Cleantech investments shrink 33 percent (Plus 9 companies to watch)

The amount of money put into the solar sector decreased sharply, with biofuels, green chemicals and electric vehicle companies picking up the slack - for a total of $6.46 billion in 2012 green technology venture capital.

Political uncertainty and an overall decline in venture capital transactions last year resulted in a big drop in the amount of funding that went toward green technology startups.

In 2012, $6.46 billion in VC went toward cleantech, spread out over 704 deals, according to The Cleantech Group. Much of the money - almost 90 percent - came in the form of late-stage rounds that went toward companies that already had some sort of track record rather than into brand-new concerns.

One notable trend was the sharp decrease in money for solar technology companies, which isn't all that surprising given the high-profile Solyndra bankruptcy, which was held up repeatedly by Congress as an example of how NOT to invest in emerging technologies. 

Biofuel and biochemical companies picked up the slack with $952 million in investments. Transportation was close behind ($927 million) followed by energy efficiency ($907 million).

For more about the trends in this year's report.

Yesterday, I followed up on some of the biggest deals that were listed in the 2011 edition of this same Cleantech status report. So it makes sense to list the 9 biggest transactions from the latest version. They appear below, in descending order based on transaction size.

Fisker Automotive ($381 million) - The luxury electric vehicle company so far has raised $1.2 billion

Sapphire Energy ($144 million) - The company is benefiting from interest in algae biofuels .

Beta Renewables ( $116 million) - The non-food cellulosic biofuels feedstock sector is poised for commercial breakthrough in 2013 and 2014.

Elevance Renewable Sciences ($104 million) - The company is creating green chemicals from plant-based oils.

IO Data Centers ($90 million) - A developer of next-generation modular data center technology. 

Protean Electric ($84 million) - A startup focused on in-wheel propulsion systems for electric vehicles. 

Blu Homes ($60 million) - A maker of energy-efficient prefabricated homes.

View ($55 million) - The green buidling startup is working on energy-efficient glass.

Coulomb Technologies ($47.5 million) - Now known as ChargePoint, the company owns the largest independent network of electric vehicle charging stations.

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