Recent Posts:

Blowin’ In The Wind

Daniel Englander: January 30, 2008, 9:11 AM
On the face of it, 2007 was a banner year for U.S. venture investment in solar and biofuels. Flowing quietly under big time deals like HelioVolt's $101 million Series B, however, was a strong undercurrent pointing towards the U.S. becoming a global leader in wind power. According to the American Wind Energy Association 5,244 MW of wind power were installed in the U.S. in 2007, representing a 45 percent capacity expansion and a $9 billion overall investment. European majors like Energías de Portugal, Iberdrola, Acciona, and E.On were especially active over the last year. In a landmark deal, Energías de Portugal bought Horizon Wind Energy from Goldman Sachs for an estimated $3 billion. E.On followed suit, purchasing Dublin-based Airtricity's North American holdings for $1.4 billion. But given America's notoriously patchy renewable energy regulatory framework and severe NIMBY complex, what accounts for the massive European migration?

FutureGen Dies Quick, Painful Death

Daniel Englander: January 29, 2008, 6:23 PM
FutureGen, the much vaunted high-tech "clean coal" pilot plant slated for construction in Illinois, has been (un)officially blackballed by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The plant's estimated costs jumped precipitously from an initial estimate of $800 million in 2003 to nearly $1.8 billion, causing officials in the DOE to balk at what many have already argued would be an inefficient and ineffective solution to mitigating GHG emissions. Although DOE officials have been loathe to divulge the proceedings of today's closed door meeting with federal lawmakers, it's pretty apparent from Sen. Dick Durbin's hissy fit that things are not okay in Matoon County. I hate to be That Guy but, I totally called this.

Another Chinese Solar IPO… Really?

Daniel Englander: January 28, 2008, 5:36 PM
Shenzhen Topray Solar announced its IPO prospectus today. The company, a "high-tech enterprise engaged in the R&D, production and sales of amorphous silicon, monocrystakline [sic] silicon, polycrystalline silicon solar cell chips, solar cell modules and other cell application products", will offer 40 million A shares equal to 25 percent of its enlarged stock capital. The company's press release claims it "has become the biggest manufacturer of amorphous silicon solar cells in China and the lead exporter of such products" in 2004, 2005, and 2006. A quick search through the Greentech Media - Prometheus Institute thin film report confirms Shenzhen Topray is China's largest a-Si producer, pumping a-Si cells out at 20 MW/year (though with flat projections until 2010). But, given the beating that solar stocks have been taking, I decided to do a little digging. I turned up a paper published by Arne Jacobson and Daniel Kammen, of Humboldt State University and Berkeley, on the quality of imported solar cells in Kenya. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jacobson and Kammen found the "average stabilized performance for both lines of Shenzhen Topray a-Si modules was approximately 6 watts, which is well below the acceptable levels for 14 Watt rated modules." Shenzhen Topray marketed their a-Si modules as performing at 14 Watts. Apparently, the "low performance of these modules may be caused by impurities introduced during production," which lead to "delamination of the active material of the a-Si modules." As a result of Jacobson and Kammen's paper, Kenital and Electric Link - the two major solar cell importers in Kenya - suspended imports and discontinued sales of Shenzhen Topray's products.

New England Greentech Calendar: January 27 - February 2

Daniel Englander: January 27, 2008, 6:29 AM
Our weekly list of greentech events in the (mostly) New England area. If you have an event to list for next week, e-mail us at englander at greentechmedia dot com. January 27 January 28

Postcard from Davos: Friday and Saturday

Pankaj Dhingra: January 26, 2008, 9:27 AM
Adaptation to Climate Change On Friday, we had some Technology Pioneer specific sessions that I am not going to bore you with. However, I did attend one session on an extremely important subject that has not gotten the share of mind that it deserves. That subject is ‘adaptation to climate change’. Regardless of how aggressively we implement strategies aimed at mitigating climate change, the impact of these is not going to be felt for at least 30-50 years. On the other hand, violent environmental events are already here with us and are likely to grow in frequency and severity over the coming decades. However, there is usually very little discussion around the strategies and infrastructure demands to:
  1. Risk-proof our infrastructure – whether it is building dikes around cities vulnerable to the rise in sea levels or finding sources of water for draught prone areas, etc.
  2. Emergency preparedness and response plan for such events.
Even at Davos, this meeting was a small meeting (maybe 20 participants) and held off-site. I believe that we need a lot more focus and energy to go into adaptation strategies.

SunPower and First Solar: Two Men Enter. One Man Leaves.

Daniel Englander: January 25, 2008, 8:30 AM

The thin film bug caught on in a big way in 2007. Investors flocked to the sector despite the technology’s low relative conversion efficiency, driven by tight silicon supply, declining production costs, and the promise of covering the world in flexible PV. First Solar, which IPO’ed in November 2006 at $20 a share, was a big winner in the thin film rush. The company flew high all through 2007, hitting $280 a share on the day after Christmas 2007 on the back of a $34 million acquisition of Turner Renewables, more than $6 billion in contracts out to 2012, and a considerable first mover advantage on other thin film companies. Between it’s November 2006 IPO and the Christmas high, the stock had jumped 1300 percent, while the company’s revenue was up around 270 percent.

First Solar hit an intraday low of $150 yesterday tracking a bust cycle in oversold solar stocks.

Postcard from Davos: Wednesday

Pankaj Dhingra: January 24, 2008, 2:00 PM
Today, I decided to learn about three topics about which I have very little understanding – Nuclear, Water and carbon trading. I found all three of these topics fascinating and learned quite a bit from the people that have given these topics quite a bit of thought. Nuclear Energy vs. Non-Proliferation This panel had the most diversity of opinions – consisting of an American believer in nuclear technology (Shirley Ann Jackson – former commissioner of Nuclear Regulatory Commission and current president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), an Indian policy researcher who is a skeptic of the nuclear technology (Brahma Chellaney – Professor of strategic studies – Center for Policy Research), an Iranian (Mohammed J. A. Larijani) and Nobuo Tanaka, Executive director of International Energy Agency. The discussion began with the carbon emission targets established by Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. To meet IPCC targets, all power plants constructed after 2030 must be carbon free. This is obviously quite a tall order. Most panelists and participants believed that nuclear power belonged as part of an overall solution that includes wind, solar and other renewable technologies. The panel felt that Non Proliferation aspects of this technology can be overcome if the nations were to conduct policy discussions based on rational arguments rather than nationalistic pride. The arguments advanced in this direction were: