Friday, October 27, 2006

Miasole raises $35mm

There are scant publicly-available details, but VentureWire broke the story today that CIGS player Miasole has raised a $35mm round of financing (self-promotion alert: I am a very minor personal shareholder). Matt Marshall has some of the details, and also notes that the company is not alone among thin-film solar startups seeking funding right now... Existing investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Firelake Strategic Technology Fund, Garage Technology Ventures and Nippon Kouatsu Electric Co.

CTVN: Cleantech VC investments hit $933mm in Q3

Cleantech investments continue to show strength, with the Cleantech Venture Network's recently released estimates that $933mm was invested in the sector in the third quarter in North America.

Tellingly, more than half of the investment amount was into biofuels. This probably means that a small number of very big capacity-focused investments dominated the numbers. It will be interesting to see the number of deals that are represented when the data is available, and it would also be interesting to track median deal size and deals per quarter over time.

At this point the overall numbers are getting to be hard to compare quarter by quarter as the totals are increasingly dominated by just a handful of the total number of deals. For instance, the fact that energy investments made up $837mm of the $933mm total suggests that dealflow in other sectors such as water, materials, etc. may actually have declined from the previous quarter.

Regardless of the Q3 specifics, it's clear that 2006 remains a banner year for cleantech investing.

Other cleantech news:
  • Altira has reportedly closed on $94mm for their next fund, according to PE Week Wire. The energy technology investment group counts Stanford, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Park Street Capital among their LPs.
Other news and notes: Intriguing, but why does this make me think of Ice-Nine?... Two new cleantech ETFs for public-market investors... Silicon shortage to end by 2008 (or not).

Friday, October 20, 2006

87% IRRs on European cleantech venture investments?

  • A very interesting study released recently by New Energy Finance, and commissioned by the European Energy Venture Fair. Looking at 57 different investments in Europe since 1999, the study calculates that VCs have achieved an 87% annual rate of return on these investments -- collectively. It's important to emphasize that last point because, as is typical for venture investments, the results are an aggregation of a very wide range of results. Eight of the investments resulted in (very successful) IPOs or trade sales, 9 had follow-on rounds that averaged to moderate up rounds, six went under, and the remaining 34 are still being carried at cost (at least as far as the study's authors know). So really, not a huge sampling of actual exits, but still, very intriguing results. As a reminder, a study of cleantech VC exits and returns was completed last year by the Cleantech Venture Network (self promotion alert: Diana Propper of Expansion Capital Partners was one of the study's co-editors), which also found competitive returns in the sector (as first described in this lengthy post).
  • Sub-One Technology announced a $7mm Series B financing, led by ATV, and including existing investors Chevron Technology Ventures and ITI Energy. The company's anti-corrosive coatings help prevent failures in -- and replacement of -- energy pipelines and industrial infrastructure. The company simultaneously took in a final $1mm Series A tranche from ITI Energy as a result of earlier commitments as well.
  • The next Renewable Energy Business Network event has been announced: November 2, in San Francisco, Nixon Peabody is graciously hosting a networking event, including what should be a very interesting presentation by Kurt Johnson of the California PUC: "Everything You Need to Know About California Cleantech Legislation." Space is limited, so Bay Area renewable energy professionals who are interested in attending or getting more information should contact Nick Allen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's "Solar Week"

Thanks in part to Solar Power 2006 going on this week, cleantech investing news is dominated by that sector right now.

  • Practical Instruments raised an $8mm Series A, co-led by Nth Power and RockPort, and also including Trinity Ventures and Rincon Venture Partners. Matt Marshall has a nice overview of the company here. The company's founders originally came out of Energy Innovations, another high-profile solar concentrator startup.
  • It's interesting to note that Moser Baer has been actively jumping into solar. Witness the recent announcements of strategic relationships with both SolFocus and Solaria (again, solar concentrator plays). As new thin-film cell technologies are released over the next few months, international contract manufacturing "Modcos" (module manufacturers) may have an important role to play in bringing these products to market as well.
  • The "pain points" around financing of solar projects are getting pretty well mitigated these days, or soon will be, due to all of the various announcements like this one and the numerous solar project developer startups out there. Now, if someone could successfully address the pain points around installation costs...
  • Other solar notes: No, "Google solar system" is not an add-on to Google Earth... Here's a nice column describing how current silicon shortages (which have opened up a potential window of opportunity for thin films and other alternatives) may be short-lived... Even with all the recent entrepreneurial activity in solar, new tech breakthroughs continue to be announced, the industry isn't simply in an "innovation harvesting" phase... One might have expected SunPower to take some of their capital and hedge their bets by somehow getting into thin-films and other silicon-eliminating and -minimizing alternatives (via strategic investment, perhaps), but I guess not.
Other news and notes: Here's a very good column by Joel Makower illustrating why and how the private sector (led by insurers, in many cases) is having to take climate change matters into their own hands even in the absence of policy change. Some people continue to argue that cleantech is a policy-driven investment sector, but Joel's writings remind us that the underlying global climate and natural resource trends are what's really at the heart of the investment thesis... Cleantech around the world: A nice synopsis of the AustralAsian Cleantech Forum... Finally, Fuel Cell Technologies, a Canadian SOFC startup, has closed its doors.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fat Spaniel and Sterecycle

  • UK-based recycler Sterecycle took in an 8mm pound financing from investors including Goldman Sachs to fund additional facilities. The company focuses on household waste.
Other news and notes: More on the interactions between cleantech venture capitalists and ongoing regulatory and legislative efforts in California... Here's an interesting article on the debates around new coal-fired power capacity and clean coal technologies.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Amyris, EnerWorks, and other news

Other news and notes: This sounds like it was a fun meeting... GE is delivering a prototype SOFC... Here's a good overview of solar PV in advance of next week's conference.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Catching up on the news

Many deals and announcements in cleantech investing over the past couple of days:
  • NASA has devoted $75mm to launching Red Planet Capital, which is a non-profit effort to provide venture capital for companies whose technologies are applicable for space travel. Solar PV, fuel cells, batteries, sensors, drinking water and wastewater treatment all come to mind as possibilities, as well as various advanced materials, so Red Planet is now entering the ranks of cleantech investors.
Other news and notes: Fun quote re: biofuels: "If we wanted to build a 100 million-gallon plant, we would have venture capitalists calling us up. I'm looking for someone investing a half a million bucks and to see how it goes"... There are now apparently 136 venture-backed, independently-operating nanotech startups around the world... News of an upcoming cleantech conference in Tel Aviv... As someone who's been beating the drum for innovative, technology-based energy efficiency opportunities for a while now, I am very glad to see this news.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

groSolar, DeepStream announce raises

  • groSolar, an installer and distributor of solar photovoltaic systems based in Vermont, announced a $2.25mm venture round led by SJF Ventures. Calvert Social Investment Fund and Allco Financial Group also participated in the round. The company is a subsidiary of GRO, formerly known as Global Resource Options. The financing is to go toward the company's national expansion plans.
  • In the sensors and M2M space, DeepStream Technologies of Wales (UK) announced a ~$15mm Series B led by 3i Group plc. The company's systems are used to integrate sensors and intelligence into energy, medical and electrical appliances and equipment -- for smart building and energy management applications, for example. Existing investor Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures also participated in the round.
  • Cleantech investors speaking out:
Vinod Khosla in BusinessWeek -- "We are looking more for the big breakthroughs... than the small ones in batteries."

John Doerr in Red Herring -- "'Clean tech,' as many past efforts at environmentally friendly industry have been called, hasn’t panned out from an investment standpoint, said Mr. Doerr, but 'greentech' will."

Kirk Washington at the "Investing in Clean Energy" conference -- "The elephant in the room is that a bubble gets blown up that could burst."

Peter Grubstein in -- "There are more companies able to get their prototypes into customer's hands much faster, there is demand being supplied by renewable portfolio standards from states like California, and consumer awareness and corporate awareness for the first time."

Christine Bergeron, interviewed by Cleantech Blog -- "Investors believe that above average returns can now be made in this sector."

Other items to note: A good overview of silicon and CIGS PV technologies... More cautionary words about hydrogen-fueled transportation technology... Finally, Chevron and NREL are teaming up on cellulosic biofuels.
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