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Energy Odds and Ends: Seaweed, Iraq, DOE and More

Eric Wesoff: May 1, 2009, 12:23 AM

Yes, But How Will This Impact the Price of My Sushi?

South Korea will invest $275 million over the next decade to grow seaweed forests off its coast and increase the country's ability to produce biomass energy. The biomass would be used to produce a target of 400 million gallons of ethanol per year by 2020 or roughly 10 percent of the country’s petroleum-based fuel usage.

Most of the algae farming and algae investments in the U.S. and Europe are focused on microalgae.  Seaweed, which is already sustainably farmed in Asia and is a multi-billion dollar market, is considered macroalgae.

$418 Per Gallon

According to Biofuels Digest, Professor George Poste of Arizona State University, a...

Electric Town Car Launched in the U.K.

Michael Kanellos: April 30, 2009, 4:55 PM

The Electric Car Company today began to sell its all-electric town car. Technically, it's a Citroen C1, a very small economy car, that's been surgically retrofitted to run on electricity rather than gas (see dazzling photo here).

The car costs about $25,500 in U.S. dollars (note: we are unclear about whether that includes an anticipated $7,500 tax credit or any battery or other incidental charges). If anything, the car will let Londoners avoid the congestion tax.

It is not going to be confused with a Tesla Roadster. The car tops out at 60 miles and hour and only goes 60 to 70 miles on a charge. It takes about six to seven hours to charge. That puts it in roughly the same category as...

DOE Lab Develops Smart Charging Device for Electric Rides

Ucilia Wang: April 30, 2009, 2:02 PM

Looking for a device that automatically charges your electric car during the time of day when power is cheap? The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has put taxpayers’ money to good use by developing such a device, the "smart charger controller."

The lab, part of the national lab system run by the U.S. Department of Energy, announced its invention Thursday and said the device could save consumers $100 to $150 per year. Major automakers such as Toyota, Nissan and General Motors plan to start selling all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric cars over the next two years. Many companies have been working on developing technologies that would speed up the charging time and make it easier...

Itron Sees 1Q Revenues Shrink

Jeff St. John: April 30, 2009, 1:08 PM

Itron Inc. (NSDQ: ITRI) reported Wednesday that its first-quarter 2009 revenues fell amid a shrinking 12-month pipeline for new smart meter contracts — a sign that $4.5 billion in smart grid stimulus funding isn't enough on its own to counteract the ongoing recession and utilities' conservative spending plans.

The Liberty Lake, Wash.-based company reported first-quarter revenues of $388.5 million, below analysts projections and down 19 percent from revenues of $478 million in the same quarter in 2008.

And while Itron's long-term backlog for smart meter contracts rose to a record $1.5 billion — up from $683 million in the same quarter last year — its shorter-term, 12-month backlog fell...

Update: Where is Sapphire Energy’s $100M?

Michael Kanellos: April 30, 2009, 12:15 PM

Sapphire Energy, which wants to make fuel out of genetically modified algae, is one of the five or six of the 50 or so algae companies worth following. It is taking an interesting and arguably controversial approach to raising algae -- it wants to raise genetically modified algae in open ponds, a feat that some competitors argue will be difficult. It also wants to harvest hydrocarbons straight from algae, not a lipid like most everyone else. This could save a few expensive refining steps.

Earlier this year, Sapphire provided algae fuel to a Continental test flight, but the algae didn't come from Sapphire's process. Instead, it came from a Hawaiian company that vehemently eschews...

Who Will Be First Solar’s Next CEO?

Michael Kanellos: April 30, 2009, 12:00 PM

It's either the best or the worst job in solar, depending on your perspective.

Michael Ahearn, CEO of First Solar, announced that he'll be stepping down from that role and that the board is already looking for a replacement. He will stay on as executive chairman but mostly focused on policy.

First Solar, of course, is the relentless manufacturing machine of solar. Net income more than tripled in the first quarter, a time when other solar companies and the industrial world in general is crumbling. The company also continues to drop panel prices.

Whoever takes over the job will instantly be one of the most powerful people in solar.

But, man, is that going to be a tough act to follow....

$250M Proposed for Marine Energy

Michael Kanellos: April 29, 2009, 5:03 PM

Representative Jay Inslee, a democrat long associated with clean energy, introduced the Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 in the  House of Representatives today. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced companion legislation in the senate.

The bill, if passed, would give a boost to a form of renewable energy that has seemingly been trying to get off the ground for years. Several companies in the last few years have launched trial devices, but the results have been middling to comical: Tidal turbines in the East River have come up mangled while buoys off the Oregon coast got lost in the deep. The company funding the Pelamis wave devices in Portugal ran out of money.

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