You may have missed this tidbit amid all the recent market gloom: Venture investments in cleantech hit a record $2 billion in the second quarter. From solar to biofuels, alternative energy deals are getting cut faster than a reality TV show with no commercial breaks.

Today, I thought I'd bring your attention to two key announcements by public cleantech companies.

While more mundane than some other green technologies, "smart meters" are smokin'. These networked devices allow utilities to remotely monitor electricity usage in real time, predict outages, and modify pricing structures to encourage conservation at times of peak demand. Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is pursuing a statewide smart meter project in Indiana, and Exelon (NYSE:EXC) has run a pilot project with Itron (NASDAQ:ITRI) in Philadelphia.

Itron's smaller competitor, Echelon (NASDAQ:ELON), landed a big project award from a Danish utility today. The installation reaching 390,000 customers will bring in $40 million of revenue to Echelon as it deploys infrastructure over the next few years. The deal is a major show of confidence in the small-cap company.

Regardless of how the Pickens Plan fares here in the U.S., wind power is taking China by storm. That's led A-Power Energy Generation Systems (NASDAQ:APWR), a Chinese energy infrastructure specialist, to expand into wind turbine manufacturing. The company licensed some European technology back in 2007, and recently completed construction of its first facility.

Today, A-Power announced a plan to build an 800-megawatt facility in Inner Mongolia, one of the windiest parts of China. Around 2.1 gigawatts' worth of wind farms have been approved in the area surrounding the proposed facility, so A-Power should have no trouble peddling its wares.

I don't get to write about wind too often, given the lack of publicly traded pure plays. American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC) has that whole superconductor thing going on, and Otter Tail (NASDAQ:OTTR) is involved in more businesses than you can swing a tail at. A-Power is perhaps one of the closest things potential wind investors have got, so the recently filed annual report is certainly worth a look.

Itron edges out Echelon among Motley Fool CAPS players, with five stars to Echelon's three. Which will provide the best investor returns? Join the Foolish debate here and here.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute wonders why the names of so many grid-related companies end in the suffix "-on." Perhaps to remind themselves to be vigilant against outages and blackouts? Toby doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is always on.