The Canadian connection: a roundup of Canuckish cleantech news

My friends over at Earth2Tech are reporting that Toronto-based Morgan Solar, a promising concentrated solar PV startup, is heading into its round B of financing and hopes to raise between $20 and $25 million. Up until now the company has raised about $20 million, slightly less than half from private investors and the rest through government grants. Morgan Solar, in my talks with them, is serious about keeping its R&D and some manufacturing in Toronto, but it sees the first major volume happening at a new facility it plans to build in California. I don’t think Morgan will have trouble raising the money. I’ve seen the technology, know the founders well, and have talked to their early investors. There is solid commitment there and a sense that what the company is working on is truly ground-breaking. 

Montreal-based 5N Plus, meanwhile, is diversifying its business through acquisition. The company is the main supplier of cadmium telluride to First Solar and others, such as Abound Solar. But analysts were concerned 5N wasn’t diversified enough and was too dependent on its business with First Solar. So 5N decided this week to acquire Belgian-based MCP Group, which is a producer of specialty metals such as bismuth, gallium, indium and selenium. This allows 5N to tap into the market for CIGS solar cells (that is, copper indium gallium selenide cells), but also a whole range of other products: LEDs, flat-panel displays, fuel cells and other forms of energy storage.

Heading to the West Coast, biomass gasification expert Nexterra has raised $15 million in equity financing from Tandem Expansion Funds and ARC Financial. Nexterra makes small-scale biomass CHP systems based on the gasification of biomass. The systems are ideal for distributed generation in a hospital, university, industrial or municipal setting, and because it is ultra low emission it is a good fit for urban environments. The company has a solid partnership with General Electric and just snagged some government funding for a large biomass-based CHP system at the University of British Columbia, which says the 2-megawatt system when it’s up and running in 2012 will reduce its demand for natural gas by 12 per cent.

In Florida, algae-to-ethanol startup Algenol has acquired its German partner Cyano Biofuels GmbH. Okay, the company isn’t based in Canada, but Algenol’s founder Paul Woods is a Canadian who grew up in the Toronto area and kickstarted the natural gas retail market in Ontario before moving south. And some of Algenol’s core innovation comes out of the University of Toronto, so I consider the company an honourary Canadian corporate citizen. Cyano Biofuels is an expert in producing hybrid algae that can produce ethanol, and Algenol was already a minority shareholder in the company. Algenol saw the all-out acquisition as a way to accelerate the commercialization of its Direct-to-Ethanol process using genetically enhanced cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. I’m a fan of Algenol, which is the focus of a chapter in my upcoming book Mad Like Tesla.

Finally, Sustainable Development Technology Canada issued another round of grants to 17 companies doing cleantechie stuff. I’ll go through some of these in more detail later, either as part of a Clean Break column or a quick post. But check out the list — there are some interesting projects there. As I’ve always said, SDTC funding rounds are like Christmas time for cleantech news junkies like myself.

4 thoughts on “The Canadian connection: a roundup of Canuckish cleantech news”

  1. You have followed Morgan solar for a long while now, almost since its inception, it seems. It’s hard not to pull for a small startup like this- I hope their technology really is ground-breaking and wish them luck!

    Have they shared any info with you, about their product’s efficiency, longevity and cost?

  2. Tyler,

    I am curious if you have been keeping up on the solar options for Ontario. Based on the work I have been doing, it seems that Ontario is limiting the solutions with so called 60% Ontario content requirements. To acquire the last 5%, thin film manufacturers have to bring heavy investment here under the current rules, more so then any Poly/Mono supplier. With the exception of one company that I know about (and whom the FIT content table was likely written around), are there any thin film guys coming to Ontario? Thin film is the future, the innovation Ontario needs, not 30 year old technology. We also need options, as every situation is different.

    I would like to see an article from you on the success of the solar FIT program (all your articles to date have been interesting) in not only bringing production jobs (i.e. Canadian Solar in Guelph – good for them though!) but in bringing new technology production here. Let me know if you find any thin-film producers that will meet 2011 content for all of those people that have been waiting for FIT contracts since May of last year until now (supposedly the next round is due within the next few weeks).

  3. It takes a special type of math skills to pay 15-20 times more for a product than you can sell it for, amd call it sustainable. Solar people have those math and imagination skills. Typically people mark up prices, solar farmers mark it down 90%, this would not be called sustainable in very many situations.

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