Kleiner Perkins on Biomass

by Richard T. Stuebi

I was recently forwarded an article by Amol Desphande, partner of the renowned venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, entitled “Investing in the Biomass Industry”, which appeared in the September 2009 issue of BioCycle magazine.

No doubt seeking to contrast Kleiner Perkins from its peers, Deshpande questions the prudence of investing in large-scale biorefining operations — whether first- or second-generation — and instead characterizes the attributes of biomass technologies that make for more appealing investment candidates:

  • Scales down and can operate in a distributed manner
  • Produces a product that is supply chain compatible (e.g., grid connection, pipeline access points)
  • Uses a feedstock that already has a supply chain
  • Has a beneficial reuse and is free of harmful contaminants or odors
  • Uses available feedstocks of low value and that require minimal pretreatment
  • Costs less than $5 million to demonstrate at semi-commercial scale
  • Consumes minimal water and parasitic energy
  • Has one step for its primary energy conversion (i.e., one primary unit operation, like an anaerobic digester)
  • Takes less than six months to build a commercial plan from “shovel in ground”

Apparently, Kleiner Perkins has seen a number of venture opportunities possessing most of the above characteristics, having invested in Amyris, Harvest, Mascoma, and Sundrop Fuels.

Deshpande closes passionately with the following call to action:

“This is the greatest time in history for entepreneurs in the biomass industry. Rising energy prices, public awareness, technology breakthroughs and carbon credits will make the next 10 years a great time to innovate…Distributed biomass power technologies are available and should be deployed in the short-term. Over the long-term, we probably need to change the way we grow our food. These changes present opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to take the challenge to innovate and transform biomass in a more efficient way.”

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

6 replies
  1. Manhattan Air Condit
    Manhattan Air Condit says:

    Very good thoughts are these at these times when there is definitely an environment crisis.There should be more effort to save energy and get closer to the earth and recycle products.

  2. Manhattan Air Condit
    Manhattan Air Condit says:

    Very good thoughts are these at these times when there is definitely an environment crisis.There should be more effort to save energy and get closer to the earth and recycle products.

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    Manhattan Air Conditioners AC Units says:

    Very good thoughts are these at these times when there is definitely an environment crisis.There should be more effort to save energy and get closer to the earth and recycle products.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent.Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration (= to 1 Ton CO2e) + Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels = to 1MWh exported electricity, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.Microbes like to sit down when they eat.By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life.On Scale;WorldStoves in Haiti ; http://www.charcoalproject.org/2010/05/a-man-a-st… andThe Biochar Fund http://biocharfund.org/ deserves your attention and support.Exceptional results from biochar experiment in CameroonNSF Awards $600K to BREAD: Biochar Inoculants for Enabling Smallholder Agricultur <a href="http://ehttp://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0965336Thanks” target=”_blank”>ehttp://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0965336Thanks for your efforts.ErichErich J. KnightChairman; Markets and Business Review CommitteeUS BiocharConference, at Iowa State University, June 27-3 <a href="http://0http://www.biorenew.iastate.edu/events/biochar2010/conference-agenda/agenda-overview.htmlEcoTechnologies” target=”_blank”>0http://www.biorenew.iastate.edu/events/biochar2010/conference-agenda/agenda-overview.htmlEcoTechnologies Group Technical Advise <a href="http://rhttp://www.ecotechnologies.com/index.html” target=”_blank”>rhttp://www.ecotechnologies.com/index.html Reports:For those looking for an overview of biochar and its benefits, These authors have done a very nice job of distilling a great deal of information about biochar and applying it to the US context:US Focused Biochar report: Assessment of Biochar's Benefits for the US <a href="http://Ahttp://www.biochar-us.org/pdf%20files/biochar_report_lowres.pdf” target=”_blank”>Ahttp://www.biochar-us.org/pdf%20files/biochar_report_lowres.pdf This PNAS report (by a Nobel lariat) should cause the Royal Society to rethink their report that criticized Biochar systems sequestration potential;Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesReducing abrupt climate change risk usingthe Montreal Protocol and other regulatoryactions to complement cuts in CO2 emission <a href="http:// shttp://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html" rel="nofollow"> <a href="http://shttp://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html” target=”_blank”>shttp://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html

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