The cleantech sector may never see venture 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.
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:
Earlier this month Sungevity raised another $15 million in funding, including investment from GE Ventures. Previous investment has come from Brightpath Capital Partners, home improvement store Lowe's, Vision Ridge Partners, Firelake Capital, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners. Home and business owners contract with a third party like Sungevity for a solar system that is installed, owned and maintained by the third party. The investor gets the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit and the installer gets regular payments over the contract’s term. The resident gets solar-generated electricity at a rate below the retail utility rate without bearing the burdens of upfront costs and ownership risks.
Detroit's GreenLancer, a web-based, crowd-sourced solar energy engineering firm, closed a $500,000 Round A with funding from a syndicate of Michigan-based investors. GreenLancer targets the solar industry with engineering services that aim to reduce soft costs in proposing and designing renewable energy projects. Investors include Bizdom, Start Garden, Blue Water Angels and Northern Michigan Angels.
LiquidPiston, building "a new type of internal combustion engine," raised a $6.5 million Round C co-led by return backers Northwater Capital Management and Adams Capital Management. The firm raised $5 million in early 2011. The startup's website calls its design a "non-Wankel rotary embodiment of the company’s innovative High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle" and claims that it is scalable from 1 horsepower to over 1000 horsepower. The firm's focus is on the under-50-horsepower engine market, including portable generators. Here are some artist's renderings and product demos:
Zero Motorcycles, a builder of electric motorcycles, raised $6.5 million, according to SEC documents. The company raised $17 million from Invus LP in 2011. These motorcycles are not artist renderings.
Aircuity of Newton, Mass. is a maker of energy-use sensor and control systems for air ventilation -- what the firm calls "smart airside efficiency." The company just raised $3 million from CCM, a Washington, D.C.-based asset management firm investing in clean energy and real estate, according to a statement. In April 2011, Aircuity raised $3.5 million from undisclosed investors. Aircuity claims it "can reduce energy use by 40%-60% in laboratories with a typical payback of less than two years and deliver a 20%-30% reduction in energy use in offices, public facilities and other variable occupant spaces with a payback of three to five years."
GELI just closed a $500,000 bridge round of financing and added former co-founder of Xtreme Power Michael Breen as CEO. The startup designs energy storage optimization and automation software. Other new energy storage firms are also in the midst of raising venture capital -- stay tuned.