Investment bank and financial-services giant Morgan Stanley said Tuesday it will acquire a minority equity stake in NGEN Partners, a venture-capital firm with a focus on green technologies.

Founded in 2001, NGEN invests in areas like alternative energy, energy efficiency and green materials.

NGEN-backed companies include SolFocus, which said Tuesday it had installed the first 200 kilowatts of concentrated solar in what will eventually be a 3-megawatt project in Spain. SolFocus will contribute another 300 kilowatts to the project, which will make electricity using the sun's heat.

Other NGEN portfolio companies include thin-film solar developer Konarka Technologies, which bagged $45 million in private equity in November, and startup Venture Vehicles, which is working to roll out two versions of its three-wheeled alternative vehicle in the second quarter of 2009.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) claimed the investment with NGEN is the first of its kind by a major Wall Street firm. Morgan Stanley did not disclose the stake or the amount paid for it.

But the move does underscore the increasing maneuvers by investors to get in early with greentech companies.

Last year a slew of funds and other private-equity money pots focused on green technology took root.

And so far, the new year is displaying the same trend.

On Monday, information-technology and greentech investor Velocity Venture Capital said it had closed its second fund with $15 million.

The Folsom, Calif.-based firm also said it's preparing to raise $60 million for a third fund, which will have an emphasis on cleantech.

Velocity's cleantech portfolio includes portable fuel-cell developer Jadoo Power Systems and Marquiss Wind Power, a startup developing wind-powered turbines for use on commercial and industrial buildings. Also this month, Yellowstone Capital Partners said it was launching a $50 million alternative- and renewable-energy fund.

But some industry watchers have questioned whether enough good investments are available to justify all the capital being raised by private-equity firms.

A study earlier this year by New Energy Finance found that VCs were able to invest just 73 percent of the funds they had raised and had not been able to spend $2 billion of the money they had available.