Solar Power 2006

7,000 members of the solar power industry converged in San Jose last week. An added 2,000 local individuals also viewed the latest solar power on display. There was enthusiasm for advancements in photovoltaics (PV) and in large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP).

PV installations continue their 20%-plus growth rate in the U.S., showing strong acceptance by business, individuals, government and public utilities. Grid-tied PV now outsells off-grid. Commercial outsells residential. Deutsche Bank forecasts that the PV market will grow from $13 billion in 2006 to $30 billion in 2010. The PV growth rate would be higher, but the basic material polysilicon will be scarce through 2008. Polysilicon supply is expected to triple by 2010.

The shortage has also been a driver of technology that delivers the required electricity output with less silicon. These technologies include thin film, high efficiency PV, organic, concentrating PV (CPV) and balance of system improvements. World leader, Sharp is participating in all these technologies.

SunPower is approaching a 23% efficient PV. This helps it take business from typical 17% efficient PV. Dr. Richard Swanson, CEO, SunPower gave the conference good reason to expect continued high growth. He pointed out that in 1975 solar modules cost $100/watt. By 2002, the cost had fallen to $3 per watt. The industry learning curve of 30 years has been consistent – each time that production doubles, cost drops 81%. Dr. Swanson expects $1.40 per watt by 2013 and 65 cents per watt by 2023.

Growth drivers include improved efficiency resulting in lower cost per kW, regulation and government incentives. California is the dominant U.S. market for PV, with 73% of the grid-tied installations this year. Growth should accelerate in California now that the California Solar Initiative is law with $3.35 billion of funding for new solar systems.

California public utilities are investing in solar. The RPS program requires that by 2010, 20% of their electricity will be from renewables. By 2020, it must be at least 33%. SB1368 closes California to coal produced electricity unless CO2 sequestration is used. This leaves California utilities highly vulnerable to the price of natural gas, providing an added incentive to diversify to renewables.

At the conference, PG&E CEO, Thomas King stated “Distributed generation is not a threat to our business; it is our business.” There are 13,000 PV installations in PG&E’s region with net metering to add power to the grid. Efficiency is the key to PV’s long term success without requiring subsidies. 36% efficiencies have been achieved in R&D labs. DARPA and a University of Delaware consortium are conducting a $53 million research program to produce 50% efficient and affordable PV.

Utilities are especially interested in large-scale CSP plants delivering 10 to 600 MW. Four GW of CSP is being installed globally. There is 200 GW of potential solar power for CSP in the southwestern US. Southern California Edison and San Diego G&E have contracted for 500MW with Stirling Energy Systems. This large-scale plant will include 20,000 curved dish mirrors each concentrating light on a Stirling engine. Other large-scale plants in Europe will also provide hours of thermal storage so that plant output can match the peak load demands of utilities. This counters the utilities’ concerns about intermittency of PV and wind. CSP costs are projected to be 8 cents/kWh, making it competitive where coal and natural gas greenhouse gas producers must buy greenhouse emission credits.

Solar energy and other renewables will continue their strong growth. This will create more energy with less greenhouse gas emissions. This will also provide for cleaner transportation as electric and hydrogen vehicles use energy that is clean from well-to-wheels.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His firm OPTIMARK Inc. conducts fleet outreach, market intelligence, and cleantech market development. He can be reached at www.cah2report.com. John is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Cleantech blog

Our Feet Are Too Big

Last week, WWF released Living Planet Report 2006 to much fanfare. The press release was picked up by Reuters and promoted by Yahoo! prominently on its home page, with the first sentence indicating that humanity would require two Earths’ worth of resources annually by 2050. That sounds bad, but the lay-reader who scanned the article might be led to believe that we have some time to get our act together.

However, if you read past the first sentence of the Reuters article or dig into the report itself, you’ll see that WWF estimates that, today, our “Ecological Footprint” indicates that we already require about 25% more planet than we have, and we already have been in “ecological overshoot” for nearly 20 years. As WWF notes, “the Earth’s regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand — people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.” In the U.S., it’s even worse — each American is estimated to consume about twice as much resources as our equitable portion of the globe can sustainably support.

In other words, the ecological crisis is not in the mid-term or even the near-future — it’s here and now, and will only get worse. Our feet are too big, and they are only getting bigger.

The WWF report got me to thinking the question of how to measure the sustainability gap — obviously a very complex calculation, one subject to many assumptions and therefore open to controversy. Could it be that WWF is way off-base, that things really aren’t that bad?

Not according to Redefining Progress. According to their recent Ecological Footprint of Nations, their methodology estimates that “at present rates of consumption, we would need 1.39 Earths to insure that future generations are at least as well off as we are now.” For the U.S., their analysis is even more worrying than the dire-enough forecast of WWF, suggesting that the average American consumes more than 5 times their fair share of planetary capacity.

Disturbing stuff. It made me wonder: “how (un)sustainable is my lifestyle?” From Redefining Progress’ website, I employed their ecological footprint calculator, which estimated that my footprint was a little more than twice as big as the average American’s, implying that we would need more than 12 Earths if everyone on the planet lived like me.

Ouch. Now, this calculator was quite crude, involving a ton of assumptions, and I entered in conservatively pessimistic inputs. Nevertheless, I was really bummed. Am I really that bad?

Just to make sure, I tested myself via BP’s carbon footprint calculator. With several inputs based on my lifestyle, the (again, crude) calculator estimated that I was responsible for almost twice as much carbon emissions as the average American — which in itself is far higher than is sustainable. Pretty consistent, pretty depressing.

Damn, my feet are really big. How big are yours? Do you really want to know? Can you handle the (inconvenient) truth? I’m not sure that I can, yet.

Recent Alternative Energy Deal News

A few recent of personal interest, that I thought were worth repeating.

As picked up by Rob Day over at Cleantech Investing, Miasole has announced a $35 mm raise, adding to capitalization in the roll to roll CIGS game. One of these guys is going to break it someday.

Also ICP Solar has just completed a reverse listing in the US, and raised $5 mm. They are a Canadian based solar products company who have an A-Si process in the UK and a line of power products.

And as reported by Cleantech Venture Network, Low Carbon Accelerator in the UK has closed a c. $100 mm fund to invest in, drum roll please, low carbon industry sectors (energy generation, clean fuels, energy efficiency, green building technologies, and other greentech).

Biodiesel BINGO (Part II): Nebraska to Iowa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heading east, Route 76 connects with I-80 at the Nebraska border where BP/Amoco stations begin to appear frequently. Since BP postures its leadership in clean energy in just about every venue except knicker labels, I stop at their stations or peer at their signage looking for signs of biodiesel. The BP clerk in Lexington, Nebraska sends me across the street to the Ampride Cenex station. It sells B2 soy biodiesel. It is too early in the game; B2 is not on my game card. “Is this all you have?” It is. (A banner at the old Denver Biodiesel shop reads: “B20 is for wimps.” For whom, then, is B2?) I drive on, ever hopeful.

In Kearney, Nebraska, after the BP diesel attendant says he doesn’t know where I can find biodiesel, I ask a middle-aged man standing at the pumps beside his seed truck. He says he knows someone “up north” who makes his own biodiesel, and “you won’t find it on the Interstate.” Yet, all along the Interstate, there are plenty of E-85 signs and gas stations with ethanol flex-fuel pumps. Perplexed by my fixation on biodiesel, I offer, “I write for a blog about clean energy.” “A what?” “It’s writing on the Internet.” “I don’t read any of that crap.” I nod; the response is unsurprising, so I venture further down the path of rejection: “It pollutes less, so I’d like to get some.” “This isn’t pollution,” he chuckles pointing to the diesel pump. “It’s all from the earth!” “That’s ridiculous; that’s retarded,” I say and turn heel.

Normally, I rue my moments of rudeness; this time I search for remorse that does not exist.

A few miles up the road, the Crane Meadows Nature Center offers a peaceful rest from the road. Most of the birds have flown off. It is getting cold. There are newspaper articles plastered in the entryway. The director of the Center had selected a hybrid car in 2005 – but switched to a flex-fuel, E-85 vehicle in 2006 – for birding tours. Literature at the Center includes publications on E-85: a four-color, four-page “newspaper” from the Nebraska Ethanol Board, titled, “Ethanol Now, Fueling the Future; and a four-color, tabbed guide to purchasing flex-fuel vehicles from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition www.E85Fuel.com, titled, “The American Fuel, Better for your car, better for the environment, better for America.”

At the Center, I log on to “that crap” (the Internet) to check the National Biodiesel Board website. It lists Sapp Brothers in Columbus as a biodiesel retailer. (The National Biodiesel Board has an 800 number to call when searching for biodiesel in a given locale, too.)

Columbus is east, so I detour off of I-80 and follow Route 30 through Grand Island and Central City. The staff at the Center tells me an ethanol plant is under construction in Central City. Yes, I think, of course it has an ethanol plant. I discover that the area also has a man in a cowboy hat who drives a big new GMC SUV with the license plate: ETHANOL. Creeping along the outer city sprawl of Columbus, I find Sapp Brothers on Route 81. The attendant doesn’t know the percentage of the biodiesel in the “soy biodiesel” pump, but she hands me a pamphlet published by the National Biodiesel Board from a drawer beneath the counter: “Soy BioDiesel. Pump Up Your Bottom Line. Another innovation fueled by the soybean checkoff.” The Nebraska Soybean Board is the contact (the pamphlet is even printed with soy ink, something that make my marketing communications heart sing.) I top up ($2.599), pass the night at an RV park near corn silos, and head for Route 34 in Iowa the next day.

East of Omaha, Route 34 follows the undulating hills of corn fields and flattens out approaching Illinois. In the overcast morning light, the October patterns of corn fields in various stages of tilling and harvest – with all I’ve read and written about the unsustainability of industrial agricultural – resonate beauty with the structure fiend within me, the part that longs for simplicity and patterns, however imaginary. I scuttle the plan to visit Storm Lake, Iowa to the north where my Scottish relatives farmed and continue east. In Emerson, I ask a friendly attendant at an old two-pump gas station upon a hill, a quasi-restaurant heavy of grease and meeting place for farmers, about biodiesel. She has no idea who might have it. I fill up ten gallons ($2.599). The receipt says: “S Diesel.” I have no idea what that is.

Close to the eastern Iowa border, I pass a large ethanol processing plant whose sign boasts, “#1 in ethanol production.” The B100 on my Biodiesel BINGO card is still open. Around Emerson, I give up on BP…and Iowa. B0 and B-mystery-blend aren’t on my card but are all Iowa has to offer along my route.

Next week: Illinois, Indiana and Ohio prove more promising for biodiesel.

Riposte on REC’s

Last Wednesday, I listened in on the monthly renewable energy teleconference co-sponsored by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the American Bar Association (ABA). This month’s topic: renewable energy credits (REC’s).

October 18 REC teleconference

I have historically found REC’s a maddening topic. REC’s should be conceptually easy to understand, but they have a number of complexities that in actuality prevent them from being much of a factor in the real-world marketplace. The presenters provided an excellent overview of the nuances associated with REC’s:

  • Inconsistent definition of REC’s among different states inhibits the ability for trade between renewable project developers/owners and “green” buyers (mandated or voluntary) beyond state borders. Thus, there are many illiquid REC markets across the U.S., rather than one possibly-liquid national REC market.
  • Since REC’s compel the development of renewables, a REC is a “coupon” that is intertwined with not one but in fact several attributes simultaneously: reductions on various pollutants (CO2, NOx, SO2, particulates), and provision of energy from a permanent (as opposed to a depleting, fossil fuel) source. However, a persuasive argument can be made that the values of each of these attributes is better realized in an unbundled manner.
  • These attribute values change immensely depending upon the renewable resource involved and the conventional energy source displaced — which in turn varies tremendously by geography and time of day/week/month/year. Without adequate liquidity, such volatility and lack of transparency make for an unattractive market for buyers, sellers and intermediaries alike.
  • The accounting and legal ownership of REC’s is very unclear, making double counting very easy. This is further complicated by the fact that the intent of REC’s is to create a market for “new” renewables that promote further reductions in emissions and fossil fuel reliance, rather than to provide a means to monetize the desirable attributes of a pre-existing renewable source (e.g., a 1950’s hydro plant).
  • Because of these concerns, various parties have emerged to validate the authenticity of REC’s so that buyers know what they are buying. The fact that authenticating organizations are necessary, and are competing to set standards, is not a good sign for the future health of a traded market.

With all of these issues surrounding REC’s, it’s no wonder that they haven’t made much of a contribution to further development of renewables in the U.S. I’m not bullish about their future. The future growth of renewables will be driven more by other factors — improved relative economics of renewables, mandated purchases of renewables by states or corporations — than by the existence of these clumsy REC’s.

Solar Power 2006 Conference Bursting with Energy

I spent 3 days at the Solar Power 2006 Conference in San Jose this week. It was literally bursting with energy, with the organizers announcing 4,000 pre registrations and 2,000 more walk-ups.

A few interesting tidbits of note from under the radar:

I had several discussions with executives stating that they felt module inventories were rising, and that module manufacturers may be feeling the pressure to move product shortly (further confirmation that the silicon shortage /module shortage may be close to over), see our recent blog.

I had a number of discussions indicating that the silicon shortage had seriously squeezed a number of large module manufacturers and integrators who had not locked in supply – perhaps a lot more than I would have expected. It will be interesting to see what a silicon oversupply will do.

Possibly as a reaction to the supply chain dynamics, I heard the first widespread discussions to come to my attention regarding potential M&A activity in the PV integrator sector. The rumour mill was rife with whispers that integrators of varying sizes are on the block, including a number of brand names. The question previously had been, when are we going to see consolidation in the PV integrator sector. The new question that was put to me at the conference was this, if so many integrators are interested in selling out now, do they know something that we don’t about near term market prospects?

Chinese manufacturers, including Yingli and Suntech, were out in force. And manufacturers of varying components in China are making themselves felt in the industry.

Interesting note, very few of the best capitalized thin film developers were there in force, and (notably absent from the exhibit hall were First Solar (CdTe), Miasole (CIS), Nanosolar (CIS), Iowa Thin Film (ASi), Ascent Power (CIS), DayStar (CIS)), and the ones that did (like Uni Solar/Ovonics (ASi), Global Solar (CIS), had relatively small booths/presence). That generally would mean they are either struggling, or (as probably the case in First Solar with its upcoming IPO), unable to speak yet about upcoming news.

The solar thermal industry, while not making the largest splash at the conference, is maturing much faster than I had realized. Evidenced by the recent launch of the Schott Solar’s thermal receiver plant (capable of producing 100 + MW/year of receivers), thanks to Dr. Nikolaus Benz and Dr. Alex Marker for the teach-in on solar thermal.

A few products companies, most notably Carmanah, with their Solar LED Lights were displaying some fascinating advances. See our previous blog on their new aviation lighting product.

And I did have an opportunity to visit with one of the PV concentrator startups that was recently funded (Nth Power and Rockport Capital), and have a look at their prototype, Practical Instruments.

Biodiesel BINGO: the brae bio-bus travel log

My profuse thanks to Tim and Robyn Chilson of Brookdale Family Campground in Meadville, PA for their positive spirit and for putting the brae bio-bus (with her new fuel filter) back on the road!

In the game of Biodiesel BINGO, B2 is a 2% blend, B11 is an 11% blend, and B0 is a losing call on everyone’s game card.

My Thomas International bus conversion (the brae bio-bus) departed Denver a week ago last Sunday with 15 gallons, on board, of B100 processed from waste-vegetable oil, purchased from the cooperative, Denver Biodiesel. Destination: Ithaca, New York. The bio-bus tank was nearly full of B100 from the Cooperative. I am a member of the Coop which charges from $2.75 to $3.25 a gallon for this light-brown oily fuel. Put on a diet of B100 this summer, the bio-bus has been running more smoothly and more quietly, and she has emitted a far more pleasant smell than that of petroleum diesel (B0).

I have affixed to the rear door of the bio-bus a BioDiesel.org sticker: “Powered by: BioDiesel. Cleaner burning and renewable energy.” When at U-Haul to hitch on a car trailer, a U-Haul staffer, seeing the sticker, commented with a wide beam that the bus smelled just like steak (“yum”), and another said with a bit of a lament, it’s really good that someone cares about the environment.

In the game of Biodiesel BINGO, my trip card has a B100. Since the American Midwest is crop country and crop country is no stranger to the sprawl of fast-food joints and trucker stops, I want to see just which gas stations along my route through the industrial agri-farm belt sell biodiesel – from soy to waste vegetable or animal fat to any blend.

Next week: The brae bio-bus journeys across Nebraska and Iowa

Other goings on this week:

What is it with advertisers for polluting energy companies and their affinity for precocious children? On CNN, twice within an hour, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (LearnAboutCoal.org) of the Washington, DC beltway, ran an ad with a little girl describing how she’s so smart from homework: she knows the U.S. has about “250 years of coal reserves.” On the website, another way-too-adult child, pretty in pink, settles into her chair to tell me that “we can have our cake and eat it, too” when it comes to coal.

I suggest, given the advanced brain cells of these actor children, that their advertiser teachers assign Jeff Goodell’s “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.” There’s a lot to learn about coal, says Adam, dangling a skateboard. Perhaps after reading the book, he and these other children will consider becoming journalists, like Goodell, instead of stooges for the coal industry.

AustralAsian Cleantech Forum blow by blow summary

Clean Technology AustralAsia recently held 2nd AustralAsian Cleantech Finance and Investment Forum in Melbourne in August with the theme of “Building AustralAsia’s Cleantech Future”. In the following posting I’ve captured some of the discussion, learnings and outcomes of the event. There’s also a full summary of the event including quotations and detailed highlights of each of the speakers presentations available from the cleantechforum.com website, which is well worth spending the time to read.

This second successful AustralAsian Cleantech Forum attracted 170 delegates and explored how to position the AustralAsian Cleantech Network of investors and companies to capitalise on the national and global market demand for clean technology solutions for sustainable development.

Importantly, there was significant representation from the finance sector and capital markets including Superfunds, project financiers, fund managers, venture capitalists, stock brokers etc. This ability to attract and involve the mix of providers of capital providers, technology entrepreneurs, public and private companies and project developers has been universally applauded by sponsors, delegates and speakers, including GP’s and LP’s. Also attending were key decision makers from government, academia, research, and professional services sectors.

Participants acknowledged that Cleantech in Australia is growing at an accelerated rate with many innovative early stage clean technologies in the pipeline, new Cleantech Venture funds and the increasing interest from institutional investors. The Cleantech Forum was hailed a great success as the premier platform for Building Australasia’s Cleantech Future.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Bryan Martel, Managing Partner, Environmental Capital Group from California and his experience as the environmental investment advisor to CalPERS and the importance of both environment and financial returns as a part of fiduciary responsibility and corporate governance.

Emerging from the overall dialogue at the Cleantech Forum it was acknowledge that clean technological solutions provide a means to achieve sustainable outcomes that generate both financial returns and environmental net gains thus fostering growth and reducing risks such as climate change.

In Australia we are starting to see a real shift in attitude as we head into possibly one of the hottest and driest summers expected on record, and this is being reflected significantly in our politics at the moment and getting quite a bit of press coverage. Nuclear power is also back on the table from the government, with the opposition now promoting renewable technology as the preferred option.

The 2nd AustralAsian Cleantech Finance & Investment Forum progressed through four sessions:

  1. Global Market Opportunities and Drivers for Clean Technology Investing
  2. Clean Technologies – Companies Leading the Charge
  3. Cleantech Funds – The Investment Value Proposition
  4. Why a “Perfect Storm” is brewing for AustralAsian Cleantech.


I’ve captured a few of the highlights, for more details chase them down in the full summary:

  • Clean technological solutions were identified to underpin the initiatives of the six countries involved in the Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Development, particularly those to address global climate change.
  • The Australian government is taking action through investment in projects endorsed through on the AP6 and Australia’s involvement on the Renewable Energy and Distributed Generation and through Cleaner Fossil Fuel Task Forces.
  • Clean technologies were identified to be an essential part of the solution for sustainable development in these surging economies such as India, as is an enabling framework that includes regulation, incentives and market based instruments such as a carbon trading scheme or tax.
  • In Australia there is a critical mass of innovative clean technologies available in sectors like water management & purification, clean coal, green buildings and in the service industry and that the market place is evolving to take up these technologies in Asia.
  • Though, saying this for the first time we saw Australian venture capital funds present and brand themselves as dedicated Australian Cleantech Funds. There is a building understanding by fund executives and managers of the value and potential growth of clean technology companies that may be incorporated into a private equity investment portfolio. However, generally Australian VC investors and fund advisors lack understanding of the Cleantech investment opportunity.
  • Cleantech was described as being important to Australia’s industry superfund’s since they realize investments in Cleantech are needed to ensure a sustainable long term future for society and the ecosystem. There is also a belief that over the coming 50 years a significant amount of water and energy infrastructure will be required in Australia.
  • Similarly, the potential to achieve investment returns for institutional investors were clearly articulated with investments in social, economic and environmental infrastructure. An important point was made concerning the fiduciary duty of trustees to address environmental risks. Funds with a portfolio of clean technologies were identified as being integral to addressing long term financial and environmental risks such as climate change.
  • A healthy tension was evident as speakers presented differing views on the current climate being suitable for a dedicated Cleantech VC fund or a general VC technology fund. However, there was agreement that Australian capital will be deployed both nationally and internationally in Cleantech.
  • Although early days, fund managers presently making Cleantech investments indicated that Cleantech represents sound investment and an excellent growth prospect for the future. In the coming years it is anticipated that Cleantech investments for sustainability issues will move from boutique to core equity analysis.
  • Australia’s leading brokerage firm highlighted some of the merits of specializing in Cleantech companies and the importance of a dedicated Cleantech research analyst with information to make sound investment decisions in Australian public and private Cleantech companies.
  • There is an increasing interest from the banks financing sustainable development projects. In this regard, Cleantech infrastructure and energy projects were highlighted as areas of potential new debt financing.

Plans are already underway for the 3rd AustralAsian Cleantech Finance and Investment Forum in August 2007. The Cleantech Forum will continue to expand as the event is recognised as the premier Cleantech Forum in AustralAsia scheduled to be held every year as a must attend event on the international calendar.

To give you a little more early information on the 2007 program, It will be expanded into a two day event and will for the first time include industry sector sessions where companies can pitch to investors to raise capital and present the market and investment rational of their products. There will also be international funds presenting to the “capital rich” Aussie LP’s and superfunds. Based on the success of the last two years, we expect the AustralAsian Cleantech Forum in 2007 to continue to grow in popularity, attracting a national and international speakers, a high-level audience and business delegations.

For those readers that would like to be involved in the Australasian Cleantech Forum 2007 program please feel free contact us.


Nick Bruse is the General Manager of Clean Technology AustralAsia Pty Ltd; the organiser of the AustralAsian Cleantech Forums, and the leading advocate of Cleantech in Australia. Clean Technology AustralAsia was established in 2004 with the mission to build and service the AustralAsian Cleantech Network of companies and investors and position them for success in local, national and international markets.

Is the Supply Shortage in Solar Silicon Short-Lived?

I had the recent opportunity to listen to a discussion led by Robert Ford, CEO of Solaicx, on the state of the silicon supply, speaking at a luncheon arranged by the Antenna Group.

With c. $20 mm invested, Solaicx is preparing to build a commercial plant for the manufacture of single crystal silicon ingots (and wafers) to the photovoltaic solar module industry, and has been providing product from its prototype plant to GE Solar for some months.

From their website: “The Solaicx system includes a continuous Czochralski (CZ) crystal grower that implements several Solaicx breakthrough technologies, allowing the manufacture of low cost, high quality single crystal silicon ingots at high volume for conversion into solar wafers.”

When I asked about his take on the silicon supply / demand curves for the next couple of years, Bob’s answer paraphrased: “There are announced capacity increases from c. 35,000 metric tons to c. 100,000 metric tons over the next 4 years, and maybe half a dozen additional unannounced capacity additions. They also see an up to 65% reduction in silicon usage per unit over that time frame (coming, if I understood him correctly, from a combination of reduced amount of silicon per unit of area and increased cell efficiency). The upshot of a 3x increase in supply and 3x improvement in silicon utilization equates to an effective capacity increase of 9x by 2010 or so, making for a very short lived supply shortage.”

Solaicx’s bet is that their process, which they claim is up to 80% more efficient than conventional crystal growing, will give them a low cost advantage as the silicon supply situation eases.

The other comment he made that I found particularly catchy came in his discussion of silicon manufacturing for the photovoltaic industry:

“Solar is a dumb, dirty diode”, and basically a materials handling business when compared to semiconductor sector, “not high precision manufacturing”. The implication was that when the industry focused on making solar grade silicon cost effectively (as Solaicx has targeted) instead of semiconductor grade product, that the results would be significant improvement in cost and supply in the solar silicon market as manufacturers optimize for the PV industry.

In the Year 2025

No, I’m not referring to the old Zager and Evans song.

There’s a new initiative these days called 25 x ’25, which is touting the vision for the U.S. to obtain 25% of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2025. Organized by the Energy Futures Coalition, the true powers behind 25 x ’25 are the farm/agricultural/rural communities, who are increasingly seeing renewables as a cash crop like their produce — perhaps the one remaining revenue source small farmers/ranchers need to remain economically afloat.

This is not the only ambitious vision recently put forth for how much the U.S. could rely upon renewable energy in 15+ years. A few months ago, President Bush made a speech in which he discussed his Advanced Energy Initiative, suggesting a goal for wind energy to supply 20% of the nation’s electricity requirements.

I say “suggesting” because, if you carefully read the text of the speech, you’ll note that Bush actually says that “the experts tell me that this [wind energy] alone has the potential to supply up to 20 percent of our nation’s electricity. I think that’s an interesting opportunity. I don’t know if it’s true, or not, but it’s certainly worth trying to find out, in order to make sure this country has got a bright future.”

Despite the ambiguity, I’m told that NREL is acting in developing wind energy implementation plans as if “20% of U.S. electricity from wind by 2020” is actually a Presidential goal. If we earnestly pursue such a build-out but only get to 18%, that “failure” is still pretty good.

Such is the value of stretch goals. Maybe we need more of them to successfully address our energy challenges — but only if they are made and taken seriously.

New Coal: The Definition of Insanity

Last week, ESource held its annual forum at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. The Wednesday morning plenary titled, “Wall Street and Congregations Tackle Climate Change,” brought together Marc Brammer, Director of Research for Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, and Calvin DeWitt, President of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists. (I was there to present later in the day on behalf of Colorado Interfaith Power & Light.)

After the two presented their respective responses to climate change and stewardship of the planet, Dan Friedlander, Executive Director of Clean Energy Action in Colorado, posed this question: there are over 100 coal-fired plants on the drawing board; how do we address climate change with those coal plants going online?*

Marc Brammer responded that construction of new coal plants at this time is ‘the definition of insanity.’ The moderator, Michael Shephard of ESource, responded that there is the very real possibility that utilities will build plants in a flurry, before regulations and risks set in. I had heard this same concern from Joel Swisher, Managing Director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who was standing in the back of the room on Wednesday.

I caught up with Marc Brammer and Dan Friedlander after the plenary. In lieu of a follow-up phone call to talk about his presentation, Marc handed me the 37-page printout of his PowerPoint: “Climate Risk: Wall Street’s Perspective.” (He was heading to the mountains. I was heading east in the brae bio-bus. I’m writing this blog entry from the bio-bus, in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.)

Marc’s strategic profit opportunities of cleantech/carbon go like this:

  • Sustainability” issues such as climate change are creating major risks – and opportunities – for investors worldwide
  • There is a growing demand among institutional investors for solutions and action: e.g., Carbon Disclosure Project ($31 trillion); Investors Network on Climate Risk; unprecedented shareholder resolutions in the US
  • Regulatory pressures and consumer concerns are driving accelerating demand for “clean technologies”
  • Royal Dutch/Shell predicts that renewables will account for 15% of all OECD energy production by 2020
  • World Energy Council estimates global market for renewables as up to $625 billion by 2010, and $1.9 trillion by 2020
  • Currently generating a 30% compound annual growth rate

Of climate change, Marc believes this is what we have learned so far:

Financial impact of climate change extend well beyond the ‘obvious’ industry sectors

  • Same-risk – and awareness – varies widely from company to company
  • Financial risks – and opportunities – certain to intensify
  • Early movers are already gaining competitive advantage
  • Aggressive, pro-active climate change responses need NOT be costly; in fact they can generate net revenues

*The September/October 2006 issue of Energy Central’s Energy Biz magazine records an assembly of chief executive officers from eight power companies to discuss the power picture. A few of the CEOs – including Dick Kelly of Xcel Energy but excluding the only woman, Peggy Fowler of Portland General Electric – are ecstatic about building new plants. That, even though the sidebar to the article “Co-Ops on a Building Tear” reads: “Electricity demand could be cut 19 percent nationally by 2025 with an investment of $137 billion in energy efficiency, according to a report by a Michigan research outfit. At the same time, utilities plan to build more than 150 coal-fired generation plants in the next decade, according to the Detroit Free Press.”

Here’s Walter Higgins of Sierra Pacific Resources on “what excites him”: “I never thought I’d be in the building business again, but boy am I in the building business. It’s a lot of fun to be building power plants and hooking up 60,000 customers a year.”

Here’s Dick Kelly on his “top-of-mind issue”: “You’ve got to get the regulatory approval up front. We have gone to the regulators and the state legislative body and have it written in law that we’re going to recover our investment before we spend a dime. We’ve got about $5 billion worth of projects that we’re going to recover before we actually start spending the money. If you have that kind of up-front support, then you can go to investors and they’ll lend you the money.” (Translation: Xcel’s bad credit rating has limited its financing options, so Xcel requested that ratepayers assume the risk of the coal-fired plant which Xcel freely admits in filings is being built to satisfy Wall Street; regulators like COPUC Chairman Greg Sopkin attend utility meetings where he learns, according to the Denver press, “how utilities can win a rate case.” Sopkin’s shindigging in fancy hotels with the utilities clearly worked for Xcel.)

A more enlightened CEO is Michael Chesser of Great Plains Energy: “The least appreciated opportunity is energy efficiency and demand side management. For the 2010 to 2015 timeframe, it’s going to be the most cost-effective, least-risky investment we can make.”

Energy @ MIT

Historically, energy technology research in academia has been very fragmented and not highly visible beyond the view of the principal investigators and their narrowly-focused peers. Bigger impact has been elusive because successfully tackling energy issues often requires the expertise of multiple disciplines, and coordination across departments and schools/colleges is not often as easy or collaborative as ought to be the case.

My alma-mater MIT appears to be tackling the massive energy challenges with vigor. The Institute’s new President, Susan Hockfield, has made energy a key initiative across the campus.

Hockfield speech on energy

Among the initiatives such a renewed focus has spawned are the formation of the MIT Energy Research Council to link departments in developing a coherent energy research agenda, an MIT Energy Club for interested students and faculty to join in energy discourses, and a dedicated energy section in MIT’s publication Technology Review.

MIT is not alone: here in the Midwest, Ohio State and Michigan have recently initiated university-wide energy initiatives. I’m glad to see that the best minds from US academia are becoming more effectively harnessed towards energy research.

However, unless a more favorable energy market environment is created through proactive policy, even very promising and economically-viable research innovations will always face a significant uphill battle in mainstream adoption.

Investments into Clean Energy Continue to Significantly Increase through Funding Activities of Clinton, Branson, Venture Capitalists and State Support

RenewableEnergyStocks.com Follows the Money in Renewable Energy and Looks at Market Upside Support from New Funding Efforts

Despite the downturn in renewable energy stocks since Spring of this year, the growth in new money being put into cleantech projects has significantly increased. The strength in the flow of investments acts as an indicator for long term growth and upside within the clean energy sector. As the market continues to sort through the abundance of new technologies and faces the typical growing pains associated with accelerated development, the concentration of funding will enable viable technologies to emerge.

Recent high profile moves by Former President Clinton as well as Sir Richard Branson have placed the spotlight on the renewable energy sector. Clinton made headlines through the announcement of a new investment fund called “Green Fund” which plans on raising over $1 billion for investment into renewable energy, with a specific focus on making a profit while reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, lowering pollution levels and global warming. Branson turned heads with his public promise to invest approximately $3 billion over the next 10 years from his airline and rail businesses into renewable energy technology to help address issues of global warming.

As Dr. Robert Wilder, Manager of the WilderHill Clean Energy Index and Co-Manager of the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index explains, “On the short term horizon the green energy sector is down significantly. As measured by our Wilderhill Clean Energy Index©, this sector is down approximately 35% from May. However, there is also a medium and long term horizon to consider, which is what Branson, the Clinton initiative and other investors are looking at.”

In addition, momentum continues on the state level with various U.S. states such as Texas and California making major commitments to escalate the integration and innovation within the clean energy arena. The state of Texas in partnership with several private companies such as G.E. Energy, Siemens, Shell WindEnergy and many others, plans on investing more than $10 billion in new wind energy infrastructure. California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed ground-breaking legislation representing the first state law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Within the venture capital arena the increased level of investments into “green” technology has continued to rise significantly. According to the Cleantech Venture Network®, the first half of 2006 showed investments in cleantech reaching $1.4 billion, which is almost double that of the first half of 2005. Keith Raab, CEO and Co-Founder of the Cleantech Venture Network describes, “The interest in cleantech has moved beyond investors to corporations, global media, national and state governments, academia, and the general consumer, reflecting its broad acceptance.”

What does this mean for investors? For starters it is validation of the long term potential of the renewable energy market and a compass that can be followed into technological paths that are garnering the attention of major financial investors. It is also an indication that the sector, which has been moving through a refinement and cleansing phase, has an increasing amount of financial support to help sort through the numerous companies and technology available, to establish the truly viable products.

In terms of specific areas gaining attention Dr. Wilder states, “The new money in part is going into thin-film solar that will see the ability for solar panels to be developed without the ceiling on growth faced by traditional solar PV technology because they use very little silicon. The wind industry is also in the spotlight, but is in need of better engineering to increase overall capacity. In both solar and wind, teething pains need to be overcome which short term is a real problem, but long term there is a great deal of growth potential.” Dr. Wilder also sees second generation biofuels as another long term prospective area that has many investors paying close attention.

Overall, with the flow of funding continuing to increase, the viability and potential of the cleantech market, despite current lows, shows a great deal of opportunity moving forward.

Unofficial Awards Ceremony for California Clean Tech Open

By all accounts the California Cleantech Open was a huge success. (Read Rob Day’s blog at Cleantech Investing.) Attached is the Offical Awards list (and according to Renewable Energy Access for those who missed it, the winners are also presenting their technologies at the upcoming Solar Power 2006 Conference in San Jose). Kudos to everyone who worked so hard to put it on. While I was unable to make it, we are lucky enough to present a guest blog column by Paul Fox, a tech entrepreneur whom I have known since his days as a VP at Flextronics.

The real Awards ceremony for the California CleanTech Open (CCTO) was held at San Francisco City Hall on 26 September 2006. There were so many interesting companies, and not just among the winners. So I have decided to award the unofficial 2nd runner up prizes, sponsored by my firm, Foley Fox & Associates, and Jane Capital Partners. The grand, and only, prize is a review of the business plan by Neal Dikeman and I, and maybe a cup of coffee and a biscotti.

The criteria for selection? Very straightforward – Most Interesting Story Award. Note that the judge’s decision is not final (use the comments section below to suggest your own prize winners).

Energy Efficiency Category. Drum roll . . . the prize goes to High Merit Thermoelectrics. Thermoelectric (TE) devices are solid-state devices that convert heat into electricity. The team from UC Davis/JPL smashed two decades of stagnation in high temperature TE. They have increased the base efficiency from 2.6% to 4.3% and also doubled the “Figure of Merit” (i.e. it does a fine job of making and conducting electricity rather than conducting heat). Moreover, the new material is thermally compatible with lower temperature range TE material meaning they can be “segmented” to create a device that has 7.3% efficiency (compared to 4..5% in the state of the art). If the cold side can be cooled to ~300K (a comfortable 80 Fahrenheit), further segmentation can give you 18.6% efficiency. Ok, a few percent does not sound like much, but a little efficiency goes a long way. TE has been used in niche applications like aerospace and medicine for 30-40 years. This breakthrough will lead to the use of TE in more high temperature applications: e.g. energy recovery from combustion engines or perhaps tandem generation with solar concentrators. Commercialization will be challenging, but expect to hear more about this technology and this company.

Renewables Category. I liked several of the finalists, but in the end I decided to give solar a rest and select Aerotecture International. They have a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) that combines helix (Savonius) and airfoil (Darreius) designs. VAWT is interesting because they can be mounted on buildings without the vibration and turbulence problems of conventional turbines. Aerotecture has taken it a step further and produced a very sexy looking machine (yes you can say that about clean tech – check the video on their website). The big issues in VAWT are of course materials and fabrication costs, particularly for the aerofoil, and proving performance/and maintenance costs. Aerotecture looks to be around the same cost per Watt as competing VAWT, despite the combined helix/airfoil design. Can they drive it down further? Stay tuned.

Smart Power Category. Please remember to keep the acceptance speech short. The winner is . . . Grid Saver (Energy Dynamix), who are promoting an appliance remote control system to provide real-time distributed demand response. Ok, I am not sure I want PG&E turning off my beer refrigerator just before the big game, but this is an intriguing idea. Would you like a rolling blackout instead? This prize is awarded for sheer audacity. We need more of it in clean tech.

Transportation Category: Sponsored by Lexus and awarded to a kite for towing ships? In a similar vein, I am not going to award this to one of the excellent bio-fuels companies. Instead, the prize goes to Compressor Control Company, who wants to replace the batteries in a hybrid car with a hydraulic energy storage system. I won’t reveal the secret sauce here; but the EPA, Ford and others are actively looking at similar technology. As much as we love the Toyota Prius, there are going to be a lot of batteries to dump in a few years time.

Water Management Category. I love this category, maybe because I started life pumping water through R.O. machines and activated charcoal. I’d like to see lots more investment in this neglected area, so I am awarding the prize to all of them (I know it is getting crowded on stage):

  • Acillix Inc. – microbial demineralization to improve R.O.
  • A-Z Comp – nano-scale activated carbon removes hydrocarbons from water.
  • Ferrate Solutions – it’s better than disinfection with chlorine
  • Filtration Dynamics – if the EPA is on your back this centrifugal filter could save you a lot of money.
  • Tim Dunn’s Team – a low-cost method for destroying organic-based water pollution.
  • WaterWise Systems – uses municipal waste water to sub-irrigate large stands of trees which sequester carbon dioxide. What’s not to like about that?

As the wild applause recedes, I’d like to say it was a great competition. The Clean Tech community is looking forward to next year. Well done to the organizers, sponsors and competitors. The CCTO’s own summary of all the finalists is attached if you want to pick your own winners.

Paul Fox is a San Jose based entrepreneur and consultant. He helps investors and technology companies accelerate their time to market, time to revenue and return on investment (www.foleyfox.com). His clean tech experience includes solar, nano-materials, fuel cells, distributed generation, and water.

Interview with Leading Cleantech Venture Capital Fund Manager Chrysalix

The Cleantech sector, whether under the banner of cleantech, or clean energy, or greentech, or energy tech, has seen a significant number of venture capital fund managers raising new investment funds to invest in clean technology startups in recent months. To give you the inside story, Cleantech Blog is interviewing several of the leading investors who have recently closed new venture capital funds focusing on cleantech.

For our first interview we are excited to have with us Christine Bergeron, Vice President, Investments at Chrysalix Energy.

Her Biography

Christine has been with Chrysalix since it was founded in 2001. As Vice-President, Investments, she leads investments, and actively works with Chrysalix’s portfolio of Client Companies. She currently sits on the Board of Akermin Inc., is Observer to the Board of Lilliputian Systems and was previously Observer to PolyFuel. She has been an invited speaker at a number of Investment Forums and a regular participant in company selection committees. Prior to joining Chrysalix, she worked with a Canadian based incubator where she assisted a variety of start ups with initial seed formation, market analysis, business planning and strategic development. She is a Director and member of the Investment & Finance Committee of E&CO, a public purpose investment company which empowers local enterprises that supply sustainable energy in less developed countries www.energyhouse.com. Christine enjoys teaching & writing, plays a variety of sports, is an avid traveler, and speaks 3 languages. She holds an Honours B.A. in Sociology from the University of Guelph and an MBA from the University of British Columbia.

I have known the team at Chrysalix for some time. I think it is fair to say that Chrysalix Energy is one of the best known energy tech VCs to emerge from the hydrogen and fuel cell investment craze. Though based in Vancouver, Canada, they have invested much of their fund cross-border. Their first fund, backed primarily by strategic investors interested in hydrogen technology, was focused on hydrogen and fuel cell startups, but with the recent closing of their second fund, they have expanded their focus to include clean energy, and have already made several investments outside of hydrogen, including solar startups Cyrium Technologies (GaAs-based PV modules), and Day4 Energy (photovoltaic concentrator technology).

So Christine, thanks for joining us, and we look forward to getting the inside track on where Chrysalix is headed with its latest fund.

Let’s start with the basics, how much capital did you raise for this cleantech and clean energy fund, and what is the target investment size and number of deals for this fund?

**70MM. Initial investment size anywhere from a few hundred thousand to a few million with overall investment 5-7MM per deal, most likely a dozen deals (depending on size/stage).

That’s a significant increase from the size of your first fund. How does the profile of target investments for this fund differ from your previous one?

**Our second fund has a Clean Energy mandate. We invest in and support compelling technologies and entrepreneurial management teams that address the changing demands of the global energy industry. Our first fund was focused on hydrogen and fuel cell technology companies. Our broader Clean Energy mandate reflects our deep roots in the clean energy sector and expectations for significant returns.

You have added a senior investment professional, what prompted you to do this, and can you give some background on his area of expertise and focus?

**Greg Sullivan joined the firm last year as a venture consultant and then joined as a Managing Director this July. His breadth of experience and track record make him a terrific addition to our team. He brings more than 15 years experience working in Clean Tech industries and Financial Markets. His wide-ranging background includes work in alternative fuels, water resources, nuclear power, and equity and debt Capital Markets.

The cleantech sector is becoming quite crowded with new investors coming in constantly, and I know Chrysalix is one of the first energy tech investment funds to bring institutional investors into the sector. What are the main challenges you faced in the fundraising process and was there any time your team doubted the raise would get away?

**Our first fund was early-stage focused and so far there haven’t been many exits. Raising a second fund in the absence of significant exits is always challenging. The second fund was raised on the strength of the investment team.

How did Chrysalix and your team differentiate the story to both investors and companies to separate yourselves from the crowd?

**Two differentiators were really important: (1) our strong team members with excellent individual track records and combined 40+ years experience in energy and 70+ year in venture capital and financing; (2) our strong and very supportive network of global industrial and financial Limited Partners

Christine, what do you feel are the key drivers in the investor interest in cleantech?

**The flurry of drivers that have occurred of late, such as oil prices, energy security, climate change concerns, grid failures, natural disasters, etc lead to the key driver – investors believe that above average returns can now be made in this sector.

Specifically, how big a factor do you feel each of the following industry areas were in attracting investor interest to your fund in particular and the cleantech sector in general: a) CO2 or GHG emissions and global warming, b) high oil prices, c) hydrogen economy, d) ethanol, e) solar & renewables?

**I think these are all pieces of the renewed interest. Put together, there is an argument that new generation technologies can become cost competitive and that markets are perhaps now ready to look at more efficient means of using energy. I also think large corporations are becoming more concerned and aware (Wal Mart, GE, etc), politicians are receiving more feedback from constituents, entrepreneurs from other industries are now looking at the cleantech sector… All of these things play a role in creating interest in the cleantech sector. The overriding factor however is the financial return potential. Cleantech is now becoming a mainstream investment class.

What quick advice would you give a cleantech entrepreneur looking for venture capital these days?

**The same advice I’d give any entrepreneur building a company. You need an A level team, a strong value-proposition for your customer, compelling technology that underscores your value proposition, focus, and a vision on how to create value. It will take more time and money than you believe. Avoid the hype and think about how to stay ahead of the curve.

What do you see as the major pitfalls in investing in cleantech?

**Some of the customers are utilities and slow adopters of new technology – this can lead to longer sales cycles, more development dollars, delayed revenues, etc. Changing regulatory regimes can also be a major pitfall within certain subsectors.

Those have certainly been challenges for investors in cleantech. As a follow-on, would you characterize any of the following cleantech investment areas as in a “bubble”, and does that worry you? a) ethanol, b) UK’s AIM exchange, c) solar sector?

**We invest over the long term and through the cycle. Bubbles by definition can only be defined after the fact. There are very stong drivers in the Clean Energy sector which we believe will persist for many years, and will only get stronger. There will of course be fluctuations in investor expectations and markets are always anticipatory. It is not unusual to see significant volatility in valuations of companies addressing emerging markets. It is a real challenge to predict price swings in the very short term. But over the medium and longer terms we strongly believe that significant value will be created in the Clean Energy sector, and we are positioning our portfolio around this view.

What has personally motivated you to invest in cleantech and clean energy?

**The Clean Energy sector presents a unique opportunity to invest for very significant returns and at the same time to make the world cleaner and more sustainable. This translates into very high morale within our portfolio companies. We are excited to work with world-class entrepreneurs developing technologies that will create significant wealth, job creation, and provide significant overall benefits to society.

Christine, thanks for joining us and sharing some of the cleantech vision from Chrysalix. We are excited that you guys have increase your market presence in such a big way. Now how can our readers reach you or submit a business plan to Chrysalix?

**My pleasure Neal, the best way is by email, cbergeron@chrysalix.com, or at the Chrysalix offices at 604.659.5499. You can also send us a business plan at info@chrysalix.com.

Chrysalix Energy Overview

Chrysalix Energy is the General Partner of Chrysalix Energy Limited Partnership, formed in 2001, and Chrysalix Energy II U.S. Limited Partnership, formed in 2005. Chrysalix Energy invests in technology-based Clean Energy companies and actively supports them with deep industry and technical knowledge, management and board assistance, organized networking with industrial and financial partners, management of intellectual property, and direct access to capital. Investors in the Chrysalix Energy Partnerships include Ballard Power Systems, BASF Venture Capital, BOC, Citigroup, Consensus Group, Delta Lloyd, Essent, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Lexington Partners, Mitsubishi Corporation, Robeco, Shell Hydrogen, Teachers’ Private Capital and West LB Mellon. To learn more about Chrysalix Energy visit www.chrysalix.com.

Interviewer Neal Dikeman is a partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, and has been active in the cleantech sector in superconductors, fuel cells, solar, and software, as well as traditional energy, and is the founding contributor to Cleantech Blog.

Solar Inspiration in the Rocky Mountain region

Work in Maine beckons, so I’m packing up the bio-bus, the dog and the cat (and a car that can maneuver in snow.) My departure checklist includes a stop at MEIZ Development’s contemporary homes going up in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood. The homes are equipped with solar photovoltaics. The panels, installed by Sun Electric Systems are Kyoceras that run vertically along the southern side of the homes and also serve as awnings. I’ve written previously about MEIZ and Sun Electric, and their plans for solar at 43 Russian. It is satisfying personal closure to see the panels on these beautiful homes ready for their new owners. They look great! (To see drawings of the project, go to http://www.meiz.biz/meiz.html Projects/In Construction.) 43 Russia just missed the Tour of Solar Homes going on this weekend in Boulder and Denver, but next year, they will be the star of the tour!

Sun Electric and MEIZ are raising the “home performance bar” in the Rocky Mountain region and both draw from resources outside the area. Mark Meiser, owner of MEIZ, was turned on to solar after seeing an article in Dwell magazine about a solar installation on a contemporary home in California. Sun Electric has brought ideas back from Europe. It sent a few of its staff to Freiburg, Germany this summer, attracted by the new solar energy applications at Intersolar2006, the world’s largest trade show in solar technology.

Europe and Japan are the leaders in solar technologies, and in Southern Germany alone, there are more solar systems than in the entire United States. New and improved solar technologies, though, are not as widely known – or used – here. That’s why the MEIZ project is an exciting addition to this area (we’re not California, not yet, not by a long shot!)

Ratepayer-financed rebates now offered through utilities have led to increased interest in solar in Colorado. Leslie Glustrom of the Colorado Solar Electric Industry Association (COSEIA) says that “the solar industry is growing dramatically. We have abundant solar in this state.”

“That’s why we went to Europe,” says Sun Electric president, Jim Welch. “We wanted to see the latest technologies and to bring them back to the States, so we can better serve our customers.”

Solar photovoltaics, solar panels that generate electricity from the sun, traditionally use one side of the panel to turn sunshine into electrons. On display in Germany were solar photovoltaics that produce electricity from both sides of the solar panel and a glass that produces both light and electricity.

Solar photovoltaics serve a dual purpose in buildings, too. Called architectural integration, or built-in photovolotaics (BIPV), it’s the new vernacular in the building industry. Germany is using it to spur solar installations. There, utilities pay more for electricity fed back to the utility’s grid where the solar is architecturally-integrated.

Sun Electric, a Colorado-based engineering and solar systems integrator with offices across the state, anticipates these new solar technologies will become more widely recognized and that demand for them will grow here in Colorado.

“We’re working with architects.” says Welch, “They want the dual functionality of solar panels – like an awning that’s also a solar panel, or a panel that doubles as a carport or is some other kind of shelter or shading. They’re creating a whole new look. We’re already applying what we learned. We have some carport canopies in place and the glassing systems that produce both light and electricity. We have designed several awning systems, and in Sunnyside neighborhood in north Denver, our first wall-integrated solar system.” (That would be the MEIZ project!)

Other new technologies at Germany’s Intersolar2006 solar trade show included awnings that can generate electricity and also generate heat but look identical, and roofing that seamlessly integrates photovoltaics.

Traveling Green

It’s getting increasingly easy for environmentalists to walk their talk while away from home. Two recent announcements:

  1. Through a partnership with TerraPass, the internet travel site Expedia now offers travelers the option to purchase carbon offsets commensurate with their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from taking their flight. Press release
  2. Once at the destination, Hertz now offers travelers the ability to reserve an environmentally friendly car, through their 35,000 vehicle Green Collection available at 50 major U.S. airports. Press release

In terms of having major environmental impact, these announcements are no substitute for good global and national greenhouse gas policies — such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade mechanism on GHGs — but it’s yet another step in the right direction. The market responds yet again — imagine what the market could do if the playing field and rules were structured properly!