle charging infrastructure; £6m for renewable construction materials; £12m for green chemicals; and an extra £4 for the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

There's also discussion of a lot of previously announced initiatives, including the UK Innovation Investment Fund intended to 'close the financing gap' for new technologies, including low-carbon tech; and proposals for overhauling the national grid.

Meanwhile, the renewable energy strategy (pdf 4mb) details how the UK might achieve 15% of energy from renewables by 2020, a seven-fold increase on today. As well as 30% of electricity, the plan is for 12% of heat (from biomass, biogas, solar thermal, etc) and 10% of transport energy (from electric vehicles and further rail electrification).

The Renewables Obligation, the main regime for promoting renewable electricity, will be extended (to 2037) and expanded for large-scale generation - although, among other tweaks, RO support will be limited to 20 years for individual projects. Smaller-scale projects will benefit from a Renewable Heat Incentive from 2011 and feed-in tariffs from 2010 for projects of up to 5MW. Details will depend on the ongoing consultation on renewable electricity financial incentives, which is open till October.

Finally, there's more from the Department for Transport on low carbon transport, including proposed criteria for the consumer incentives for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, expected to apply from 2011. For more, see the DfT carbon reduction strategy (pdf 1.5mb).

Friday, 3 July 2009

Clean Sweep 66

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

Next-gen solar cell developer QuantaSol has closed a funding round at just under £2m from existing investors Low Carbon Accelerator and Imperial Innovations. LCA is investing £1.175m in two rounds, and also converting an existing £400k loan into equity.
QuantaSol, a spin-out from Imperial College London, also announced that it has achieved a record efficiency of 28.3% for its single-junctioned gallium-arsenide PV cell. The firm's cells, which it believes are the most efficient single junction cells ever manufactured, are intended for use in concentrating PV systems - the record was set with incident light equivalent to 500 cells. QuantaCell is now preparing to build multi-junction cells of potentially even higher efficiency.

Tyre recycler Crumb Rubber has secured £4m from Foresight Group, a very active investor in waste management businesses.
Based in Plymouth, Crumb converts old tyres into fine rubber powders with a range of uses including replica slate tiles.

Bringing cleantech to cleaning, Leeds University spin-out Xeros raised £920k from investors led by Enterprise Ventures. The firm is commercialising a laundry process using polymer beads which it says can cut water use by 90%. Xeros has already partnered with US group GreenEarth Cleaning to sell its product in North America.

French renewables developer Neoen has raised Euro20m from Crédit Agricole Private Equity's Capenergie fund and the Louis Dreyfus group. Paris-based Neoen is a majority-owned subsidiary of the Direct Energie group, and operates solar, wind and biomass projects.

Paris-based climate change intelligence firm Climpact raised Euro4m from NextStage and existing investor Elaia Partners. A spin-out from Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Climpact provides business and climate data to help clients manage weather-related risks.

Californian solar installer SPG Solar closed a $13m round led by Global Environment Fund and Robeco. The new funds support national and international growth and materials sourcing.

And Colorado-based algal start-up Solix Biofuels closed its first round at $16.8m. Shanghai Alliance Investment joined a suite of US VCs in the round, which had previously been announced at $10.5m last November.
The funding supports the completion of the firm's Coyote Gulch demonstration facility, which is scheduled to start biodiesel production by the end of summer.

Fund news
Abu Dhabi's Masdar initiative is preparing a new cleantech fund of at least $250m. Its current $250m Masdar Clean Tech Fund, launched in 2006 in partnership with Credit Suisse, Consensus Business Group and Siemens, is already fully invested.

Further reading
Second quarter investment stats from the usual sources -
New Energy Finance (pdf 20kb) finds a strong bounceback in Europe thanks to big deals in offshore wind and solar. Total investment in clean energy totalled $24.3bn, almost double Q1's but still down on last year's figures. Total VC funding reached $1.2bn, but is still showing a disproportionate fall from previous highs.
GTM Research counted over $1.2bn VC in 85 companies, up by almost half on Q1 figures. Solar again led with $330m total, and marked increases in automotive and energy storage.
And the Cleantech Group also counted $1.2bn VC in 94 companies - but with just $114m for solar, the lowest total for three years, and transportation in the lead.

The new Clean Tech Revolution campaign from the UK government-backed Carbon Trust aims to quantify the economic benefits of cleantech commercialisation. The UK could generate up to £70 billion for the economy and almost 250,000 jobs in offshore wind and wave power alone, they reckon.

The Renewable Energy Snapshots (pdf 290kb) from the EC's Joint Research Centre detail the contribution of wind, solar and biomass towards the 2020 targets. Current capacity exceeds the 2010 targets proposed in 1997, but more investment in infrastructure and distribution is needed.

PwC's Capitalizing on a climate of change report details the likely impact of climate change and related issues on fundraising and M&A, noting:
In addition to the increasing importance of carbon in M&A activity, capital-raising transactions can be expected to increase in the clean technology field[...]It is becoming progressively more apparent that the public perceives clean technology companies as investments capable of generating a profitable return.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Clean Sweep 65

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

Cambridge solar tech start-up Enecsys has raised a £6m first round led by Wellington Partners. Denmark's BankInvest New Energy Solutions also joined the round.
A spin-out from the University of Cambridge, Enecsys is commercialising a micro-inverter for solar PV modules. By getting rid of components such as electrolytic capacitors which have a short expected lifespan, the company says its 'PVKey' inverters can match the 20-year-plus life of a basic PV module, with cost savings of up to 25%.
The deal comes just weeks after a rival micro-inverter developer, California-based Enphase Energy, raised a $22.5m third round.

Wellington Partners also joined Kleiner Perkins and Munich Venture Partners in an undisclosed round in German biomass gasification firm Agnion.
Agnion is commercialising a heatpipe reformer developed at the Technical University of Munich to produce syngas from wood pellets. The firm says the reformer, when coupled with a fuell cell in a small-scale CHP unit, can achieve electrical efficiency of up to 35%, comparable with that achieved in large installations.

London-based VC Frog Capital has doubled its stake in specialist waste recycler SiC Processing after buying out other shareholders.
Frog (then known as Foursome Investments) joined a Euro53.4m round in SiC in October 2007, led by Zouk Ventures. Merrill Lynch Corporate Principal Investments Group, CC Private Equity Partners and Masdar Clean Tech Fund also invested, alongside existing investors and the founding Heckmann family. Frog hasn't croaked on which shareholders it bought out, or what it paid.
SiC, based in Germany, operates an international network of silicon carbide slurry recycling plants for the solar and semiconductor wafer industries.

Dutch renewable energy developer Econcern, which raised a whopping Euro300m from institutional investors in May last year, has declared bankruptcy. Energy group Eneco has taken on the bulk of its wind, solar and biomass operations, while Orbeo takes over the OneCarbon offsetting division.
Econcern announced a major restructuring in April, blaming the credit crisis and recession.

A busy week for clean car developers. Norway's troubled Think raised NKr250m (c£23m) capital from new and existing investors. The firm, backed by a heavyweight array of VCs and corporate investors including DFJ, Rockport and GE, says it can now get closer to resuming production and start delivering vehicles this year.
California's Tesla Motors, which is collaborating with Think on batteries, meanwhile secured $465m low-interest loans from the US Department of Energy.
More modestly, electric tricycle developer Myers Motors raised $250,000 from JumpStart Inc for product and IP development.
And stealthy efficient auto company V-Vehicle revealed undisclosed backing from Kleiner Perkins and oil-tycoon-turned-renewables-evangelist T Boone Pickens. Details of the firm's tech are still elusive, but it'll be building a factory in Louisiana. See Greentech Media for more.

Khosla Ventures has quietly invested $12.5m in stealthy Alabama-based cellulosic ethanol company Cello Energy. Again, see Greentech for more.

Energy efficiency software provider Optimum Energy secured $4.5m in a deal led by Columbia Pacific Advisors. The Seattle-based firm says its software can improve the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems by up to 60%.

In an interesting early-stage wind tech deal, Accio Energy raised undisclosed seed funding from the University of Michigan's Frankel Commercialization Fund. Accio says its turbine-free Aerovoltaic tech 'harvests energy by using the wind to move electrically charged particles against a voltage gradient', apparently using MEMS devices to create ionised water droplets which are pushed through pipes by the wind. The firm promises to release more details next year.

Fund news
UK ethical bank Triodos has launched a new venture fund aimed at 'small but growing green businesses in the UK'. The Triodos EIS Green Fund, operating under the government's Enterprise Initiative Scheme, will invest up to £2m in firms operating in renewables, energy efficiency, sustainability and waste recycling.
Triodos is also preparing to raise a second such fund.

Anglo-German cleantech specialist WHEB Ventures has launched a sister company to invest in listed equities. WHEB Asset Management will invest globally, and is targeting a £50m close for its first fund, the IM WHEN Sustainability Fund.

Further reading
Initial findings from a study of cleantech financing show a widening of the 'valley of death' - a dramatic name for the gap between early development-led VC financing, and commercialisation backed by private equity or project finance. In a study of investment data since 2004, New Energy Finance and the US-based Clean Energy Group found that the number of later-stage deals has declined, although average size has increased. The problem has been exacerbated by the ongoing credit crunch and general crisis, they say. For more details, see the NEF press release (pdf 116kb). The full study is due to complete in August.

The synthesis report (pdf 4.2mb) from March's climate change congress urges wider deployment of existing cleantech -
Although there is no “silver bullet” – no single renewable technology that can replace fossil fuels in their totality – a mix of technologies can allow different countries and regions to develop their own renewable energy combinations to meet their own needs. Technologies are already available that, in combination with changes on the demand side - reduced energy usage and improved energy efficiency – give the potential to achieve a 50% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2050 and, in some regions, to reduce emissions to virtually zero by that time. Reaching such goals, however, requires rapid, substantial build-up of production capacity through concerted investments; a stable policy framework; and research, development and demonstration to facilitate technology learning and reduce production costs.
Some technologies such as basic PV which are not appropriate for power generation in the developed world may still be important for developing countries, the report notes.

Are European renewables developers avoiding thin-film PV? GTM Research's Daniel Englander reckons so, thanks to the credit crunch and general risk aversion.

The Guardian reports on progress on the ambitious Desertec project to link Europe to concentrating solar installations in North Africa. A consortium of 20 German corporates are preparing to back the Euro400bn project.

Optimistic news on potential wind resources from a Harvard research team, as reported in New Scientist:
The team's model suggests that the top 10 carbon dioxide-emitting countries, except possibly Japan, could generate all of their current and projected electricity needs from onshore wind turbines that are already commercially available.
The full paper is available from PNAS.

Finally, remember Steorn, the Irish tech developer which claimed to have come up with a free energy device based on spinning magnets? The 'jury' of scientists and engineers recruited from the famous Economist ad have announced their conclusion -
The unanimous verdict of the Jury is that Steorn's attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy. The jury is therefore ceasing work.
Alas. Cheerily, the company remains unbowed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Clean Sweep 64

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

AlertMe, a Cambridge-based producer of domestic energy monitoring systems, has raised an £8m second round from Good Energies, Index Ventures, SET Venture Partners and VantagePoint Venture Partners. The money goes towards product development and establishing distribution links with retailers and utilities.
AlertMe provides a range of sensors, smart plugs and monitors to track energy use, all based on the Zigbee standard, which it says can cut energy use by a quarter. Energy management systems aimed squarely at consumers seems to be a bit of a niche for the UK - other VC-backed companies include Onzo and GEO.
US 'energy ecosystem' developer Tendril, which concentrates on linking utilities with consumers, meanwhile raised a $30m third round led by VantagePoint. Good Energies also invested, alongside RRE Ventures, Vista Ventures and Appian Ventures.
As has been noted, the two could make for an attractive merger before too long.

VantagePoint is also backing algal biofuel group Solazyme, which announced it had raised $76m funding including a recently closed third VC round at $57m. The round was first reported to have closed at $45m last September, led by Braemar Energy Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The new funds go towards commercialising Solazyme's technology, which identifies and engineers microbes to produce fuels and chemicals.

Solar tech firm Semprius closed a $6.4m second round, with In-Q-Tel and GVC Investment Fund joining existing investors ARCH Venture Partners, Applied Ventures, Illinois VENTURES and Intersouth Partners.
The North Carolina firm is targeting the concentrating PV market with its micro-transfer printing technology which promises to cut the costs of module production.

International Battery has raised a $10m second round from existing investors led by Digital Power Capital. In a sign of the times, the funding announcement was hidden under the news that the Pennsylvania firm is asking the Department of Energy for stimulus funding.
International Battery produces a range of heavy-duty rechargeable Li-ion and nickel-cobalt-manganese cells for vehicle, military and utility applications.

San Francisco water purification start-up AquaGenesis has raised an undisclosed first round from local VC Clean Pacific Ventures.
The firm holds rights a continuous electrodeionisation technology, developed at Siemens, which uses ion exchange membrane, resins and electrical potential to purify water. The basic tech is already used in pharmaceutical, semiconductor and power applications, but AquaGenesis is adapting it for the domestic and food service markets.

New rounds for a couple of high intensity discharge lighting companies - the Khosla-backed Topanga Technologies raised $3.45m; while Israel's Metrolight took around $3m from existing investors including Virgin Green Funds, Gemini Israel Funds and Israel Cleantech Ventures.

Further reading
The Guardian reports on a parliamentary motion supporting the mass rollout of solar PV in the UK, based on current proposals for introducing a feed-in tariff for small installations. It's had more support than any other such motion in the current parliament, which is nice. But is PV really the best tech for the UK (or, if you'd rather, is the UK really the best place to put PV modules to work)?

In the wake of Mayor BoJo's electric car proposals, London's inward investment agency has been pitching in San Francisco for electric car expertise and investment. Earth2Tech reports.

News from the cleantech innovation marketplace at this week's World Innovation Summit in Barcelona.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Top ten VCs

To mark the second anniversary of Clean Ventures, here's an informal ranking of the most active equity investors in UK cleantech companies.

The VCs are primarily ranked by the number of investments from June 2007 to date, as identified from the 'Clean Sweep' deal round-ups on this website. Where two or more investors had equal numbers of deals, I've given preference to large deals and leading investors.

It's inevitably somewhat subjective, partly because there's not always agreement on exactly what counts as cleantech, but I hope it's an interesting and informative exercise.

1. Foresight Group
Investments: Vertal; 2K Manufacturing; Silvigen; Land Energy; AWP Environmental; Lynwood; O-Gen UK.
Foresight has been backing growth companies for 25 years, and has developed an active niche in waste management and biomass. The Kent-based firm has a five-strong investment team focusing on environmental and cleantech opportunities, as well as a growing team dedicated to solar investment across Europe.
Foresight typically invests between £1-5m, and leads larger syndicated rounds. It has a number of funds managed under the government-supported Venture Capital Trust (VCT) regime and the Enterprise Investment Scheme, and recently launched two institutional funds focused on environmental infrastructure and European solar.

2. Carbon Trust Investments
Investments: Acal Energy; 4energy; Whitfield Solar; CamSemi; Green Biologics; Evince Technologies.
The investment wing of the emissions-cutting quango is a very active investor in UK clean energy companies. Recent investments cover fuel cells, energy efficiency, biofuels and solar tech.
Carbon Trust Investments, headed by former BVCA chief executive Peter Linthwaite, has two core funds: the Low Carbon Seed Fund backs early stage companies with £250k-500k equity; and the Clean Energy Fund invests up to £3m in partnership with private sector VCs. Recent partners include Catapult Venture Managers, Oxford Capital Partners, 3i, Scottish Equity Partners and chemicals group Solvay.
Seed investments such as wave energy group ORECon have gone on to raise significant VC rounds.
The Carbon Trust also provides grants and other support for early-stage cleantech companies through a range of innovation programmes.

3. Low Carbon Accelerator
Investments: ProVen Energy; RLtec; Eco-Solids; QuantaSol; HelioDynamics.
AIM-listed Low Carbon Accelerator focuses on early stage and growth opportunities in emissions-cutting companies. Recent UK investments include smart grid, wind turbines, thin-film and concentrating solar, and waste-to-energy. The firm also invests in North America and Europe.
LCA tends to initially invest £350k-2.5m, adding extra equity as growth targets are met. The firm aims to build a significant minority holding in its portfolio companies, typically 15-35%.
The firm was launched on AIM in October 2006 by management firm Low Carbon Investors, raising £44.5m. The Royal Bank of Scotland is a major shareholder.

4. SSE Ventures
Investments: Geothermal International; Onzo; Insource Energy; Vital Energi; Solarcentury.
The corporate venturing arm of utility giant Scottish and Southern Energy, SSE Ventures focuses on growth companies which support its parent's activities. Recent investments include heat pump, CHP, waste-to-energy and solar generation as well as smart grid technology.
SSE invests from £250k-15m, often in partnership with financial sector VCs.

5. Imperial Innovations
Investments: Nexeon; Evince Technology; EVO Electric; Quantasol.
The technology transfer wing of Imperial College London, Imperial Innovations is a leader in taking clean technologies out of the lab and into the market. Its portfolio includes electric motors, batteries and quantum-well photovoltaics, all based on tech developed at Imperial and associated research institutions.
Imperial Innovations typically invests £250,000-5m, often in partnership with other tech VCs, and also provides incubation and support services.

6. Oxford Capital Partners
Investments: Exosect; Microbial Solutions; Green Biologics; Inetec.
Oxford Capital Partners is a classic tech VC with a liking for green chemistry and waste-to-energy. The firm tends to invest £500k-1.5m in syndicated rounds of up to £10m, plus follow-on rounds. As the name suggests, it's based in one of the UK's main science clusters.

7. Environmental Technologies Fund
Investments: Metalysis; Novel Polymer Solutions; Perpetuum.
London-based ETF claims to be Europe's first dedicated cleantech fund backed entirely by financial institutions, closing its first fund at £110m in early 2008. Focusing on clean manufacturing, ETF looks to invest Euro5m-12m over a number of rounds, usually in partnership with other VCs.

8. Sustainable Technology Fund
Investments: Alternative Waste Solutions; Envirotreat; Morgan Everett.
The £20m Sustainable Technology Fund was established by early-stage VC E-Synergy under the government ECF scheme, but has recently been spun out as new fund manager Curzon Park Capital. The fund typically invests £500k-2m in a syndicated round, and has largely concentrated on waste treatment.

9. Finance Wales
Investments: Envirogene; Atraverda; Inetec.
Another state-backed investor, Finance Wales backs growth SMEs in the principality in rounds of up to £1m equity. Recent cleantech investments cover environmental diagnostics, batteries and waste-to-energy tech.

10. Good Energies
Investments: Alertme; Solarcentury.
One of the world's most active cleantech VCs, Good Energies has remained relatively wary of the UK, co-investing in selected opportunities in energy management and solar installation. Globally, the Swiss-based group focuses on solar and wind power, with extensive interests in both technology and generation, and is expanding into energy efficiency.