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A Return to the Good Old Days?

Preliminary results show that cleantech investment returned to levels not seen in three years. And it gets better, as the Cleantech Group said that 2012 may be the best year ever.

Global cleantech investments were a shade under $9 billion last year for clean technology venture and corporate investments, a 13 percent increase over 2010. Cleantech mergers and acquisitions reached record highs in 2011 with 391 deals and a dollar volume of $41.2 billion, a robust 153 percent growth over 2010.

“While 2011 has been a difficult year for cleantech and venture capital, our 2011 numbers show surging interest in cleantech from global enterprises,” said Sheeraz Haji, CEO of Cleantech Group. “Despite some of the well-publicized headwinds, venture capitalists continue to invest in cleantech. Based on our historical data, we believe 2012 will be an all-time record year for global cleantech investments.”

The average size of investments as the number of deals declined by 7 percent compared to 2010.

Investments in North America grew significantly from $5.2 billion in 2010 to $6.8 billion in 2011, or a 30 percent increase. On the other hand, Europe and Israel took a step back, with $1.3 billion invested in 2011 compared to $1.8 billion in 2010.

In a return to custom, solar was the leading sector by amount invested ($1.8 billion), followed by energy efficiency ($1.4 billion) and transportation ($1.1 billion). Energy efficiency was the most popular sector measured by number of deals, with 150 funding rounds, ahead of solar (111 deals) and transportation (61 deals). The largest transactions in each of the top four sectors were:

BrightSource Energy, a California-based developer of utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, raised $201 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Alstom and others Stion, a California-based developer of CIGS thin-film solar technology, raised $130 million from AVACO, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Khosla Ventures and others Miasolé, a California-based developer of CIGS thin-film solar technology, raised $106 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Voyageur Mutual Funds and others 

North America accounted for 76 percent of the total amount invested, Europe and Israel for 14 percent and Asia Pacific for 10 percent in 2011.

C9ompanies on the continent raised $6.8 billion, up 31 percent from 2010. The total of 470 deals disclosed represents a 25 percent increase from 425 in 2010.

California led the way with $3.79 billion in investments, followed by Massachusetts ($542 million) and Colorado (358 million). The largest deals included Fisker Automotive (three rounds at $315 million), BrightSource Energy ($201 million) and Sundrop Fuels ($175 million).

The global IPO market fell sharply, with most of the activity remaining in China. Of the 51 IPOs for the year, 28 came out of China, led by offerings by corporations such as Sinohydro, Sinovel Wind Group and Huaneng Renewable Energy.

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