Friday, 9 January 2009

Clean Sweep 53

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

French domestic heating specialist Cede has raised Euro5m from funds managed by Turenne Capital.
Cede, based near Nantes, says its systems can cut domestic heating bills by 75%. Its heat pumps can provide heating in winter and act as a cooling air-con substitute in summer. The firm also supplies high-efficiency electric heaters.

Concentrating solar firm SolFocus announced a first close of its rolling third round at $47.5m. Apex Venture Partners led the investment, with previous investors New Enterprise Associates and NGEN Partners returning to the table. The firm says it expects to close the round later this month at $60-70m.
SolFocus installed its first commercial CPV system last year, a 500KW installation in Spain, and aims to have 100MW up and running by the end of next year.
The California firm closed its previous round at $63.6m in November 2007.

Elsewhere in the ever-busy solar space, Israel's SolarEdge has announced a $23m second round led by Vertex Venture Partners. Genesis Partners, Walden International and Opus Capital, which led the company's $11m first round a year ago also joined in the new round. Details of SolarEdge's tech remain scanty, but Vertex says it is 'developing advanced power-harvesting solutions for photovoltaic arrays that will lower the average cost per watt produced' by improving 'the power conversion capacity of photovoltaic panels'.

A few updates to previous solar stories:
Details have emerged (after some digging by PE Week Wire) about the latest, fifth round in US CIGS developer Solyndra, announced (in a high-profile but low-detail way) in October - the actual round totalled $219m, with investors including Argonaut Ventures, US Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
Meanwhile, thin-film silicon developer Xunlight landed a $7m loan from the state of Ohio to build its first factory. That follows a $22m second round last May which was intended to take the firm into commercial production.
And SpectraWatt, the Intel spin-off which raised $50m last June, has halted work on its planned 60MW capacity factory in Oregon, blaming the credit freeze. See the Oregonian for more. I suspect this won't be the last story we see of this kind.

Cellulosic ethanol business Zeachem raised a $34m second round to help build its first biorefinery. The round was led by Globespan Capital Partners and PrairieGold Venture Partners, and included existing investors MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures, Firelake Capital and refinery group Valero Energy Corporation.
Zeachem says its combined bio- and thermo-chemical processes can produce 40% more ethanol from biomass than any known competitor. It plans to start work on its 1.5mG/a plant in Oregon this year - let's hope it fares better in that state than SpectraWatt.

Good vibes for energy efficiency start-up Positive Energy, with a $14m round from New Enterprise Associates. The Virginia-based company provides services such as home energy reports and demand response software to utilities.
Also in energy management tech, California's Sentilla raised a $7.5m round from Onset Ventures and Claremont Creek Ventures. The firm is developing wireless sensor networks (pervasive computing, in the jargon) to help commercial customers monitor their energy use.

Further reading
The Cleantech Group is first out the traps with its end-of-year investment stats - $8.4bn venture investment globally, up 38% on 2007 and marking the seventh consecutive year of growth. The rate did slow in the last quarter, however, ending up 4% down on Q4 '07. Overall, solar took 40% of the money, with US thin-film groups NanoSolar, Solyndra and SoloPower taking over $700m between them.
Europe (including Israel) took 21% of the total, with $1.8bn in 146 disclosed rounds. Total UK investment slumped 11% to $338bn, leaving Germany in the European top seat.

Quercus Trust, the California-based cleantech specialist VC, is one of the most active but secretive investors in the field. Michael Kanellos at Greentech Media has been doing some further digging into its sprawling portfolio, identifying 47 companies that have won its backing.

A sad farewell to Library House, the Cambridge-based research consultancy that did much to study and promote the European cleantech venture market through pioneering reports, the Essential Cleantech conferences, and the Cleantech 100 list.
The firm, founded by former Dragons' Den guru Doug Richard in 2002, apparently ran into cashflow problems last year and entered administration shortly before christmas. Its database assets have now been acquired by Dow Jones, part of News Corporation, to be combined with its VentureSource service. See the DJ press release for more information.

And finally... another News Corporation organ addresses the key issue facing the UK wind power industry, as the Sun declares UFO hits wind turbine.
The Financial Times has a rather more sober version, including some inside information from energy correspondent Ed Crooks on the likely source of the 'strange lights' (also see the Media Guardian). Site operators Ecotricity seem to be enjoying the publicity, anyway.

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