Thursday, 1 January 2009

The year that was

A round-up of some the most notable deals and developments of 2008, month by month -

Khosla Ventures and KPCB announced clean motoring deals at the Detroit Auto Show. In the first direct investment by a Wall Street major in a cleantech VC, Morgan Stanley bought into NGEN Partners.

Two German thin-film developers raised big rounds - $40m for CIS developer Odersun and Euro48m for recycled silicon specialist Ersol. In the US, silicon developer Suniva and solar concentrating tech group Infinia raised $50m each.

UK wave energy developer ORECon netted a $24m first round from an international syndicate of VCs. In the US, LED developer Luminus raised $72m in the largest round to date for solid-state lighting.

US investors looked to European solar, with Malta-based SunRay Renewable Energy announcing an initial $200m deal with Denham Capital. Cellulosic ethanol heated up with a $100m+ second round in Range Fuels.

Dutch renewables group Econcern raised Euro300m from institutional investors. Solar supplier SunEdison raised $131m while solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy took $115m. Cleantech stalwart KPCB announced a new $500m fund.

Algal biofuel was flavour of the month in the US, with Sapphire Energy raising $50m and Aurora Biofuels taking $20m. RockPort Capital Partners closed its third cleantech fund at $453m.

Thin-film solar made it big in Europe, with Intel Capital and Climate Change Capital leading a Euro85m round in Germany's Sulfurcell. Welsh group G24i took $30m from 4RAE, barely a month after securing $20m from Morgan Stanley.

Thin-film also dominated the US, with a $300m 'strategic equity financing' in California's Nanosolar, and $104 second round for AVA Solar. Private equity heavyweight Blackstone launched a dedicated cleantech energy group.

Smart grid developer GridPoint raised $120m, a few weeks before Silver Spring Networks announced a $75m round. The UK's Green Energy Options was one of several companies over the year to raise money for domestic energy monitors.

Stealthy thin-film solar developer Solyndra dominated the news after announcing up to $600m funding from some of the biggest names in VC. Terra Firma Capital Partners prepared to invest £1.2bn in UK wind farms.

Carbon management software developers Clear Standards and Planet Metrics raised first rounds, as did carbon-trading software provider Carbonflow. Foresight Group announced a new £300m fund to support roll-out of its portfolio companies.

Cellulosic biofuel group Coskata was the first company to win the publicised backing of Blackstone's new cleantech fund, in a $45m round. Thin-film developer Konarka meanwhile turned to corporate investors for development funding.

I prepared this round-up as part of a full review of the year in cleantech VC, to appear in the next issue of Cleantech Magazine. As well as an overview of the trends moving the market in 2008. the full feature includes a peek at what 2009 might bring, based on interviews with some leading investors from Europe and the US. The general mood is one of cautious optimism...

Happy new year to all.

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