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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...

SV Solar, R.I.P.?

Eric Wesoff: April 27, 2009, 3:43 PM

The long list of VC-funded solar startups is starting to shrink.  We crossed Optisolar off the list, a victim of hubris (see Inside OptiSolar's Grand Ambitions) and it looks like SV Solar is soon to be history -- a victim of a poorly hatched business plan by neophyte staff and investors who should have known better.

SV Solar received $10.2 million in funding two years ago from partners at Bessemer with scant solar experience. The company funded a low-concentration PV firm (strike one), with a staff that had very little solar experience (strike two), based on some amazing cutting edge technology that they called -- a prism (strike 3).

Tough getting IP protection on a prism, I imagine.


Green Lists, Delusions of Grandeur and Portents of Doom

Eric Wesoff: April 23, 2009, 1:15 PM

Here are a few interesting tidbits and links from the last few days. provides a list of top ten most interesting wind turbine designs.  And also a list of the top ten green ship designs with some great photos and illustrations.

gCaptain is not exactly a green products guide -- but if you have an interest in things nautical, this is a great site.

Biofuels Digest has compiled a list of their top 50 bioenergy companies -- an interesting mix of VC funded firms like Sapphire and Coskata and massive public corn ethanol firms like Poet.  Here are their top five:

1. Coskata
2. Sapphire Energy
3. Virent Energy Systems
4. Poet
5. Range Fuels

Billion Dollar Dreams

There's a shard of...

Algae Oil Harvesting Breakthrough From OriginOil?

Eric Wesoff: April 23, 2009, 12:38 AM

Algae cultivation for biofuel applications is full of promise and hype.  Until one of the many companies working on the puzzle solves the cost issue -- algal biofuels remain a well-funded science project.  But now, OriginOil might have solved a few pieces of the cost puzzle with new lighting and new extraction technologies.

Harvesting oil from algae is an expensive and difficult challenge.  Algae must be separated from its growth medium -- water -- and the lipids in each algae cell must be extracted.  Companies are researching a variety of ways to filter the algae from water and to liberate the lipids from the algae -- ranging from chemical catalysts to bioconversion.


Six VCs Sitting Around Talking

Eric Wesoff: April 22, 2009, 1:13 AM

Another day, another greentech event in Silicon Valley.

This event comes to you from high above San Jose at what appears to be the last bastion of the world of wood-paneled gentlemens’ clubs at The Silicon Valley Capital Club.  No denim allowed according to the invite from the Environmental Business Cluster.

Each of the investors on Tuesday’s panel highlighted one of their greentech portfolio’s pet investments and in some cases said something interesting.  Here’s the rundown:

Susan Preston / General Partner at CalCEF
CalCEF is a small angel fund we covered here in CalCEF Angels.

Preston highlighted her firm’s investment in HID Labs, an innovator in high intensity discharge lighting...

The Impact of Government Policy on Cleantech

Eric Wesoff: April 20, 2009, 11:45 PM

Blogging from a Stanford University Event--

I attend lots of greentech-themed events -- several each week, sometimes several each day. In my more soulful moments, I pray that the event actually resembles its' write-up.  I also pray that someday a week will go by where I do not have to hear the story of how the Chinese word for crisis can be written as “Danger” as well as “Opportunity”.

That’s how Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) started her speech off on Monday evening at a Stanford University event hosted by Battery Ventures.  (Can any native Chinese speakers let me know if that hackneyed saw is even true?)  According to this link, it's dead wrong.

Eshoo is a relatively high-powered...

Sapphire Accelerates Algae Oil Timeline

Eric Wesoff: April 18, 2009, 11:21 PM

Algae farmer Sapphire Energy has raised more than $100 million from Bill Gates' Cascade Investments and ARCH Venture Partners.  The company claims its organisms have already secreted small amounts of the equivalent of 91 octane gas.

Last week, Sapphire announced an updated timeline on commercial deployment of its green “drop-in” replacement transportation fuel.

Here are the ambitious claims from their press release:

"By 2011, Sapphire Energy will be producing 1 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel per year, double its initial estimates.  By 2018, the number, increases to more than 100 million gallons annually; and by 2025, the company will be producing up to 1 billion gallons of...