Recent Posts:

65% efficiency in solar cells by using quantum dots?

Rob Day: May 31, 2005, 12:30 PM
Cleantech investors should all familiarize themselves with the work done at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) if they aren't already.

Case in point: Last week's announcement that NREL researchers have used the nanocrystalline structures of "quantum dots" (nano-scale structures) to boost the potential efficiencies of solar cells up to a theoretical maximum of 65% -- versus today's best-in-class at around 35%. If we could double the efficiency of solar PV at the same cost, we would halve the cost of solar energy and get the technology that much closer to cost competitiveness.

That's a big "if". From an investors' standpoint this is a really early, largely theoretical finding...

Vinod Khosla: Investing in clean energy

Rob Day: May 31, 2005, 12:04 PM
Here's an interesting post in Business Week's Deal Flow describing a recent interview with Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins. It's always interesting to see top VCs describe where they see the investment opportunities in cleantech, and it's good to see that Vinod is apparently looking into biofuels, fuel cells and solar. Note that the post didn't mention any specific such investments, although the rumor is that Vinod put some personal money into Ion America (the formerly-stealth solid oxide fuel cell company) alongside John Doerr.

Good article on water technology

Rob Day: May 30, 2005, 6:52 PM
Just a quick post to note the useful article by Matt Marshall (of SiliconBeat) in Monday's Merc on water technology investments.

Water technologies are an important area for cleantech venture investors to consider, when one juxtaposes the magnitudes of the emerging unmet need for water for drinking, agricultural and industrial purposes, and the revenues of the overall global water services industry, versus the amount of venture investments that are annually applied into the space.

Energy from the ocean

Rob Day: May 26, 2005, 8:56 AM
Ocean power has been in the news a lot recently, and it may be of interest to cleantech venture investors to know what is going on:

Like some others (see SiliconBeat's posting today, for instance), I was struck by the Wired Magazine article on Common Heritage Corp. and their technology for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). The article doesn't really describe the technology, but in a nutshell OTEC uses the heat of surface ocean water to boil a liquid like ammonia with a low boiling point. Then the ammonia vapor thus produced runs a turbine, just like a steam engine would. Finally, cold deep ocean water is used to re-condense the ammonia back into a liquid for re-use. At least...

The current state of the automotive hydrogen industry

Rob Day: May 25, 2005, 7:50 PM
For those who are following the possibilities and investment opportunities in hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobiles, Fuel Cell Today released their annual survey on the industry today (link to pdf here).

One notable statistic: There appear to be 100 hydrogen refueling stations around the world now, growing at a rate of about 30 to 40 per year. As point of reference, there are about 171,000 gasoline refueling stations in the U.S.

But as the history of gasoline-fueled vehicles shows, a lack of refueling stations is probably not the limiting factor for adoption of the technology -- even though gasoline stations came about as early as 1907, until the 1920s most gasoline was sold...

Rising valuations and cleantech

Rob Day: May 25, 2005, 10:27 AM
A couple of surveys announced in recent days (Fenwick & West, and VentureOne) have indicated that valuations of venture-backed companies have risen 20%-plus over the past year. VentureOne, for instance, noted that the median pre-money valuation was $15M in the last quarter, versus $12.2M in Q1 of last year. The Fenwick & West survey only covered the bay area, but pointed to much the same results.

I have not seen any breakdown which speaks to any markets other than IT, healthcare, consumer products, and "other", so it's hard to say if cleantech has been similarly affected. From anecdotal evidence, some of the same upward trend has been seen in cleantech VC, although it would appear to...

New study: Private equity in new and renewable energy technologies is growing quickly

Rob Day: May 24, 2005, 9:29 AM
According to Michael Liebreich and Bozkurt Aydinoglu of New Energy Finance Limited, the number and value of early stage, new or renewable energy technology private equity deals more than doubled from 2003 to 2004. According to their study, more than $950M went into angel, seed, expansion-stage, buy-out, spin-out, or PIPE investments in energy technologies last year.

The study's numbers are a bit at odds with Nth Power's numbers (discussed back in March), which totalled 2004 U.S. clean energy VC investments at $520M, and it would be interesting to figure out exactly why that is. For one thing, the Nth Power numbers only cover the U.S., while New Energy Finance's study covered at least...