Driving on Solar Power

Envision Solar, which makes solar-powered commercial parking structures, said Monday it is making a solar-powered charging station for electric cars and plug-in hybrids for the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The tree-inspired solar canopy will cover two spaces and produce about 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity a day, said Nicole Zeller, project manager at Envision. "This is a great combination to showcase what you can do, that you can integrate these things - shade, solar energy and charging stations - into one product," she said.

The NREL project will cost the government no more than $46,000, according to project requirements. San Diego-based Envision says its normal prices for carports range between $8 and $10 per (direct-current) watt.

While other solar-powered charging stations exist, NREL picked Envision's for its looks, Zeller said. The charging station will be Envision's first, but the company designed its initial carport system - which sends power back to the grid to offset customers' electricity bills - with the idea of adding charging stations later, she said.

Envision, founded in 2006, said it has raised about $1.1 million in angel funding so far and isn't actively seeking more investment right now.

Wal-Mart to Monitor Suppliers' Energy Use

Wal-Mart Stores said Monday it will encourage suppliers to monitor and reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions as it attempts to measure the total energy used throughout its supply chain.

The retail giant is partnering with the Carbon Disclosure Project, a not-for-profit group that collects information about corporate emissions. The move is part of the company's Sustainability 360 initiative, announced in February, to try to remove nonrenewable energy from the products it sells (see Wal-Mart Goes Green).

Wal-Mart will start by researching the energy used to make a pilot group of products, including DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.

Portugal Gets First Solar Robots

Spire Corp. (Nasdaq: SPIR) on Monday said it has sold a 50-megawatt solar-panel manufacturing line to Martifer Solar in Portugal. The line, which uses robotic systems, will be Portugal's first automated solar line, signifying that the country's solar production has grown large enough to take advantage of automation. The line is designed so it can easily be expanded by another 50 megawatts, Spire said.

Akeena Solar Gets CFO From Knight Ridder

Akeena Solar, a solar-power installer, announced Monday it is hiring Gary Effren as its chief financial officer. Effren previously held the position at Knight Ridder, a media company that was bought by a smaller competitor, the McClatchy Co., last year after shareholders forced it to sell. The solar company didn't say why it chose to hire from the newspaper company, which was profitable but could not raise its share price enough to quell the shareholders' rebellion.

Nanosolar Gets More Government Money

Thin-film startup Nanosolar on Monday said it has won a $9.5-million contract to provide "solar-power product and system innovations" for the U.S. Department of Energy. The contract, part of the Solar America Initiative, brings Nanosolar's total DOE funding to approximately $20 million. The money isn't secure unless it get Congressional approval. If it does, Nanosolar will be the largest funding recipient from the Solar America Initiative so far, according to CEO Martin Roscheisen.

MDV Raises $580M

Mohr Davidow Ventures has raised $580 million for its ninth fund, according to PE Week Wire. The Menlo Park, Calif., venture-capital firm has invested in solar-concentration startup Energy Innovations, biofuel startup Catilin, fuel-cell startup Jadoo Power and thin-film solar startup Nanosolar (see above), among others. The company also invests in health care, Internet services and other areas. It is unclear how much of the fund, if any, will go toward green-technology investments. The company didn't immediately return calls.