Companies and investors historically have seen high oil prices drive interest in green technologies. Greentech entrepreneurs certainly benefited when oil prices breached $55 per barrel in 2005 (see Oil Prices Grease Cleantech, Oil Spike’s Tech Impact) and when they hit another record of $73 per barrel last year (see Record Oil Prices Help Hybrids).

But while crude oil prices surged to a new record high above $101 per barrel last week, the prices don’t necessarily seem to be shooting greentech into a new era.

After record-breaking greentech investments last year, those investments temporarily have peaked, according to Paul Clements-Hunt, head of the United Nations Environment Program’s Finance Initiative.

Clements-Hunt blames the credit crunch, which has led to some $146 billion in write-downs for global banks, according to Reuters.

But not all investors are keeping their cash in their wallets. Here are some of the interesting green deals, ranging fromsolarto cars and BioWillie, that backers thought were worth the risk:

Biofuels

  • Country singer Willie Nelson’s biodiesel, branded BioWillie, will soon be available at a Texas truck stop called "Willie’s Place at Carl’s Corner." On Monday, Earth Biofuels -- which bought the exclusive license to sell and distribute BioWillie -- announced it had secured an undisclosed amount of financing to complete construction of the truck stop, expected to open this summer. Earth Biofuels is traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board under the ticker "EBOF."
  • Renewable-energy firm Southridge Enterprises said Monday it has raised $6.6 million from Nexus Lotts Capital Corp. Southridge, which trades on the bulletin board under "SORD," will use the money to build a previously announced sugarcane-based ethanol plant in El Salvador and to buy land in Texas. The company said it also is finalizing a $25 million financing for a plant in Mississippi.

Electric Cars

  • Electric-sports-car company Tesla Motors last week told the Financial Times that it planned to raise debt and equity financing, including an IPO (see Green Cars Cruise Forward). While fleshing out the details at Piper Jaffray’s Clean Technology and Renewables Conference last week, Tesla confirmed the company had closed a $40 million bridge loan on Valentine’s Day and also said it plans to raise a fifth equity round of roughly $75 million to $100 million in the late summer.
  • Low-speed electric-vehicle maker Miles Electric Vehicles drove off with $15 million last week. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company will use some of the funding to develop an all-electric highway-ready sedan. Private equity fund Angeleno Group led the round.

 

Solar

  • Solar-thermal startup Ausra has grabbed $30 million in venture debt and is negotiating for an "add-on" round of $15 million from previous backers Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to CNET. The Palo Alto, Calif-based startup also announced plans to go public by 2010.
  • Stealthy Israel-based Pythagoras Solar said Feb. 18  it has raised $10 million in its first round of venture funding. Israel Cleantech Ventures led the funding. Additional investors include Pitango Venture Capital and Evergreen Venture Partners. Pythagoras Solar, which plans to release products early next year, claims its technology combining software models, optic design, semiconductor processes and manufacturing techniques will "dramatically" change the economics of solar power. Pythagoras Solar, which plans to release products early next year, claims its technology combining software models, optic design, semiconductor processes and manufacturing techniques will "dramatically" change the economics of solar power.
  • Solar-inverter startup 1-Solar is days away from closing $5 million in its first round of financing, according to Earth2Tech. The Rohnert Park, Calif.-based company claims its technology converts direct current into usable alternating current more efficiently than today’s invertors and also lasts two to three times as long.
  • Solar Systems, a Melbourne, Australia-based solar company, said Monday it has raised $40 million from energy firm TRUenergy. The investment comes out to a 20-percent stake in Solar Systems. As part of the deal, TRUenergy also will contribute $7 million toward the development of a concentrated-solar pilot plant and will invest up to $285 million to help build a 154-megawatt plant. Solar Systems originally announced the project in 2005, when it partnered with Boeing’s Spectrolab. 
  • Polysilicon manufacturer Hoku Scientific (NSDQ: HOKU) said Monday it is raising approximately $25 million in a private placement of 2.9 million shares of common stock. Investors include a subsidiary of Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE: STP) and unnamed institutional investors. Suntech last year signed a deal to buy up to $678 million of polysilicon from Hoku over a decade. Hoku said it would use some of the cash to build a previously announced polysilicon plant in Pocatello, Idaho.

 

Carbon Reduction

  • San Francisco-based Climos bagged $4 million for its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide, according to CNET. Climos is working on a plan to fertilize the ocean with iron to grow more plankton that will, in turn, absorb more carbon dioxide. But finding a way to profit from plankton can be tough. Foster City, Calif.-based Planktos was forced to pull planned field tests earlier this month due to a lack of funds, according to the New York Times.
  • Carbon-offset company GreenAir is seeking to raise A$100 million (about $92.4 million) in advance of an initial public offering on the Australian Stock Exchange in the next year, according to the Australian Financial Review (via Asia Cleantech).

 

Lighting

  • Albeo Technologies said Wednesday it had raised $1.5 million in its first round of venture-capital funding, led by Green Spark Ventures. Albeo, based in Boulder, Colo., designs and manufactures commercial and industrial light-emitting diode-based systems.