Recent Posts:

The terrorist plot and micro fuel cells… and other news

Rob Day: August 13, 2006, 5:58 AM
  • With all of the stories about air travellers having to throw out their shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and other liquids, cleantech investors should note that the effects may be significantly felt on one technology area in particular: micro fuel cells. It seems clear that there is new seriousness about preventing travellers from bringing liquids and gels onto planes. One of the key factors which has been driving the development of micro fuel cells has been the desire for longer-lasting power on long flights, for laptops and other electronic equipment -- it's a battery-replacement technology in many respects, and thus air travel is a key market driver. The problem facing the technology now is that these micro fuel cells are most often powered by fuels such as methanol or butane. As we've noted before, there has been a push to help bring these products onto airplanes in a 2007 time frame... Now? It's unclear what the impact will be. And if all laptops and other electronics are banned from air flights, even more energy storage technologies could be impacted...
  • Could energy efficiency and energy management finally be getting some attention? A couple of good articles to note on the general topic here and (self-promotion alert) here.
  • Cleantech investors in the news: A profile of John Doerr's cleantech efforts. Plus, Vinod Khosla doesn't believe he's investing into a bubble.
Other smaller news items to note: A fun article about current clean energy research at MIT... Some intriguing news on hydrogen storage technology... A great article discussing the opportunity for and importance of various clean water technologies.

Q2 was yet another big month for cleantech: CTVN claims $843mm invested

Rob Day: August 10, 2006, 3:43 PM
News released today by the Cleantech Venture Network says total VC investments in cleantech were $843mm in Q2, a 64% increase over Q1 (which itself was no slouch). There's been a lot of talk about the various available data sources out there, but without a doubt this is big news (CTVN claims this makes the sector the third largest right now, behind Biotech and Software). This makes eight straight quarters of growth.

Breaking down the numbers a bit, clean energy remains the biggest sector, at $594mm, but the growth in that category (at 69% over Q1) was comparable to the overall cleantech sectoral growth, which means that other categories must have seen strong growth as well, despite being less-publicized.

From Nick Parker: "We are seeing significant growth in other cleantech segments such as agriculture, environmental IT, transportation and water."

Welcome signs of further increased investor interest and market growth, no matter how inclusive or specific you prefer your cleantech investment numbers.

Orion Energy Systems, Tendril, Newmarket and lots of fun news

Rob Day: August 8, 2006, 7:36 AM
  • (Self-promotion alert) Orion Energy Systems has taken in a $4.5mm Series C from Expansion Capital Partners. The Plymouth, WI- based company has established a strong position in the energy efficient lighting and services space (if you want to know what Orion ES does, just read the column I wrote for Matt Marshall's SiliconBeat site last week -- Orion does a lot of what I described in the lighting example). Orion's systems, as well as those of other energy efficiency technology providers, could go a long way to helping ease our current grid and generation capacity shortages here in California and elsewhere. Energy efficiency is the forgotten low-hanging fruit in the clean energy sector...
  • Speaking of energy efficiency, one technology that has an important role to play is M2M communications and wireless sensing. Of course, as we've discussed before, M2M communications and sensors are cross-sector enabling technologies that impact a lot of cleantech applications, not just energy efficiency. Thus, it's interesting to note today's announcement by Tendril Networks of their $5.25mm Series B, along with their appointment of a new CEO. Tendril provides software for the operation of wireless sensor networks. Vista Ventures led the round, which also included existing investors Access Venture Partners, Appian Ventures, and angels.
Other news to note: Some entertaining reading on the SolFocus deal... Some entertaining reading on the hydrogen economy... What would reduced marginal electricity costs do to many clean energy technology markets? Interesting coal-fired supply and demand argument made in this article... Manure-fueled (note: not -sourced) ethanol in the latest announced biofuels project finance deal... Joel Makower writes a very compelling take on cleantech and China [8/9 update: on the same topic, here's another good read]... Finally, microbial fuel cells powered by wastewater.

The latest cleantech mega-deal: Ion America

Rob Day: August 4, 2006, 12:17 PM
According to today's PE Week Wire, solid oxide fuel cell developer Ion America has raised a $102mm Series D, plus $2mm in convertible securities. According to the same mention (based on regulatory findings), the post-money valuation on their 2004 $45mm Series C round was $114mm (no word on the valuation of this new round). This brings the company's venture funding to $165mm in total to date. Kleiner Perkins, Mobius and NEA are backers. We last saw news about Ion America this time last year... The company still appears to be in official stealth mode, without a public website.

[8/5 update: If it's in Silicon Valley, Matt Marshall knows about it -- read his coverage of the Ion America deal here...]

Other news and notes at week's end: More coverage of SolFocus and the solar concentrator space... Yet another example of the looming consolidation phase in the solar market... We don't talk about geothermal enough, so here's a good article to read on that market.

Cleantech investors in the news

Rob Day: August 2, 2006, 3:22 PM
  • As part of their SolFocus investment announcement, NEA served notice that they're planning on spending more effort on "energy-related firms." They're already investors in Konarka, Glacier Bay, Ion America, and other cleantech investments...
  • Chrysalix Energy, one of the first clean-energy-dedicated venture capital funds, also announced the successful close of their second fund today, at C$70mm. Limited partners in the new fund include Robeco, Saristar Enterprises (advised by Consensus Environment), Citigroup Venture Capital International, Teachers’ Private Capital, West LB Mellon Asset Management, Delta Lloyd, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Essent, Mitsubishi Corporation, BASF Venture Capital and Shell Hydrogen among others. The announcement also lists some of their initial investments out of the fund, across a broad range of clean energy technologies.
So kudos all around!

Altra’s $120mm, plus Proven Engineering and other company notes

Rob Day: August 2, 2006, 8:56 AM
  • Biofuels continue to get a lot of attention in the private equity world, with the most recent example being Altra's $120mm newly-announced round of financing. It was just back in April that the company announced a significant round of financing, and the new round is on top of that. This brings the company's total "warchest" up to $250mm, according to the RH article, so clearly the company is being positioned to make some major moves in acquisitions and greenfield builds in ethanol and biodiesel. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Omninet Private Equity, Sage Capital Partners, Angeleno Group, and Khosla Ventures were co-leads in the round. Sounds like these investors probably see an opportunity to create a solid consolidated player on the execution side of a pretty fragmented market in ethanol production (ADM is around 25% market share, no one else comes close). The LA Times used this funding as the centerpiece for this provocative article about the current state of alternative energy investing... (self-promotion alert: Expansion Capital Partners' Mark Donohue is quoted)
Other notes: Regarding Calisolar, here's an interesting post by Mark Wendman... In case you missed it, the Chicago Climate Exchange was featured in the NYT Magazine... What happens to cleantech investing in a recession scenario?... Finally, check out the new $100k Lemelson-MIT award for sustainability.

One other administrative note: Trying out a new tool... On the lower right hand side of the page is a Meebo chat widget (thanks, Matt Marshall, for the heads up on this tool). Supposedly it's a way for readers to chat directly with the people who write sites like this one. I'm guessing most such writers don't have full-time jobs in venture capital... but if I'm online and available (a big "if"), feel free to drop me a line, we'll see if this works and is useful. Don't forget to introduce yourself, "meeboguest83456" is a fairly unenlightening moniker...