Hitachi will be one of the primary participants in a project that could make Maui a smart grid showcase. The Japanese conglomerate, along with Sharp, Pacific Northwest National Labs and others, have announced plans to deploy various smart grid technologies -- EV charging, voltage management, renewable integration -- on the island. Study begins now and, ideally, the project will get implemented by 2015.
The deal is the latest step in the increasing focus that Japan Inc. is putting on the smart grid. Toshiba might buy Landis + Gyr. Panasonic wants to be number one in green electronics. Hitachi has a number of activities worldwide but in particular is a specialist in community area networks. Hitachi and Panasonic formed a partnership to explore neighborhood and home-area networking. Hitachi also participates in the Singapore-Tianjin Eco City Project, a planned community outside of Tianjin in China. While Japanese conglomerates don't have the same brand cachet in the home that they once did, they still excel in precision electronic engineering and design.
--LightFair, the big lighting confab, opened today. Osram Sylvania to celebrate announced a 100-watt equivalent LED that consumes 14 watts of power. It will put out 1,500 lumens of light. In layman's terms, that's a lot. Don't look straight at it. U.S. regulations will impose efficiency regulations on bulb makers that will directly impact the ability of many to sell 100 watt incandescents in 2012 and beyond. Some are stocking up ("You can have this light bulb when you pry it out of my cold dead hand') but other consumers seem to be intrigued about the future of LEDs. Some 60-watt equivalent bulbs will cost around $20 by the end of the year and save over $10 a year in power.
Osram also has 75-, 60-, and 45-watt equivalent LED bulbs coming this summer.
One of the more interesting trends at LightFair is that the economics and dynamics of the PC industry are in full bloom. This year, two of the main topics of discussion are integrating capabilities (like networking) into bulbs and using electronics to cut costs. Some of the big headlines involve Marvell and Google. Go figure.
--Hara, the company that makes software for monitoring energy consumption, raised another $25 million. Hara has a list of celebrity customers -- Abu Dhabi, the City of Philadelphia -- but this is a crowded enterprise software field. Expect consolidation. Hara at least has the advantage of being one of the early leaders.
VentureWire also reports that Ray Lane, the former Oracle exec turned Kleiner Perkins partner, will also become chairman of Hara. To become chairman, Lane will step down from four other boards, including that of the mysterious Enigma Software.
--Transphorm, the company that came out of stealth earlier this year with gallium nitride AC-DC converters, announced its EZ-GaN transistor today. It goes inside of inverters and other devices. Transphorm says it eliminates 95 percent of switching losses. Conventional silicon AC-DC converters are already 90-percent-plus efficient. Transphorm grabs that extra 9 percent. Sounds like a good product, but it's good to have all of the numbers in front of you.
Cree, meanwhile, is touting silicon carbide for more efficient power electronics.
--The U.S. Senate is still debating whether to get rid of $4 billion worth of tax subsides to the oil industry. Democrats want to get rid of it. Republicans say getting rid of the subsidy would be a tax hike. (Note, however, few Republicans would say getting rid of the ITC would be a tax hike, but anyway.) One of the more interesting editorials comes from the Salt Lake Tribune.
"President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate want to end those tax breaks. (Utah R. Senator Orrin) Hatch does not. On this matter, the Democrats are right, and Hatch is not only wrong, he is being downright dishonest if he keeps defending the tax breaks even as he decries the size of the national debt.
"With pre-tax profits -- not revenues, profits -- approaching $200 billion this year, the oil firms have little credibility when they claim that coughing up a little more to the IRS would matter a whit to their bottom line, their hiring and their efforts to find, ship, refine and market gasoline and other petroleum products."
Finally, let's all recall some of the quotable gems from former Governor Arnold:
"Nixon was always being attacked sexually. It was always said that ... he had no sexual relations with his wife for 15 years and that was why he liked power. And Hitler had only one ball, and that was why he wanted to conquer the world." -in a 1977 interview with Time Out
"What is best in life: Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!"