Nuclear crisis doesn’t panic cleantech investors

March 16, 2011 source: VentureBeat GreenBeat

— “It’s a huge tragedy, but it’s only gonna give a tailwind to alternative energy technologies,” Myers said. “There will be more of a willingness to put capital to work in and wind.” —

An escalating crisis at nuclear power plants in Japan following a massive earthquake and tsunami has not changed the investing thesis about clean technology, according to a number of leading venture capitalists and researchers.

Fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan sparked a new wave of criticism of nuclear energy — and a rally in clean-energy stocks on Monday. But that interest quickly waned as stocks in the sector dropped back from that day’s highs as the stock market experienced a broad sell-off.

And that brief surge of interest never touched the private investment community, because venture capitalists typically focus on longer-term plays, said Steve Minnihan, a partner at Lux Research, a firm which specializes in .

“I haven’t heard anything from my clients or from the companies that we speak to in terms of interest in solar and wind power,” Minnihan said.

Micah MeyersAny sustained increase in interest probably won’t be felt for the next six to nine months, said Micah Myers, a managing partner with venture-capital firm Claremont Creek Capital. That’s because the energy sector’s investment cycle is typically longer than other venture investments, he said. Alternative energy sources have suffered from a lack of capital to finance projects, but that may ease as a result of the crisis in Japan.

“It’s a huge tragedy, but it’s only gonna give a tailwind to alternative energy technologies,” Myers said. “There will be more of a willingness to put capital to work in solar and wind.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the fuel rods in one of the nuclear reactors in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan had experienced a partial meltdown in a statement today. As of this afternoon, the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) was attempting to restore power to the nuclear plants in order to cool the nuclear reactors and prevent a full-scale meltdown. The U.S. government has also urged any U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the reactor to evacuate the area.

While major natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina caused a huge outpouring of public support and aid , they didn’t move the needle much on technology, said David Mann, chief of staff at Khosla Ventures — a venture-capital investment firm well known for its backing of cleantech companies.

The events in Japan led to a tremendous amount of misinformation spreading among the public at large — but not the investment and scientific community, Minnihan said.

Read the full article at VentureBeat GreenBeat