Weekly Investor Roundup

Electric car company Tesla Motors received a $50 million commitment from Toyota (NYSE: TM) at the end of last week, in conjunction with a plan to begin production at the massive NUMMI manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. Toyota closed the 25-year-old plant on April 1 after GM (NYSE: GM) pulled out of
the joint venture due to bankruptcy. Toyota laid off
4,500 workers in the move, but Tesla expects to bring 1,000 workers back to the plant to build its Model S sedan. Tesla hopes to sell 20,000 vehicles a year by 2012 at a price below $50,000. There is also talk that Tesla may work to electrify a Toyota vehicle. Earlier this year, Tesla filed for an IPO. A date hasn’t been set, but investors are likely to be impressed by the connection to Toyota.

Another California-based electric car company wants to build lithium-ion batteries in Ohio. Coda Automotive, which is linked with China’s Lishen Power Battery, says it is prepared to set up a North American joint venture, if it receives a loan from the Department of Energy. The two companies already operate a battery joint venture in China, and they say they would replicate it in Ohio, creating 1,000 jobs. Coda plans to begin importing electric vehicles to the US from China in the fourth quarter of this year. 

Boeing (NYSE:BA) and PetroChina (NYSE: PTR) are leading an initiative to establish a sustainable aviation biofuels industry in China. Together with industry, government and academic partners they will assess the environmental and socio-economic benefits of developing sustainable
alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuels. The project is slated to begin in June and, it’s a result of the US-China Energy Cooperation Program created earlier this year by the Obama administration. Other companies involved include AECOM (NYSE: AECOM), Honeywell’s UOP (NYSE: HON), United Technologies
(NYSE: UTX) and Air China (AIRYY.PK).

American Superconductor Corporation (NASDAQ: AMSC) is significantly expanding a strategic relationship with one of its Chinese partners. Beijing-based
Sinovel Wind Group Co., Ltd. will work with AMSC’s Windtec subsidiary to design and develop a range of multi-megawatt wind turbines for both the onshore and offshore markets. Sinovel expects to begin volume production by the end of 2012 and will purchase core electrical components from AMSC for the new
Sinovel is China’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, and the company’s stated goal is to become the largest in the world, so American Superconductor has worked itself into a nice position.

GE (NYSE: GE) will provide wind turbines for the first US offshore wind farm to be built in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie. The company announced a long-term partnership with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo). The first stage of the project calls for a 20-MW array to be completed near Cleveland in late 2012, followed by a build-out of up to 1,000 MW by 2020. GE will be supplying its next-generation wind turbine, a 4-MW, direct-drive model designed exclusively for offshore use.

SunEdison announced a joint venture with private equity firm
First Reserve Corporation that could fund up to $1.5 billion in
photovoltaic projects
in the US, Italy, Spain and Canada. SunEdison will lead the project development
and First Reserve will head up the financing efforts. Once
constructed, the projects will be purchased by the joint venture and operated and managed by SunEdison. The two companies will make an initial investment of $167 million to the venture, which–combined with debt financing–is expected to enable the purchase of $825 million in assets to be developed by SunEdison. If that goes smoothly, First Reserve will kick in another $150 million, which the companies say will scale up the aggregate enterprise value to $1.5 billion.

Akeena Solar (Nasdaq:AKNS) has entered into an exclusive worldwide agreement to
manufacture, market and install its solar panels under the
name. Akeena said it was concerned that the lack of a well-known brand name could hurt is sales as solar purchases moved from early adopters to the mainstream. Akeena already has its do-it-yourself Andalay Solar panels in Lowe’s Home Improvement (NYSE: LOW) stores in California. Those will soon be re-branded as Westinghouse Solar.

Lithium-ion battery maker, International Battery, closed a $35 million Series C
financing round
, led by Digital Power Capital. The funds will allow International Battery to scale up its existing manufacturing plant
in Allentown, Pennsylvania. What makes International Battery unique is that it employs a water-based manufacturing process that it claims is safer than the toxic solvents used by other manufacturers. The batteries are also said to be more stable themselves, and have been tested in a range of conditions for use in stationary, transportation and
military applications.

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