Canadian cleantech news roundup: Stormfisher, AAER, Arise, 5N and Railpower

Lots of news to report from the Great White North, where we’ve got a great stable of cleantech companies — even if they are generally underappreciated and underfunded. Speaking of underfunded, I’d just like to highlight that Canadian cleantech companies raised just $49 million (U.S.) in the third quarter. For perspective, U.S. companies raised $1.75 billion. If we apply the standard 10x calculation to figure out where Canada should be, we would have raised $175 million. We’re not even close. That said, California took a lion’s share of U.S. funding — $1.1 billion. That means the rest of the U.S. raised $650 million, putting Canada’s share in the ballpark. Clearly, California is skewing the results and eating everyone else’s lunch. But I digress.

Here’s what’s going on in Canada:

  • StormFisher Biogas announced today it has entered a partnership with Wisconsin-based Sanimax to build eight biogas plants for a total investment of $160 million. ” These plants will transform organic by-products from the food processing industry, restaurants and institutions like schools into renewable energy and organic fertilizer. Once operational, these eight plants will offset the carbon dioxide equivalent of 120,000 tonnes and divert half a million tonnes of organic by-products every year, creating enough energy to power 20,000 homes,” said the company, adding that it will build the plants in partnership with major food processing companies in the Great Lakes region. Toronto-based Stormfisher was fortunate, given the current credit crunch, to have secured $350 million back in February through a strategic partnership with Boston-based private equity firm Denham Capital Management.
  • AAER Inc. of Montreal has signed a “reservation agreement” for the sale of 61 1.65 megawatt wind turbines, representing about $142 million in revenues for the tiny Quebec company. Mont Louis Wind L.P. will purchase the turbines for its 100 MW wind farm in the province. The two companies have 120 days to sign a formal purchase agreement, and the turbines are expected to be delivered in the third quarter of 2010. We’ll see how this deal holds up, given the current credit crisis, but if it does go through it’s a big win for AAER, which is no doubt benefitting from a Quebec government requirement that wind farms in the province have local technology content. AAER’s shares jumped as high as 26 per cent this morning as a result.
  • Another company that saw a 15-per-cent pop in its share price this morning was solar PV manufacturer ARISE Technology Corp., which said yesterday that its shipments and sales of PV cells met expectations in its third quarter. I think this came as relief for many of its investors, who after a long wait are finally seeing the fruits of the company’s manufacturing investments in Germany. Waterloo, Ontario-based ARISE has a long history of making promises that aren’t delivered, so this is a nice change in a gloomy market.
  • Shares in Montreal-based solar materials manufacturer 5N Plus are also up today — about 9 per cent last I looked — after the company announced record revenues and profit for the quarter. Earnings jumped 300 per cent and revenues climbed 120 per cent on strong sales of cadmium telluride, which is used by First Solar and other manufacturers to make low-cost solar PV cells. “In spite of the current financial turbulences, we would like to reassure our investors on our ability to execute our growth plan,” said CEO Jacques L’Ecuyer. “With an exceptionally strong balance sheet, we remain very well positioned to take advantage of both organic growth and accretive acquisitions opportunities.”
  • Okay, now the bad news. Railpower Corp.‘s already down-in-the-dumps penny stock fell 28 per cent this morning after the company, a maker of hybrid locomotives based in Quebec, announced it was postponing construction of an assembly plant and cutting staff to conserve cash. “Certain expected large orders have been delayed this year by customers due to the economic slowdown and other factors related to delayed governmental subsidies in the United States,” Railpower CEO Jose Mathieu. The good news, if you can call it that, is that this doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Railpower’s product or standing with customers. It appears nobody is buying at the moment. “To our knowledge, no significant orders have been awarded by the large Class I Railways to any of the low horsepower locomotives manufacturers in North America, during the year,” said Mathieu. Railpower can’t seem to catch any breaks. The company managed to get a combined $55 million cash injection from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan earlier this year to support plans to build its Quebec manufacturing facility. The idea was to take charge of its own quality control and keep manufacturing costs down, in anticipation of large orders. Indeed, those orders may have been coming, but with nobody predicting the collapse of Wall Street and a crippling credit crunch, it seems major railway customers are holding off on major capital expenditures until the dust settles. Let’s hope Railpower can hang in there.

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