cleantech insights

Corporate Partnerships Help Inventys Scale-up Carbon Capture Tech


We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Andre Boulet, CEO of Inventys – a developer of energy- and capital-efficient carbon capture technology – after the company announced its latest round of growth funding from new strategic investor Chevron Technology Ventures, as well as existing investors, last week.

inventysv2The company got started in 2007 with a unique piece of technology based on the process of thermal swing adsorption. Unlike other post-combustion carbon capture technologies that use amines or chemical solvents, Inventys’ VeloxoTherm™ platform is based on a solid, ceramic-like adsorbent with a honeycomb form factor. This material has enhanced heat and mass-transport properties that translate into energy-efficient regeneration of the adsorbent via the use of low-grade steam.

More in common with its competitors, however, the oil & gas industry, and specifically enhanced oil recovery (EOR) sites that pump CO2 down into tapped wells to release remaining hard-to-get deposits, have become Inventys’ primary near-term market focus. And the company’s been racking up partnerships with heavyweights in that space, most recently with new investor Chevron Technology Ventures. “Focus has definitely shifted over the last seven years,” said Boulet. “Early on, it was evident that a comprehensive policy framework addressing …


Big Bets on Energy Storage so far in Q1


Just over a month into the first quarter, it’s becoming clear venture investors are renewing their bets on energy storage in 2014.

Within the first week of January, we’d learned of Aquion Energy‘s second, $20 million closing of its $55 million Series D round and of Amprius‘ $30 million Series C round.

Aquion Energy

Aquion Energy’s Series D, opened in April 2013, saw new investors including Bill Gates, Yung’s Enterprise, Tao Invest, Bright Capital, and Gentry Venture Partners join previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures to help the company pursue commercial deployment of its sodium-ion battery technology in 2014. The company’s technology is reportedly already addressing an off-grid application in conjunction with a solar array for lighting and air conditioning, with a planned grid-tied deployment for demand-side energy management for a commercial customer.

AmpriusAmprius’ high-energy and high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, based on the use of silicon nanowire anodes, will initially target consumer electronics applications and could be scaled for use in electric vehicles. SAIF Partners led the company’s Series C round and was joined by all the company’s previous investors, which include Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Oil & Gas Majors Backing Innovation in Clean Technology with Greater Regularity


We often note the importance of corporate venturing in fostering clean technology innovation. Corporates, thanks to their big balance sheets and operational experience, are often the optimal partner for cleantech companies looking to scale and commercialize a new technology or service. And for several years now, our deal-tracking on i3 has shown that consistently one-fifth of all cleantech venture deals have exhibited corporate investor participation.O&G Corporate Investment

In August, 2013, following a conversation I had with Jean-Michel Gires, a partner at Canadian energy venture capital firm Chrysalix, I published a post to this blog specifically highlighting the increased activity of oil & gas (O&G) majors in corporate venturing related to clean technology. This seems antithetical to many observers who continue to view conventional energy industries as the enemy of sustainable alternatives but, in fact, our data show quite the opposite to be true. Having released our full-year 2013 investment data (webinar recording, slide deck, and data available to subscribers on i3), I recently updated our data on just how many and how frequently O&G corporates are actively investing. From the chart at right, it’s clear that the O&G industry is embracing cleaner energy and resource technologies more closely than ever before. …

This Deal Matters: Glori Energy to Go Public through Reverse Merger


Glori Energy

On Wednesday, news hit the wires that Glori Energy, a company commercializing microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) technology for water-flooded and otherwise abandoned oil wells, would be taken public through a reverse merger with a company called Infinity Cross Border Acquisition Corp. (hereafter to be refered to as ICBA) in a deal valued at $185 million.

If that name, “Infinity”, inspired the same initial hope in you, dear reader, as it did in me – that ICBA might have the backing of respected private equity firm Infinity Group – well then I bring good news. From the press release announcing the transaction, we learned that ICBA was established, or “sponsored”, by Infinity Group and Hicks Private Equity, the private equity investment vehicle of the family of Thomas O. Hicks.

In the company’s SEC registration statement, ICBA describes itself as, “a blank check company incorporated as a British Virgin Islands business company with limited liability (meaning that [its] public shareholders have no additional liability, as members of [the] company, for the liabilities of [the] company over and above the amount paid for their shares) and formed for the purpose of acquiring, engaging in a share exchange, share reconstruction and amalgamation, …

This Deal Matters: Khosla Places Big Bet on Thin Film Solar



Last week, Greentech Media reported on a deal that took place quietly back in October. In a letter to creditors and shareholders, a financial services firm representing Stion, one of the many struggling producers of Copper-Indium-Gallium-(di)Selenide (CIGS) thin film solar PV cells, disclosed that existing shareholder Khosla Ventures had taken a controlling stake in the company and provided for “an assignment for the benefit of creditors”.

After conventional silicon PV markets experienced a dramatic oversupply and subsequent price crash in the past few years, thin film solar producers, which haven’t yet matched the conversion efficiency of silicon PV and so had been competing primarily on cost, found themselves unable to compete — resulting in several bankruptcies and fire sales. Khosla Ventures’ investment in Stion, which had raised nearly $250 million from investors including Khosla, Braemar Energy Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, AVACO, and others, is a significant bet that thin film solar can still work. Time will tell, as they say, whether this bet turns out to have been a wise one.…

This Deal Matters: SolarCity Leads Market into New World of Solar Securitization


SolarCityDespite its stock getting battered late in the week due to a bigger-than-expected third quarter loss, we believe hindsight will judge last week a good one for SolarCity. For us, the short-term whims of speculative day traders and hedge funds do not outweigh the significance of the company’s announcement a week ago that it was planning a private placement, worth $54 million, of debt securities backed by the cash flows of its solar projects.

The deal is significant as it is the first of its kind and an important step in the direction of securitization of solar generation facilities. If all goes well, it will be yet another proof point for the bank-ability of solar. Thus far, in the United States, solar project developers have raised project finance funds based on pass-through arrangements that promise the delivery of tax subsidies accrued to the solar facility, to institutional investors (typically big banks) with large tax liabilities. SolarCity’s new private placement may open the door to a plethora of private-sector pooled-asset financing vehicles including real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLPs), that are attractive for their future cash flows, not just subsidies.

Across the pond in July, a …

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 28 – Nov. 3


A note to regular readers of this blog – this will be our final “The Week in Cleantech” post. Beginning next week, in an effort to bring you more focused content on specific clean technology sectors, we’ll begin posting highlights of specific deals and why they matter in relation to a broader sector. Now, let’s look at some highlights from last week:

eRecycling CorpsPerhaps influenced by the successful exit of ecoATM in July by investors including Claremont Creek Ventures and Tao Venture Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Silver Lake Kraftwerk last week pumped $105 million in Series C growth capital into eRecyclingCorps, a company similarly pursuing incentivized recycling of personal electronics. Instead of setting up a network of kiosks, however, eRecyclingCorps builds trade-in programs in partnership with the all largest mobile phone carriers. Founded in 2009, the company, which also counts SJF Ventures and NGEN Partners as investors, has said it intends to use the funds to support potential acquisitions, geographic expansion and new products and services.

Harvest AutomationThe Agriculture sector again proved to be on the minds of venture investors last week as Harvest Automation, a Massachusetts-based developer of robotic technology for agricultural applications, raised …

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 21 – 27


StemThe i3 Platform tracked exciting news from across cleantech sectors last week. Stem, a company marketing battery energy storage systems designed to enable commercial utility customers to better manage their energy use and avoid peak rates, announced a financing partnership with Clean Fleet Investors. Through the program, which has an initial sum of $5 million to work with, Stem will begin offering its battery energy management systems at no or low up-front cost, much the way residential solar companies have spurred higher demand through lease and power purchase agreements.

AutomaticIn another interesting partnership, Automatic, a provider of vehicle monitoring solutions designed to help drivers become more fuel-efficient, got a boost from Apple, which said it would begin offering Automatic’s product in its stores.

Meridian EnergyIn New Zealand, renewable energy generation company Meridian Energy announced its intent to conduct an initial public offering worth $1.7 billion. At that size, the offering would be the New Zealand exchange’s largest ever. While the majority of the company’s generation portfolio comes from traditional hydro-electric plants, which provide more predictable baseload power, it also operates almost 400 MW of wind power.

277-1_logo_v1Several companies raised venture funding during the week. WiTricity, a company …

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 14 – 20


There was a great deal of news pouring out of clean technology sectors last week. From the electric transportation market, Tesla Motors announced a partnership with AT&T in which the wireless carrier’s wireless network will be accessible in Tesla’s vehicles and drive connected-car features.

Electric bus maker Proterra raised $24 million in a growth funding round led by new utility investors Edison International and Constellation Energy, and joined by existing investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GM Ventures, Mitsui and others. The round reportedly values the company at around $200 million.

Home energy management start-up EcoFactor closed on $10 million in new funding from new investor NRG Energy, as well as existing investors Claremont Creek Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, and Aster Capital. The company says the new round will be used for growing the business and launching new products.

1366 Technologies, a developer of manufacturing technology that reduces costs and increases the efficiency of silicon wafer production for solar cells, raised $15 million in its Series C round from new investor and strategic partner Tokuyama Corporation. The round was joined by existing investors VantagePoint Capital Partners, North Bridge Venture

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 7 – 13


Here are some of last week’s top stories:

Achates Power raised a $35 million Series C round from existing investors to fund commercialization of its efficient opposed-piston combustion engines. Backers include Sequoia Capital, RockPort Capital Partners, Madrone Capital Partners, Interwest Partners, and Triangle Peak Partners.

Greenwave Reality a California-based developer of home energy monitoring and control solutions, expanded its Series B round with another $8 million, bringing the round total above $19 million. New investor The Westly Group joined the round with existing investor Craton Equity Partners.

Ontario-based waste-to-energy company Anaergia raised CAD $47.5 million ($46 million) in growth equity to help fund new projects. Investors include Macquarie Group, Tandem Expansion Fund, Export Development Canada, and Global H2O Investments

SolarCity made its first foray into the hardware side of the solar business with its $158 million acquisition of Zep Solar, a California-based maker of rooftop PV mounting and racking equipment. SolarCity expects the move to enable it to make its installation process more efficient. Zep had raised $7.4 million from Acquillian Investments.

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