Chevron is really bearish on cleantech investing

Most of the oil giants have made small investments in cleantech and Chevron’s investment arm, Chevron Technology Ventures, was no exception. But Chevron has been moving away from making any cleantech investments, and hasn’t invested in a cleantech startup in two years, according to its President.

First Solar boasts world-record solar cell

Solar-panel prices are falling fast, and that is putting enormous pressure on manufacturers to boost their solar gear’s efficiency. First Solar feels the pressure, too, and on Tuesday boasted a world-record solar cell at 17.3 percent efficiency.

DuPont buys solar ink maker Innovalight

DuPont announced on Monday that it has bought Innovalight, a Silicon Valley startup that makes silicon ink that solar-cell makers can use to improve the amount of electricity that the cells can squeeze out of sunlight. DuPont declined to disclose the purchase price.

Ditch Solar Manufacturing, Look to Software, Services

Where can solar startups find opportunities when their playground is increasingly dominated by giants from other industries? That’s a question that some Silicon Valley solar company executives and investors have pondered for some time now. The answers are software and services.

Project Brightfield: Chevron Launches Solar Test Bed

Oil giant Chevron (s CVX) has an itch to test out early stage solar technology. This morning Chevron plans to show off a solar test bed in Bakersfield, Calif., dubbed Project Brightfield, that will use seven “emerging pre-commercial” solar photovoltaic technologies. The companies providing the technology range from massive corporation to small startups, and include: Sharp, Abound Solar, Miasole, Schuco, Solar Frontier, Solibro and Innovalight.

Project Brightfield, a 740 kW project with 7,700 solar panels, will be built on an 8-acre dirt plot where Chevron formerly ran a refinery that belched out gasoline and asphalt. Chevron’s solar testbed news comes on the heels of the oil giant announcing last month that it will build a 1 MW concentrating solar photovoltaic system on the tailing site of a mine in Questa, New Mexico using technology from Concentrix Solar, a Freiburg, Germany-based company.
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First Look and Impressions of Google’s Nexus One

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Although it’s only been a few days with the Google Nexus One (s goog) — and hectic days, at that — here’s a first look at the device along with some basic early impressions. Overall, it’s not a ground-breaking device, although it does use a hot, new processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon (s qcom). I’m still getting used to the keyboard, and I’m not thrilled about how much the screen smudges. But the display is gorgeous, the camera is quite good, and I’m very impressed with the integrated voice input.

More to follow as I fly home from Vegas and get used to the new device!

Holy New Year Greentech Funding!

On Monday we noted four greentech firms that had filed fund-raising documents or had made announcements about new financing rounds. But by golly, I’m counting at least five more in my in-box and on my radar screen on Wednesday. Today solar web firm Clean Power Finance and solar material company Innovalight announced funding, electric car maker Coda Automotive reportedly raised funds, solar concentrator Morgan Solar told us it’s just raised funding, and electric motorcycle maker Zero Motorcycles filed documents showing it has secured new capital.

Together the five startups have raised about $63 million. Added to the approximately $50 million from earlier in the week, that brings the total to at least $113 million for the first week of 2010 (and of course the week isn’t over yet). Seems like VCs are really feeling a lot better about 2010. Claremont Creek’s Nat Goldhaber told me during an interview on Tuesday that he felt that the market for finding an exit for greentech firms this year was considerably more friendly than last year.
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Nano-Ink Solar Startup Innovalight Ramps Up With $5M

Innovalight, a thin-film solar startup developing photovoltaic silicon ink, has received $5 million in debt financing from Leader Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. The startup looks to be ramping up for production as it previously announced it had raised $5 million in equipment lease financing from ATEL Ventures back in July. Originally founded in Santa Clara, Calif. in 2002, Innovalight has moved its base of operations to its new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. but the company’s been mum about when production might start.
Innovalight is developing a silicon nanocrystalline ink, which supposedly will have the advantage of high throughput print manufacturing — but without the lowered efficiency that most CIGS-based solar technologies suffer. The company says its technology “could be as much as 10 times cheaper than current solar cell solutions.”
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Will VCs Reap the Cleantech Seed Deals They Sow?

Earlier this week, 35 venture capitalists wandered the halls of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado. They were attending a conference focused on commercializing the clean technology that comes out of national labs, learning how to scope out the taxpayer-funded research that may one day become the next hot battery or solar IPO. But given the amount of time it takes to bring research from the lab to the stock market, they’d better be prepared to wait.

When it comes to scouting for cleantech deals, VCs are increasingly turning to academia and federally funded research. In February, the Department of Energy and several big-name venture firms, among them Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, announced an entrepreneur-in-residence program designed to pull clean technology out of national labs. But such deals are green in another sense, in that they involve young, unproven companies and technologies. In many cases, venture firms are investing small amounts in seed deals and commercialization efforts that force them to take on significant engineering risk, where the basic science can’t even be melded into an appropriate product yet. These deals tend to take a decade or more to achieve an exit — significantly longer than the five to seven years for which most VCs plan. Read More about Will VCs Reap the Cleantech Seed Deals They Sow?

Innovalight Nabs $5M for Thin-Film Solar

Innovalight, a thin-film solar startup developing photovoltaic silicon ink, has received $5 million in equipment lease financing from ATEL Ventures. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup has a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., and this financing could help the company move into production. (Rumors put a start date as early as 2009.)

Innovalight is developing a silicon nanocrystalline ink, which supposedly will have the advantage of high throughput print manufacturing — without the lowered efficiency CIGS-based solar technologies suffer.
The company says its technology “could be as much as ten times cheaper than current solar cell solutions.”

The market for thin-film solar is going to explode over the next few years. Last week Lux Research estimated that thin-film solar will grab 28 percent of the solar market by 2012. While this seems like a big jump for such a new technology, the sector is moving forward quickly as more startups like Innovalight put their funds into production. Nanosolar recently clicked on its 1 GW solar printer and Global Solar says it has the world’s largest thin-film solar production plant with a capacity of 40 MW a year.

Founded in 2002, Innovalight raised $28 million in series C funding last year led by Convexa Capital, and including Scatec AS, Apax Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris Group, Sevin Rosen Funds and Triton Ventures. Previously, the startup had raised $14 million in series A and B funding. This newest financing pushes the startup’s funds up close to $50 million.