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Fear Triumphing Over Hope in Capital Markets

by Richard T. Stuebi

Those of us in the cleantech arena frequently tout that we’re in one of the hottest sectors of investment. But, apparently, not the hottest.

It seems that an even hotter investment market deals with private security and defense technologies. So says a recently published article entitled “Guns Beat Green” in The Nation by noted author Naomi Klein.

Quoting:

“So why is ‘homeland security,’ not green energy, the hot new sector? Perhaps because there are two distinct business models that can respond to our climate and energy crisis. We can develop policies and technologies to get us off this disastrous course. Or we can develop policies and technologies to protect us from those we have enraged through resource wars and displaced through climate change, while simultaneously shielding ourselves from the worst of both war and weather….In short, we can choose to fix, or we can choose to fortress. Environmental activists and scientists have been yelling for the fix. The homeland security sector, on the other hand, believes the future lies in fortresses.”

In our capitalist economy, money flows to the area of greatest perceived opportunity, and the market in 2007 is saying that fortresses are a better bet than fixes, with $6 billion in venture capital going to security/defense vs. $4.2 billion for green. By contrast, in 2006, these two sectors were neck-and-neck. For those deploying capital, fear has thus leapt ahead of hope.

I’ve often said that cleantech is getting only a small fraction of the capital investment it should be getting. These numbers only convince me further of my sentiments.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.


Let in the Sun Shine

(11/28/07 by John Addison) Gene Coan does not worry about the price of gasoline, nor is he concerned with his gas and electric bill. Gene powers his home and car with solar photovoltaics (PV) and also uses solar hot water heating. With his Zenn electric-vehicle (EV) Gene rides on sunlight.

Gene is following his beliefs. He is a Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. From PV to EV, Gene is living zero-emissions from energy source to wheels.

The Zenn is a stylish three-door hatchback, which makes it handy for hauling stuff from stores. It is fully enclosed. It is a light electric vehicle with a curb weight of only 1,200 pounds because of its aluminum frame and ABS plastic body panels. It has a range of 35 miles and a legal speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

There are over 25,000 battery-electric vehicles on the road in California. Most are the $9,000 to $12,000 light electric vehicles (LEV) such as Gene’s Zenn. These electric vehicles are often referred to as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV). LEVs are popular in university towns, such as Palo Alto, California, where Gene lives. There are over 100 in use at nearby Stanford University. Many silently zip around the campus carrying the people, goods, and equipment necessary to keep the university running.

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but often not kept, especially when the price tag is $45,000. In January 2002, Michael Mora convinced his wife that they should buy a Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle for $45,000. Michael had to practically beg the dealer to sell his last one. Today, Michael could sell his RAV4 as a used-vehicle for $20,000 more than he paid for it. After a showdown with the California Air Resources Board, all major auto makers including Toyota stopped selling their EVs. Freeway speed EVs are in hot demand. Now Michael could pocket a handsome twenty grand after driving the vehicle for almost six years.

Michael is not selling. He powers his RAV4 with the solar power installed on his roof. The daily cost to drive the vehicle is zero. Because the RAV4 has NiMH batteries, he can achieve up to 100 mile range. Freeway speeds are a piece of cake.Hundreds of individuals are lining-up to order freeway-speed electric vehicles from Tesla, Miles Motors, AC Propulsion, and others. Price tags of up to $100,000 do not faze these electric vehicle enthusiasts.

Electric vehicles are equally popular with individuals and with fleets. The U.S. Marine Corps is vitally concerned about the nation’s energy security. At Camp Pendleton, in Oceanside, California, the Marines use 320 LEV’s for routine maintenance, goods hauling, and transportation on the vast base. The LEV’s 25-mile per hour speed matches the use. The vehicles are recharged at an eight-station solar carport. Just as two-car families may have one electric vehicle and a heavier vehicle for range, the Marines use different vehicles for different purposes. At Camp Pendleton, five million gallons of B20 biodiesel is used annually, powering heavy duty and long distance vehicles.

The City of Santa Monica is rapidly installing solar power on roofs throughout the city. It intends to be the nation’s first Net-Zero City. The city uses many electric vehicles including EVs: 24 RAV EVs, a GEM electric truck for the popular Third Street Promenade, a demo electric scooter, and even a Segway.

National Renewable Energy Labs turned to Envision Solar to cover part of its parking lot with solar shaded vehicle charging. Envision CEO Robert Noble is an award-winning LEED architect. His solar design follows the metaphor of trees and groves that convert ugly “heat island” parking lots into beautifully landscape. A pre-fab version for homeowners will be showcased as the vehicle charger of choice at the EVS conference. Envision is in partnership with Kyocera (KYO).

Why not just cover a car with solar panels and skip the separate solar charging station? Each year teams build demonstration solar cars that do. This year, 38 vehicles covered with solar panels crossed 3,000 kilometers of Australia in the Panasonic Solar World Challenge. This year’s winner, Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands, accomplished the feat in 33 hours and 17 minutes.

Big auto makers are demonstrating concept vehicles with integrated solar roofs. VW’s (VOW) “Space Up! Blue” includes 150W solar roofing to help charge the vehicle’s 12 lithium-ion batteries. This vehicle is designed to travel 65 miles in electric-only mode and only then use added electricity from an on-board fuel cell to achieve a 220 mile range.

The new Mitsubishi iMiEV Sport also includes solar roofing for the next major automaker commercially sold battery-electric vehicle. By 2010, we may be seeing these sleek freeway-speed electric vehicles being sold for well under $30,000 by Mitsubishi (7211:JP).

Over 40 million electric vehicles are in use globally, often silently whisking by without attracting our attention. Increasingly those driving will experience the added joy of riding on sunlight.

This article is Copyright © John Addison and will be part of his upcoming book, Save Gas, Save the Planet. Permission is granted to reproduce this article with the preservation of this copyright notice.

Blogroll Review: Termite, LED Safety, Extreme Green

by Frank Ling

Mighty Bugs

If weeds are plants out of place, then termites must be bugs out of place. Every year, termites cause billions of dollars of damage to lumber. It’s also well known that bacteria and their enzymes in the gut of these termites can break down wook and other plant materials to produce of hydrogen gas.

Scientists are now trying to decode the genes of these bacteria in order to create bio-reactors for hydrogen production.

Robert Rapier at R-Squared Energy Blog writes about how this could be made practical for energy production:

“Scale up the internal bioreactor of the termite to produce a desirable end-product.”

I heard that rock and roll makes termites work faster. 🙂

LEDs on the Road

LEDs are already common in traffic signal lamps but now they are working on the road…literally!

In England, the traffic authorities have begun to install solar powered LEDs on dark stretches of roads. Called SolarLite Smart Studs, these units collect energy from the sun during the day. At night, the LEDs give off light. The result? 70% fewer traffic accidents.

Hank Green at EcoGeek says:

“Drivers on the retrofitted roads enjoy 10 times more visibility (90 meters to 900 meters) with the new in-road lights. And drivers have a resulting 10 times more time to adjust to changes in road direction. Even better, the lights, in some scenarios, can replace overhead street lamps, completely eliminating the need for the roads to be on the electric grid.”

Extreme Eco

Surfers, divers, racers, and other sports enthusiasts are always taking things to the extreme. But can you take saving the planet to the extreme.
Walmart is now offering $200 computer systems based on Unix.

Alexis Madrigal at Earth2Tech writes about the top ten controversial ways to save the planet.

One of these ideas is the ocean-cooling pipes:

“Though the idea received a lot of attention after Gaia-hypothesis originator James Lovelock called attention to it, a startup called Atmocean has been hard at work developing an ocean-cooling pipe prototype for years. It would serve two purposes: cooling the ocean in front of approaching hurricanes, as well as causing plankton blooms that could act as a CO2 sink.”

That’s extreme to the max! 🙂

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

Policy Progress in the Midwest

by Richard T. Stuebi

When it comes to clean energy, it’s no secret that the Midwest U.S. far lags beyond the East and West Coasts. This is because, on the coasts, public policy far more aggressively promotes advanced energy. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast and the Western Climate Initiative in the West are regional emission-reduction compacts that will drive significant adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Correspondingly, much of the future advanced energy industry is emerging on the coasts, getting established to serve local markets, while the Midwestern industrial base largely hollows out and stagnates.

A few weeks ago, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) began to take steps to close the gaps. The Governors of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, along with the Premier of the Canadian province of Manitoba, met to discuss shared energy challenges. The result: two pacts that start to lay the groundwork for regional collaboration and commitment to energy/emissions reductions.

The Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform sets significant goals in four areas:

  1. Energy efficiency: electricity demand reduced by 2% by 2015, 2% per year thereafter
  2. Biofuels: 1/2 of regional transportation satisfied by biofuels and other low carbon fuels by 2025
  3. Renewable energy: 30% of regional electricity supply from renewables by 2030
  4. Coal with carbon sequestration: all new coal plants with sequestration by 2020, all plants in fleet by 2050

The Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform also proposes six areas of regional collaboration:

  1. Carbon management infrastructure: for transporting and storing CO2 in a coordinated fashion
  2. Bioproduct procurement: to establish a common marketing/sales framework for bioproducts
  3. Electricity transmission: to expand transmission to accomodate greater amounts of renewables (especially wind)
  4. Renewable fuels infrastructure: for transporting biofuels and other low carbon fuels
  5. Bioenergy permitting: to avoid duplicating or conflicting efforts in various jurisdictions and arrive at common standards
  6. Low carbon energy integration: to demonstrate the potential to harness multiple forms of advanced energy synergistically

Lastly, some of the Midwestern governors signed the Greenhouse Gas Accord, which commits the signatories to establishing targets and timeframes for greenhouse gas reductions on the order of 60-80% reductions by 2050, along with a cap-and-trade mechanism for reaching these targets.

Note that only some of the Midwestern governors got on board with the Greenhouse Gas Accord. Signatories were Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Manitoba. Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota only opted for “observer” status — whatever that really means.

A spokesman for Ohio Governor Strickland was quoted by Gongwer in saying that “the governor supports the Midwest states’ effort to move forward in the way outlined in the agenda, but Ohio is not in a position today to participate actively in [the Greenhouse Gas Accord].” I am compelled to ask: what exactly about Ohio’s current energy situation is materially different than, say, Michigan (which signed the Greenhouse Gas Accord)?

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Chrysalis & Catharsis

by Heather Rae
for cleantechblog.com

In three days, my right love and I will walk down the aisle of an historic church overlooking Damariscotta Lake, and we will take our marriage vows. This marriage is a chrysalis of joy, love, passion and unequivocal devotion.
We met at a bookstore cafe in the early spring. He was speaking loudly to someone (a wind developer, it turned out) about gasoline taxes. I interrupted, from several feet away, with a snappy comment about putting the taxes to good use, like renewable energy initiatives. (A smartass with nice legs, so he says, he thought.)
He, it turned out, was a registered Republican and a relatively recent convert to all things sustainable. He was figuring out how to tighten up his drafty house, built in 1775 by one of George Washington’s captains, and how to reduce its electric load. My fiance’s enlightenment, his change of consciousness, came on a horse packing trip through the Shoshone Wilderness outside of Yellowstone, on the trails ridden by Jim Bridger. That was why he was headed to the sustainable energy expo where I was working a booth that day.
In getting to the alter, and making room for this wild and crazy romance, I have had to release myself from the hands-on renovations of the house, yet (somehow without my interventions!) the renovation progresses. Someone else finished gutting the kitchen walls to the studs. The downstairs bathroom is gone, walls and all.
Added on to the house renovation, we’ve been cleaning out the Captain’s house of 30 years of collectible stuff. This activity is a catharsis for a new beginning.
Seasons march on and winter cannot be put on hold; there was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning. I had arranged for Main Street Fuel to install the new Monitor heater. (They filled the new tank in the basement with K1 and then handed me the bill upside down; we all had a good laugh at that…it’s $833. Hahaha! Yikes.) The Monitor has dutifully held the temperature at 50 degrees in a room that is, essentially open to the outside: a leaky window that barely held off the north winds has been removed, framed out and the hole covered with OSB; Typar applied to the exterior is the only barrier over holes drilled through the sheathing in the seventies for blown-in cellulose insulation.
Sunday, I cleaned up after the electrician who rewired the kitchen and removed some more lathe and plaster. Monday morning, Charlie Huntington’s crew was back, spraying closed-cell foam between the 4″ kitchen wall studs. This morning, on my way to have my wedding ring cleaned, I checked in on the house and called Charlie about foaming in the window cavities. I turned off the Monitor.
In three days, I will wriggle into a little Nicole Miller number and slip on a pair of delicate, strappy sandals. Hiding the telltale signs of manual labor may prove impossible. The knuckles on my right hand, my demolition hand, have grown too large for my mother’s engagement ring. The bruises on my legs and that strange wound on my rear (a nail?) may not heal, nor the finger scrape from the wood burning stove. The fingernails will be short.
I find these house projects physically exacting but cathartic…cleansing, simplifying. Simpler living, lower planetary impact, those are expressions of beauty, as beautiful as the chrysalis into which I will wed.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

Freedom Harvest

(By John Addison 11/20/07) Oil prices neared $100 per barrel as hundreds of leading investors converged at the Pacific Growth Equities Clean Technology Conference. A number of exciting companies presented next generation biofuels that promise to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil. Look for a freedom harvest.

Corn ethanol is likely to continue its strong growth in the U.S. from one billion barrels of fuel per year to the current five billion per year. Ethanol can be blended to 10% with gasoline – E10 – without new infrastructure and without modification of engines. More states are starting to mandate E10. Ethanol will continue strong growth based on these mandates and on concerns about dependency on foreign oil.

At the Pacific Growth Conference, Steve McBee delivered a keynote that predicted passage of significant ethanol and clean energy subsidies before the 2008 presidential election. Ethanol will receive billions, most likely in the Farm Bill, possibly in an Energy Bill. Mr. McBee sees high likelihood of a Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) despite opposition from several food, oil, and environmental groups. Look for all of these to continue:
• 51-cent-a-gallon direct subsidy
• Protectionist tariffs that exclude cheaper ethanol from Brazil sugarcane
• Loophole in the fuel economy standards that allows the automobile manufacturers to claim a fuel economy credit if they build cars that can use E85, even if those cars never drive within 500 miles of a filling station that sells E85.
• More from WRI

The growing use of corn ethanol is creating serious problems. The price of corn is up 40% in only 12 months. Children and families living in poverty suffer globally. If the entire U.S. started switching to E85, there would not be enough land to grow the corn. Ethanol must be trucked not pipelined to oil refineries. Needed is fuel from wood and waste, not food and haste.

Fortunately, next generation ethanol and other biofuels are in development. Next generation biofuels are also likely to benefit from pending legislation being put into law. While corn produces a yield of 300 to 500 gallons per acre, other sources can produce ten times that yield without corn’s water and pesticide requirements.

Presenting at the Conference, cellulosic ethanol developer Verenium (VRNM) presented a positive update. Verenium sees revenues of $42 to $45 million this year. Their 1.4 million gallon per year (MPY) pilot plant in Osaka, Japan, meets the demanding challenge of converting construction wood waste into ethanol. A similar plant is being built in Louisiana that will use sugarcane as feedstock. Look for a 25 to 30 MPY plant in 2010. Sugarcane has been the key source for Brazil’s amazing transition away from petroleum dependency. Sugarcane yields per acre can be 2,500 gallons – five to eight times the yield of corn. Sugarcane has been the key to Cosan (CZZ) tripling revenue and profit in three years. (NOTE: Author owns stock in Cosan.)

Most cars may run on gasoline, but most heavy vehicles run on diesel. The hottest selling cars run on diesel not gasoline. Diesel and biodiesel has about 25% more energy per gallon than gasoline. Ethanol has about 25% less energy than gasoline. Nova Biosource Fuels (NBF) presented at the Pacific Growth Conference. Nova has a joint venture (JV) with ConAgra targeted at taking ConAgra animal waste and producing biodiesel and glycerin. ConAgra has agreed to buy 130 million gallons of biodiesel per year from the JV. If successful, Nova Biosource could buy other players in the fragmented U.S. biodiesel market and solve a significant waste problem for meat and poultry processors. Consensus estimates from analysts is that Nova Biosource will experience explosive growth from $26 million in 2007 to $187 million in 2008, and become profitable in 2008. Reuters Estimates

Private venture-backed Virent presented an exciting alternative to ethanol. It takes biomass and converts it gasoline – biogasoline. Gasoline, after all, is a complex hydrocarbon molecule that can be made from feedstock other than petroleum. Unlike ethanol, biogasoline has the same energy content as gasoline. Unlike cellulosic ethanol alternatives, Virent produces water using a bioforming process, rather than consuming valuable water. Virent has raised $28.5 million of investments from Cargill, Honda (HMC), Venture Investors, Advantage Capital Partners, and Stark Investments. Biogasoline will be its major initial focus. Its technology can also be used to produce biodiesel and bio jet fuel. Virent also has a five-year joint development agreement with Shell to produce hydrogen without CO2 emissions.

All presenters started with safe harbor warnings about future uncertainties. If you are an investor, please use this article only as a starting point for added research. In the transition from petroleum, their will be losers and winners. Some will be big winners.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. Over 50 articles about clean fuels and clean transportation are at http://www.cleanfleetreport.com

What About Diesel Hybrids?

by Richard T. Stuebi

My good friend Gerrit visited me last week from Canada, driving down his prized Mercedes diesel. We talked about diesel autos, and how they were likely to be an increasing part of the energy/environmental solution.

Gerrit told me that he had been hearing that auto manufacturers were losing enthusiasm for hybrids, coming to the realization that most Americans drive lots of highway miles, for which diesels are simpler, cheaper and more efficient than hybrids.

Certainly, diesel hybrid designs are beginning to show up for commercial vehicles, such as delivery vans and garbage trucks. For instance, Eaton (NYSE: ETN) announced earlier this year a pilot program for UPS (NYSE: UPS) involving a diesel delivery truck with a hydraulic (not battery) motive augmentation system.

But what about diesel hybrid autos? Is anyone doing anything interesting in that field? If not, why not?

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

All Electric ATV – No myth to bust on this one

I had a chance to visit with the founders of a new San Francisco Bay Area cleantech startup called barefoot motors, which is building an all electric ATV. I think is a great idea for an untapped electric vehicle product. Think about it, of all the potential electric vehicles out there ? ATVs suck down a comparably large amount gasoline a lot of gasoline per mile and are used primarily for short range transport (range is a longtime achilles heel of electric vehicles). And riders have a serious problem with the noise and the noxious exhaust fumes. Add to that the fact that ATV riders want a combination between acceleration and power that electric drive systems are particularly good at doing, and you should be able to get a really great product from an electric all terrain vehicle. According to barefoot, Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame agrees. He had a big hand in the prototype.

I have followed the barefoot story for some time, but this week one of the cofounders, Melissa Brandao who was formerly with the electric vehicle company Zap, spared a few minutes on the record to give Cleantech Blog the rundown.

So Melissa, give us the story.

barefoot motors is proud to be the first company to offer Earth Utility Vehicles. Our first vehicle is called the Model One, it’s an all electric, heavy duty ATV for primarily agricultural and industrial applications. It has all the power and speed of a conventional heavy duty ATV with the added benefits of being eco-friendly lower cost of ownership driven by fuel savings, quieter and more comfortable to ride, along with those expected perks like rebates and other incentives that are likely to be instituted in the coming years to help reduce air quality issues faster. As far as air quality goes, replacing ONE conventional ATV with the Model One is like taking FOUR cars off the road. There are 1.6 million of these ATVs running around California. But because they are not in plain site they are often overlooked and forgotten by all of those that do not encounter them regularly. ATVs, unlike cars, are not highly regulated, and it will take years to change that.

Why Electric ATVs? What is better about them than electric cars?

Electric ATVs are not better than EVs they’re just different, as off-road vehicles are different than on-road vehicles. The premise at barefoot was to build a comparable vehicle to the heavy duty ATVs that were currently available knowing that the one area that we would have to address is range. What we discovered is that the principal application for our vehicle did not require an 80 mile range to fit their needs. They simply need a good, reliable, heavy duty work horse that will work around their property throughout the day. That is the Model One’s sweet spot.

What exactly is your Electric ATV going to look like?

That is under discussion as we speak but fundamentally it will look like an ATV with some design changes based on innovation as well as the distribution of weight and space, in essence there’s less stuff on the Model One so there is more space to work with.

Melissa, you told me Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame had a big hand in the prototype?

Yes, I met him at Maker Faire two years back and we have stayed in touch since then. When I introduced him to the idea of collaborating with barefoot motors, a green utility vehicle company, he was keenly interested for two reasons. One, he has been an advocate of alternative fueled vehicles for a long time. He even rides an electric bicycle back and forth to work. Two, Jamie was raised on a farm and he rode his grandfather’s 3 wheel ATV on the property, so he understands the importance of a good utility vehicle for agriculture. In essence, this project hit home. As a prototype builder Jamie can create elegant solutions that are simple and functional, he is the holder of several patents and he has a deep knowledge of electronics, robotics and rapid development. In building the Model One, Jamie has been the driver behind the choice of technologies and packaging. He has kept us focused on that same principle of simple but elegant design. The proof of concept, Model One, achieves our initial performance requirements, in fact, it has exceeded expectations and it’s so fun to ride, as you can see from the video of Jamie riding it. When are we going to get you on it?? (Soon Melissa, very soon).

Will it have more or less pulling power than a conventional one?

In towing capacity we can handle 1,000 lbs. That is our baseline performance which is on par with a conventional heavy duty ATV.

What about range?

Our prototype is getting about 30 to 40 miles on a charge. The BIG difference when you talk range is that an ATV encounters many variations in the off road terrain, mud, sand, gravel, dirt, steeper slopes which can skew the range figures more than it would on a standard car that drives almost entirely on asphalt.

Is there a list I can get on to buy one?

First, check out the video clip. Then yes, please contact melissab@barefootmotors.com if you are interested in purchasing one, we are building about 150 next year. We are asking for deposits of roughly 10 percent which we will apply to the price of the vehicle. It is fully refundable at any time.

Are your battery needs much different than from cars?

Our choice is lithium ion batteries we feel the density and efficiency you gain is significant enough that it only makes sense in this application.

Are we going to have a naming contest for your Electric ATV? Do we need a new acronym? EATV sounds dull. How about Electric Warthog?

Sorry, we got the name already, but I like the idea of customer interaction so you will see some clever ideas from barefoot in the coming months!

Thanks Melissa, great story. And we will put them video clip of the electric ATV up on the blog as well.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

To Coal or Not To Coal?

by Richard T. Stuebi

A number of people recently have contacted me for my perspective on a large new coal powerplant being considered here in Ohio.

The plant is proposed by American Municipal Power of Ohio (AMP-Ohio), a nonprofit wholesale power supplier that provides electricity to several municipal utilities in Ohio, including Cleveland Public Power (CPP).

The implicit question is whether it’s a prudent course of action for AMP-Ohio, and for its clients such as CPP, to commit to building a new coal plant in a world in which climate change appears to be accelerating, and in which future constraints on carbon emissions to combat climate change will be relatively more burdensome for utilities that rely upon coal for power generation. Many environmental advocates clearly think that this proposed coal plant is just plain a bad idea.

I lunched last week with CPP Commissioner Ivan Henderson to get a more detailed view of CPP’s plans for subscribing to a portion of AMP-Ohio’s new coal plant. And, from my discussions with Commissioner Henderson, it appears as if there are two underreported aspects of CPP’s plan that merit consideration before objections are lodged.

First, CPP’s go-ahead to their share of the AMP-Ohio coal plant is contingent upon the results of an independent assessment by an engineering consultant (to be selected) of the viability of implementing the ECO2 CO2 carbon capture technology developed by Powerspan Corporation of New Hampshire. This technology, essentially a CO2 scrubber, is designed to remove 90% of CO2 emissions from the plant’s flue stream, and is being tested in pilot scale at the R.E. Burger powerplant owned and operated by First Energy (NYSE: FE). If the assessment indicates that the Powerspan ECO2 CO2 scrubber technology is not-ready-for-primetime, CPP is out of the deal.

Second, assuming the new coal plant is built, AMP-Ohio is committed to retiring its 1950’s vintage Gorsuch coal powerplant. Clearly, replacing an old relic with a new plant benefitting from 90% CO2 capture will lead to substantial CO2 emission reductions, relative to the status quo.

Thus, there is more to the story than might initially appear to the casual reader. Assuming that both of the above conditions apply, the construction of this new coal plant is actually a good idea, not a bad idea. The moral of the story is that environmental advocates need not have a rabid knee-jerk reaction against new coal plants, if new coal plant construction results in substantial CO2 emission reductions.

Make no mistake: I love wind energy and photovoltaics. However, they only provide intermittent sources of generation. On the electricity grid, lacking truly economic large-scale electricity storage, wind and PV cannot fulfill the role of dispatchable (a.k.a. “firm”) power.

I also love energy efficiency, and we should all do more of it. Energy efficiency can reduce our electricity generation requirements considerably. Ultimately, though, in our current society, we still will need some form of firm generation.

Coal power with 90% CO2 capture fits that bill pretty darn well. If the Powerspan technology works as advertised at reasonable economics, it might be a whole lot cheaper and more quickly available than zero-emission baseload technologies, such as IGCC with carbon sequestration or advanced nuclear designs. In which case, Powerspan is a company to watch.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Blogroll Review: Campaigns, Hype, and Linux

by Frank Ling

Getting Presidential

With global warming and rising prices of energy on the minds of Americans, the presidential candidates have undoubtedly begun to think about energy policy for their platforms.

Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog writes that:

“The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has published a comparison of the energy policy positions of the 2008 presidential candidates, which range from environmentally responsible to business-as-usual.”

Pacific Ethanol Stumbles

Ethanol may be hot but there have been and continue to be many reasons why it is overblown.

When Pacific Ethanol became public, there was widespread interest because Bill Gates had invested in it. Lately, stock prices for the company have hit a new low.

Robert Rapier says in TR Squared Energy Blog:

“Ethanol prices have fallen as supplies expanded faster than demand. At the same time, prices for ethanol’s main feedstock, corn, rose dramatically, further hurting profit margins.”

He also adds why ethanol in California is fundamentally flawed:

“There is a reason that California is not a hotbed of ethanol activity, despite the fact that Californians consume ethanol. It’s too far from the corn, so it is more cost effective to ship in finished ethanol.”

What were they drinking? 🙂

Green Penguin

The debate among mainstream computer users is usually Mac or PC, but the time for Linux to gain consumer acceptance may be on the horizon.

Walmart is now offering $200 computer systems based on Unix.

Hank Green at Eco Geek writes that:

“The Everex machine, which runs on a power-sipping Via 1.5 Ghz processor, is the first Ubuntu machine to be sold by any major retailer. It’s strange that Wal-Mart was the pioneer here, but their constant search for lower prices meshes well with the freeness of Linux.”

Apparently the lower end version of the system is ultra efficient because it does not hog all the resources.

Has anyone seen a green penguin? 🙂

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

Seal It Up

by Heather Rae
for cleantechblog.com

The basement in my 1880 house is a combination of ledge and dirt floor. In the 24′ by 34′ footprint, where once there was a brick cistern, there is now a heating oil tank. The copper plumbing undulated, making repairs expensive. I’ve had the copper replaced with a clean, organized PEX system with individual hot and cold shut offs for each facility. Previous owners had installed a horizontal furnace with a maze of leaky ducts; these metal tubes commanded most of the remaining subterranean real estate. I ripped out the furnace and the ducts and patched the holes in the floor from the supplies and returns (but there remains lots of carpentry repair on the first floor pine and maple floors).
Cleaned up, the basement was ready for air sealant and vapor barrier. (Air infiltration and moisture contribute to heat loss.) Whatever cash was left in the “renovation pot” (not much) would go to this measure before the Monitor and fuel pump still sitting in their boxes would be installed. Closed cell foam is more expensive than alternatives like fiberglass batts, but batts can’t begin to perform like foam: not in blocking air infiltration, not in creating a clean result. Charlie Huntington of I&S Insulation says that foam is growing ever more popular in his business.
This week, Charlie’s crew laid down a clean mat of 60mil EPDM (rubber). I tend to get joyful fulfillment from neatness…and the prospect of a warmer house; this was no exception. Not only will the closed cell foam block air infiltration, but it will provide an R value of 6-7 per inch. We were going with three inches. With a shop vac, I sucked debris and cobwebs from the tops of the rock foundation and the above-ground brick. The installers suited up in full body protective gear (no, this isn’t a low-VOC material). They waited for the liquid to reach the right temperature and began to spray a clean, flat coat of foam on the brick down to the rock foundation and up into the rim joists. They foamed along the perimeter of the EPDM, sealing off the ground from the rest of the house. They foamed around all projections like the chimneys and supports. The new basement is an incredible transformation from where it began eight months ago. A picture of a very similar install is on the I&S Insulation website.

Other Goings on This Week
The vote is in this morning: the proposed IGCC coal plant in Wiscasset, Maine has been defeated. As it should be. The “Say No to Coal” campaign was swift and loud. (Google, lobstermen protest wiscasset coal). Nothing added up on this project: not the shipping of coal, not the finances of the developer, not the claims to emissions reductions or access to water or sequestration of carbon. Its one upside: reduced taxes for Wiscasset residents for a plant located on the town’s periphery, at the site of a the defunct Maine Yankee nuclear plant, nearer Westport Island…and not Wiscasset which claims the title, “Maine’s Prettiest Village.”

Heather Rae, contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she began renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

In the Dark

by Richard T. Stuebi

As a subsidiary of GE (NYSE: GE), which of course is touting its Ecomagination strategy, NBC Universal declared a Green Week, with the tag-line “Green is Universal”, in which NBC will weave environmental awareness into all its programming this week. All of its programming — including sports.

This made for a very weird half-time show during last night’s Sunday Night Football game (Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles). Instead of highlights from the games played earlier in the day, the studio hosts (Bob Costas, Keith Olbermann, Cris Collinsworth) spent ten minutes huddled around a few flickering candles barely illuminating their faces amidst an otherwise completely dark set.

With this dramatization, NBC claimed to be doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering its energy consumption: darkening the set for a few hours otherwise lit would save an amount equal to a typical household’s monthly electricity use.

While laudable in its intent, the dark set instead produced a scene that left me cringing. The hosts giggled like grade-school boys, clearly embarrassed, joking amidst the absurdity of attempting to televise a show in utter darkness. The good intentions of GE/NBC were thereby completely undermined by the snickering of the “talent”.

NBC’s implicit message to the audience was that reducing energy consumption means severely sacrificing commonly-assumed standards of living. Remember Jimmy Carter in his much-ridiculed cardigan sweater, urging all of us in a famous late-1970’s national speech on energy (“Moral Equivalent of War”) to lower our heating thermostats and accept some discomfort so that we didn’t burn so much heating oil? This was worse, much worse. It was as if to say that, to be solid citizens, we need to use fire for lighting. What next, horse-drawn carriages? Through their laughter, the hosts recognized the message they were asked to deliver as ludicrous, completely untenable to a U.S. mass public, and they couldn’t help but distance themselves from NBC’s ill-conceived script.

For U.S. listeners, the conversation regarding energy efficiency needs to be framed in the context of the same (or better) lifestyles with lower energy consumption. A reversion to the Stone Age is simply NOT what the average American will entertain.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

GM Takes Lead with 110 Hydrogen Equinoxes

(by John Addison) GM revealed more details about Project Driveway. GM will place 110 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the hands of five different types of drivers for three months to 30 months of daily driving.

Most drivers that GM will select will live in California within ten miles of one of the 25 hydrogen stations that stretch 800 miles from Chula Vista, near Mexico, to Arcata, near Oregon. Other drivers will be near stations in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Equinox Fuel Cell will typically deliver a range of 160 miles between hydrogen fueling, but only by using higher pressure 700 bar. To accelerate the presence of higher pressure stations with public access, GM is spending millions to establish nine temporary 700 bar stations from Burbank to San Diego.

The Equinox Fuel Cell uses 35 kW of NiMH batteries in a mild-hybrid configuration. In its next generation fuel cell vehicle, GM could achieve a range exceeding 300 miles by reducing vehicle weight, having a more battery-dominate full-hybrid design such as E-Flex, using its fifth generation fuel cell, and by switching to lithium batteries.

A number of existing California hydrogen stations use zero-emission hydrogen production by using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, such as solar. Next year, pipelined byproduct hydrogen will be available at a Torrance station for less than the cost of gasoline.

In California, the number of hydrogen vehicles from all makers on the road is likely to double from over 150 today to over 300 in 2008, with GM leading the way.

Complete Article with Links

GM Takes Lead with 110 Hydrogen Equinoxes

(by John Addison) GM revealed more details about Project Driveway. GM will place 110 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the hands of five different types of drivers for three months to 30 months of daily driving.

Most drivers that GM will select will live in California within ten miles of one of the 25 hydrogen stations that stretch 800 miles from Chula Vista, near Mexico, to Arcata, near Oregon. Other drivers will be near stations in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Equinox Fuel Cell will typically deliver a range of 160 miles between hydrogen fueling, but only by using higher pressure 700 bar. To accelerate the presence of higher pressure stations with public access, GM is spending millions to establish nine temporary 700 bar stations from Burbank to San Diego.

The Equinox Fuel Cell uses 35 kW of NiMH batteries in a mild-hybrid configuration. In its next generation fuel cell vehicle, GM could achieve a range exceeding 300 miles by reducing vehicle weight, having a more battery-dominate full-hybrid design such as E-Flex, using its fifth generation fuel cell, and by switching to lithium batteries.

A number of existing California hydrogen stations use zero-emission hydrogen production by using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, such as solar. Next year, pipelined byproduct hydrogen will be available at a Torrance station for less than the cost of gasoline.

In California, the number of hydrogen vehicles from all makers on the road is likely to double from over 150 today to over 300 in 2008, with GM leading the way.

Complete Article with Links

Blogroll Review: Recycling, Peacock, and Helix

by Frank Ling

Big Blue Recycles

Just when we think that there is a shortage in crystalline silicon for solar panels, Big Blue is coming to the rescue. IBM has developed a method to recycle silicon wafers from the computer chip industry.

Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog writes that:

“The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels.”

The Greening of NBC

It looks like the peacock is going green. Does this mean NBC is going to lose its rainbow colored logo?

Not exactly. This week, programs on the network will feature green themes in everything from sports to news to soaps (green weddings are going mainstream!). And is this just publicity campaign or the beginning of an ongoing process?

Joel Makower thinks consumers actually want this stuff. He quotes Zalanick who heads NBC’s Green Council in Two Steps Forward:

“We heard loud and clear that there was a very high expectation that consumers have about companies. Over two-thirds believe that businesses have some responsibility for the social good. That’s a lot. “

Does the Incredible Hulk count as green? 🙂

Home Wind

Most of us think that wind can only come away from enormous turbines installed in some windy remote area but installing them at home has become easier.

Small 10 to 100 W systems for residences have been around but they have not been practical reasons including height requirements, reliability and noise. But a home-based system developed by HelixWind aims to change that.

Hank Green at Eco Geek writes that:

“First, the turbine spins no matter what direction the wind comes from (including vertically) so it can be mounted lower, and generates more energy in turbulent (urban) environments. The turbine can be mounted lower, so installation costs will be lower, and regulations less significant.”

This really blows! 🙂

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

Bright Green

by Heather Rae
for cleantechblog.com

The last sips of the French merlot finished dry, and the just uncorked Italian sangiovese began too chocolatey, so I looked — left and right in the empty kitchen — and blended the two together in a wine glass. I have been taught that this is not done; oenephiles may shudder. And, it was delicious.

Speaking at a podium before a gathering of enviros about faith and spirituality and religion presented a similarly ingrained reservation; it’s just not done. The blending of climate change science and the inspiration to do something about it that comes from the heart, from the soul and scripture, I feared, could lead to dismissal from the environmentally-, scientifically-leaning audience: she’s an ignoramus, a dreamer.

Beside me on this panel to talk of the climate change movement (and to answer the question, is there a movement?) were Jared Duval a youth Energy Action Coalition leader and David Foley, an architect of high performance homes. Jared and David went before me and gave energetic, inspiring and educational presentations; I yearned to give in to my dread of public speaking and slink off stage…but journeyed on. We each touched upon values while addressing climate change, broken political systems, the building trades, a new order for organizational cooperation, clean technologies, the future and history.

Like wine, faith perspectives are varied and numerous. At a talk I gave to a senior’s group at a UCC Congregationalist church in Colorado (it could have been called, “An Inconvenient Truth Lite,”) the most vocal response came from a handful of self-described human secularists who shrugged and responded, in short: whatever. The collective shrug took me by surprise, coming from a gathering of “the faithful.” It’s a little less surprising from the likes of “bright green environmentalism.”

On the website “What is Enlightenment,” integral ecologist Michael Zimmerman speaks about “bright green, a transformative approach to environmentalism that offers a fuller and more hopeful way to respond to the global ecological challenges we face.”
Says Zimmerman, “I acknowledge a forward-thinking visionary attitude: Look, we have to remake the world. We have twenty, thirty years to do the job, and we have to do it in a way that is going to appeal to the glamour in people; and moral condemnation and blaming, it’s not effective. So, in a way, you have to find a way to harness people’s energy, to harness people’s hopes for the future, for themselves, for their families, their countries and the planet and to provide them with the tools, concepts and insights necessary to really bring about any credible transformation of how we make a living on the planet, basically. That allows the planet to prosper in terms of its ecosystems as well as human beings who are dependent on it. So all that’s terrific. So if that’s bright green, then I’m on board.”

There’s a human secularist shrug within the “bright green” movement, however. Zimmerman speaks of the loss of connection with tradition and spiritual awakening, an element affiliated with the “bright green” movement.” He goes on to say, “Once you have reached a modernist kind of development, there’s a kind of secular humanist where humanity is its own kind of trip.”

When Zimmerman says, “we ought to also be working with spiritual development along with technologies — in ways that are developed morally, aesthetically,” then I, too, am on board. It can be a delicious blend.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

A VC Going Carbon Neutral?

I have mentioned my friend Justin Label, one of the partners at Bessemer Ventures, before. Among other things he writes the Venture Again Blog. Bessemer is a highly respected old line Silicon Valley venture capital firm. They have been an active investor in cleantech for a while, and are backers of Miasole as well as SV Solar. I found myself on a plane recently with one his colleagues, Ted Lin. But more than their investments, Ted was describing to me a new carbon friendly initiative that Bessemer itself is undertaking internally.

Their logic is simple, if they are investing in cleantech because they believe in being part of the global warming solution, not only making money, then they should practice what they preach. While still early days, they are targeting both their power and travel usage, and expect they will likely implement an internal reduction plan as well as purchasing offsets.

I asked Ted where this came from, and he said this initiative has come down from the top of the firm. It makes sense, and it is good to see the activity happening. My hat is off to them.

Ted also pointed out that Bessemer is also going to be buying offsets for their smaller portfolio companies (those under 50 people). “The goal is that when these companies grow into bigger companies and leave the nest, they will continue the tradition. We want them (our portfolio companies) to lead the next generation environmentally responsible enterprises.”

One of the things he did ask, did I know any good offset providers, because as with any venture capitalist, they are looking for the “best of breed”. So if you are interested in helping Bessemer email Ted at Ted@bvp.com.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, and a blogger for CNET’s Green tech blog.

Climate Change Policy Poll

by Richard T. Stuebi

I’ve written before that I’m very skeptical of polls. It seems to me that poll respondents give themselves far too much credit for being well-informed or magnanimous, relative to what they actually know or what will they will do when making real decisions that really affect them. Accordingly, I’m always bothered when pundits use poll results as a basis for what policy ought to be.

However, this past summer, a poll conducted and reported by New Scientist magazine did seem to shed some useful insights that policy-makers ought to consider.

The reported highlights of the survey were that there was substantial public support in the U.S. for carbon limitations, that the public preferred outright standards to cap-and-trade or (egads!) carbon taxes, and that the desired focus of carbon reductions should be on the electric power sector than on vehicles (don’t tread on SUV!).

In my view, the most illuminating finding was the weakness of support for carbon limitations if they induced any significant economic pain. In other words, respondents were fine with climate legislation — as long as it really didn’t cost much. On the other hand, when asked if they would support carbon emission requirements that would increase energy prices significantly — which is likely to be the case to achieve the magnitudes of emission reductions that are widely viewed necessary to have meaningful impact in protecting the planet — support evaporated.

This is one of the few instances where I actually believe what the poll results say, without any bias. I take from this finding that — to avoid catastrophic climate change during the balance of this century — either we need to quickly develop a zero/low baseload carbon energy source that costs essentially no more than conventional coal generation, or that we quickly need to substantially increase U.S. political will and courage to endure economic sacrifice. Either will be tremendously challenging. Failing on both counts could doom the planet.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Blogroll Review: Beer, Homes, and Geo

by Frank Ling

This Kirin’s For You!

Even beer manufacturers are now getting on board the bio-ethanol train. In Japan, the Ministry of Agriculture has selected Mitsubishi Corporation and Kirin Brewery Co. to build a bioethanol production plant for a “fuel-grade bioethanol production project” in the Tokachi District of Hokkaido.

In the latest article featured in Japan for Sustainability:

“A bioethanol plant with an annual production capacity of 15,000 kiloliters and using sugar beets and wheat as raw materials will be built on the premises of Hokuren’s sugar refinery in Shimizu Town, Kamikawa County, Hokkaido.”

Green Home Boom

Just when you thought the real estate market might be slowing down, the market for green homes is about to grow.

Jeff Stevens at EcoGeek writes that:

“According to the recently released Green Homeowner SmartMarket™ Report produced by McGraw-Hill Construction, the market for ‘true green homes’ is expected to rise from $2 billion to $20 billion over the next five years.”

And I thought all you needed was green paint to make your home green! 🙂

Piping Hot Geo

Geothermal power has been around a long time. Although geographically limited to regions that are accessible, utilities have recently gained interest in develop geothermal for baseload power.

Tom Konrad at AltEnergy Stocks writes:

“In fact, geothermal plants often have capacity factors 86-95%, well above traditional base load generation such as coal. So geothermal power is a premium electricity because of its reliability. Until a recent fire (not caused by the geothermal facility) the plant installed last year at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska, was running at 99.4% availability.”

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

Australia the untapped market – new report on Australian Cleantech investment activity

by Nick Bruse

A new report co-authored by the Cleantech Network and Cleantech Ventures will be released today that details the PE & VC investment occuring in Australian cleantech companies.

At the launch breakfast this morning we heard from Jan Dekker (CV) and Anastasia O’Rourke (CN) present the key findings of the study. I’ve summarised some of these below, but you can download the full report from the Cleantech Ventures website.

Key findings

  • A$540m of venture capital dollars invested from 1999-2007
  • 174 rounds in 75 companies
  • Around 3% of total VC invested
  • 66 IPOs between 1974-2006 and 24 in 2005-06 alone

The Cleantech space in Australia is becoming more and more interesting as international and domestic investors are realising that Australian cleantech investment opportunities are relatively untapped, compared with the rest of the world.

Key drivers that are seeing a growth in the sector in Australia are:

  • commodity boom increasing economic activity
  • technology readiness from research institutions
  • environmental pressures including water shortages and climate change impacts
  • increasing policy push as a result of upcoming election
  • strong media interest in the sector
  • increasing capital availability

However there still remains some challenges for Australian Cleantech including:

  • lack of early stage capital
  • more technology transfer to business required from Australian University and Research institutions
  • more corporate venture funds and company investment & engagement required
  • stronger policy particularly around Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets, emissions trading and Kyoto
  • better analyst coverage of listed companies

By way of reference Cleantech Ventures has screened around 450 companies and made 11 investments via its CEGT fund over the last 4 years. In October this year Cleantech Ventures announced it has completed the first close of its new Cleantech Australia Fund.

The fund’s first closing of $50 million is made up of $20 million provided through the Australian government’s Innovation Investment Fund (IIF) program and $30 million from VicSuper, a superannuation fund committed to sustainability.

Article posted from The Cleantech Show


Nick Bruse is runs Strike Consulting, a growth venture consultancy specialising in the cleantech sector and hosts The Cleantech Show, a weekly podcast of interviews with leaders involved in clean technology research, entrepreneurship, commentary and investment.