Today in Cleantech

Startups may have raked in cleantech venture capital in the first quarter, but big renewable energy projects struggled to raise cash. Global clean energy investment fell to $31.1 billion in the first three months of this year, its lowest quarterly total in two years, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported Friday. That’s down more than a third from a record $47.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010. While part of the big drop was due to a “hangover” from the record-high investments made in the last three months of 2010, it’s also based on some serious headwinds facing the industry. Solar power, for one, is being squeezed by an anticipated slowdown in feed-in tariffs and other government subsidies in big European markets such as Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, and U.S. wind power projects have been hit hard by falling prices for natural gas, which hit lows not seen since 2002, the report stated. What were the bright spots? The report identified Brazilian and Chinese wind power projects, with China spending $10 billion, or 25 percent more than the first quarter of 2010, and Brazil doubling its wind investment to $2.1 billion compared to the same quarter last year. China remains the leader in clean energy investment, with a 39 percent increase in to hit a record $54.4 billion last year. That was enough to give China the lead over the U.S. in installed renewable energy capacity, as well as retain its spot as the top manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels.