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Q2 VC in Greentech Comes Back Strong

Eric Wesoff: June 30, 2009, 5:20 PM

More Than $1.2B in 85 Deals Signals a Quiet Recovery in the Greentech Sector

Optimism prevailed amongst greentech venture capital investors in the second quarter of 2009.  Despite the eulogies delivered for the greentech sector because of a less than stellar first quarter, VC investment in greentech rebounded in the second quarter with more than $1.2 billion invested in 85 startups.  

Notable investment trends in the second quarter included:

  • An increase in smart grid, automotive, and energy storage investments
  • No giant $100 million+ solar or biofuel rounds as in 2008
  • Early stage and late stage investments dominated, while mid-stage funding was harder to come by
  • Slightly smaller...

Yellostrom Likes Google’s PowerMeter – And Microsoft Too

Jeff St. John: June 30, 2009, 1:04 PM

German utility Yellostrom will work with Google on testing its PowerMeter home energy monitoring software – but it is also working with Microsoft, which has its own rival home energy platform, on its smart meters.

Google announced its Yellostrom partnership on its official blog Tuesday. The two said they would work to bring energy data to the utility's customers through its Sparzähler smart meters, which it wants to deploy to its more than 1.4 million customers.

That adds a first European utility to the list of eight in North American that Google is already working with. It also adds a new meter to those of North American smart meter market leader Itron, which is working to integrate...

Algenol: The Elephant in the Room

Eric Wesoff: June 30, 2009, 1:06 AM

I wrote a perspectives piece last week (see Algae Fantasists Predict 1B Gallons Per Year by 2014) on the viability of commercial algal biofuels and received a slew of comments, on and off-line, endorsing my claim that we are a longer way off from commercialization than claimed by breathless algae start-up press releases.

But according to Jim Lane of Biofuels Digest: Paul Woods, the chief executive of algae farmer Algenol is adamant he will produce 250 million gallons per year by 2013.   

And according to Lane in email correspondence – when it comes to biofuels from algae, "It really comes down to how one thinks about Algenol. That's the elephant in the room when it comes to...

DOE: $346M For Building Energy Efficiency

Jeff St. John: June 29, 2009, 6:53 PM

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has pointed to buildings as a key target for saving energy. On Monday, the Department of Energy backed him up with about $346 million in stimulus package funding.

The 81 million or so buildings in the United States use about two-fifths of the country's energy, more than manufacturing or transportation, the DOE says. About three-quarters were built before 1979, making them ripe for efficiency retrofits.

In the future, the DOE would like to see buildings built and operated as an "integrated system" with energy efficiency at the forefront, from design to day-to-day maintenance.

To that end, it set aside $100 million for "advanced building systems research,"...

Creating ‘Utility-Grade’ Solar Panels With Beefier Warranties

Ucilia Wang: June 29, 2009, 12:41 PM

When Roger Efird, president of Suntech Power's North America sales, spoke last week at the Edison Electric Institute's convention in San Francisco, he mentioned that solar panel makers are going to start offering longer and different kinds of warranties for certain discerning customers.

"We'll start to see things that will be guaranteed that we've never seen before, such as efficiencies," Efird said. "For utility-grade applications, you'll have to give more details than to say you'll get this much after 10 years and this much after 20 years. Maybe a year-over-year roadmap."

Efird, of course, wasn't just making a general prediction. He told me after his talk that Suntech plans to...

Making Energy Innovation a Team Sport

Eric Smalley: June 29, 2009, 9:26 AM

MIT Institute Professor and former CIA Director John Deutch last week warned that the U.S. needs to revamp its “innovation system” if we want to make timely progress on global warming and energy security. The former Deputy Secretary of Defense and Undersecretary of Energy offered his views on the challenges to remaking our energy system in a plenary talk at the Optics and Photonics for Advanced Energy Technology meeting at MIT.

Deutsch’s main point is that the researchers and entrepreneurs who are rushing to tackle the energy problem are following the traditional model of technology innovation: identify a problem, come up with an idea to solve it, engineer the solution for specific...

PrimeStar Solar Preps for CdTe Panel Launch

Ucilia Wang: June 26, 2009, 1:57 PM

The success of First Solar has given startup companies developing cadmium-telluride solar panels hope. Why, if First Solar could claim to be the lowest-cost producer in the industry while raking in good profits, then we could do it, too.

PrimeStar Solar is no exception. Brian Murphy, CEO of PrimeStar in Arvada, Colo., said at a recent conference that "cadmium-telluride is the only technology proven to move below $1 per watt in manufacturing cost."

The company is moving toward the launch of its commercial product, set to take place by the end of this year, Murphy said. Murphy was rather mum about his company's product specs and production plans, however.

He said the commercial factory...