Cleantech Venture Funding Brightens for All But Solar

The clouds may be parting for cleantech startups. Venture capital funding for renewable energy and cleantech startups (which plunged from last October through March) rebounded in the second quarter—but the $1.2 billion invested in 67 countries is still down 44 percent from the same quarter in 2008.

Cleantech venture investments were strongest in transportation—specifically, vehicles ($236 million invested), biofuels ($206 million), and advanced batteries ($165 million), according to the Cleantech Group, the San Francisco, CA, research and advisory firm, and Deloitte, the financial services firm. Researchers say the $1.2 billion total was invested in 94 companies, with an average round size of $12.9 million. A spokeswoman for the Cleantech Group says the results reflect VC deals in areas where the Cleantech Group has established offices with local researchers, and therefore represents the most accurate and comprehensive global survey of cleantech investing trends.  Roughly two-thirds of the deals were in North America, mostly the United States.

cleantech-vc-2q091Brian Fan, the Cleantech Group’s senior director of research, tells me the biggest cleantech deals in Xconomy cities during the quarter that ended June 30 occurred in San Diego, where V-Vehicle got $100 million, and suburban Boston, where A123 Systems also got $100 million. The biggest financing in Seattle was $6 million for Powerit Holdings.

Things continue to look gloomy in the solar sector. Venture investment in solar technologies fell to its lowest level in three years, with just $114 million invested. VC funding in solar startups peaked at $1.2 billion during the third quarter of 2008. “We don’t see solar as dead,” says Brian Fan, the Cleantech Group’s senior director of research. “Solar has strong support in the venture community and among investors. What they’re doing is taking care of their existing portfolio companies. So they’re not making new investments and adding to their portfolio companies.”

The researchers say the largest deals in each sector were:

—Vehicles: San Diego-based V-Vehicle, which is building a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle in Northeast Louisiana, raised $100 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and T. Boone Pickens. Fisker Automotive of Irvine, CA, raised $85 million from Eco-Drive Partners and Kleiner Perkins to fund development and manufacturing of its Karma plug-in hybrid. Norway’s Think Global raised $39 million, and Israel’s ETV Motors raised $12 million.

—Biofuels:, a European developer of biogas plants, raised $82 million from TCW Group and others. Solazyme, a renewable oil producer based in South San Francisco, CA, raised $57 million from Braemar Energy Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and new investor VantagePoint Venture Partners.

—Advanced Batteries: A123 Systems of Watertown, MA, raised $100 million from GE and others. Deeya Energy of Freemont, CA, raised $30 million from new investor Technology Partners and existing investors BlueRun Ventures, DFJ, Element Partners and New Enterprise Associates.

—Solar: Cobol Technologies, an Indian solar developer, raised $30 million from Pangea Capital. Ausra, a Mountain View, CA, startup developing technology that concentrates solar energy, raised $25.5 million from Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, among others. Infinia, a Kennewick, WA, vendor of technology that combines a Stirling engine with concentrating solar dish, raised $14.1 million in convertible debt, as part of a plan to raise $50 million.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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6 responses to “Cleantech Venture Funding Brightens for All But Solar”

  1. That investment in batteries is good news. With better batteries, we will have all the incentive we need to change over to fully electric vehicles. Then we can save the crude oil for making plastics.