| February 5th 2014
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’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.
Amprius’ 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, …
by Brett Richardson
| February 3rd 2014
Africa is in the midst of an agricultural revolution, with innovation driving new avenues for increased crop yields, better resource and capital operating efficiencies, and general farm management knowledge. Africa is home to almost 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, or about 60% of the world’s total. This contrasts the fact that 1/3rd of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, with population expected to grow to 1.2 billion people by 2050. The cleantech world is driving the changing scope of African agriculture with an influx of new companies offering innovative solutions which will alleviate stresses to the current system and support farmers.
Both local and international startups are addressing some of the most basic challenges of agricultural production in Africa. 20%, or 4 billion dollars of grain harvest, is lost every year and 35-50% of fruit and vegetables spoil from crop and storage pests. UK based companies Plant Health Care and Exosect are targeting this inefficiency with pilot projects in Africa using their proprietary crop protection technologies. Plant Health Care provides natural pesticides which leaves no residual impact on the environment and helps to activate certain defensive and growth responses. Exosect also makes bio-control pesticides that can be applied to …
by Marie Watanabe
| January 31st 2014
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 projectsand is expected to attract more individuals and smaller organizations interested in financing solar assets.
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 …
by Amanda Faulkner
| January 31st 2014
California Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a drought emergency in California and asked residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent. While residential water usage is an extremely important part of the equation, agriculture is the largest user of water, using around 80 percent of the water from ground and surface sources. Given this challenge, what companies are helping farmers reduce their water use, both in California and around the world? Here are a few taking on this task:
- AquaSpy is a California-based developer of agricultural technology to improve crop yield through monitoring soil moisture and improving root health. Through sensors and data, the company is allowing farmers to only water plants when they need it.
- Driptech is a California and India-based developer of micro-irrigation sytstems for small plot farmers in developing countries. Although the company does not target farms in California, it does provide low-cost irrigation systems to farmers in other drought-prone areas around the world.
- mOasis is a California-based developer of soil amendment product designed to increase crop yields and reduce the need for fertilizer and water. The company’s hydrogel forms a tight bond with water and nutrients, allowing them to be used by plants
by Natalie Volpe
| January 29th 2014
German utility giant, E.ON, announced on Wednesday it would lead a $12.75 million investment round in Silicon Valley based start-up, AutoGrid. AutoGrid provides smart grid analytics to the utility industry through a software-enabled energy management system. The company has already solidified strategic partnerships with Silver Spring Networks and U.S. utilities in California, Oklahoma and Texas to deploy its Demand Response Optimization and Management System (DROMS).
E.ON’s recent investment in the smart grid start-up will help the utility reposition themselves in the increasingly competitive landscape of European utilities. AutoGrid will leverage its big data analytics to manage intermittent power flows brought on by renewable energy. With more and more renewable energy entering the grid, E.ON is challenged with ensuring the stability of the grid while providing a smooth transition to cleaner fuels. Earlier this summer, E.ON invested $120 million in fuel cell manufacturer, Bloom Energy. These most recent investments, along with other strategic bets on start-ups including FirstFuel, will help E.ON thrive in a deregulated and distributed energy market, and are examples of the progressive thinking utilities have evolved in adapting to a changing energy landscape.
by M Paschich
| January 28th 2014
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.
John Stanfield, CEO, Local Motion
Can you describe the problems Local Motion solves for its clients?
Local Motion was founded to help vehicle fleets get rid of the keys. Our clients have a huge problem with the most basic of questions: where is the key?
We solve that problem by installing a piece of hardware into the vehicle that allows the user to access the vehicle with something they already have in their pocket. You don’t need to know where the keys are, nor do you need to keep and manage keys anymore, when access to mobility is granted by the thing you bring with you to work every day… your ID badge.
From the managers side, we give …
by Marie Watanabe
| January 23rd 2014
It seems that everyone is talking about Cleanweb these days. Nest, which manufactures thermostats and smoke detectors but is at its core a bet on Cleanweb “Internet-of-Things” connectivity, was acquired by Google for $3.2B this month, and investors are likely all the more keen on Cleanweb models that could catch the eye of large tech giants. In 2013 alone, hundreds of Cleanweb companies including Uber and LiquidSpace raised millions of dollars.
Amidst all the excitement surrounding Cleanweb, one question remains – What exactly defines Cleanweb?
Cleantech Group recently had an internal discussion on how we define “Cleanweb”. In the report, Sparking the Cleanweb, led by Cleantech Group and Pure Energy Partners, the term Cleanweb is loosely defined as “web or IT-based solutions that optimize resource use and accelerate the clean economy”. The paper identifies four main Cleanweb segments: Catalyzing Cleantech, Resource Cloud, Big Data, and New Frontiers.
Catalyzing Cleantech includes companies like Mosaic and Clean Power Finance which create and facilitate distribution channels for clean technologies and solutions. Resource Cloud includes companies such as Sidecar that offer a shared pool of resources to the user
. Many Energy Efficiency companies including Opower and Honest Buildings are leading Big …
by Leo Zhang
| January 23rd 2014
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:
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 …
by Sheeraz Haji
| January 15th 2014
Woa!!! Monday’s announcement of Google’s acquisition of Nest represents not only a key inflection point for cleantech, but also speaks volumes on the increasing importance of customers. The $3.2 billion deal marks a significant milestone for the home automation company; one that many believed the cleantech market couldn’t produce.
Here at Cleantech Group, we believe that the cleantech market is essential, massive, vibrant, and desired. Based on data tracked in i3 (such as investment round amounts and participating investors), insider-sourced information reported publicly about various investor returns, and standard venture-round ownership stakes, it looks like Google’s acquisition of Nest represents a 24x multiple on paid-in capital. Our i3 business is about collecting the best data possible and helping corporate teams and venture investors connect with innovation: the fact that a member of the highest level of management at Nest owns and contributes content to Nest’s i3 profile has been truly motivating to my team working day and night on the i3 platform.
So what can we learn from Nest? Our upcoming Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014 will discuss just that. Last year, Nest keynoted at the Forum (and went on to win North American Company of the Year at …
| January 14th 2014
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.
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. And …