Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pitango VC invests in solar power project in China

Pitango Venture Capital, Israel's largest VC firm, has reportedly invested in a solar power project in China's Jiangxi Province.

According to a report published in SinoCast, Pitango is investing in the project in partnership with Shenzen Capital Group Co. (SCGC), and China-Israel Value Capital (CIVC), a China-focused private equity fund. Established in 1999, SCGC was one of the first venture capital firms in China and currently manages over $300 million.

Chemi Peres, Managing General Partner and Co-Founder of Pitango, and the son of Israeli President Shimon Peres, is visiting Shenzhen City, and discussing further cooperation with SCGC. A long-term strategic partnership between Pitango and SCGC is reportedly being discussed.

It is perhaps worth noting that Peres sits on the board of directors of Pythagoras Solar, a stealthy Israeli solar startup that raised $10 million in a Series A round of financing earlier this year.

Peres told SinoCast that he has found cooperative opportunities in almost every field of Shenzhen's industries, including IT, medicine, energy and education. He believes Pitango will bring more listing and overseas acquisition possibilities to Chinese companies.

Related Posts:

Pythagoras Solar raises $10 million from Israel Cleantech, Pitango, and Evergreen

21Ventures and Quercus Trust award grant to support solar research at Weizmann Institute

21Ventures and the Quercus Trust announced last week that they have awarded a $200,000 grant to support the solar energy research of Professor David Cahen of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The grant will be used to further the exploratory research of novel approaches to harness solar energy in less expensive and more efficient new ways and to explore approaches for making better use of existing solar energy technologies.

Professor Cahens ground breaking work has the potential to make a significant impact on the availability and the ultimate use of alternative energy sources, in this case, solar energy. Such efforts support the goal of 21Ventures and the Quercus Trust to secure a cleaner and healthier environment worldwide, said David Anthony, Managing Partner, 21Ventures.

One area that the research will focus on is exploring the potential of various long-term light management approaches. That direction will be complemented by research on potentially low cost, novel ways to collect more energy from sunlight and the means of using that energy in daily life.

Founded in 2004 and headquartered in New York, 21Ventures is a venture capital fund which invests in seed, early stage technology and publicly traded companies in the physical security, clean energy and mobile software markets.

The Quercus Trust, which does not have a web site, has quietly become one of the world's leading cleantech investors. Led by David Gelbaum, a former hedge fund manager at Princeton/Newport Partners, the Quercus Trust reportedly had a 20-company portfolio of clean energy stocks worth more than $400 million as of December 2007. Earth2Tech provides a breakdown of ten cleantech venture funding deals made by Quercus in the first quarter of 2008 alone.

David Anthony and David Gelbaum both sit on the Board of Directors of WorldWater and Solar Technology Corportation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bank Hapoalim and Hudson Clean Energy to establish cleantech fund

Poalim Capital Markets, an investment bank and a subsidiary of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest financial group, said yesterday that it was setting up a fund with U.S.-based Hudson Clean Energy to invest in alternative energy companies.

The fund, called Poalim Hudson Clean Energy, will invest between $50 and $500 million per company in the United States, Europe, and other markets, according to reports from Reuters and Bloomberg.

Macquarie, Australia's largest investment bank, is also a founder of the fund.

Credit Suisse will invest $300 million in the fund, which will focus on investments in renewable energy, such as wind and solar as well as infrastructure and energy storage, Poalim said.

"The rate of annual growth in the clean energy sector has been above 25 percent the last five years and estimates are that it will continue to be high," Nir Brunstein, chief executive of Poalim Capital Markets, said in a statement.

Hapoalim Chairman Dani Dankner said the new venture will provide the bank's customers with interesting investment opportunities with potential for large profits.

Hudson was founded by Neil Auerbach, a former Goldman Sachs partner who led the firm's U.S. alternative energy business and managed more than $3 billion in assets.

Amiad announces rise in profits due to growing demand for clean water

Growing demand for water filtration products have boosted revenues and profits at Israel-based Amiad Filtration Systems.

Pre-tax profits rose from $3.6m to $5.4m (£3m) for the six months to June 30 as turnover increased from $27.4m to $39m, according to a statement by the company.

Amiad makes filters to remove pollutants, used by heavy and extractive industries such as mining, and by municipal water treatment plants and irrigation systems.

Rami Treger, CEO, said Amiad was benefiting from rising global demand for clean water, driven by population increases and rising prosperity, coupled with problems of supply exacerbated by climate change and pollution.

"[We] anticipated an increase in global water investment and increased sales and marketing efforts accordingly, resulting in increased trading in all main parts of the business."

Amiad's shares, listed on the London Stock Exchange, have risen more than 60 per cent over the past year.

BioPetroClean raises funds from 21Ventures

Israeli water purification company BioPetroClean has closed its latest financing round, raising $5 million from 21 Ventures LLC, according to an announcement by the company and a report in "Globes".

BioPetroClean is developing bioremediation systems for cleaning waste water contaminated by oil and other pollutants, through a process called Active Chemostate Treatment (ACT). The company was founded in 2006 by chairman Hezi Marueli, CEO David Amir, and CTO Eugene Rosenberg, a world-renowned authority in the biological treatment of oil pollution and a professor at Tel Aviv University.

According to Globes, the money will be used by BioPetroClean to set up a sales network and fund several potential BOT projects.

"During the refining process, refineries produce large quantities of water, that they have to treat rather than pumping it out as effluent. We bring the quality of the water to a level that enables them to either pump it back out into the environment or improve its quality through a further treatment process to a level that will enable it to be used for irrigation or in industry," explains BioPetroClean director of business development Yael Barash.

The company's technology is currently being tested in a pilot project at a number of key facilities in Israel and other countries, and Barash gives as examples, two projects now underway in South Africa. One is at a refinery in Durban and the other was a one-time project carried out in cooperation with global energy giants BP and Shell. "We carried out a single cleaning project for them two months ago, and we're now working on the terms of a contract with them for a larger project," adds Barash.

As to the potential financial value of the contracts, Barash notes that at small sites, meaning tanker farms for ports, a project can range from $300,000 to $800,000. A facility at oil refineries and drilling sites, which are considered large sites, will cost $1-3 million. A single service (cleaning an accrued quantity of water at a specified site) will cost around $50,000 to $250,000.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Better Place and Hawaii to partner on electric car project

According to an announcement by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), the state will partner with Better Place to evaluate "the integration of electric vehicle storage into the electrical grid to maximize renewable energy use."

Hawaii has secured $1.7 million in grants, including a $500,000 grant from the federal Department of Energy, to fund this and other projects to advance the use of renewable energy in the state.

Lt. Governor James R. "Duke" Aiona, Jr. said, "Our Administration is committed to breaking Hawaii's dependency on imported oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through developing clean sources of energy. This public-private partnership will further Hawaii's efforts to modernize our electrical infrastructure and distribution system and help increase the energy security of our state."

This latest development, which has not yet been picked up by the media, would seem to confirm the recent reports, such as this article in Globes, that Better Place is near an agreement with Hawaii.

Related Posts:

Better Place secures $350 million series B round led by HSBC

Shai Agassi, Better Place, featured in Wired Magazine

Better Place in talks with Mercedes, Hawaii and San Francisco

Friday, September 12, 2008

Evogene, Orfuel and Leviev Group to establish biodiesel company in Namibia, Africa

Evogene, Orfuel, and the Leviev Group have announced an agreement to establish a biodiesel company in Namibia, Africa.

The new company will be focused on the growth of specialized castor plants for use as feedstock for biodiesel. It will be headquartered in Namibia, with operations in Namibia and possibly other African countries.

Evogene and Orfuel, an Ormat subsidiary, have already been working together since September 2007 on developing non-edible plants for commercial biodiesel production, and the castor plants for the new venture will be selected from varieties being developed in the Evogen-Orfuel collaboration. The collaboration is being funded with a grant from the BIRD Foundation.

Land for the crop growth will come from the Leviev Group, which will also provide logistical infrastructure for the project.

"This collaboration fits well into Evogene's business model in the field of biodiesel, and constitutes an additional stage towards commercialization of the plants developed through the joint project with Orfuel in one of the potential target locations," stated Ofer Haviv, Evogene's president and CEO. "We are convinced that with our extensive capabilities in plants together with the vast experience of the Leviev Group in Africa, we will be able to develop improved feedstock addressing the needs of the alternative fuel industry."

Netafim in negotiations with sugarcane ethanol project in Mozambique

In other news, BioEnergy Africa has raised $15.2 million on the London Stock Exchange to fund development of a 438 million liters per yea sugercane ethanol plant in Mozambique.

The company is in discussions with Tel Aviv, Israel-based Netafim to design, procure, and install a subsurface drip irrigation system for the project’s cane fields. At full capacity, the project will include approximately 60,500 acres of planted sugarcane.

Related Posts:

Monsanto to invest in Evogene, collaborate on plant research

Evogene and Orfuel receive biodiesel grant

Technion forum: Israel can be global biodiesel leader

Ormat secures Alaskan geothermal rights

Ormat Technologies, which builds and operates geothermal power plants, announced it has paid $3.3 million for geothermal energy exploration rights on about 35,000 acres in a volcanic region in Alaska.

Ormat said the leased land, which is owned by the state of Alaska, is on the southern flank of the 11,070-foot Mount Spurr about 75 miles west of Anchorage. The company won 15 of 16 tracts offered in the lease sale conducted by Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.

The company claimed that the topographical structure of the region increases the chance of finding a large geothermal field, as compared to the more mature geological structures of Nevada and California.

Commenting on the news, Lucien Bronicki, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, stated, "Alaska is a new frontier in the geothermal arena with many technological and logistical challenges. Our global experience, particularly in Hawaii, and the support of the local Government along with the collaboration of other local stakeholders, will turn this challenge into an opportunity."

Mr. Bronicki continued, "Alaska has a special significance to Ormat that dates as far back as 1975 when we supplied 100 remote gate valve power systems used for protection of the environment along the TransAlaska pipeline which have been operating continuously for more than 30 years. Even the first geothermal unit developed by Ormat was for the University of Fairbanks for 130 deg Fahrenheit water at the Manley Hot Spring. We have been a friend to Alaska for many years now and we are up to the challenge of creating the State's first large-scale geothermal power plant.

Related Posts:

Ormat projects approved in Nevada

Ormat secures $16m geothermal contract in Turkey

Google and Ormat discussing cooperation

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Israeli cleantech startups to visit Silicon Valley

The California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC) has just announced a "Call for Companies" for its inaugural "Israel Cleantech Tour 2008".

The tour is part of the CICC's Cleantech Initiative and aims to introduce Israeli cleantech companies to California's key cleantech industry players -- "customers, investors and technology and channel partners." Joining the CICC in hosting the
delegation are General Electric, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Google, Applied Materials, California Public Utilities Commmission (CPUC), and The Cleantech Group.

Companies interested in joining the delegation should check out the CICC Cleantech Initiative's web site and download an application form. Only 15 companies will be selected to participate, and applications are due no later than September 20!

Eric Weiss, the Chair of the CICC's Cleantech Initiative, graciously agreed to an interview with "Cleantech Investing in Israel." What follows are his answers to a series of questions about the CICC, the Cleantech Tour, and Israel's cleantech-related connections to Silicon Valley.

JS: What are the origins of the CICC's Cleantech Initiative and 2008 Tour? What other industries has the CICC worked with?

EW: The CICC has always focused on programs that matter to its investor and corporate members. Cleantech is becoming front and center to its membership and is a vital strategic industry in both California and Israel. California is the #1 U.S. state for cleantech investment, has the most aggressive renewable energy policies and has a consumer base predisposed to buying “green”. Meanwhile Israel has over 400 promising cleantech companies and world class scientific research institutions. Creating this initiative was a “no-brainer.”

Over the past 8 years the CICC has successfully worked with a variety of technology industries – semiconductor, software, telecom, Internet/web. Each time we have employed a strategy of partnering with the industry leaders. For example, in the Internet/web we worked with Google, Yahoo, Adobe and Microsoft; in semiconductor it was Motorola, Intel, Applied Materials and Texas Instruments. In cleantech we’re similarly working with leaders in the industry, though we also included policymakers and academia in addition to industrial players. Some of our cleantech partners include: PG&E, GE, California Public Utility Commission, Applied Materials, Google, BrightSource, US Venture Partners, Greylock Partners, Israel Cleantech Ventures and Perkins Coie.

JS: What are the goals of the tour?

EW: The goals of the tour are to bring together entrepreneurial, investment, corporate and policy leaders from Israel and California, enable sharing of ideas and ultimately facilitate business between the groups. In prior tours, the results were tangible -- terms sheets and contracts for equity investments, acquisitions, joint R&D and channel partnerships. Also, Israel and California have complementary strengths which can be the basis for collaborative information sharing during the tour – Israel brings leading edge technology and California offers capital and a large market. The format of the tour enables this variety of goals to be achieved – we go far beyond just Powerpoints -- with interactive roundtables, panels, private meetings and company/facility tours.

JS: What is the perception in Silicon Valley, among investors and entrepreneurs, of Israel's cleantech sector?

EW: Silicon Valley knows that Israel is a leader in technology with numerous Israeli success stories including SanDisk, Checkpoint, Mercury and Amdocs. Major companies such as HP, Cisco, Qualcomm, Oracle and Intel have invested accordingly. Israel also has the 2nd largest number of companies in the world listed on the NASDAQ. Many California cleantech leaders have not made the connection that Israel has a technology braintrust that is translating into breakthroughs beyond water and solar, but also in biogas, battery technology, waste treatment, pollution control, wind turbines, and other environmental technology. In the case of Israel, necessity has very much been the mother of invention. When you point this out, it clicks for people and they get it. And that is why we are having this tour and conference, to make it abundantly clear to Silicon Valley how Israel’s technical leadership can help them make money in cleantech.

JS: What cleantech-related connections already exist between Silicon Valley and Israel?

EW: There are many connections besides the obvious ones, such as BrightSource and Better Place. Applied Materials has been active on CICC’s Cleantech Steering Committee and their CEO, Mike Splinter, is on the CICC advisory Board. Intel, as well, is very active in Israel and Intel Capital has been getting quite active in cleantech. PG&E not only works with BrightSource, but also Solel. Ormat is actively growing its geothermal plant in California. GE’s cleantech investment arm is in San Francisco but also has a thriving presence in Israel. Moreover, many of the same entrepreneurs and investors who were active in semiconductor, software and other technology in both Israel and California are still working in both geographies, but now in cleantech – examples include Sass Somekh and Eric Benhamou, and investors from Greylock and US Venture Partners.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Richard Youngman of Cleantech Group addresses Cleantech Israel meetup

Richard Youngman, Managing Director of Cleantech Group (Europe), addressed a crowd of 130+ cleantech professionals at the latest Cleantech Israel business network event in Ramat Hasharon.

This was the group's sixth event since March, and we have grown to almost 600 members -- cleantech investors, entrepreneurs, academic researchers, government officials and service providers.

For details on Youngman's presentation, check out the article in the Jerusalem Post and his interview with Globes (Hebrew).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Precede Technologies, "The Cleantech Start-up Nursery"

Precede Technologies, an "entrepreneurship and investment firm which teams up with scientists and inventors to establish well-funded start-up companies", is the focus of an interesting feature article in "Globes".

Precede's partners, Orni Petruschka, Dr. Rafi Gidron, Nimrod Goor and Albert Olier, discuss Precede's origins, its investment strategy and focus on cleantech, and the firm's future plans.

The firm was founded in 2005 with the goal of bridging the gap between academe and industry, something observers have pointed to as a weakness in Israel's cleantech cluster. It is backed by Pitango Venture Capital and Evergreen Venture Partners and can provide up to $1 million in seed funding.

Precede Technologies' portfolio currently consists of three companies: Pythagoras Solar, Coriolis Wind, and SolarPower. In February of 2008, Pythagoras received a $10 million second round of funding from Pitango, Evergreen, and Israel Cleantech Ventures.

Monday, September 1, 2008

IC Green Energy launches takeover bid for German biodiesel manufacturer Petrotec

IC Green Energy, a subsidiary of Israel Corp., has announced a takeover bid for Petrotec AG, a Germany-based biodiesel company, valuing Petrotec at about 28 million euros.

Petrotec says IC Green Energy has already bought a 42% stake in the company, and remaining shareholders are to receive a voluntary takeover offer at the same price (2.70 euros per share).

Petrotec is a manufacturer of biodiesel based on alternative feedstocks. The company produces biodiesel with its multi-feedstock technology from yellow grease, animal fats and virgin vegetable fats and oils. In 2007, Petrotec produced 50,800 tons of biodiesel. It has the capacity to produce up to 185,000 tons of biodiesel a year at its two plants in Germany.

IC Green Energy CEO Yom Tov Samia told Globes, "The acquisition of Petrotec is ICG's first investment in the European market as part of our strategy to deepen its activity in the value chain in the biofuels market."

At a Tel Aviv University event in May, Samia outlined IC Green Energy's "12-12 Vision" to be one of the 12 leading companies worldwide in the field of renewable energy by 2012. In order to achieve this goal, IC Green Energy aims to process 4-5% of the global biofuel market (~4 million tons), and Samia emphasized that the company's biofuel production will be based solely on non-edible feedstock.

Related posts:

IC Green Energy invests in HelioFocus

IC Green Energy and Yom Tov Samia

Monsanto to invest in Evogene, collaborate on plant research

Monsanto Co., and Israel's Evogene Ltd., which develops improved plants for agriculture and novel feedstocks for biofuels, recently entered into a five-year research and development collaboration focused on identifying key plant genes related to yield, environmental stress and fertilizer utilization.

The collaboration
aims to "discover and deliver novel, yield-enhancing technologies at a time of increasing demand for grain globally," the companies said in a statement.

Under the terms of the collaboration, Evogene will provide Monsanto with candidate genes discovered by Evogene's computational platform and Monsanto will pay Evogene $35 million over the research term of the collaboration. Products that emerge from the gene discovery program will be commercialized by Monsanto, and Monsanto will pay Evogene additional milestone and royalty payments based on sales of any resulting products.

In a separate agreement, Monsanto has purchased an $18 million equity stake in Evogene and has agreed to purchase an additional $12 million in the future, subject to certain Evogene due diligence requirements.

In April, 2008, AquAgro Fund, an Israeli cleantech-focused venture capital fund, agreed to invest $2 million in Evogene at a price of NIS 6.5 per share. Following the Monsanto annoucement, Evogene shares are now trading at NIS 8.78 per share on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Martin Gerstel, Chairman of Evogene, stated, "Having the world's leading agriculture company as a major collaborator moving forward is clearly a transforming event in the history of our company, and we welcome Monsanto as a shareholder. Furthermore, with its new financial commitment, we are now convinced that Evogene has the resources required to agressively pursue our two primary areas of interest -- improved plants for agriculture and novel feedstocks for biofuels."

Related posts:

Ormat backs of biodiesel facility, to continue collaboration with Evogene

Evogene and Orfuel receive biodiesel grant