Garbage, meet genome.
Waste Management, the giant name in waste removal and recycling, today unfurled an alliance with Genomatica, which specializes in microbes that can produce industrial chemicals. Under the alliance, Genomatica will create microorganisms that can take syngas feeds from landfills and other facilities managed by WM and convert them into to-be-determined materials. Genomatica has already created microbes that can gobble sugars and secrete BDO, a popular industrial chemical.
Recycling could become one of the growth markets in green over the next few years. We're swimming in garbage, prices for virgin chemicals are rising with the price of oil, and states like California are imposing recycling fees on carpet and other materials. Other notable startups in this space include Ostara, MCR, CityBin, and Lehigh Technologies. The challenge: cost and skepticism among potential customers.
WM has already shifted operations from being a garbage hauler to a lifecycle management firm. In Livermore, California, the trucks that leave trash at the landfill fill up on methane produced from what they leave.
The goal is to triple the amount of recyclables by 2020. Call WM the GE of garbage.
--Coulomb Technologies, currently building a nationwide network of charging stations, got a new CEO. Pasquale 'Pat' Romano, formerly the head of 2Wire, will take over. Richard Lowenthal, one of the best speakers on the EV circuit, will stay on as CTO.
--Clarification. Over the past few days, a series of articles have noted that Southern California Edison is seeking approvals for 20 solar power purchase proposals to the California Public Utilities Commission that could produce a total of 250 megawatts of energy. The big news is that the plants will, as planned, produce power for less than natural gas plants.
So how many of these plants are complete?
None. First power won't be produced until 2013 or 2014.
If these companies can make it, great. They will deserve kudos and a whole wagon train of merit badges. But some companies -- Stirling Energy Systems, Ausra, Tessera, Optisolar, GreenVolts -- have set out to build solar farms promising low-cost power in the past with projects that didn't ultimately come to pass.
--To some of you, this announcement could be the sign of the apocalypse. GridPoint has announced that it will build a 582-kilowatt solar system at the Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in Texas with panels from...Solyndra! GridPoint and Solyndra: just in case you missed it.
Solyndra, of course, is the manufacturer of tubular solar systems that has raised over $1 billion in equity and a few hundred million in government loans. GridPoint has raised over $200 million and has gone from being a HAN provider, to a grid software provider, to a retrofitter/solar installer with grid operations. Both companies hit snags and hired new CEOs last year. (Disclosure: Solyndra's CEO has told us that the company is bringing down manufacturing costs and that certain attributes of the panels do make them economical in certain situations now.)
Solyndra will appear at our Solar Summit, which is taking place March 14 and 15.
--Finally, Bridgelux, the LED specialist, has raised nearly all of a $21 million round. Last year, it raised $50 million and opened a factory in the East Bay. Bridgelux is now looking at getting into residential lighting. To date, it has mostly made commercial lights.