Revisiting 12 mega cleantech financing deals

With two notable exceptions - Better Place and MiaSole - these big venture capital bets in solar power, energy efficiency, alternative fuels and other green technologies appear to be paying off.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Early last year, I wrote about some of the biggest 2011 investments in cleantech - including companies focused on solar power, energy efficiency, green transportation and alternate fuels. 

That story featured tidbits about 12 of the largest venture capital financing deals during the year, courtesy of ongoing analysis by Cleantech Group. The company's update list for last year isn't out yet, but I figured now would be a good time to revisit the fates of the ones that I listed last year.

For the most part, they appear to be paying off - although one was sold for much less than its 2011 funding round, and another is struggling to revise its strategy.

An update on each company is below. The number in parentheses is the amount of money each of them received during just one big deal in 2011. 

Fisker Automotive ($315 million) - As of September 2012, the luxury electric vehicle company is flush with another $100 million in equity funding - which will go to product development, market expansion and a new marketing campaign. That brings its total raised so far to $1.2 billion, plus a $193 million loan under the Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. It has sold more than 1,500 models of its first car, the Karma sedan.

BrightSource Energy ($201 million) - The concentrating solar technology company also scored more financing in the past 12 months; the latest round for $80 million in October brings its total so far to $615 million. The company's massive Ivanpah project in the Mojave Desert is now about 75 percent complete.

Better Place ($200 million) - Things actually aren't great for the electric vehicle battery swapping network, which lost several high-profile executives last fall and had to borrow money to keep building its European network. Doubts are growing about whether Better Place's idea of swapping batteries along highways - rather than requiring electric vehicles to recharge - is viable, given the ongoing costs of EV batteries.

Fulcrum Bioenergy ($175 million) - The waste-to-ethanol technology company just scored another $175 million commitment to fund construction of its first municipal solid waste to low-carbon fuels plant, the Sierra BioFulels Plant.

Sundrop Fuels ($175 million) - The company forged a partnership in mid-2012 with ThyssenKrupp Uhde that will bring the first "green gasoline" production facility to the United States near Alexandria, Louisiana. The facility will eventually produce 50 million gallons of gasoline made from biomass feedstock. 

OSIsoft ($135 million) - The developer of real-time monitoring systems got another high-profile nod last year when it was named to the Global Cleantech 100 list.

Stion ($130 million) - The low-cost, thin-film solar company managed to score another $25 million in funding in mid-December 2012, despite the weak funding environment for clean energy technology. It's looking for another $30 million, to boot. All of the money will go toward expanding its production facility in Mississippi.

MiaSole ($106 million) - Ouch. The once promising thin-film company was sold to China's Hanergy for a mere $30 million.

Prysm ($100 million) - The maker of large-format, low-power displays scored some high-profile video wall installations with IAC in New York, Dubai Media and GE Canada. The video immediately below offers an example.

Soraa ($88.6 million) - The maker of gallium nitride semiconductors for LED lighting scored several important partnerships in 2012. It was also selected to lead a project spearheaded by the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).

DriveCam ($85 million) - The company combines video and analytics to help improve fleet efficiency. DriveCam is now used by more than 500 commercial and government clients.

Enerkem ($74.6 million) - Initial production at the company's cellulosic ethanol facility in Quebec began in June 2012. Enerken's first commercial-scale facility for converting waste to biofuels is under construction in Edmonton, Alberta.

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