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.


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