Report: There are early signs of a rebound in equity investment in clean energy

After a marked slowdown in venture funding in clean energy in the US, things appears to be looking up, according to Mark Boslet, a respected columnist with peHUB, an interactive forum for the global private equity community.
Report: There are early signs of a rebound in equity investment in clean energy

The reason for Boslet’s optimism in what he describes as the “tentative signs of a turnaround,” is a report from cleantech blog Greentech Media, which says that in July alone more than $560 million went into 40 financings.

The blog includes a comprehensive list of deals. Among the highlights:

VC Investment in Solar

SolarCity (San Mateo, California) is targeting a $42 million round and has raised about $14.8 million so far.

CaliSolar (Sunnyvale, California), which develops solar cells using metallurgical-grade silicon, has raised $26 million of a $46 million round.

Birla Surya (Mumbai, India), a manufacturer of multi-crystalline silicon solar PV cells and multi-crystalline silicon wafers, raised $15 million from Asia Pacific Capital.

Plextronics (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), a developer of active layer technology for printed electronic devices with applications in polymer solar cells, lighting, and plastic circuitry, received $15 million from chemical firm Solvay.

Sunlogics (Rochester Hills, Michigan) a solar energy systems provider specializing in solar parking installations, won a $7.5 million investment from General Motors Ventures.

Complete Solar Solution (San Carlos, California), an enabler of residential solar power system installation and financing, raised a round A from Floodgate.

Sol Voltaics (Lund, Sweden) received $2.9 million from Industrifonden for high-efficiency solar cells using guided self-assembly of nanowires in the gas phase.

Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford, U.K.) won $1M from MTI Partners for dye-sensitized solar cells for BIPV.

Smart Energy Capital (White Plains, New York), a finance and investment firm focused on the North American solar PV market, raised $1.875 million.

VC Investment in Smart Grid

Gridco (Cambridge, MA) raised $12.5 million in funding from North Bridge Venture Partners and General Catalyst Partners for solid-state transformers and power management technology for utilities.

RLtec (London, England) won $6.5 million in funding from the Ombu Group for dynamic balancing of appliance loads.

VC Investment in Batteries and Fuel Cells

Aquion Energy (Pittsburgh, PA) closed on $20 million of a $29.9 million round for sodium-ion batteries in stationary applications from Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital.

Xtreme Power (Kyle, Texas) completed a $19 million round for its batteries, electronics and control systems for grid-scale energy storage. Previous investors include SAIL Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, The Dow Chemical Company, Fluor Corp., BP Alternative Energy, Dominion Resources, POSCO ICT, SkyLake & Co. and Spring Ventures.

ClearEdge Power (Hillsboro, Oregon) raised $13.5 million for its PEM fuel cells for stationary applications. Previous investors include Kohlberg Ventures and Applied Ventures.

MyFC (Stockholm, Sweden) received $6.7 million in funding from KTH Chalmers Capital and the Sixth Swedish National Pension Fund to launch a mobile phone charger.

VC Investment in Lighting

Bridgelux (Livermore, California), a maker of GaN on silicon light emitting diodes (LEDs), raised a $60 million round E from Craton Equity Partners with VantagePoint Capital Partners, DCM, El Dorado Ventures, Novus Energy Partners, Invus Group, VTS, Harris & Harris Group, and Passport Capital.

Nuventix (Austin, Texas), a maker of LED cooling technology for more efficient lighting, raised $10 million from GE Energy Financial Services, The Bergquist Company, Braemar Energy Ventures, CenterPoint Ventures, InterWest Partners, and Rho Ventures.

VC Investment in Biofuels and Green Chemicals

Elevance Renewable Sciences (Bolingbrook, Illinois), a producer of waxes, functional oils, anti-microbials, lubricants, additives and other chemicals using olefin metathesis technology, raised $50 million from Total, TPG, et al.

OPX Biotechnologies (Boulder, Colorado), a developer of bio-based chemicals and fuels, raised $36.5 million in a planned $45 million round C from DBL Investors, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Altira Group and X/Seed Capital.

Enerkem (Montreal, Quebec), a developer of technology to turn waste into ethanol and other chemicals, raised $30 million from The Westly Group, Fondaction CSN, Quince Associates, Valero Energy, Waste Management, Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, and Cycle Capital.

InEnTec (Bend, Oregon) raised $20 million for its “plasma-enhanced melter” technology that takes refuse and coverts it into syngas. Investors were not disclosed.

VC Investment in Power Generation

FlexEnergy (Irvine, California) received a $5 million investment from Sail Venture Partners and RNS Capital for its low-emission natural gas and biogas turbines.

Cool Energy received funding from Idealab for its low-temperature Stirling engine that creates electrical power from low-temperature heat sources for applications in waste heat recovery and combined heat and power (CHP).

Tecogen (Waltham, Mass.) a developer and manufacturer of natural gas-driven combined heat and power sources, raised $500,000 from Southern California Gas.

VC Investment in Energy Efficiency

SeaMicro (Sunnyvale, California) raised a $20 million round D from Crosslink Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures, et al. for more efficient servers.

SynapSense (Folsom, California), a provider of energy efficiency-focused data center infrastructure management (DCIM), won a $16 million round C round led by Crosslink Capital with Aeris Capital, Emerald Technology Ventures, GE Energy Financial Services, Nth Power, Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Sequoia Capital.

EpiGan (Leuvan, Belgium) raised $5.7 million from Capricorn Cleantech Fund, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, and LRM to start volume production of GaN-on-Si epitaxial material for efficient power electronics.

Flux Drive (Sumner, WA) raised $1.5 million from Northwest Energy Angels and the Alliance of Angels to optimize electric motors. The startup claims it can cut the energy consumption of pump and blower motors by up to 75 percent.

VC Investment in Green Buildings

Clean Urban Energy (Chicago, Illinois) won a $7 million round A co-led by Battery Ventures and Rho Ventures. CUE’s software as a service (SaaS) business is an automated energy optimization system that uses the thermal mass of commercial office buildings to make buildings more energy efficient.

VC Investment in Transportation

Hydro Phi (Doraville, Georgia), developing a hydrogen technology for enhanced combustion in ICE-powered vehicles, raised $2.9 million.

Aptera Motors (Carlsbad, California), a developer of a three-wheel electric vehicle, raised $2.3 million in equity. The firm has raised a total of $44 million from Google, Idealab, et al.

Aperia Technologies (Stanford, California), a developer of an automatic tire inflation device for trucks to improve fleet and fuel efficiency, raised an undisclosed first round of funding from Augment Ventures.

VC Investment in Wind Power

Apex Wind Energy (Virginia), a developer and financier of wind energy projects, raised $6.4 million in a $10 million round.

Burcote Wind (U.K.) raised $3.9 million from Hotbed for U.K.-based onshore wind energy project development.

Despite the very evident uptick in venture funding activity at a time of year when big money is typically on the beach in the mountains, Boslet strikes a cautionary tone later in his piece, basically reminding his readers that a big month here and there is nice, but what every is really looking for is seeral of these months in a row.

Boslet also noted that there’s a lot of ground to make up.

In the second quarter, he said, dollars invested in the clean-tech field fell 23 percent to $942 million (The numbers based on a recent MoneyTree Report put out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters, publisher of peHUB.).

For all of 2010, money placed with alternative energy, smart grid and other startups in this sector slumped almost 8 percent from 2008, the last strong year.

But Boslet nevertheless concluded on a decidedly positive note:

Given the coming global climate crisis, time is on the side of cleantech investors. Someday there will be a gold rush in cleantech,” he wrote. “The question is when.”

For additional information:

Mark Boslet ‘s column in peHUB

Green Tech Media

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