Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Keronite, Ze-Gen, Start Green, and various backlogged news items

  • Keronite, which is using a plasma electrolytic oxidation process to improve the surface characteristics of aluminum and magnesium so they can be used in place of heavier steel, raised a GBP10.2mm private placement. The major funders included Hotbed business angels, RAB Capital, Bank of Scotland Growth Equity, Quester, Fidelity, and New Star. GBP5.5mm will be used to pay off shareholder loans and bridge financing.
  • Yet another new cleantech investor on the European scene, as Start Green has been formed in the Netherlands. The firm plans to deploy 8mm euro into sustainable technology startups in the region. Fortis Venturing, Triodos Innovation Fund, and DOEN Participaties have provided the funds.
  • Energy storage news: Good articles with updates on energy storage technologies here and here...

Used Cardboard Boxes, Waste Remedies, and Altira

  • Waste Remedies, a consulting firm that focuses on waste disposal optimization for property managers, manufacturers and retail / restaurants, announced a raise of $8.5mm from Advantage Capital Partners, Southwest Bank of St. Louis, and management. Advantage provided $2.3mm of the raise.
  • In cleantech investor news, today's VentureWire mentioned that energy tech investor Altira Group is out raising a new fund.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tonight's REBN happy hour: A sign of the times

Thanks very much to the Antenna Group and Nick Allen for pulling together a terrific happy hour tonight. Many good renewables conversations flowing around the room.

They said there were 70 rsvps, but it certainly seemed like the crowd was bigger than that.

One of the better REBN events so far. Next time we'll have to have door prizes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Biorem, Biox and other news

  • (self-promotion alert) It was recently announced that Expansion Capital Partners' Clean Technology Fund II, LP has agreed to purchase an additional 1,700,000 shares in Biorem Inc. Biorem's proprietary biofiltration media is used to control air pollution in municipal and industrial applications. They're publicly-traded on the TSX Venture (BRM.V). This agreement would bring Expansion Capital's total ownership up to 25.9% of outstanding shares.
  • Courtesy of Tyler: Another Canadian cleantech company, Biox Corp., raised C$70mm, including C$48mm from Birch Hill Equity Partners. The company's proprietary biodiesel production process has already been implemented in one commercial scale plant in Ontario.

Other news and notes: Solar in California got a boost with the recent signing of the new state solar law -- but the really interesting data is found here, where Excel junkies can download several years' worth of solar system sizing and cost data for the state... Zenergy becomes the latest cleantech company to do an AIM listing... Finally, looking forward to seeing everyone for the Antenna Group - Renewable Energy Business Network happy hour at the 111 Minna Gallery tonight at 6pm.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Infinite Power and infinite power

  • PE Week Wire reported today that thin-film battery developer Infinite Power Solutions, which has applications in smart cards, RFID, and other uses, raised $35mm in a Series A-1. PEWW notes that shareholders (both new and any pre-existing) include Core Capital Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, SpringWorks LLC, D.E. Shaw, Advanced Energy Technology, Dow Corning and Symmorphix Inc. Dow and UniSource Energy put in $5mm back in 2003, and also provided some coatings technology at that time.

Other fun news: An Irish microgenerator company, Steorn, put a big ad in The Economist this past week challenging "the world's scientists" to test their claims that they've developed a generator which achieves better than 100% efficiency. That's right, infinitely free power. [8/21 update: More on Steorn here]

This is not the first company to claim they have figured out a way around the laws of physics. Black Light Power announced they've taken in $50mm in investments earlier this year -- the company seems to be using a catalyst to entice the electrons in hydrogen atoms to drop to a lower energy state (even lower than the ground state...), in the process releasing photons, and they claim that the solution provides enough power to drive the electrolysis necessary to get the hydrogen in the first place with extra to spare (but... where does the catalyst come from?). The WSJ found (note: pdf) some knowledgeable people who took a look and came away impressed, sometimes writing checks.

And let's not forget Magnetic Power (and others) and their zero point energy efforts, as well as FuPower's magnet-based technology for which they claim "government laboratory testers comment on their report that no existing physics theory can explain this extraordinary energy-producing phenomenon." (But their website appears to be down, so this link is to a Google cached page) (Some other description is available here, just scroll down.)

Readers are invited to submit other companies that they feel would help fill out the competitor set...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hycrete, Kergy and other news

  • Hycrete, which provides waterproofing and anti-corrosion materials for concrete, announced a Series B financing (amount undisclosed) by NGEN and Rockport. The company's additives can eliminate the need for membranes and other materials in construction, as well as providing other benefits such as extending structural lifetime, etc. Notably, green architect (and "cradle to cradle" proponent) Bill McDonough is an advisor to the company. This also seems like a useful excuse to point out this article on green buildings in NYC.
Some other news and notices:
  • And in news of cleantech efforts outside of the Bay Area, Tyler Hamilton had this useful article about the rapid rise of cleantech investing up in Canada. You can also see his blog post about it here.
Other notes: Given the overlaps between nanotech and cleantech (here's yet another example), it's useful to note that overall investments in nanotech seem to have declined 39% in the first half of the year.... Add another VC to the cleantech investor list: DCM's Hurst Lin says they're looking to invest in "traditional industries" (including clean energy technologies) in China... "There's a lot of vibration in this space."... The solar consolidation trend continues -- this time it's a financial group moving downstream into installation services, interestingly... Treehugger interviews Joel Makower... Lastly, solar panels and wind power are "urgently requested" to save lives: the US Army wants more renewable energy systems in Iraq. At $100/gallon, it makes sense, and it's yet another validation that these clean energy technologies are accepted and ready for prime time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SensorTran, Plextronics, and REG

  • (self-promotion alert) Fiber optic sensor developer SensorTran announced a $5.5mm Series B round of financing, led by Expansion Capital Partners and including participation by WHEB Ventures and Stonehenge Capital. There was a good description of the company's technology and products, as well as some of the applications it can address, in this story from last thursday (note: access may req. free registration). Suffice to say, recent news headlines in energy infrastructure (examples here and here) have certainly highlighted some of the potential uses of SensorTran's technology. Sensors and monitoring systems remain a key enabler for a broad range of cleantech applications, and SensorTran's distributed sensing technology is yet another great example.
  • Plextronics, which has advanced technology for printed electronics, announced a $13.1mm Series A financing, led by Birchmere Ventures, and including participation by Firelake Capital, Draper Triangle Ventures, and other new and existing investors. The company's technology has a number of cleantech applications, but one which will certainly catch cleantech investors' attention is the potential use in manufacturing large-area solar cells, which the company claims can achieve costs of $1/Wp.
  • The biofuels march continues with a $100mm Series A financing of Renewable Energy Group (REG). It's unclear from the press release if the $100mm funding was entirely in Series A preferred, or if some portion was in other forms of financing, but either way it's a very large transaction. NGP Energy Technology Partners led the Series A, which also included strategic investors Bunge North America and ED&F Man Holdings Ltd. Natural Gas Partners VIII, L.P., the Sargents, West Central Cooperative, and other Iowa investors also participated in the financing. The financing will be used to build out REG's network of biodiesel production facilities, which they target at totaling 640m gpy by 2009.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The terrorist plot and micro fuel cells... and other news

  • With all of the stories about air travellers having to throw out their shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and other liquids, cleantech investors should note that the effects may be significantly felt on one technology area in particular: micro fuel cells. It seems clear that there is new seriousness about preventing travellers from bringing liquids and gels onto planes. One of the key factors which has been driving the development of micro fuel cells has been the desire for longer-lasting power on long flights, for laptops and other electronic equipment -- it's a battery-replacement technology in many respects, and thus air travel is a key market driver. The problem facing the technology now is that these micro fuel cells are most often powered by fuels such as methanol or butane. As we've noted before, there has been a push to help bring these products onto airplanes in a 2007 time frame... Now? It's unclear what the impact will be. And if all laptops and other electronics are banned from air flights, even more energy storage technologies could be impacted...
  • Could energy efficiency and energy management finally be getting some attention? A couple of good articles to note on the general topic here and (self-promotion alert) here.
  • Cleantech investors in the news: A profile of John Doerr's cleantech efforts. Plus, Vinod Khosla doesn't believe he's investing into a bubble.
Other smaller news items to note: A fun article about current clean energy research at MIT... Some intriguing news on hydrogen storage technology... A great article discussing the opportunity for and importance of various clean water technologies.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Q2 was yet another big month for cleantech: CTVN claims $843mm invested

News released today by the Cleantech Venture Network says total VC investments in cleantech were $843mm in Q2, a 64% increase over Q1 (which itself was no slouch). There's been a lot of talk about the various available data sources out there, but without a doubt this is big news (CTVN claims this makes the sector the third largest right now, behind Biotech and Software). This makes eight straight quarters of growth.

Breaking down the numbers a bit, clean energy remains the biggest sector, at $594mm, but the growth in that category (at 69% over Q1) was comparable to the overall cleantech sectoral growth, which means that other categories must have seen strong growth as well, despite being less-publicized.

From Nick Parker: "We are seeing significant growth in other cleantech segments such as agriculture, environmental IT, transportation and water."

Welcome signs of further increased investor interest and market growth, no matter how inclusive or specific you prefer your cleantech investment numbers.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Orion Energy Systems, Tendril, Newmarket and lots of fun news

  • (Self-promotion alert) Orion Energy Systems has taken in a $4.5mm Series C from Expansion Capital Partners. The Plymouth, WI- based company has established a strong position in the energy efficient lighting and services space (if you want to know what Orion ES does, just read the column I wrote for Matt Marshall's SiliconBeat site last week -- Orion does a lot of what I described in the lighting example). Orion's systems, as well as those of other energy efficiency technology providers, could go a long way to helping ease our current grid and generation capacity shortages here in California and elsewhere. Energy efficiency is the forgotten low-hanging fruit in the clean energy sector...
  • Speaking of energy efficiency, one technology that has an important role to play is M2M communications and wireless sensing. Of course, as we've discussed before, M2M communications and sensors are cross-sector enabling technologies that impact a lot of cleantech applications, not just energy efficiency. Thus, it's interesting to note today's announcement by Tendril Networks of their $5.25mm Series B, along with their appointment of a new CEO. Tendril provides software for the operation of wireless sensor networks. Vista Ventures led the round, which also included existing investors Access Venture Partners, Appian Ventures, and angels.
Other news to note: Some entertaining reading on the SolFocus deal... Some entertaining reading on the hydrogen economy... What would reduced marginal electricity costs do to many clean energy technology markets? Interesting coal-fired supply and demand argument made in this article... Manure-fueled (note: not -sourced) ethanol in the latest announced biofuels project finance deal... Joel Makower writes a very compelling take on cleantech and China [8/9 update: on the same topic, here's another good read]... Finally, microbial fuel cells powered by wastewater.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The latest cleantech mega-deal: Ion America

According to today's PE Week Wire, solid oxide fuel cell developer Ion America has raised a $102mm Series D, plus $2mm in convertible securities. According to the same mention (based on regulatory findings), the post-money valuation on their 2004 $45mm Series C round was $114mm (no word on the valuation of this new round). This brings the company's venture funding to $165mm in total to date. Kleiner Perkins, Mobius and NEA are backers. We last saw news about Ion America this time last year... The company still appears to be in official stealth mode, without a public website.

[8/5 update: If it's in Silicon Valley, Matt Marshall knows about it -- read his coverage of the Ion America deal here...]

Other news and notes at week's end: More coverage of SolFocus and the solar concentrator space... Yet another example of the looming consolidation phase in the solar market... We don't talk about geothermal enough, so here's a good article to read on that market.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cleantech investors in the news

  • As part of their SolFocus investment announcement, NEA served notice that they're planning on spending more effort on "energy-related firms." They're already investors in Konarka, Glacier Bay, Ion America, and other cleantech investments...
  • Chrysalix Energy, one of the first clean-energy-dedicated venture capital funds, also announced the successful close of their second fund today, at C$70mm. Limited partners in the new fund include Robeco, Saristar Enterprises (advised by Consensus Environment), Citigroup Venture Capital International, Teachers’ Private Capital, West LB Mellon Asset Management, Delta Lloyd, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Essent, Mitsubishi Corporation, BASF Venture Capital and Shell Hydrogen among others. The announcement also lists some of their initial investments out of the fund, across a broad range of clean energy technologies.
So kudos all around!

Altra's $120mm, plus Proven Engineering and other company notes

  • Biofuels continue to get a lot of attention in the private equity world, with the most recent example being Altra's $120mm newly-announced round of financing. It was just back in April that the company announced a significant round of financing, and the new round is on top of that. This brings the company's total "warchest" up to $250mm, according to the RH article, so clearly the company is being positioned to make some major moves in acquisitions and greenfield builds in ethanol and biodiesel. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Omninet Private Equity, Sage Capital Partners, Angeleno Group, and Khosla Ventures were co-leads in the round. Sounds like these investors probably see an opportunity to create a solid consolidated player on the execution side of a pretty fragmented market in ethanol production (ADM is around 25% market share, no one else comes close). The LA Times used this funding as the centerpiece for this provocative article about the current state of alternative energy investing... (self-promotion alert: Expansion Capital Partners' Mark Donohue is quoted)
Other notes: Regarding Calisolar, here's an interesting post by Mark Wendman... In case you missed it, the Chicago Climate Exchange was featured in the NYT Magazine... What happens to cleantech investing in a recession scenario?... Finally, check out the new $100k Lemelson-MIT award for sustainability.

One other administrative note: Trying out a new tool... On the lower right hand side of the page is a Meebo chat widget (thanks, Matt Marshall, for the heads up on this tool). Supposedly it's a way for readers to chat directly with the people who write sites like this one. I'm guessing most such writers don't have full-time jobs in venture capital... but if I'm online and available (a big "if"), feel free to drop me a line, we'll see if this works and is useful. Don't forget to introduce yourself, "meeboguest83456" is a fairly unenlightening moniker...
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