Renault-Nissan followed Tesla Motors into the electric car market.

Soon, it will follow it in other ways as well.

The Japanese-French car federation will soon open an R&D Center in Mountain View, according to sources. It makes sense. Volkswagen conducts research here. Tesla Motors is here, and a whole slew of battery and battery management companies reside here as well. What better place to recruit? Plus, they can stop by Better Place in Palo Alto for coffee. Note: this may have been announced already, but a quick search on 'Mountain View' and Nissan only turned up links for a few used Sentras for sale.


--Chromasun, which has created a solar thermal air conditioner and solar hot water heater, unveiled a major prototype today at Santa Clara University. The system -- which consists of computer-controlled parabolic troughs -- will reduce the hot water needs for the Benson Memorial Center's dining center by 70 percent. We first profiled Chromasun back in early 2009. Founded by Ausra co-founder Peter Le Lievre, the company initially concentrated on solar air conditioners. The principles are the same. The parabolic troughs are used to heat a fluid. This fluid in turn helps evaporate a refrigerant and make cold air. Personally, we like the air conditioner application best, because peak power and peak air conditioning consumption coincide with optimum performance of the parabolic troughs. But either way, it's good to see news out of Chromasun.

You can also add PV cells to the system, making it a 2-for-1 solar system, similar to those from ZenithSolar and others.

--At the second annual cleantech conference at Hastings College of the Law (a U.C. school), Alex Morris, who runs advanced technology planning at Southern California Edison, told the crowd to study the implications of a recent decision by FERC. Under the new regulation, companies that put power-producing assets on the grid that exacerbate intermittent power delivery will be required to pay for the costs associated with ameliorating the situation.

In other words, if you have a solar or wind farm, you will have to buy storage systems to smooth out power production or invest in some other grid balancing technology. Existing wind and solar farms are grandfathered in, so you won't have to retrofit them. We're trying to get more on this, but thought for now it was interesting to note. It was the issue that brought the most questions from the audience at the event.

--Speaking of storage, natural gas companies see this as their natural next market, said one source. Natural gas turbines, after all, are already used to smooth out the power production from wind farms and hybrid solar thermal farms. Natural gas technically is a fossil fuel and not a form of energy storage, but if methane can be converted rapidly to power and dispatched quickly, it can provide the same capabilities as a battery. Some in the gas industry have even begun to say that natural gas is a battery.

So it isn't just wind, solar and geothermal companies that have to worry about methane. The low prices will likely impact the storage industry, too.