Back in late 2009, Duke Energy announced it was teaming up with ENN, a sprawling conglomerate that began life as a car rental agency, to build solar power plants in the U.S. It was the beginning of a trend of Chinese companies going international under their own brand names.
Since then, China has become an even more titanic force in green technology. And as part of that overall tidal wave, Duke and ENN announced that the power plant relationship will expand to city planning. The two will develop an eco-city near Langfang, China. Duke will then take the lessons learned and deploy them elsewhere. Urban planning in some ways is the ultimate green market: it involves planning alternative energy parks, adding intelligence to the grid, planning offices and living space to minimize transportation, and adopting materials and architectural concepts to reduce heating, lighting and air conditioning.
Cisco has been championing this for years. Competition has just increased.
--Kevin Eassa, the vice president of manufacturing at MiaSolé, has apparently left. Eassa came from Seagate and is an expert on sputtering, the process MiaSolé exploits to put copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells on flexible substrates. MiaSolé is a member of the class of five -- the big CIGS vendors that have soaked up close to $2 billion in private capital. (Solyndra, Nanosolar, Solopower and HelioVolt are the other ones.) So far, despite earlier mishaps, MiaSolé seems to be winning. It started producing modules last year, but, unlike Solyndra, does not have the tubular issues.
The company's goal is to ship modules with 13 percent efficiency by the end of the year. It has some lab modules that have since surpassed that mark.
--BrightSource Energy has raised $1.75 million in another round, according to an SEC filing spied by VentureBeat. It's a strange amount: BrightSource has raised a few hundred million to date and it won't have any revenue until it completes its Ivanpah solar thermal power plant. A new lawsuit from the Western Watersheds Project alleges that Ivanpah, which has been in the planning and conceptual stage for 27 years, was rushed through environmental review. The coal lobby couldn't be more effective.
Some sites, including ours, have said that BrightSource is a 2011 IPO candidate, but that is getting trickier. Better to bet on Intematix, which told us they may try to pull off an IPO in the next twelve months.
--Toyota is working on an electric motor that doesn't rely on rare earth minerals. China controls 97 percent of the world's supply. The stock of Molycorp, which owns a U.S.-based rare earth mine, has zoomed as a result of China's decision to curb exports. Novatorque, a little-known startup in the U.S., has already developed such a motor for industrial equipment. It came out last year. Here is a feature on Novatorque from last year.