cleantech insights

This Deal Matters: Cool Planet Energy Systems Closes Series D Funding; Corporates Bet on Advanced Biofuel and Rising Activities in Asia

Leo Zhang

cool planetCool Planet Energy Systems, the Colorado-based developer of advanced drop-in fuels and biochar, announced a $50.7 million investment and the closing of the company’s $100 million Series D growth equity round. Cool Planet’s latest investors include Concord Energy Holdings, a Singapore-based crude oil trading company, which led the round with existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners. Other existing investors include BP Ventures, ConocoPhillips, Energy Technology Ventures, Exelon Capital Partners, General Electric, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, and Shea Ventures. The new investment, along with Cool Planet’s strategic corporate investors, will help to expedite the company’s 10 million gallon per year biofuel facility in Louisiana. The timing of this deal is significant in that it demonstrates corporate interests in bio-based drop-in fuels, especially given the ongoing commercialization struggle of another high-profile drop-in fuel company, KiOR, which private investor Vinod Khosla has recently committed an additional $25 million from his personal trust to continue supporting the company.

This deal also matters as it is the second deal of back-to-back investments into biofuel companies, following a $60 million growth equity round raised by LanzaTech just a week ago. Notably, we have observed increasing …


This Deal Matters: LanzaTech Raises $60 Million; Corporate Investors Committed to Technology Innovations

Leo Zhang

lanzatechLanzaTech, the Illinois-based technology developer of waste gas fermentation to liquid fuels and chemicals, announced it has raised $60 million in its first close of Series D growth equity round. Mitsui & Co., a leading Japanese multi-industry conglomerate, led the round with a $20 million investment. Given the current difficult capital raising market, this deal is also significant in a sense that it has attracted both new and existing investors. Two new investors, Siemens Venture Capital and China International Capital Corporation, joined the round to further develop LanzaTech’s core gas fermentation platform and increase the company’s product portfolio.

Recall Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014 on the theme of accelerating system change towards a decentralized future, during which LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren presented her company’s approach in collaborating with larger corporates to create a synergy between innovations and corporate resources. Combing LanzaTech’s core technology with corporations’ existing infrastructures, this technology platform can empower the decentralized production of renewable fuels and chemicals using existing local waste resources.

Given LanzaTech’s current commercial facilities, in addition to this latest round of investment, we are confident and excited to see additional progress in the future. Stay tuned via Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform for …

Khosla Ventures: Exploring Decentralization at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014

M Paschich

On March 11-13, Cleantech Group is hosting the largest and longest running Cleantech forum in the world, Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. This annual gathering of the global cleantech innovation community offers a comprehensive development program along with exclusive opportunities to network and make deals happen. In the lead up to the Forum, we’re chatting with leaders across the resource innovation space to discuss the changes decentralization is causing across different markets, end-users, enterprises, technologies, and business models. chung full

Andrew Chung is one of six partners at Khosla Ventures, which manages over $3 billion of committed capital and has invested in over 80 sustainability companies.  Andrew serves on the boards of companies that include Lanzatech, Ecomotors, Ambri, Pellion, and BioConsortia, and also leads the firm’s Asia activities.  Prior to Khosla, Andrew helped build the firm’s cleantech practice area at Lightspeed Ventures, which invested in companies like Solazyme, Nest Labs, LS9, Coaltek, Quantumscape, and Stion.  Follow Andrew on Twitter: @achung

We’re looking forward to having you participate in Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. As you know, the theme is Accelerating system change: towards a decentralized future. Can you tell us about some of the changes you’re seeing underway in our

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

Corp. & VCs on Liquid Fuels Vehicles vs. Electric Vehicles

Leo Zhang

It is widely agreed upon that our existing transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul in order to reduce the current level of vehicle emissions. Nevertheless, there has been much debate on the future source of renewable energy for the transportation sector. Will all cars of the future be electric? Or will we see a series of bio-refineries being built across the globe to produce renewable fuels that can be used by existing vehicles? Depending on who you talk to, you may hear a completely different answer. Therefore, let’s examine the hard data, the Corporate and VC investments tracked by the i3 Platform in the Transportation sector:

i3 transport graph

The immediate trend we notice is the significant spike in investments in Electric Vehicles and Drop-in Fuels in 2010. Several reasons contributed to the spike, including multiple mega-round investments into infrastructure-related projects, such as the development of charging stations and the construction of large-scale bio-refineries. Nevertheless, based on this data, we have seen that the Corporate and VC community has made a comparable amount of investments into both energy types (when we combine investments in liquid fuel vehicles and drop-in fuels). Since this first wave of investments, the electric vehicles sector has definitely received relatively …

High Altitude Wind Power: A Race to the Top

Lorenzo Chiesura

Compared to conventional wind farms, high altitude wind technology can harness kinetic energy with 5x greater capacity factors, allowing for highly scalable electricity production (thanks to the cube of velocity at high altitudes). While first imagined as a source of useful energy back in the 19th century, airborne wind technologies such as floating wind turbines, aerostats, sailplanes and kites are still imagined as nascent discoveries. Yet we are seeing high altitude wind manufacturers achieving more traction in the US as well as Europe and especially in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Moreover, corporate and strategic players across the globe seem keen to invest in and be engaged with high altitude wind companies.

In Germany, for example, Skysails received €15 million from DSM Venturing in 2010 and has since implemented both a towing kite technology for the shipping industry and an offshore-based kite power generation system. Additionally, Kite wind innovator Nature Technology Systems (NTS) received $1 million in 2012 from the multinational technology corporate, 3M, and the German bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau(KfW).

Dutch producer of autonomously controlled glider planes tethered to ground-based generators, Ampyx Power, has received capital from several international institutions and the large corporate KLM Royal

This Deal Matters: Commercialization of Wireless Charging Technology for Electric Vehicles

Leo Zhang

W277-1_logo_v1iTricity, the Massachusetts-based developer of wireless energy transmission and charging technology, announced last week that it had licensed certain patents to Toyota for the development of wireless battery charging technology for the auto major’s electric vehicles. Prior to this licensing agreement, Toyota had also made an equity investment to WiTricity in 2011, to accelerate the development of such technology. This licensing agreement marks a major commercialization milestone towards the wide-spread adoption of WiTricity’s wireless charging systems. Within the same timeframe, a BMW product development executive also announced that “electrification will be a central thread” in BMW’s future product development. In addition, Audi has unveiled its electric crossover concept vehicle at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

Electric vehicle application isn’t the only market focus for WiTricity. The company’s business strategy aims to license its wireless-power technology to as many partners as possible, including sectors such as transportation, consumer electronics and industrial applications. Consequently, WiTricity also has other corporate investors that have their eyes set on this promising technology. In October of 2013, WiTricity had closed a Growth Equity round from Intel Capital and Foxconn Technology Group, one of China’s largest electronics manufacturers. In addition, General Electric was …

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.…

#Cleanwebcity Interviews: BMW iVentures

Jill Bunting

On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City,” the first senior executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.

ulrich quay bmw iventures

Ulrich Quay, Managing Director, BMW i Ventures

Some corporates seem to be either unsure of, or even hostile towards, disruptive cleanweb applications like sharing platforms. BMW seems to have embraced the potential in this space. How do you view the opportunity in cleanweb for a company like BMW?

We’ve been studying mobility needs in the future. There’s a lot of potential, especially in urban areas, for BMW to play an important role here. We view it as, instead of customers having no BMW experience, we rather they have an experience through mobility services. For our parents and grandparents, they were saving their money for a car. Mobility behavior for people today has clearly changed, and a company like BMW has to be part of that future.

We …

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 …