cleantech insights

The Week in Cleantech: Sept 2 – 8


It was an exciting week in cleantech, with key venture rounds and partnerships secured by several start-ups. Leading the week’s news, Kaiima, a developer of high-yield seed technology for biofuels and chemicals, raised a large $65 million round to bring its total paid-in-capital above $90 million. New investors Horizon Ventures, International Finance Corporation, and Infinity Group joined this round alongside existing investors. Infinity Group has suggested the funds will be used at least partially to take the company’s high plant-yield technology to the Chinese agricultural market.

Following Solexel‘s big $40 million round expansion two weeks ago for its silicon gas-to-wafer technology, Silicor Materials, another innovator in the upstream segment of silicon PV, raised $6 million in new equity from Hudson Clean Energy Partners. Silicor Materials, formerly known as Calisolar, is developing technology for the upgrading of metallurgical-grade silicon for use in photovoltaics, to lower raw material costs in the solar module manufacturing process. The company has retained the services of R.W. Baird, an investment bank, to assist it in raising additional capital for the establishment of a manufacturing facility. Other companies to have raised capital in this upstream segment of silicon PV so far …


The Week in Cleantech: Aug. 26 – Sept. 1


We’re back from our Labor Day holiday here in the U.S., and it’s time to take a look back at the week in cleantech:

It was disclosed via a regulatory filing that kerfless silicon PV company Solexel closed on additional financing in the growth equity round opened in June. As the number of participating investors remained the same, we presume the $40 million capital increase comes from existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures, and Technology Partners. The round total stands at $54.7 million.

WaterSmart Software, which seeks to do for domestic water efficiency what Opower is doing for energy efficiency, closed on a $4.5 million Series A round. The round was led by new investor The Westly Group and included participation from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Physic Ventures, and Apsara Capital.

In the Transportation sector, fleet vehicle optimization company Local Motion raised $6 million in fresh capital from Andreessen Horowitz. The company, formerly an electric vehicle manufacturer known as Weng Motors, now provides software and kit to help companies and municipalities more efficiently share fleet vehicles among their staff.

In M&A, Millennium Power Solutions, a developer of intelligent battery energy …

The Week in Cleantech: August 12 – 18


It was an exciting week in cleantech, with several venture capital investments, a couple of sizable M&A transactions, and a large fund close by a long-time cleantech investor. In venture capital, downstream solar finance company Clean Power Finance closed on an additional $20 million in equity financing, this time from unnamed funds in the United Arab Emirates. It was also disclosed that power companies NextEra Energy and Dominion were among the participating investors in the company’s most recent $42 million Series C round. The presence of those investors, as well as Duke Energy and Edison International, in the company’s list of investors marks significant utility industry support for distributed solar. 

In M&A, Maxim Integrated Products will acquire Volterra Semiconductor, a heretofore publicly traded maker of integrated power management solutions for enterprise networking and communcations, for $605 million. Prior to going public in 2004, Volterra was backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Intel Capital, and Integral Capital Partners, among others. 


SolarCity has acquired solar sales and marketing company Paramount Solar in a mostly-stock transaction valued at $120 million. The deal highlights a trend of consolidation in the customer-facing downstream segment of solar sales and …

The Week in Cleantech: July 29 – Aug 4


Smart buildings start-up Control4 listed its IPO on the NASDAQ under the symbol CTRL at $16 per share, the midpoint of its planned range, raising $64 million. Major venture shareholders include Foundation Capital, Thomas Wiesel Partners, Frazier Technology Ventures, Cisco Systems, and Signal Peak Ventures.

Rive Technology, a developer of zeolite catalyst technology for improving the efficiency of the oil to gasoline conversion process, raised $20 million in fresh growth equity in a round led by new investor Saudi Aramco Ventures. Existing investors, including Charles River Ventures, Advanced Technology Ventures, Mitsui, and Nth Power, also participated in the round.

Solar PV-Thermal hybrid system maker EchoFirst was acquired by SunEdison. The price was not disclosed, but the new parent plans to finance installations of PV-Thermal hybrid systems with a dedicated $50 million fund.

Modular nuclear reactor developer NuScale Power gained a new development partner in Rolls Royce. The diversified power systems manufacturer known for jet engines and spiffy cars also has a 50-year history in the nuclear power industry, and is sure to be an integral partner in the commercialization of NuScale’s technology under the US DOE Small …

The Week in Cleantech: July 22 – 29

i3 Research Team

This past week saw a number of interesting financing rounds in the cleantech space. Although all were fairly small amounts, the variety of technologies represented is of interest. Cleanweb continues to grab headlines, although the more traditional Energy Efficiency and Solar sectors are also attracting financing.

Easy Taxi, a Brazilian app for ordering and pre-paying taxis, received $10 million from Millicom and Rocket Internet, in the form of the firms’ joint venture, Africa Internet Holding. The company will use the funding to expand into Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with Nigeria as the first new market. Easy Taxi joins Lyft, Hailo and other taxi and ride apps that have raised money recently.

Bidgely, a California-based developer of an online platform enabling home energy monitoring and management, received $5 million from Khosla Ventures. The company plans to use the funding to make hires in its business and engineering teams and commercialize its technology through energy carriers.

BrightSource Energy, the California-based developer of concentrating solar thermal technology used to produce high-value electricity and steam for power, petroleum and process markets, received $15 million of a targeted $35 million round. The company has previously raised over $620 …

Can Solar Clean Up Enhanced Oil Recovery?

i3 Research Team

Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) certainly doesn’t seem green at a first glance: it’s an umbrella term used to describe techniques that can increase the yield of crude oil extraction. EOR has been understood as enabling the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels by freeing up previously unreachable stores of oil. There’s a host of compelling reasons why oil is still being consumed on such a large scale, especially within the transportation sector; but the overarching theme of such discussions is that our oil dependence is not disappearing overnight. Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform reveals that the most active quarter for venture capital investing in the EOR sector came not in 2008 as it did for so many other types of cleantech, but during the last quarter of 2012. Making serious headway in this hyperactive EOR investment landscape are companies harnessing the power of the sun to make crude oil recovery a cleaner business. As oil prices ensure the continued growth of EOR, solar thermal is staging a takeover to bring more green to oil.

There are many methods for EOR, with steam injection being among the more common. In this approach, steam is introduced to the reservoir to reduce surface tension …

Energy innovation opens doors for the world’s 1.3B “energy-poor”

Josh Seidenfeld

InterSolar is on this week in San Francisco. While it’s been a rough year for the upstream folks, and the tradeshow floor may have a New-Year’s-Day-hangover feel about it (notable exception: the focus on the burgeoning energy storage field), some bright spots emerge. As I nurse my own hangover from last night’s Solar Battle of the Bands, I’m reflecting on a terrific side-event that featured some of the world’s most exciting energy innovators.

The Bay Area Energy Access Working Group (a name only an engineer could love) yesterday convened entrepreneurs blazing pathways out of energy poverty. The group, hosted by at Google’s San Francisco offices, shared new approaches to delivering energy services to some of the 1.3 billion energy-poor people across the globe. New financial tools, new communication technologies, and new business models drive energy innovation in the developing world just as they do in the rich world. The event’s three panels addressed these drivers.

Finance innovation might be the most important current development. Many of the technologies used to deliver life-altering energy services to off-grid, rural communities have long been established. Solar lanterns come to mind. Now, though, we require the money to deploy these technologies at …

The Week in Cleantech: July 1 – 7


The first week of the third quarter brought significant deal-making activity in cleantech, despite the U.S. Independence Day holiday. Most noteworthy were a few deals involving some venture exits:

ecoATM, a maker of electronics recycling kiosks that had raised just over $30 million in venture capital from investors including Claremont Creek Ventures, was acquired by Outerwall, maker of Coinstar money-changing kiosks, for $350 million. Outerwall had also been a strategic investor in the company.

There was also a flurry of IPO news during the week. French industrial wastewater treatment company Orege listed its IPO on the Euronext Paris exchange, raising EUR20 million ($26 million) in a transaction that values the company at around EUR60 million. Orege is backed by Climate Change Capital and Oraxys.

And in the U.S., two cleantech companies filed for $60 million IPOs during the week. Control4, a Salt Lake City, UT-based maker of building energy management and control systems toward energy efficiency, is backed by Foundation Capital, Cisco, GSV Capital, and others. Marrone Bio Innovations, a Davis, CA-based developer of natural weed, pest, and disease management products for plants and crops, is backed by Calvert Investments, …

Riding the solar coaster – a free mini-report from Cleantech Group

Whitney Michael

Just released – a special excerpt on Solar from Cleantech Group’s Quarterly Investment Monitor report (normally available only to subscribers).

Venture investment in solar in the first quarter of 2012 was down following on the back of a strong 2011. Companies innovating in various areas of the solar sector raised $250 million in the first quarter, down 53 percent from the previous quarter and down 56 percent when compared with the same quarter a year earlier. While the total amount invested dropped steeply, the number of deals done remained relatively strong at 28 (right near the long-running sweet spot for the sector of 30 deals per quarter).

This suggests investors are both cautious about market conditions and capital-constrained and are choosing more efficient fund allocation while still keeping an appetite for deals. The average round sizes for both the quarter as a whole and the top three deals were also down around 50 percent compared with the quarterly averages for 2011.

SolarCity’s $81 million round, the biggest round of the quarter for the solar sector, drove the large dollar share for the segment. In addition to SolarCity’s round, other PV integrators/developers including SungevityOneRoof EnergyISIS Solar

Who’s Brave Enough to Start a Solar Fund Today?

Sheeraz Haji

The other day an investor was updating us on his fund’s activities. He said their partnership had decided to focus on – you won’t believe this – capital efficient investment opportunities. Shocking! He was then quick to point out that they had only invested in one solar deal, and they were definitely avoiding solar going-forward. Sound familiar?

This conversation got me thinking – is anyone out there brave (or crazy) enough to start a new solar fund today. I’m not talking about folks willing to invest only in the downstream side. It’s well-understood that companies like SolarCity and SunRun are benefiting from cheap panel prices, government incentives, and financing vehicles. Many investors have noticed (for example, Silver Lake Kraftwork’s first investment was in Solar City); SunRun just raised another $60 million. I’m wondering if you know of any investors willing to focus new investments on solar technology (manufacturing) companies.

Why? My basic rationale is that it feels like the pendulum has swung too far to the negative, and there should be a plethora of solid solar companies to invest in at very reasonable valuations. Our i3 database captures almost 1800 solar companies. Yes, I know it’s tough out there …