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The Greentech Media Staff
Biodiesel Tax Credit Ends, But Expect it to Return
The $1 a gallon tax credit for biodiesel expired with the New Year, but there's a good chance that it will return as a retroactive credit in whatever energy bill gets passed.
The $1 tax credit, passed in 2004, helped biodiesel get off the ground. (The $1 applied to virgin oil--biodiesel from old oil got a smaller credit.). The credit, though, didn't completely insulate the industry from supply and demand. Rising feedstock prices and then declining diesel prices have meant financial headaches for many refiners in the past few years. The Energy Information Administration has already said that the U.S. won't likely hit its "100 million gallons by 2022" mandate until 2030. Many ethanol refiners had to sell off or close facilities in 2008 and 2009.
Will it be back? Probably. A form of the credit is in the House energy bill, senators like Max Baucus have promised to champion biodiesel in 2010 and alternative fuels tend to enjoy a strong level of support among investors, politicians and the public. Ask a stranger about algae fuel: they probably have an opinion. Plus, many of the refineries are in red states, so bipartisan support will exist. Republican Senator Charles Grassley has said he wants to bring it back. It can be made retroactive too.
But in the meantime, expect to see layoffs, says the Houston Chronicle.
Greentech Venture Capital Summary 2009
Here's a quick look at Venture Capital investment in Greentech over the last year. We'll dive into the details next week.
VC investment in green technologies totaled $4.85 billion in 356 deals in 2009. Although the dollar total is down from 2008’s $7.6 billion, the number of deals total actually exceeded last year’s total.
Consistent with the last four years, solar power was once again the leading investment segment at more than $1.4 billion in 84 deals followed by biofuels at $976 million in 44 rounds. As forecast by GTM Research – investment in Smart Grid, Energy Storage and Automotive is gaining momentum along with overlooked sectors such as Wind, Water, and Lighting. Water has finally made it onto venture capital radar screens with more than $130 million invested in 33 deals
Notable and sizeable deals in 2009 included:
- Silver Spring Networks’ $100 million investment from Google Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Northgate Capital.
- Solyndra’s $198 million VC investment from Argonaut Private Equity, et al. for the Fremont, Calif.-based thin-film solar firm and a $75 million C round for crystalline silicon solar vendor, Suniva.
- Synthetic Genomic’s $300 million multi-year commitment from Exxon for the development of algae-based biofuels.
- eMeter’s $32 million investment from Sequoia Capital and Foundation Capital and Tendril’s $30 million round from VantagePoint and good Energies for smart grid management software and hardware
- Tesla Motor’s $82.5 million round from Fjord Capital and Daimler Motors and Fisker Automotive’s $85 million round from Kleiner Perkins et al. for their groundbreaking electric vehicles.
- Serious Materials’ $60 million round from Mesirow Capital et al. for green building materials.
Some of the most active VC investors in greentech this year included NEA, CMEA, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, NGEN Partners, DFJ, Foundation Capital and the Quercus Trust.
Although entrepreneurs have expressed some frustration with the difficulty in closing middle stage rounds at less-than-profitable companies - there is a marked trend of a return to early stage deals with more than 110 Series A and seed rounds this year.
Also remarkable was the increasingly global nature of greentech investment this year. Approximately 20 per cent of greentech deals came from outside the United States with plentiful deals from the U.K. and France.
In the words of Marianne Wu, Partner at Cleantech investor,Mohr Davidow Ventures, “We saw tremendous innovation in 2009 as entrepreneurs addressed pressing opportunities across the cleantech spectrum. We continue to see talent turn to the massive opportunities in this new industrial revolution combating climate change. Some of the early market leaders are poised to go public in 2010 and companies are getting increasingly sophisticated in their approach to both the capital and industrial markets."
We'll take a deeper look on Jan 4. See you in 2010!
Nuclear Plant Planned For California, Despite State Ban
Areva, the French nuclear, giant, has signed a letter of intent to build up to two nuclear plants near Fresno, California. California has a ban on new nuclear plants in the state but Areva believes the law will fade away under the state's demand for more clean power. Each plant could produce 1.6 gigawatts and the whole thing could cost between $5 and $8 billion.
Sez the Los Angeles Times:
The agreement with Areva is expected to be finalized in March, said John Hutson, chief executive of the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group, a partnership of local business executives and farmers. Once that's done, the two potential partners would begin a site selection and evaluation process that could take as long as two years, he said.
Will it happen? Hard to say. Nuclear advocates say that the U.S. will need 25 to 30 new nuclear plants by 2030 to just keep nuclear at 20 percent of the energy budget. The U.S. could ultimately need 187 new reactors by 2050 to meet its climate goals, they add, although nuclear advocates admit that's unlikely. Public opinion has begun to soften toward nuclear. Additionally, academics like MIT's Ernie Moniz and UC Berkeley's Dan Kammen have stated that nuclear needs to be part of the future energy diet. (Eric Wesoff and I also recently wrote a report on modular nuclear reactors--it makes a great gift.)
Nuclear could also produce jobs, both construction jobs and high-end, high-tech jobs. France and Japan have become the centers of nuclear engineering since the U.S. stopped building power plants in the 70s.
Still, waste, proliferation and other grave issues remain. On the same day that Areva announced its plans, a report came out that Iran has been trying to buy uranium from Kazakhstan. A new nuclear renaissance will mean more widespread knowledge of how to process uranium, and with that will come more opportunities for bribing and cajoling said individuals for that information. It's not an easy debate.
Californians are also prickly when it comes to the environment. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein continues to move ahead with a plan that would prevent solar thermal power plants, one of the more cost-effective forms of alternative enrgy, from going up in the Mojave. A thermal plant is one heck of a lot cleaner than a nuclear plant when you consider the construction materials and nuclear waste. And, unlike PV panels or wind, solar thermal plants produce power in steady, large quantities.
Another Greentech IPO Registration: Codexis and Biofuels
2010 is going to see the return of the IPO, especially in greentech.
Today sees another Greentech IPO registration filing, this time from Codexis, a provider of biocatalysts. We'll report on the S-1 in detail shortly but a quick take shows the company losing money on $58 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2009.
Codexis is funded by venture firms and strategic investors. CMEA is one of their major shareholders along with Shell Oil and CTTV, the investment arm of Chevron. CMEA is on a bit of a roll of late - one of their other portfolio firms, Solyndra has also just filed their S-1, and A123, another CMEA portfolio firm, went public in one of the biggest greentech IPOs of late.
Codexis' biocatalysts are used in the pharmaceutical industry but the greentech angle is the deal that Codexis has with Shell to produce commercially viable biofuels from cellulosic biomass. Other green applications for their product include carbon management, water treatment and "green" chemicals.
Codexis' biofuel product is intended to produce commercially viable, cellulose-derived biofuel alternatives to petroleum-based fuels. They have been engaged with Shell since 2006 in a research and development collaboration. Their advanced biofuels program focuses on two primary elements: (1) developing biocatalysts to convert cellulosic biomass into sugars; and (2) converting these sugars into two advanced biofuels, cellulosic ethanol and biohydrocarbon diesel. Their catalysts aim to:
- Increase the rate at which cellulosic biomass is converted into biofuels;
- Increase the yield of biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass
- Eliminate the need to use food resources for the production of biofuels;
- Provide producers with more flexibility in designing processes to convert cellulosic biomass to biofuels
- Enable the production of new types of cellulosic biofuels that could be alternatives to petroleum-based fuel
We'll take a closer look at the SEC documents and report back to you.
Why Solyndra Moves Ahead
I've heard this from a source and with the documents for an initial public offering filed, I don't expect Solyndra to confirm it, but it gives an insight into why the company seems to have moved ahead of some of the other start-ups in cadmium indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells.
CEO Chris Gronet gets a live video feed of the machinery on the factory floor. When and if production slows down, he knows quickly. He even gets the feed at home.
That sort of urgent paranoia lay at the heart of semiconductors and solar panel manufacturing. The multimillion dollar factories these companies must build can only become effectively profitable if utilized in a highly efficient manner. Intel became Intel through the "copy exactly" methodologies pioneered in part by former CEO Craig Barrett. The factories were literally identical: one of the few ways to tell if you are in Arizona versus Israel is the inordinate number of people named Gadi. Execs at rival AMD sometimes joked that they used a "copy somewhat exactly" methodology. That partly explains why so many green start up CEOs have come out of Intel.
Gronet, no coincidence, spent over a decade at Applied Materials, an equipment maker with its own exacting standards, before coming to Solyndra.
Solyndra has its pluses and minuses. Eric Wesoff dug through the S-1 and unearthed interesting details on Solyndra's costs per watt. The company also lost $232 million in fiscal 2009. On the other hand, it has customers and reports efficiencies in the 11 to 14 percent range, or higher than a lot of the other thin films out there. It's going to continue to be one of the big stories of 2010.
General Motors to Unveil More on Volt Battery Strategy Jan 7
The Volt--the car we've all been waiting for--is going to be one of the big stories at the North American International Auto Show taking place next month in Detroit.
General Motors sent out an e-mail blast today stating that GM and government officials will make a landmark announcement regarding the Volt battery on January 7 at 9:30 EST. If you've never been to Detroit, early January truly is the best time of year to visit.
Much we already know. The Volt will have a 16 kilowatt/hour battery largely engineered by Compact Power, a joint venture that includes South Korea's LG Chem. (Compact will make the cells--GM will fuse them into a battery pack in a plant in Michigan.) It has a lithium manganese chemistry, less volatile than those lithium cobalt batteries in your notebook, and it will be based around prismatic (or rectangular) cells instead of cylindrical ones to take up less room. Some experts claim that lithium batteries cost around $900 a kilowatt hour, but rumors percolate that GM and Compact will get close to the $500 range. Still, that would be an $8,000 battery, which partly explains why a Chevy will cost close to $40,000.
Both GM and Compact have received DOE grants to lay the groundwork for commercialization of the Volt. Compact got $151.4 million in August while General Motors got $240 million. GM also got billions ("approximately three jagundas" according to one Staten Island car analyst) to stave off death.
What's it going to be? Probably an update on the factory and manufacturing. Maybe pricing. The Volt will be shown off as well.
GM and Ford have also set up an interesting dynamic in plug-in hybrids. The Volt is a series hybrid, a novel architecture that only GM seems to be promoting. Ford's plug-in hybrid will be a power split hybrid, sort of like a regular hybrid with more batteries. GM will likely have better mileage. Ford, though, says its battery will be cheaper, which generally means a less expensive car. Ford won't come to the market with a plug-in until 2012.
Solar Thermal With Molten Salt Energy Storage: SolarReserve Heads to Nevada
Storing solar power in the form of molten salt. SolarReserve says it can do it, and it's landed a project with NV Energy to prove it.
The Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup announced Tuesday that it has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Nevada utility to buy power from a 100-megawatt solar-thermal plant to be built near the town of Tonopah, Nev.
SolarReserve, which last year raised $140 million in a Series B round let by Citi's Sustainable Development Investments and Good Energies, said it intends to start construction next year, though the Nevada Public Utilities Commission still needs to sign off on the deal.
Central to SolarReserve's plans is the molten salt energy storage system it has licensed from United Technologies. Like many solar-thermal systems, SolarReserve uses a field of mirrors, or heliostats, to focus the sun's heat on a tower to heat a liquid to power a turbine.
In SolarReserve's case, that liquid is a molten salt that is then pumped into a closed-loop system to generate steam to power a turbine. It's the same technology tested out by the Department of Energy in the landmark Barstow, Calif. solar thermal pilot project known as Solar Two back in the 1990s.
SolarReserve also hopes to build a 150-megawatt solar thermal and molten salt storage project east of Palm Springs, Calif., and has a longer-range goal of building up to 5 gigawatts of plants in the coming years.
Post-Copenhagen Carbon Trading Blues
It looks like the last-minute, non-binding carbon emissions agreement coming out of Copenhagen isn't living up to carbon traders' expectations.
That's the reaction from Europe, which saw the price of carbon-emission permits fall nearly 10 percent on Monday, reports the Wall Street Journal.
To blame is the weak agreement coming out of the two-week United Nations summit on global warming, analysts and traders say. While top emitters China and the United States did ink a deal with emerging economies such as Brazil and India, it lacked any legally binding limits on how much greenhouse gas they can pump into the atmosphere.
What's worse, the conference failed to reach an agreement on continuing the clean development mechanism, the process created by the Kyoto Protocol to allow developing nations to plant trees, cut pollution and take other steps to offset carbon emissions from wealthier emitters. The existing agreement runs through 2012, the Financial Times reports.
The weaker-than-hoped for results of the Copenhagen meeting could put to the test the proposition that corporate and consumer interests, rather than government regulations, will drive the adoption of carbon management technologies and support services.
After all, utilities dependent on coal-fired power and corporate giants such as Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola alike have been seeking clearer guidelines on how much reducing carbon will cost them.
In the meantime, national mandates will have to fill the gap. In the United States, Congress is waiting until spring to restart the debate over a national carbon emission reduction scheme (see No Climate Bill This Year, Senators Say).
Will We See More or Fewer Car Companies?
WAYNE, Mich. -- Is consolidation or expansion the future of the car industry?
It's an interesting debate. One one hand, Saab is flirting between life and death at the moment.
On other other hand, in the last five years a proliferation of brands – Tesla, Fisker, Aptera, Coda – have emerged and some Chinese manufacturers are trying to go global with their low-cost cars. Moreover, customers seem excited: Think has 2,300 people on a waiting list for its electric town car. New brands are a definite possibility.
Bill Ford Jr., Chairrman of Ford (still confirming any family relationship), was asked that question at a briefing last week. He recalled a project he worked on 25 years ago at the company in which strategists tried to paint a picture of the auto industry.
"We concluded that there would be six auto manufacturers: two in North America, two in Europe and Two in Asia," he said. "That wasn't exactly right. There are more companies today than there were then."
Then again, producing cars is a big company, industrial sort of activity. Ben Rosen, one of the most successful VCs in the early days of tech, tried to break into the car business with Rosen Motors in the 80s. Didn't work out.
One big stumbling block looming for start-ups is crash and safety testing, predicted Gunnar Herrmann, director of the Global C Platform.
"When this happens in 2012 and 2013, we could see a clearing rain," Herrmann said.
So stay tuned.
Ford CEO: Things Are Looking Up
WAYNE, Mich. -- Ford's CEO Alan Mulally spoke to reporters from the company's Wayne, Mich., factory Friday and offered an upbeat outlook on the economy: "We are banging around the bottom right now. All the data says the economy is beginning to improve."
A better economy is what any business in the auto industry would hope for, after enduring a depressing 2009 that saw layoffs, bankruptcies, idling factories and a host of unsuccessful attempts to execute business plans.
Just this morning, General Motors said it would shut down iSaab after repeated attempts to find a buyer before the end of the year failed.
Ford seems to fare better than some of its major rivals. The company didn't need financial aid from the federal government, unlike GM and Chrysler. Ford posted a net income of $997 million for the third quarter of this year when many Wall Street analysts had expected to see losses.
Ford, GM and Chrysler have received federal grants to develop and build electric cars and components, and each has done its fair share of marketing its efforts to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.
But Mulally reiterated on Friday what he had said previously: Ford's main focus in the near term will not be about these electric drives, even though the carmaker does plan to launch plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles in the coming years.
"Our fundamental platform will be based in the internal combustion engines," he said.
The company plans to use a four-cylinder version of its EcoBoost engine in 2010. Ford said EcoBoost could improve gas mileage by 20 percent while reducing each car's tailpipe emission by 15 percent. And it's more powerful than regular four-cylinder engine.
EcoBoost is set to power around 90 percent of Ford's new cars by 2011.
Editor-in-Chief Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.
Smart Meter Backlash, Part 2: Smart Grid RF Alert
Smart grid equipment CEOs have claimed:
- A $2.2 billion meter deployment would have a questionable ROI if most of the savings came from reduced truck rolls
- Smart meters currently being deployed are not smart enough
- Consumers don't want Big Brother controlling their thermostat, AC and appliances
We wrote about it in Smart Grid Backlash.
Jeff St. John blogged about it here. According to St. John's reporting: Those complaints have focused attention on PG&E's $2.2 billion, 10 million smart meter deployment, with the California Public Utilities Commission demanding that PG&E find a third party to investigate the accuracy of the meters.
We've covered this topic repeatedly over the last few months. The energy folks at the New York Times got around to covering it this week.
The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle actually got a visit from representatives of PG&E and smart meter manufacturers as they try to deal with this public relations mess. From the article in the Chron:
- Representatives of PG&E and the manufacturer of the meters visited our editorial board this week to explain that they have followed up on 1,100 customer complaints - and in each case, the source of the problem was not with the meter but in customer confusion or a spike in electrical usage.
- They came with charts and detailed technical explanations of how the meters are made and tested to a degree that ensures they are far more precise than the analog models they replaced. They noted that they have received just 1,100 complaints out of the 4 million SmartMeters they have installed. But all the PG&E assurances in the world are not going to persuade us - let alone the customers whose bills jumped by hundreds of dollars - that everything is hunky dory...The California Public Utilities Commission recently asked its energy division to hire a third-party technical expert to independently test the Smart Meters and related software.
On to the next problem. Dana Hull, on the San Jose Mercury News' Greentech beat, brought this to my attention. This one might require you to don your tin foil hat.
Sonoma County, California's EMF Safety Group has started a petition for a public review of smart meters and has collected over 400 signatures. This group is worried about the RF frequencies added to the environment by these meters.
An email from Sandi Maurer of the EMF Safety Group claims:
There are no safety standards for chronic long term RF exposures that these meters emit. The FCC safety standards are for short term only, 6 min and 30 min exposures.
PG&E claims to have done a thorough RF evaluation to ensure customer safety. They commissioned an independent evaluation of possible health impacts. We have asked PGE for a copy of this report and were told they never published it. That means it was not peer reviewed. They also were granted a CEQA exemption.
The petition goes on to state:
Sebastopol and Sonoma County are slated by PG&E to have a new wireless grid installed in May 2010. Lampposts, buildings, and telephone poles will host the wireless repeater infrastructure to serve the new wireless PG&E Smart Meters, which will be installed in every home and business. These devices will add yet another layer of radio frequencies (RF) to our homes and environment and will emit RF signals throughout the day and night. In light of the lack of FCC safety standards for chronic long term exposure to RF and in light of the of the call for the precautionary principle for wireless technology from global scientists, environmental agencies, advocacy groups and doctors, we, the undersigned request you:
1. Thoroughly investigate the PG&E Smart Meter proposal and potential health risks of these devices by holding public hearings.
2. Require PG&E to submit a characterization study of the smart meter system planned for Sonoma County and Sebastopol.
3. Obtain the Smart Meter health and safety study PG&E commissioned and make available to the public.
4. Explore alternative metering- possibly through the phone lines and refuse broadband over power line option.
5. Allow “opt out” for people who are electrically sensitive.
6. Place a 6-9 month moratorium on all new wireless installations to allow time for a thorough scientific review.
More from the petition:
The FCC safety standards for wireless devices are based on short term heating and do not address the non thermal health effects which are documented in the Bioinitiative Report, which has been recognized by the European Parliament. RF is under investigation as a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program.
In the interest of protecting public health and in light of the call for the precautionary principle from scientists and environmental agencies, the EMF Safety Network has started a petition asking the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Sebastopol City Council to investigate the PG&E Smart Meter proposal and hold public hearings. We ask they require PG&E to submit a characterization study, the health and safety study, to allow customers to “opt out” as well as place a 6-9 month moratorium on all new wireless installations to allow time for a thorough review.
Already there is a class action lawsuit filed against PGE in Bakersfield over the new meters and many people are complaining about price spikes in their utility bills.
There are a number of additional reasons to oppose smart meter technology aside from the public health issues mentioned above and it’s use by utilities to overcharge customers (discussed at the TURN website). These include Big Brother-like questions regarding local utilities monitoring one’s use of home appliances and making adjustments in this use without the consent of their consumers, and national security issues that arise becasue wireless networks are easier to hack into and compromise than their conventional wired counterparts.
* * *
Link to lots of scary headlines about big brother, increased electric bills, and RF dangers here. If this idea spreads (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto can't be too far behind) and communities start enacting six to nine month moratoriums and opt-outs on wireless smart grid programs, PG&E, Landis & Gyr, and Silver Spring Networks might not have a happy 2010.
1. PG&E and the other hardware and software parties could have handled the smart meter roll-out in a better way in regards to community outreach and public relations. Now it's just damage control.
2. RF pollution is a fact of life in today's world. It's reasonable to investigate new sources and their impact on humans - but these folks should also be prepared to turn off their radios, cell phones, blue tooth devices, wireless computers, and every other RF source in their environment as well.
I've contacted PG&E and Silver Spring Networks and will post their comments if they choose to respond.
Carbon Debt: What Is the Industrial World’s Responsibility to Developing Countries?
As we begin the final day of the Conference of Parties (Cop15) climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, the grueling hours and stressful conditions are surely taking their toll on official delegates. It is, however, extremely impressive to see how tactful and diplomatic the country representatives are, even when speaking with observers and civil society participants.
After one particularly late night at the Bella Center, home of Cop15, I waited at the Metro station at 1:30 a.m. in the snow and freezing temperatures and happened to engage in conversation with a negotiator from Bolivia.
The position of Bolivia and others in the region is that the atmosphere is polluted with emissions lingering from the dawn of the industrial era. In other words, developed countries spewed all these gasses into the air and now the developing world is suffering the consequences. This is sometimes called the "equity" or "fairness" argument. What is our responsibility to pay for the "sins of the past"?
I suggested to my new Bolivian friend that the Carbon Debt argument reminded me a little bit of the cigarette lawsuits. Sure, we all know now about the dangers of cigarettes and the link between smoking and cancer. However, the demands for reparations only made sense when it could be demonstrated that cigarette companies intentionally and knowingly caused this harm.
Did he really believe that we've been polluting for the last 200 years knowing that undeveloped countries would later suffer? He conceded that while we may not have known 200 years ago, we should have known in the last 20 years about the effects of carbon emissions.
Still, the 500 gigatons or so of carbon that he claims is floating around in the atmosphere certainly didn't all appear in the last two decades. In addition, since CO2 molecules don't have country of origin labels attached, it will be very difficult to assign responsibility.
Coming to Copenhagen has been a remarkable experience. Although metro station exchanges at 1:30 a.m. may not change the world, my hat's off to the organizers for creating this two-week conference where conversations can take place between participants from over 190 countries. Interactions with other delegates have been extremely positive and provide hope that constructive dialogue can lead to meaningful progress.
Lee Barken, CPA, LEED-AP is the IT practice leader at Haskell & White, LLP and serves on the board of directors of CleanTECH San Diego and the U.S. Green Building Council - San Diego chapter. Lee writes and speaks on the topics of carbon accounting, green building, IT audit compliance, enterprise security and wireless LAN technology. He is currently in Copenhagen attending the COP-15 conference. You can reach him at 858-350-4215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Warmers’ and Climate Change Denialists
Joining the derogatory terms "Truthers" and "Birthers" is now the term "Warmers" which refers to those who accept the science of anthropogenic global warming in spite of the recent data-massage climategate scandal. I saw this term in an article found on a nuclear power-oriented blog, Nuclear Street. Which worries me.
Does accepting nuclear power as a necessary part of our energy mix mean that you're automatically a climate change denialist? Here's a long video from progressive, Stewart Brand on the necessity of nuclear power.
Here are some quotes from both sides of the climate change "debate."
John Doerr, Partner at KPCB: "Put a price on carbon, put a price on carbon, put a price on carbon. It will be a signal to have private investors move their capital to low carbon energy."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I understand there are mistakes made in the environmental community but I see [the impact of global warming] first hand, with the fires we have in California and the lack of water in the state."
Al Gore: "Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it's a challenge to the moral imagination."
Climate Change Denialists
Sarah Palin: "I'm not one though who would attribute it [climate change] to being manmade."
Senator James Inhofe: "The claim that global warming is caused by manmade emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science … With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."
3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley aka Christopher Monckton: A hereditary peer and former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, believes that global warming and Copenhagen are part of a global conspiracy by former communists. "They are about to impose a communist world government."
Geologist Ian Plimer: He likens the concept of human-induced climate change to a “Fundamentalist religion adopted by urban atheists looking to fill a yawning spiritual gap plaguing the West."
Our future will be decided by one of these camps?
EDF Lines UP €500M for Solar in Europe
EDF Energies Nouvelles said Thursday it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to get €500 million ($716.2 million) to pay for building solar power plants in France and Italy.
The financing would be able to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for each of the projects EDF wants to build from 2010 to 2012. EDF didn't specify how many projects or their sizes will be covered by EIB's investments. EDF will have to raise money from other banks as well.
Paris-based EDF did say the money would help pay for the 2010 construction of a 36-megawatt solar farm in France and a 12.5-megawatt project in Italy.
Solar panel maker, First Solar, will benefit from EDF's agreement with EIB. EDF said it plans to use First Solar's products for all the projects to be partly financed by EIB's €500 million.
EDF and First Solar already have teamed up to build a solar panel factory in France. The two companies announced this plan in July this year, and said the initial, annual production capacity would be 100 megawatts.
EDF would provide a low-interest loan to cover half of the construction and startup costs. EDF, which said it plans to install 500 megawatts by 2012, would get to use all of the factory's output for the first 10 years.
Back in July, First Solar said the factory would be up and running by the second half of 2011. But company executives told financial analysts yesterday that the factory would likely be operational in 2012. The Tempe, Ariz.-based company plans to expand its manufacturing operation in Malaysia by adding 424 megawatts of annual capacity starting in 2010.
More on Nuclear: Back at EPRI
I'm on a bit of a nuclear binge of late (and possibly at odds with the editors at Greentech Media regarding the topic).
Questions that pop up around here are:
- Does nuclear even belong on a "greentech" site?
- Is nuclear power green power?
- Is nuclear a low carbon emission energy generation source?
Clearly a nuclear plant doesn't emit carbon during operation. But studies looking at the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of nuclear plants – examining the carbon footprint of uranium extraction and enrichment, plant construction, and spent fuel disposal make the carbon footprint picture a little murky. Here are a few links to nuclear power LCA studies.
* * *
Jeffrey Hamel and Tom Mulford of EPRI's Nuclear Program presented at EPRI headquarters on Wednesday. EPRI is essentially a research arm of U.S. utilities, is a nuclear supporter and their viewpoints have to be viewed from that perspective.
Here's a guide to EPRI's 2010 nuclear research. The other research referenced at this event was EPRI's Integrated Generation Technology Options – good LCOE data on a variety of energy generation technologies
EPRI's Mr. Hamel gave a succinct presentation covering the state of the nuclear industry to a room of engaged attendees. He had a bit of trouble sticking with the presentation amidst a constant barrage of probing audience questions.
* * *
Pressures to lower carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants have provided the opportunity to reboot the U.S. nuclear industry. Operating nuclear reactors have zero carbon emissions and the technology has grown more reliable and more efficient. In the U.S., reactors now run more than 91 percent of the hours in a year, the highest capacity factor of any energy source (vs. less than 60 percent in 1979).
Quick set of nuclear factoids:
- Currently the U.S. gets more electricity from nuclear than any other country.
- The U.S. has 104 nuclear power plants in 31 states
- Fuel represents 25 percent of nuclear's production costs
Hamel said that electrical power from existing nuclear power plants is "very competitive" while new plants "are absolutely expensive and capital intensive." He maintained that economic performance continues to improve.
Random energy factoids:
- In California today the load will max at 32 GW at about 7:00 p.m. at and drop to its minimum of 20 GW at 3 a.m.
- Peak peak in summer is about 60 GW
- Production cost determines dispatch order and market price of electricity
- The last plant to be dispatched sets the price
In determining levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for nuclear, EPRI uses a plant construction cost of $4860/kW which yields an LCOE of 8.3 cents per kW/hr. (That $4,860 is termed an "all-in-number"). Note that the LCOE of parabolic trough-based solar is $.225 to $.29 per kWh (!).
(Charts from EPRI's Integrated Generation Technology Options Report)
The U.S. has 32 new nuclear units proposed at 21 sites. Four sites have been downselected for the Federal loan guarantee program. With $18.5 billion available "The DOE loan guarantee program is very important for providing access to competitive capital to make these projects a reality," according to Hamel.
Two last points from Hamel:
- "Standardization is at the core – if something is going to happen in the U.S. nuclear power market – it will center on standardization."
- "Permitting construction time is the elephant in the room."
A few links...
VP Biden Promotes $5B for Greentech Manufacturing
The White House is seeking congressional and public support for offering $5 billion in tax credits for manufacturers to build new or expand existing factories to produce solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and other renewable energy-related goods.
Vice President Joe Biden was the chief marketer for such an idea on Wednesday, about a week after President Obama outlined a new plan to create more jobs. Biden spoke about the new tax incentive proposal while hosting business leaders in Washington, D.C. The National unemployment rate stands at 10 percent.
The incentives would mirror a program that was put in place this year as part of the stimulus package. The $2.3 billion program gives manufacturers a 30 percent tax credit.
The manufacturing tax credit program has proven popular, according to Biden, though the administration has yet to award any of the money. The Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Energy are reviewing the first batch of applications and plan to announce the recipients by Jan. 15. Recipients will have four years to complete their factory plans.
Some folks in the solar industry already are concerned that the $2.3 billion might spread quite thin given the types of manufacturers that would qualify for the tax credit.
The Solar Energy Industries Association recently launched a campaign to expand the tax credit for solar manufacturers only. Lawmakers introduced bills for such solar tax break in the Senate and the House last month.
2030 Carbon Capture Market: $128B Business-as-Usual, $221B With Real Change
What's the upside to humanity's greatest energy challenge - capturing and sequestering the carbon put out by coal-fired power plants and other industrial emitters before it causes runaway global warming?
According to Pike Research, carbon capture and sequestration could represent a $128 billion market over the next 20 years - and that's assuming a base-case, business as usual approach to the problem.
More aggressive carbon limits by government - and buy-in from industry - could boost that market to about $221 billion by 2030, according to Pike's report released Wednesday.
That wide range represents the state of uncertainty over carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. The Intergovernmental Panel on Global Change (IPCC) has said that CCS has the potential to keep 220 to 2,200 gigatons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the next century, a range representative of the many regulatory, technological and economic uncertainties involved.
Real-world examples of working CCS systems are hard to come by. While many pilot projects are underway to capture carbon from oil and gas wells, coal plants and other industrial sources, to date no commercial-scale power plants capture and store their carbon, Pike Research managing director Clint Wheelock noted in a prepared statement.
Of course, plans to do just that are underway. American Electric Power turned on the first system to capture carbon emissions from its Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in West Virginia and store the carbon in underground caverns.
But that project is now capturing only about 2 percent of the plants' emissions, though AEP hopes to raise that to 18 percent in the coming years, aided by $335 million in federal funding, the Wall Street Journal reports.
That funding is part of the nearly $1 billion the Department of Energy gave out for CCS projects earlier this month (see Permanent Storage, Oil Recovery Part of $3B in Carbon Capture Projects). Many other CCS projects are being planned in the United States and abroad - China, the world's biggest carbon dioxide emitter, is a particular focus of attention (see GE Gets Into 'Cleaner Coal' in China and Duke Energy, China's Huaneng Group Collaborate on Coal Carbon Capture).
CCS comes at a cost, of course. Pike's report estimated that adding CCS to new and existing power plants will raise the price of electricity by 50 percent to 75 percent.
Putting a price on carbon will be critical to making CCS make economic sense, Pike's Wheelock noted. Experimental CCS plants will be able to sequester and store CO2 at a cost of $80 to $120 per ton (€60 to €90), according to a McKinsey report on the subject.
But observers of the United Nations meeting now underway in Copenhagen to craft a global carbon reduction treaty are well aware of how difficult this may be. Poorer nations walked out of the meeting on Monday, protesting what they called a lack of pledges of financial support from richer nations, and hopes for a legally binding accord are dimming (see U.S. Commits $85M for Clean Energy in Developing Nations).
Pyron Pioneers Solar Concentrators That Swim With the Fishes
Pyron Solar Inc. (Pyron) is a San Diego company that develops and makes solar concentrators.
Pyron and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) recently announced that SDG&E is building a demonstration project to test Pyron’s patented concentrated solar power system. The system uses shallow pools of water as a passive cooling system for high efficiency solar cells.
Pyron’s U.S. Patent No. 7,299,632 ('632 Patent) is entitled "Solar electricity generator" and is directed to a solar electrical generator comprising a concentrator, a homogenizer and a photovoltaic (PV) cell. The concentrator concentrates solar rays onto an entrance surface of the homogenizer, which is in turn attached to a PV cell.
The concentrators are positioned in troughs (1) that sit in bodies of water (5). The water (5) acts as a passive coolant to disperse the heat generated by the PV cells.
In addition, buoyancy torque created by pumping the water (5) between ballast compartment (8) and ballast compartment (9) and pressure differentials between the compartments pivots the troughs (1) to keep the lenses (2) aimed directly at the sun.
The lenses (2) concentrate solar rays (3) at focal spot (4). According to the '632 Patent, the highly concentrated "pencil" of solar rays (3) then enter homogenizer (43) and are evenly distributed onto PV cell (4') by loss-free total internal reflection.
According to the '632 Patent, this system makes better use of solar farm real estate by covering 87 percent of the set-aside land. Pyron’s also touts the greater power production and reliability of its passive coolant design, noting that it protects the equipment from exposure to extreme wind.
Pyron plans to stock the pools of water with fish to prevent mosquito infestation, leading Matter Network to speculate that "perhaps the fish farms of the future will double as solar energy collectors."
Eric Lane is a patent attorney and intellectual property lawyer at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego, where he is in the Intellectual Property and Climate Change & Clean Technology practices. Eric is the founder and author of Green Patent Blog, which provides discussion and analysis of intellectual property law issues in clean technology.
Former KP EIR, Joel Serface, Joins CyberCity 3D
In the early days of the greentech wave, about six years ago, I met with Joel Serface when he was a partner at Eastman Ventures. We discussed the state of the then early renewable energy field.
Since then Joel Serface has started, invested in, or advised a score of greentech firms in his role as director of the Austin Clean Energy Incubator and his stint at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he served as the first Entrepreneur in Residence at NREL. He always seems to be on a plane or a mountain or at a cleantech event judging by his tweet history.
Joel has just now surfaced (sorry) in the role of Chief Strategy Officer at CyberCity 3D, A 3D geospatial service platform.
In Joel's words, "This is a culmination of ideas that we started developing in Austin with Austin Energy – using the city as a laboratory and delivering advanced engagement tools to involve the community in energy decisions – that became obvious when I was at NREL and is best delivered through an open 3D/geospatial application service platform."
CyberCity 3D aims to help massively scale energy efficiency, to help reduce energy use and carbon footprint in buildings, the main energy user in our society.
According to Joel, CC3D is a "combination of the world’s best energy analysis tools coupled with the first 3D/geospatial application services platform... to massively scale energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment while providing an engaging platform for collaboration between cities, citizens, and utilities."
Here's a video that hints at what the company is doing.
We'll hear more from Joel and this firm soon.