cleantech insights

Discussing the ABB + Solar Impulse Partnership with ABB SVP Maxine Ghavi

M Paschich

ABB_Maxine _GhaviEarlier this quarter, ABB announced their technology alliance partnership with Solar Impulse. We spoke with Maxine Ghavi—SVP & Head of the Solar Industry Segment Initiative at ABB—about the nature of this corporate partnership and what she sees lying ahead for the team.   

Hello Maxine… Can you tell us the genesis story for the ABB + Solar Impulse partnership?

If you look at ABB and Solar Impulse we share a common ideal, and that is to address the growing energy demand with increased efficiency and minimal environmental impact. Both organizations value innovation, value pushing the envelope on the limits of technology. We also share the cultural characteristics of being Swiss-based companies. We both have novel approaches to solving problems in a responsible way, and endeavor to make significant contributions to the areas of renewable energy and storage. All of these together – our shared visions for technology, innovation and sustainable energy – they set a solid foundation for collaboration and to take these common areas of expertise to the next level.

ABB_Blog_Image1Yes, that’s quite interesting. How do you fit into this story? Can you share a bit on your background, and what you’re doing at ABB? Also, what do you like


Electrifying the Developing World: A Chat with BBOXX CEO Mansoor Hamayun

M Paschich

One of our sessions during the Cleantech Forum Europe that will be held in Stockholm (May 19-21) is titled the 10 Year Track – How we (can have) Impact.  The theme is about how European companies are tackling environmental and resource challenges in some of the most populous and impoverished regions of the world.  One of the speakers in this session is Mansoor Hamayun of BBOXX, a company leading the solar revolution across the developing world by designing, manufacturing, distributing and financing innovative plug & play solar systems to meet the energy needs of the mass market.


Can you tell us the genesis story for BBOXX?

Sure thing. BBOXX started off during my university times. It was my second year studying electrical engineering in London at Imperial College and I was sitting over dinner joking around with a few friends and I said “half the world doesn’t have electricity.” And that lingered in my head for a while. I didn’t think too seriously at first, but it made me interested personally in why one third of mankind (which is the correct number) doesn’t have access to electricity when it’s so fundamental to ensuring an acceptable quality of life – …

Consolidating Trends in Downstream Solar

Marie Watanabe

Last week, Vivint Solar, a Utah-based developer of residential solar PV systems, acquired Solmetric, a CA-based manufacturer of PV installation tools and software products, for $12 million. The merger will enable Vivint Solar to offer Solmetric’s flagship products such as SunEye, PV Designer, and PV Analyzer to its customers. The newly added services would help facilitate the pre-installation site assessment and the CAD process, allowing Vivint Solar to provide more comprehensive solutions to savvy solar customers. One of the top competitors, SolarCity, also made a significant move earlier this year when it acquired Common Assets, a CA-based developer of crowd-funding systems. The company offers a web-based investment platform that allows individuals and organizations to invest in solar projects and is expected to attract more individuals and smaller organizations interested in financing solar assets.


solar blog 01302014

In another example to increase market share in solar, Proinso, a Spanish supplier of solar panels and system components, has partnered with OXIS Energy, a UK-based developer of Lithium-ion batteries, to create a new solar energy storage system. The company expects to focus on the grid-connected storage market and plans to roll out the new product this year. These mergers …

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 …

There’s Still Hope in Solar

Marie Watanabe

Solar might not be the most up-and-coming, high-growth sector today. However, there’s still hope for growth and innovation. Now that prices of solar panels have plummeted – panels are 70 percent less than prices in 2008 – solar companies are looking to cut costs in non-module areas such as labor and EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction). Traditionally, solar modules cost more than a half of the total system cost, but with the lower module prices today, the portions of labor and EPC costs have risen as a percentage of the total costs. To further cut costs and remain competitive in the solar market, some start-ups are casting spotlights on robots to make installation faster, easier, and cheaper.

One of the companies in this area is Alion Energy based in Richmond, CA. So far, it has produced two robotic vehicles: Rover for installation and Spot for cleaning solar panels. By automating the installation process, Rover replaces labor for rack assembly and panel placement. This could reduce construction time by five months in some cases. With shorter construction time, developers could also cut interest payments on loans. Totaling all of these benefits would result in tremendous cost reduction, especially since labor and …

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.

To dynamically track deal-making activity in clean technology sectors, consider subscribing to our i3 Platform.…

The Week in Cleantech: September 16-22

i3 Research Team

Cleantech celebrated the last week of the summer with a number of funding rounds and relationships sprinkled with a bit of bad news. Starting with the less than positive news, ECOtality, the California vendor of electric vehicle supply equipment, has filed for Chapter 11 protection and is seeking to auction off its assets.

On the sunny side, Veremiun, a California developer of high-performance enzymes for us in industrial processes, was acquired by BASF for €48 million (~$62 million). The move will help BASF take on DuPont and Novozymes in the industrial enzyme market. In another instance of a large corporate making waves in this space, Google has purchased the entire output of the 240 MW Happy Hereford wind farm from Chermac Energy. Google will purchase the energy, retire the renewable energy credits and then resell the power on the wholesale market. Another energy generation project inked this week was Pelamis Wave Power and Aquamarine Power working together to develop the largest tidal project in Europe.

On the funding front, eSolar led with the biggest round of the week, raising $22 million from Oak Investment Partners to aid eSolar’s expansion into the MENA region. Cool Planet Energy Systems

The Week in Cleantech: September 9-15

i3 Research Team

Cleantech startups cleaned up this week, with a number of venture rounds closed. Enlighted, Recovery Technology Solutions, Isotrak, Plaxica, Space-Time Insight and Engineered Carbon Solutions all raised venture rounds. In addition, SolarCity received $124 million in Project Finance from Direct Energy and others to finance commercial and industrial solar projects. On the IPO front, SunEdison formalized plans to spin off its semiconductor manufacturing unit via a $250 million IPO. SunEdison Semiconductor would trade under the former MEMC Electronic Materials’ symbol of WFR. The unit reported $917.5 million in revenue in 2012.

Jumping back to venture financing, Enlighted, a California-based provider of lighting control systems for energy management applications, raised $5 million from EDBI to help scale its global operations and bring its solutions to Singapore and other Asian markets. Recovery Technology Solutions, a Minnesota-based developer of extraction and recycling of asphalt projects, raised $16.5 million from US Renewables Group. Space-Time Insight, a California-based provider of situation intelligence software to utilities, O&G, telecom and transportation companies, raised $20 million in Series A funding from EnerTech Capital , Novus Energy Partners , Opus Capital Ventures and Zouk Capital to take its services to new …