California, Georgia & Massachusetts, United States [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] The Cleantech Group this week released preliminary Q1 2010 results for clean technology venture investments in North America, Europe, China and India, totaling US $1.9 billion across 180 companies. Cleantech venture investment was up 29% from the previous quarter and up 83% from the same period a year ago. The 165 deals recorded in Q1 2010 represents a new record total, edging ahead of the previous high set in Q4 2009.
“The bounce back in venture investment from lows in early 2009 has continued, with the first three months of 2010 representing the strongest start to a year we have ever recorded,” said Sheeraz Haji, president of Cleantech Group. “Key to the growth has been increasing interest in a broader range of cleantech themes, such as smart mobility and resource efficiency, which are now taking over from the historically dominant renewable energy sector.”
Growth in cleantech venture investment was matched by new investment from utilities and corporations. Total capacity additions announced by utilities increased in Q1 2010 compared to Q4 2009, as government incentives spurred spending on the part of companies.
In the U.S., wind and solar photovoltaics remained the most attractive energy sources for utilities due to extended tax credits, while utilities also focused on smart grid projects boosted by significant federal grants, underscored by Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Energy and CenterPoint Energy each receiving $200 million grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In the corporate space, direct investments announced during Q1 2010 increased by 140 percent quarter over quarter compared to Q4 2009, primarily by energy and consumer and industrial products companies. Significant investments in biomass and wind projects were announced by Royal Dutch Shell, General Motors and Valero Energy.
This news comes on the heels of almost two years of turmoil in capital markets and it doesn’t appear as though the money will stop flowing in the next quarter. Just this week, companies in the wind, solar and bioenergy sectors were the recipients of even more capital.
First up was Suniva Inc., which got good news when it learned that it has been selected for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program under the DOE’s Innovative Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Advanced Transmission and Distribution Technologies Solicitation. Upon the completion of the DOE’s due diligence and subject to the successful negotiation of the terms of a loan for approximately $141 million, Suniva plans to start the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Saginaw County, Michigan.
Building such a manufacturing plant could create approximately 500 direct jobs at Suniva, while creating an additional 2,000 indirect jobs for the Michigan economy according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The loan guarantee will enable Suniva to more than triple exports over the next five years. Last year, Suniva exported more than 90 percent of its products to Asia and Europe.
“The DOE’s acceptance of Suniva into the Loan Guarantee Program is very timely and supports the shared vision of President Obama and Suniva in significantly increasing the level of exports over the next five years,” said John Baumstark, chairman and chief executive officer of Suniva. “The loan guarantee is essential to our efforts in building a second manufacturing plant in Michigan as quickly as possible, creating new cleantech jobs for Americans and supporting the economy by substantially increasing the number of solar cells and modules available for export.”
Next up was Amyris Biotechnologies Inc., which announced that Temasek Holdings has invested $47.8 million into the company. Amyris intends to use these funds to support biofuel commercial plant design and construction activities as well as ongoing operations in the U.S. and Brazil.
Amyris has secured $244 million in private funding since inception in 2003, including funding directly into Amyris Biotechnologies and into its subsidiary, Amyris Brasil S.A.
“We are privileged to welcome Temasek as a significant investor, and appreciate having them join us as we look to commercialize and scale our renewable fuels and chemicals,” said John Melo, chief executive officer of Amyris.
Finally, in the wind sector, WindPole Ventures announced that it has raised $1 million in working capital to support development of a national, real-time, hub height wind information service. WindPole Ventures received a $500,000 convertible loan from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to match the equity raised.
The funding round was led by James Lang, former president and COO of Cambridge Energy Research Associates.
“Along with Invenergy’s order for instrumentation in six states, this represents a significant step towards national coverage,” said Steve Kropper, CEO of WindPole Ventures LLC. “Our portfolio includes almost 6,000 very tall towers (over 80 meters) and we are committed to expanding coverage for our real-time, hub height data. In 18 months, we plan to instrument 580 towers and thus to cover 85% of all current and planned wind projects in the US. Today’s wind data is inadequate to meet the due diligence standards of investors. Most wind resource data is repurposed consumer and aviation weather. These ‘guesstimates’ up to the hub height of today’s turbines generates unacceptable errors. Our tall towers yield data over a 20-50 mile range suitable for development PLUS short term power predictions critical to ISOs, power traders and wind project operators.”