Cleantech VC Dipped 4.5 Percent In 2011

Not a banner year, but in the face of a difficult economy, not bad. That was the verdict from Ernst & Young as it released new cleantech venture capital data today that showed total investment in 2011 at $4.9 billion, down 4.5 percent from 2010 but still nearly 30 percent higher than 2009’s $3.8 billion. The accounting firm, crunching data from Dow Jones VentureSource, said 70 rounds of financing brought $940.5 million in venture capital into U.S. cleantech companies in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Strictly by total dollars, the energy/electricity generation segment was the leader in 2011, with $1.5 billion raised—but that was a 5 percent dip from 2010. For the fourth quarter, the segment saw investment of $312.9 million, with the solar power sub-segment leading the way at $284.5 million. Thin-film solar panel company Stion, based in San Jose, accounted for a big chunk of that change, raising $130 million.

2011 cleantech venture capital

image via First Solar

Among the yearly totals, perhaps most noticeable was the big growth in energy storage investment. It ranked third as a segment (behind industry products and services, in addition to energy/electricity generation), but the $932.6 million raised in 28 deals represented a 253 percent increase from 2010 in dollars invested and a 47 percent increase in number of deals.

Ernst & Young cited five initial public offerings as important in cleantech sector investment growth, a jump from the three that took place in 2010. Biofuels were the big players in IPOs, with Solazyme, Gevo and KiOR all going public earlier in 2011.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.