- Obama DOE Picked More Energy Winners Than Silicon Valley VCs
- White Roofs Not Good for Climate, Increase Global Warming (Shocker!)
- Oil Companies: Honest? or “Greedy Lying Bastards” (Video)
- Harvest Power Provides Sustainable Solutions from Organic Waste
- Utility CEOs Talk Solar
- New Generation Inverters to Drive Down Cost of Solar Power: Interview with Silicon Valley’s ArrayPower
- WindTV Showcases Wind Success Stories
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 06:40 PM PDT
With just 1.4% of its Recovery Act clean tech investments in “losers”, it looks like the Obama administration is batting a much better average in “picking winners and losers” than the private Venture Capital (VC) market itself.
The US government guarantee of a private loan to Solyndra, at $535 million, represented a minuscule 1.4% of the Department of Energy investment in all renewable technologies. By contrast – VCs (who were out $1 billion to Solyndra, for example) expect much higher failure rates. Richard Stuebi, who advises VCs on expected green energy failure rates, says that just 3 in 10 successes represents a successful VC investment strategy. That is 70% losers – not 1.4%.
The argument against “picking winners and losers” that Republicans in congress have long cited to avoid clean energy investment got a poster boy in Solyndra, and they are flogging it to death. They have pounced on one startup bankruptcy as yet another excuse to shut down all clean energy investment by the Democrats.
Republicans argue that “government should not pick winners and losers” because “the invisible hand of the marketplace” should be allowed to (continue to) decide the winners and losers in energy supplies. It is no coincidence that the invisible hand favors the dirty energy lobby that funds their seats in congress.
The market will pick dirty energy because it is cheaper (for now) since it is already in place, and the capital costs have been absorbed, and it did not pay a dime for the pollution it caused. All the market knew was that it was cheap. But the market did not know that in fact there will be a much larger payment due for that cheap dirty energy.
The market thus conspires with their dirty energy benefactors. Dirty energy has been successful in avoiding paying for the pollution it has already caused, because it made us pay for it instead, at the emergency room, every year: For example, the “230,000 premature deaths, 200,000 cases of heart attacks, 2.4 million cases of asthma attacks, 120,000 emergency room visits, and 5.4 million lost school days" is just the portion prevented annually by the Clean Air Act. And dirty energy will similarly not pay for the future costs that we will bear, with the effects of climate change.
The Department of Energy had hired a clean tech VC to help with picking winners, while the Recovery Act had Department of Energy investment dollars for investing in getting clean energy costs down. He has just left, as there will be no more need for expertise in picking winners. The program ended on September 30th.
The renewable energy loan guarantee program that invested in Solyndra, as part of a historic investment resulting in 16,000 megawatts of clean energy coming online under the Democrats’ brief Recovery Act, could have been renewed when it expired at the end of September. But this Republican congress needs all the energy it can put together just to keep its lights on for each ensuing month.
Now Republicans have shut down the Democrats’ pick – a historic investment in clean energy – rivaling the Manhattan Project, and we will stick with their pick: dirty energy.
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 02:32 PM PDT
White roofs have been promoted as a simple, easy, “soft geoengineering” solution to help combat global warming for awhile now. It’s gotten the strong backing of former president Bill Clinton and current Energy Secretary Steven Chu. I thought this was a rather obvious solution we should adopt — reflect more back into space with lighter roofs. Many thought is was a good idea.
However, new research has flipped this white roofs solution into a potential global warming problem (showing that even the simplest geoengineering solutions may have side-effects we didn’t think up from the start). The study, led by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, found:
Now, one thing Jacobson’s team didn’t include in the study was how much white roofs reduced demand for electricity (and, thus, burning of fossil fuels). Of course, white roofs would also mean a house in a cold climate would need more heating in winter, but it’s not clear which way the benefit is stronger.
In Jacobson’s words: “There does not seem to be a benefit from investing in white roofs…. The most important thing is to reduce emissions of the pollutants that contribute to global warming.”
Solar PV Panels Help (in Multiple Ways)
Aside from using sunlight instead of fossil fuels to create electricity, they shade one’s house (helpful in warmer climate, at least), and they don’t reflect sunlight back into the air like white roofs do.
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:24 AM PDT
Throughout history, the development and control of energy has been simultaneous with the growth of civilization. The control of primary energy sources has also been a source of political power by a few. Initially, it may have been found in human power, and the control of slaves granted that political power. For England, to control the seas, they needed to control the wind, which they did with their ships. Later, it was coal cartels and, more recently, it has been petroleum.
Here is an amusing but related view of energy history seen through the eyes of transportation, as an alternative trailer to the “Revenge of the Electric Car” being released in selected theaters today:
Primary source: Solar Thermal Magazine
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 10:08 AM PDT
Providing a detour for organic waste on its way to the landfill can provide a cornucopia to harvest.
That's exactly what Paul Sellew set out to accomplish. A few years ago, he saw an extraordinary option in converting organic waste into a series of viable products. He opted to divert organic waste from what had been the standard waste stream approach that fed organic trash like leaves, grass, food and animal waste to landfills, and manufacture revenue-generating products. As a result, Sellew and Nathan Gilliland founded Harvest Power in 2008 and set up shop in Waltham, MA.
Now, little more than three years after launching, Harvest Power will generate almost $100 million in revenue from the products and services it provides. The product list includes soil, mulch, and fertilizer that have been derived from organic waste for replenishing the soil. Add methane to the list of products, a dangerous greenhouse gas that provides a sustainable clean energy source when properly managed.
"We are a business that manages organic materials," Sellew says with a matter-of-fact tone. He is no stranger to the organics business. In 1982 he founded Earthgro, Inc., which became the second largest producer of compost-based lawn and garden products in North America.
Unlike his days at Earthgro, Harvest Power doesn't just build large compost piles; it manages the organic waste it hauls by initially feeding it through an airtight anaerobic digestion facility. Here, microbes that exist without air begin to create a digestate that can generate methane gas, which in turn, can be used to generate fire and electricity.
"The great thing about anaerobic digestion," observes Sellew, "is nutrients in, nutrients out. Anaerobic digestion is clearly the leading technology."
This motion graphic on You Tube offers a very good explanation about how Harvest Power's anaerobic digestion process functions.
While some large landfill operators – such as Waste Management – already operate waste-to-energy facilities that produce electricity and liquid natural gas, none to date have approached organics quite the way Harvest Power does, by removing valuable assets from the landfill instead of leaving them there.
The Harvest Power website offers this assessment about the organic waste stream it manages how it approaches the idea of sustainable solution: "By harnessing the carbon, energy, and nutrient value in organic materials, we provide sustainable solutions."
We all need plenty more of these simple innovations that lead to sustainable solutions.
Photos: Harvest Power
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 08:09 AM PDT
A really interesting part of this year’s Solar Power International conference was a roundtable of 7 utility company CEOs (starts about 18 and a half minutes into the video). I watched most of the discussion 3 times (while doing other things, of course). These are not just solar industry cheerleaders, but they know our electricity system about as well as anybody and are leaders in their arena. So, it was really interesting to watch them speak for over an hour on solar power.
The executives included:
These are some points (good and bad) that stood out to me:
At the end of the discussion, the moderator gave them all an opportunity to say the one thing they would like to have that would help them put more solar up. Answers were:
Image Credit: Solar Power International 2011
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 06:52 AM PDT
As auto manufacturers have done in recent decades, power inverter designers and manufacturers are increasingly using semiconductors and digital, solid state electronics rather than traditional electronic components to design and build power inverters, and they’re incorporating them into solar power modules themselves. They’re also redesigning the wiring and architecture of solar power arrays to increase system performance and efficiencies, as well as make it easier and less costly to install solar power systems capable of reliably supplying grid-ready, commercial-grade electricity.
Based in Sunnyvale, California, ArrayPower is one of a number of power inverter designer/manufacturers that’s taken advantage of Solar Power International (SPI) 2011 in Dallas this week to launch new product lines.
In ArrayPower’s case, that includes launching the ArrayPower Sequenced Inverter, as well as the start-up coming out of Silicon Valley “stealth mode.” Its Sequenced Inverter is the first in the world that reliably converts DC power to grid-ready, commercial-grade, three-phase sequenced AC, according to the company.
A Quintessential Silicon Valley Start-Up
The Antenna Group’s Tomi Maxted and Kimberly Setliff organized a Skype video interview for Clean Technica with ArrayPower CEO Wendy Arienzo and director of business development Nick Cravalho.
The creation of ArrayPower is the quintessential story of a Silicon Valley start-up as Ms. Arienzo describes it. Founded in 2008, the company’s origins go back to a Silicon Valley garage where a group of inventors with expertise in solar and power electronics and semiconductor technology joined in an effort “to perfect a completely novel approach to solar power conversion.”
Successful in their initial efforts, the company’s founders were able to attract seed capital from venture capital firms and attracted the interest of a California manufacturer of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, one of the top 10 in the world. Arienzo and Cravalho left us guessing as to exactly which company this might, as they were unable to disclose the name.
* Image courtesy of ArrayPower
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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 06:40 AM PDT
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently launched WindTV, “a site dedicated to showcasing video profiles of Americans whose lives have been positively affected by the wind industry.” Each week, a different video profile will featured.
"The wind industry is a tremendous American success story,” said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. "Wind power is creating a new American manufacturing sector and jumpstarting rural economic development. But like every industry, wind energy is ultimately about individuals. These videos will help put names and faces on the $10 to $20 billion wind invests in the U.S. economy each year as well as the 75,000 U.S. wind energy jobs at more than 400 factories in 42 states."
The first profile is of an Iowa farmer, Tim Hemphill, who’s now making money farming wind. "Leasing land to wind power helps keep our family farm in the black," Hemphill states.
Wind energy has generated 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in Iowa. And Tim is not the only one benefiting from wind energy’s growth.
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