Newfound venture capital investment in clean environment technology – spanning from alternative energy such as solar panels and hybrid cars to new methods of solving environmental problems through the use of nanotechnology – grew rapidly in 2006. Growth in the industry accounted for a more than $250 million increase between the first and third quarters of last year in the valley, according to an annual report released January 28 by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, a research organization in San Jose, California.
The upward trend to invest in clean energy in the valley has been reflected nationwide, according to numbers from the National Venture Capital Association: In 2006, venture capitalists invested $727 million in 39 alternative energy start-up companies, compared to $195 million invested in a little more than half the number of start-ups the previous year.
Silicon Valley, an epicenter of computer and Internet technology, was hit hard when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. However, while the valley often goes through boom-and-bust cycles, the investment in green technology appears to be one to stay, says Russell Hancock, the chief executive of Joint Venture.
"These waves are nothing new," Hancock told New York Times reporter Laurie J. Flynn. "But the last one was full of hype and excess, and we had to go through a powerful period of readjustment. This time the investing feels more sober and well thought out."
Efforts to advance green technology have, in recent times, dovetailed with other technologies: with the money spent last year in Silicon Valley to produce clean technologies, 15 percent went to companies in the semiconductor industry and nearly a quarter went to software firms.
The increase in investment could correlate to an increase in political lobbying for environmentally friendly technologies and higher efficiency requirements coming from the venture capitalists themselves, according to the New York Times. Venture capitalists invested in clean energy have recently met with members of Congress, people in the Bush administration, the U.S. Energy Department and many of the 2008 Presidential candidates to promote clean technology.