Weekly Investor Roundup

SolarBridge Technologies, a developer of microinverters for solar power modules, announced a $15 million series B round of funding. The company said it will use the funds to finalize testing and certification of its inverters, which can be integrated into individual solar panels to convert direct current electricity into the alternating current used in homes and commercial buildings. Traditionally, the electricity generated by an array of solar modules is routed through a single inverter, but microinverters are said to improve reliability and energy production, while simplifying installation. Currently, the company Enphase Energy has the microinverter market to itself, but SolarBridge hopes to offer competition soon.

French oil major Total (NYSE: TOT) will take a seat on the board of
biofuel company Coskata Inc. after contributing an undisclosed amount to
a recent round of funding.
Several of Coskata’s other, well-known
investors also participated in the latest round, including Blackstone
Cleantech Venture Partners and Khosla
Ventures. US automaker GM also owns a share of Coskata, which uses
proprietary microorganisms and bioreactors to produce cellulosic ethanol. In February of this year, Coskata was recognized on MIT’s Innovative 50 List, and in October 2009, the
company announced the start-up of its semi-commercial,
flex-ethanol facility located in Madison, PA.
Total is just the latest oil company to invest in cellulosic technology. BP (NYSE: BP) has investments in Verenium and Qteros. While Royal Dutch Shelll (NYSE: RDSA) has placed its bets on Iogen
and Codexis.

Speaking of the Codexis (Nasdaq: CDXS), the company debuted on the Nasdaq at the end of last week, selling 6 million shares at a price of $13.00 each, raising $78 million. The company hoped to raise $100 million, but the shares priced at the low end of its proposed range. Codexis has its background in biomedical research and creates enzymes
for converting plant cellulose into drugs and ethanol.
The company is in direct competition with Novozymes (NVZMY.PK), which is one of the biggest
success stories among publicly traded cleantech companies. And while Codexis has yet to turn a profit, if the technology is viable, it has an assured path to market through drug company Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDSA), both of whom own a stake in the company.

GE (NYSE: GE) and Nissan (NSANF.PK) signed a three-year Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) to explore new technologies for electric vehicle
smart-charging infrastructure
The companies have outlined two key areas for collaboration.
The first relates to the integration of electric vehicles with homes
and buildings. The second focuses on integrating electric vehicle charging dynamics
with the larger electric grid. Nissan’s all-electric vehicle called the LEAF is scheduled to launch later this year
in the US, Japan, and Europe. Nissan, like competitor Mitsubishi Motors (MMO.F), has opted to skip over hybrid-electric vehicles being built by Toyota, GM, Honda and others. But in doing so, they need to develop recharging infrastructures. Nissan has taken the lead in doing so, participating in initiatives throughout the US, Europe and Asia. But as most of these infrastructures are being built with open standards, other car makers are likely to take advantage of Nissan’s trailblazing efforts in the years ahead. 

In other electric vehicle news, Better Place, the California company building electric vehicle charging
infrastructures around the world, took its first step in China by
signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Chery Automobile Co. Chery is
China’s largest independent auto producer and exporter. The two companies will jointly develop switchable-battery electric vehicle
prototypes with the goal of securing pilot projects with regional Chinese governments.
China is now the world’s largest auto market, and research predicts
that China’s share of the global electric vehicle market will grow from 2.7% this year
to 35% by 2020.

First quarter financial results are beginning to come in, and First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) reported profits that topped Wall Street
Net income for the quarter was $172.3 million ($2.00 per share), up
from  $164.6 million ($1.99 per share) a year ago. Analysts had been
expecting $1.63 per share in earnings, according to Thomson Reuters. First solar increased its forecast for the full-year based on higher demand in Europe, as solar developers rush to complete projects before government subsidies are cut back at the end of the year.

First Solar also announced that it will acquire San Francisco-based solar developer NextLight
Renewable Power
for $285 million in cash. NextLight is focused on developing utility-scale projects in the US southwest and has a project pipeline of 1,100 megawatts (MW). Over the last two years, First Solar has created demand for its own solar modules by acquiring and building out development portfolio’s–a business model that is now being emulated by competitors like Sunpower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) and Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ).

And finally, Sunpower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) confirmed reports that it will build its first US manufacturing plant in California. The San Jose-based company will partner with Singapore’s
(Nasdaq:FLEX) to begin manufacturing solar panels in
Milpitas. Initial capacity will be 75 MW per year and the facility
is expected to create about 100 jobs by the end of the year.



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