Green energy investment is booming

By Tricia Duryee

The Seattle Times

Here’s a case where green stands for money and the environment.

Venture capitalists pumped millions of dollars into alternative-energy companies during the first quarter, making the category one of the fastest-growing early-stage businesses, according to a quarterly venture-capital report released today by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

The trend was especially evident in Washington state, where Seattle’s Imperium Renewables raised $113 million in venture capital to complete a biodiesel refinery in Grays Harbor and begin work on three more.

That deal alone contributed to a blockbuster quarter for the state, which raised nearly $400 million in venture capital in the first quarter. At that level, Washington ranked as the third most active state in the country, behind California and Massachusetts.

The amount also is the most raised in a single quarter since before the bubble burst seven years ago and represents more than a third of the overall capital raised last year.

Nationally, alternative energy and environmentally inspired deals — still only a fraction of the overall amount — raised nearly $300 million, up from roughly $60 million a year ago.

Joseph Muscat, a director of the Ernst & Young Venture Capital Advisory Group, said the first quarter was particular strong overall because investors saw a good mix of companies seeking money and later-stage companies were able to go public or be sold.

“We’re also continuing to see strong interest in the venture-capital community for companies focused on alternative energy and environmental technologies throughout the United States,” he said.

In the U.S., 584 privately held companies raised nearly $7 billion. In terms of dollars, that’s a 11 percent increase over the previous quarter and an 8.5 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

In Washington, 27 companies drew $397.1 million in the first quarter.

The dollars invested jumped nearly 80 percent from the previous quarter and more than 20 percent more than a year ago.

Besides Imperium Renewables, some of the companies that raised money locally included:

• Seattle-based Impinj, which is developing semiconductors; $19 million.

• Bothell-based Dexterra, which makes enterprise software for mobile phones; $36 million.

• Seattle-based Entellium, which makes customer-service software; $16 million.

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