VantagePoint’s $150M cleantech push

VantagePoint Venture Partners has held a first close on its first ever fund dedicated exclusively to cleantech, as it raised $73.6 million of a $150 million vehicle, according to a regulatory filing.

Limited partners in VantagePoint Cleantech Partners include BP America, California Clean Energy Fund, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Piper Jaffray CleanTech Ventures, among others.

Details of the fund’s focus were not available. But the San Bruno, Calif.-based venture firm, which invests in multi-stage tech and health care companies, is no stranger to cleantech deals. VantagePoint has invested in such startups as electric car maker Tesla Motors, next-generation solar power manufacturer Miasole and photovoltaic panel installer solarcentury.

The filing lists VantangePoint Managing Directors J. Stephan Dolezalek, James Marver and Alan Salzman as the fund’s promoters. The “Cleantech” section of the VantagePoint website also includes Managing Directors David Fries and Bill Green; Venture Partners Bernie Bulkin and William McDonough; Vice President Sanjay Wagle; Principal Lee Burrows; and Entrepreneur in Residence John Woolard.

The venture firm is one of many looking to raise funds for cleantech investing this summer. Expansion Capital Partners, a growth stage venture firm focused on cleantech deals, recently held an initial close of $55 million for its second fund last week, which is targeted at about $80 million. Technology Partners launched a $250 million eighth fund at the beginning of the summer, half of which will go into cleantech deals. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers raised a $100 million targeted fund earlier this year to go after what it terms “greentech” deals. Nth Power raised $70 million at the end of June for fund IV, according to a regulatory filing. Nth’s fund has a target of $200 million. DFJ Element, an affiliate fund of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, raised $284 million at the beginning of July to invest in cleantech deals. The final close of the DFJ Element fund was almost double the target of the $150 million it set last year.

With so many VCs paying attention to cleantech, it’s easy to see why the sector has become the third largest venture investment category, according to a report issued last week by the Cleantech Venture Network. Venture investors pumped $843 million into cleantech deals during the second quarter, compared to $368 million for the same quarter in 2005. The Cleantech Venture Network also reported that six of the 10 cleantech segments showed increases through the first half of 2006, indicating broad investment interest in the category.