Cleantech Engine Revved In ’08—Deals to Remember

These are the salad days for the Boston area’s developers of alternative energy and clean technologies. Such firms had no problem landing big deals with corporate partners, governments, and investors in 2008.

At the risk of sounding whimsical, the standout cleantech deals in 2008 provoked thoughts of a not-so-distant future when, for example, advanced batteries developed in the Boston area power everyday cars in Kendall Square. Imagine the day when we (or most of us, at least) turn on the lights, knowing that, say, 25 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources such as sunlight, wind, and rising tides.

Similar to how we at Xconomy compiled a 2008 list of biotech deals yesterday, the cleantech deals in the list that follows weren’t selected based on dollar values alone, but a combination of value, innovation, and local impact—especially the latter, because of our focus on hyper-local business coverage.

Here is our list of 2008 cleantech deals to remember:

A123 Land Auto Deal, Seeks IPO

A123 Systems made more strides last year to position itself as a major player in the alternative energy market. The Watertown, MA-based developer of “nanophosphate” lithium-ion batteries made headlines last year with its deal to supply batteries for Norwegian electric car company Think. A123—which media reports indicate is not to be GM’s pick to supply batteries for the Chevy Volt—also filed papers at the start of the Summer Olympics to have a $175 million initial public offering.

RockPort Capital Rocks to Cleantech

Boston-based venture firm RockPort Capital Partners made lots of noise last year about raising the world’s largest cleantech fund, valued at $450 million. The firm, which has West Coast operations in Menlo Park, CA, has put the fund to work with investments in Advanced Electron Beams, a Wilmington, MA-based provider of energy-efficient beam transmitters, and Barre, VT-based Northern Power Systems, a developer of next-generation wind turbines.

HP Plugged Boston-Power in Big Supply Deal

Boston-Power, a developer of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, got a big charge in late 2008. The Westborough, MA-based company, which has raised $70 million in venture funding since 2005, inked a major deal with Hewlett-Packard to be the venerable IT powerhouse’s supplier for a new line of eco-friendly replacement laptop batteries branded as the “HP Enviro Series.” Wade wrote about what the sizable deal means for the firm and spoke with founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud.

GreenFuel Advances $92M Algae Plant in Spain

GreenFuel Technologies, the firm that harnesses carbon dioxide emissions to produce algae for fuel and other uses, appeared to have a solid 2008 after shuttering its third-generation algae greenhouse in Arizona and later cutting half of its 50-person staff in 2007. For one, the Cambridge, MA-based firm made progress in its deal with Madrid-based alternative energy firm Aurantia to build a $92 million algae plant in Jerez, Spain. (The project began undisclosed in late 2007, but Bob broke the story last year and Xconomy chronicled the change in CEOs at the privately held firm.)

Konarka Lands $45M Deal, Déjà Vu…

Konarka Technologies, a developer of flexible plastics that turn sunlight into power, renewed its 2007 deal making with a $45 million financing late last year. (Yep, the Lowell, MA-based firm closed a $45 million financing in 2007, too.) The privately held company’s latest $45 million came from French energy giant Total, which also forged a research and development deal with Konarka. The deal gave Total a nearly 20-percent stake in Konarka.

Verenium Fueled With BP Deal, Money

Verenium (NASDAQ:VRNM), a Cambridge-based provider of microbes to convert high-cellulose materials into ethanol, landed one of the area’s biggest cleantech deals of the year with gas and energy powerhouse BP. London-based BP committed to pay Verenium $90 million through early 2010 to share its technology, and the two companies formed a joint venture that owns any new ethanol-related technology developed by the firms.

Cleantech Firms Survived Harsh IPO Climate

Despite the dearth of tech-related initial public offerings in 2008, New England cleantech firms managed to rise a bit above the IPO failings of some of their counterparts in other industries. For example, GT Solar (NASDAQ:SOLR), the Merrimack, NH-based maker of equipment for producing photovoltaic panels, made its public debut last year. Also, Wade wrote last year that two other alternative energy firms—Newton, MA-based First Wind and STR Holdings, headquartered in Enfield, CT—filed paperwork so they could go public, too.

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