Investments in clean technology startups rose 13 percent in the first quarter this year in North America, Europe, China and India — to $2.57 billion from $2.28 billion in the first quarter of 2010 across 159 companies — according to a report by Cleantech Group.

Investors poured the most money into late-stage ventures that accounted for $2.39 billion of the investments in the first quarter this year. More than half of the deals were late-stage investments, but they accounted for 93 percent of the funds. That’s because just a handful of companies are spearheading innovation in various industries.

Solar power ventures received the most money, bringing in $641 million across 26 deals. That includes a $72 million investment in Alta Devices that involved storied investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — even though the company was still in a half-stealth mode. The next best performer was the transportation industry, with $311 million across 8 deals. That includes electric and hybrid vehicles that have less of an environmental footprint than internal combustion engine cars. Biofuels came in last, only receiving $148 million across 13 deals.

There’s still a lot of room for innovation in solar panel technology, which captures sunlight and converts it to electricity. That includes improving the efficiency of light capture and creating flexible displays that can be placed on any surface — a technology that SoloPower, which also received a late-stage investment of $13.5 million, develops.

The U.S. led the world in investing in clean technology startups, according to a report by Pew. But cleantech companies in the U.S. aren’t spending a lot of money deploying the technology — such as buying solar panels and wind turbines to generate renewable energy sources. North America accounted for 85 percent of all investments in clean technology startups, according to Cleantech Group.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was the most active among clean technology investors, dropping money into nine companies, according to the report. VantagePoint Venture Partners invested in five companies, and General Electric Financial Services invested in four.