Here's a case where green stands for money and the environment. Venture capitalists pumped millions of dollars into alternative-energy companies...

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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.

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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.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

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