Recent Posts:

Another Huge Worry: Methane Seeping From Sea Beds

Michael Kanellos: September 2, 2009, 1:47 PM

The melting of vast stretches of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere is expected to release large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Now, a study from MIT published in Geophysical Research indicates that trapped methane may begin to bubble up from the ocean floor as global temperatures rise. 

The ocean floor right now traps large quantities of methane in what is called the hydrate stability zone, where temperatures are low and ambient pressure is high. Methane molecules are actually trapped in a crystalline cage of frozen water. Warming could reduce the stability of the zone and release the gas.

Methane is 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in retaining...

SunPower Cells to Power Catamaran for Trip Around the World

Ucilia Wang: September 2, 2009, 1:24 PM

A showcase project called PlanetSolar plans to build a solar-powered catamaran and sail it around the world, and it has chosen SunPower's cells to do the job.

San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower said Wednesday that it plans to provide 38,000 solar cells with 124 kilowatts of generation capacity. The cells, which can convert 22 percent of the sunlight that hits them into electricity, will be embedded into the skin of the catamaran.

The selection of SunPower is not so surprising. The boat will have to rely on solar power only. That calls for highly efficient solar cells, and SunPower is known for producing the most efficient silicon cells on the market today.

The boat is supposed to come...

Direct Grid: Another PV Microinverter Company

Eric Wesoff: September 2, 2009, 11:47 AM

Yikes. Another microinverter company.  It's getting crowded in here.

Direct Grid Technologies of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., a subsidiary of Island Technology has introduced a microinverter for the photovoltaic market. The mother company, Island Technology, has a heritage of working with utilities in the Northeast such as Con Edison in monitoring and control equipment.

I spoke with Louis Squeo, the Director of Sales of Marketing.

"We saw some shortcomings in the microinverter arena," said Squeo. "Some of the microinverters out there are low wattage – 170 to 190 watts. Our offerings are in excess in 200 watts, one 200 watts and one 300 watts version with room for more."

This high wattage target...

VC Funding in Greentech Rocks On

Eric Wesoff: September 2, 2009, 12:38 AM

We carefully monitor and parse every greentech VC investment and we've done that for the last five years. Greentech Media provides those totals to our readers and the market every quarter.  Subscibers to the Greentech Innovations Report receive the gory details of that information – every deal, every investor. We also strive to log every greentech VC or PE fundraise. 

Here's a partial list of the VC and PE firms that have closed or are in the process of closing a fund over the last six quarters. The total is in the neighborhood of $5 billion for venture capital alone.

There are a lot of voices of late sounding the death knell for venture capital. The New York Times dusts this meme...

A New Low in Buy American: Oil Labelling

Michael Kanellos: September 1, 2009, 8:21 PM

Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group, is promoting legislation that would force oil makers to inform them about the country of origin of their fuel.

"Most Americans don't want their paychecks going to Venezuela and other regimes that don't agree with and support the U.S," said retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, according to Reuters. Clark, who co-chairs the group, has been looking for a day job since the break up of Yugoslavia. From the sound of it, it doesn't sound like a label stating, "Two-thirds of this fluid comes from overseas. Oh, and it's flammable," would do it.

There are a lot of reasons for this legislation. One, it would force oil companies to engage in a pointless...

Electricity From Space

Ucilia Wang: September 1, 2009, 7:05 PM

Japan is eyeing outer space as a great piece of real estate for building solar power plants.

Mitsubishi Electric Corp., IHI Corp. and 14 other companies plan to spend 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) to explore the idea of building a 1-gigawatt solar power farm in space. The power plant would turn electricity into microwave radiation and beam it down to Earth.

The concept has been around for decades. Other companies and government research institutions have been researching the idea for some time. As you can imagine, costs and technical challenges are the stumbling blocks (here is a website by the Georgia Institute of Technology on space solar).

Pacific Gas and Electric in California has...

EV’s Make Sense for the Postal Service, But They’re Hard to Pay For

Jeff St. John: September 1, 2009, 12:08 PM

It would make sense for the U.S. Postal Service to switch to electric vehicles to deliver the mail, since the average postal truck drives about 18 miles a day. The problem will be how to make it pay off, either with government incentives or through so-called vehicle-to-grid revenues.

That's the word from a study from the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General released last week, that took a look at the operational and financial viability of replacing some or all of USPS's 146,000 vehicles with electric vehicles.

About 96 percent of the Postal Service's trucks drive less than 40 miles a day, and all are parked from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day. That makes the USPS a natural...