The cleantech sector may never see investment intensity like it did in 2008 ($7.5 billion in 350 deals), but there's still activity and, anecdotally, this reporter is seeing an upswing in investments (it could just be the rush to close deals in advance of the vacation season).

We also see VCs looking for new ways to invest in the energy economy. Here's a roundup of cleantech venture capital funding over the last few weeks.

Enerkem, a waste-to-biofuels and renewable chemicals startup, raised $48 million in its latest financing round -- joined by strategic investor Investissement Québec and existing investors Waste Management of Canada, Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, The Westly Group, Cycle Capital, Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction. Enerkem converts non-recyclable municipal solid waste into methanol, ethanol and other chemical intermediates. The company registered for an IPO in 2011 and withdrew its IPO registration in 2012.


Solexel, an advanced silicon solar cell startup, just raised $14.7 million from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC document caught by Bloomberg. It was the third close of the company's now $51.3 million C Round, according to the firm. Previous investors include SunPower, KPCB, Technology Partners, DAG Ventures, Gentry Ventures, Northgate Capital, GSV Capital, Oak Hill, Ecofin, and Spirox. The firm's Board of Directors are Mehrdad Moslehi and Michael Wingert of Solexel, as well as John Denniston of KP, Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners, Doug Rose of SunPower, Les Vadasz of Intel, and Greg Williams of DAG Ventures. Gentry Securities has been enlisted as a placement agent in this and previous fundraising efforts. Gentry's investments include Fisker, Bloom Energy, Amyris, Agrivida, and Glori Energy -- all Kleiner Perkins portfolio companies.

The startup's total VC funding to date is north of $150 million. Solexel has also scored $17 million in DOE and NSF grants.

 

Goal Zero, a manufacturer of portable solar power and power packs, just got an investment from In-Q-Tel, the VC arm of the CIA. 
 
 

Blu Homes, a builder of precision-engineered, prefab green homes, just closed a $65 million round of investment. Existing investors include the Skagen Group and Brightpath Capital Partners. The startup will use the funding to build out a series of fifteen to twenty display homes in key markets across the U.S. Blu Homes and its display homes are built in the company's California factory, transported by truck, and then “unfolded” on site. Blu Homes are LEED Silver certifiable, and feature recycled steel framing, radiant heat flooring, high R-value walls and energy-efficient appliances.  

 

Honest Buildings, an online marketplace for building professionals, just won $5.5 million in round A funding from the Westly Group and RockPort Capital. The company is looking to streamline the process for building upgrades. According to a release, "Over the past five months alone, approximately $25 million in contracts were originated through the Honest Buildings platform, which hosts the portfolios of thousands of building solution providers and features nearly 1 million researched building profiles." According to Dhiraj Malkani, partner at RockPort Capital, "Honest Buildings is pioneering a business platform for the real estate market that uses information technology, social networking and big data to more efficiently connect and catalyze transactions amongst all the stakeholders.” Malkani continued: “It sits squarely at the intersection of web, IT, big data and smart cities that is bringing our physical world into the digital domain."

This is reminiscent of the just-revealed SolarCity energy efficiency platform.

 

Amalyst gained funding from VC firm Midven and UCLB for a fuel cell and electrolysis catalyst technology which generates hydrogen fuel from the passage of electricity through water.



SJF Ventures invested in Vital Farms, a Texas-based sustainable agriculture company providing pasture-raised eggs and poultry. 

 

E.ON, the world's largest investor-owned utility, become a limited partner in the The Westly Group, a Silicon Valley-based VC firm focused on renewable energy, smart grids, and energy efficiency for buildings.
 

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Here's the previous week's funding roundup:

Tom Siebel's energy analytics software firm C3 raised $15 million of a $30 million round from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC filing. (Jeff St. John explained C3 here.)

 

Last month we reported on a new $130 million funding round for Bloom Energy. We've since learned the identity of a previously undisclosed investor. It turns out the mystery fuel cell investor was the globe's largest investor-owned electricity utility, E.ON, based in Düsseldorf, Germany, according to FuelCell Today. E.ON already has some fuel cell experience in its work with ceramic fuel cells. Bloom Energy has not installed a system outside of the U.S., according to reports.  

Bloom's total funding has passed the $1.1 billion mark, and that makes it one of the all-time leaders in VC funding, along with Fisker and Solyndra. This most recent funding was structured as an "extension to the company's Series G round that originally closed on $150 million in 2011 at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation," as per Fortune. Existing investors include KPCB, NEA, Goldman Sachs, DAG, GSV Capital, Apex Venture Partners, Mobius Venture Capital, Madrone Capital, SunBridge Partners, and Advanced Equities.

 

Mercatus, formerly SCS Renewables, a startup building a solar project credit rating system and database, raised a $2 million round A led by Vision Ridge Partners with Augment Ventures and Shah Capital. Mercatus claims to have assessed more than 3.2 gigawatts of solar projects while facilitating $250 million in investments.

 

Skyline Innovations, focused on financing and installing solar water heating systems, raised $2 million in mezzanine financing to continue its expansion. Investor CCM US, a Washington, D.C.-based asset management group, led the investment, along with DC Community Ventures, a community development venture capital fund.   



Circular Energy, a solar design and installation firm, raised a $2.7M round A from Cypress Capital and other investors, structured as part equity and part royalty debt.



Desalitech, a reverse-osmosis water production and treatment startup, raised $5 million from Liberation Capital, bringing the firm's total funding to $13 million. Liberation Capital is a private equity fund focused on distributed renewable energy, water and wastewater projects. 



Solar provider Pure Energies Group raised $5 million in debt financing from Western Technology Investment two months after closing $6 million in VC from NEA and NGEN. Pure Energies acts as an advisor to the homeowner, steering them through the varied array of third-party solar contracts. The startup looks to deliver a credit-qualified, all-in, signed-up customer to one of its solar installer and financier partners. CEO Zbigniew Barwicz told GTM that his partners include five of the top ten installer/financiers -- a list which includes companies such as Sunrun, Sungevity and SolarCity.


Chemical company Voltaix was acquired by Air Liquide. The startup raised $9 million from Novus Energy Partners back in 2009. The materials made by Voltaix are used in semiconductor and photovoltaics manufacturing.

Tags: c3 energy, e.on, enerkem, honest buildings, in-q-tel, iqt, sjf ventures, solexel, vc