BlackRock, NTR to Launch Clean Power Investment Group

On the heels of private equity firm Silver Lake announcing a new growth stage clean power fund last week, there have been more new moves in the new clean power investing world: Monday morning, massive money manager BlackRock (s BLK) announced it has teamed up with Irish clean power infrastructure company NTR (s NTR) to launch an alternative energy investing group.

The new BlackRock clean power fund will be led by former NTR CEO Jim Barry, who will be the chief investment officer of the new BlackRock division. BlackRock says other NTR execs have joined the group as well, but doesn’t name them, and NTR says it will provide investing analysis to the group, and will also “retain an economic interest in the new investment platform.” NTR Chief Operating Officer Michael McNicholas will take over as NTR CEO, and NTR Group Finance Director Michael Walsh will also be leaving NTR to pursue other opportunities.

BlackRock currently manages over $110 billion of assets across a variety of investment areas, and with NTR’s clean power expertise, the group will likely focus on clean power project development and later-stage clean power growth investing. The move shows how the second wave of cleantech investing 2.0 will likely be made up of less early-stage venture capital investing, and more later-stage clean power financing.

Already in 2010, there were $243 billion of global investment into clean power — including funding mechanisms like the public markets, private investment, government funding, asset financing and corporate spending — according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s over 30 times what greentech VCs spent in 2010 by themselves, and according to the Cleantech Group, venture capitalists invested about $7.8 billion into 715 deals over the same time period.

While BlackRock will be utilizing NTR’s investing expertise, NTR actually hasn’t done all that well as of late. According to its latest earnings report (within which it announced the new BlackRock deal), the company has taken a big hit from its solar plans in the U.S., which included a reportedly $100 million investment and a 52-percent stake in Stirling Energy Systems, a company that makes solar thermal technology.

Stirling’s solar devices have seemed to end up being much more expensive than expected and not ready for commercial production. NTR says in its earnings  (for the six months ended Sept. 30, 2010) that it has reduced its losses after the “delay in the roll-out of utility-scale SunCatcher technology,” (that’s Stirling’s device) and after the sale of the two solar power projects that were supposed to be built with the Stirling technology. In total, NTR lost €73.8 million ($101.78 million USD) from its solar division, and the loss attributable to equity holders of NTR for the period amounted to €94.9 million.

As this article puts it: “NTR shares, which are traded on the grey market, reached a new low over the Christmas period, with 70,000 shares changing hands for 80c. This compares with a year high of €2.50.” Will BlackRock fare better than NTR’s solar gamble?

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