Monthly Archives: April 2009

Our Undiversified Wind Portfolio

Wind advocates like to say "The wind's always blowing somewhere" to counter concerns about the variability of wind power.  This is true, and it means that wind can always be relied on to produce some power, but that does not mean that wind can always meet demand.  In the United States' Great Plains wind belt, wind is typically anticorrelated with demand, meaning that, unless we can shift demand to times when the wind is strong, either through time of use rates or demand planning, overall energy production from wind will not be able to exceed 25-35% of overall demand...

Keep Up With AltEnergyStocks.com On Twitter!

Dear Readers, You can now keep up with AltEnergyStocks.com on Twitter by visiting our Twitter page. We will post updates when we blog as well as other useful info about what we're up to and relevant news stories. Be sure to check us out! All the best, The AltEnergyStocks.com Team

Plug-in Vehicle Hucksters are Doing P.T. Barnum Proud

David Hannum was right! There's a sucker born every minute and they're all waiting with bated breath for the low-cost plug-in electric vehicles that are coming soon to a dealership near you; if they're not quietly cancelled first. It's the most insidiously appealing idea of our age: replace those nasty gasoline burning engines with cheap batteries that recharge in minutes and save a fortune on fuel while you "See the USA in Your Chevrolet." It's so appealing in fact that it ranks right up there with free lunch. P.T. Barnum would have been proud. ...

The Obama Effect: Is Clean Energy Outperforming?

A comparison of the charts for clean energy ETFs and broader market ETFs seems to show that, clean energy funds have, if anything, underperformed the market as a whole in recent months.  Nevertheless, the quarterly performance update for my 10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2009 showed my picks strongly outperforming the market, although the much riskier 10 Clean Energy Gambles was only performing in-line with the sector indices. It's unlikely that my picks are due to stock picking skill.  My personal experience has shown that I'm much better at picking sectors than individual stocks: my strength is in spotting...

White House Report: GM Volt is Not Ready for Prime Time

In it's March 30, 2009 summary determination that GM had failed to propose a viable bankruptcy alternative, the President's auto industry task force said:"GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, "green" powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable." This extraordinary conclusion has been public for weeks but I've not seen it...

The Obama High-Speed Rail Strategy: What Will Happen When The Steel Meets The Track?

Over the past few weeks, John Petersen has written a number of very insightful articles on the energy storage space, with a particular focus on automotive applications. To be sure, this sector has gotten a lot more exciting since Obama's election, with real dollar commitments coming from the government and even tangible signs that certain technologies are moving into the mainstream. It is fair to say that, on the back of explicit state support, batteries and smart grid have dethroned solar as the new "hot" thing in alt energy/cleantech. Equally exciting in my view is the...

Letter to the Editor: Advantages of CLFR

                We appreciate AltEnergyStocks.com’s coverage of the CSP industry with its recent article, The Future Shape of CSP.  Unfortunately, the article fails to recognize that compact linear Fresnel reflector (CLFR) companies like Ausra are making tremendous progress in advancing the technology and creating new and diverse market segments for CSP.                   CLFR is already on a path to being commercially demonstrated in the U.S., as well as in Australia and Southern Europe.  In fact, Ausra recently commissioned the first major solar thermal power plant to be built in California in nearly two decades and developed...

A Very Smart Plan for Federal Smart Grid Grants

In mid-February President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), a massive spending bill that spawned gigabytes of analysis and comment from bloggers like me. Unlike many, I've tried to stay politically agnostic and focus solely on the economic impact of ARRA on companies that manufacture batteries and other energy storage devices. From that limited perspective, everything is wonderful! The principal energy storage appropriations included in the ARRA were: $4,500,000,000 for grants for “Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability” including activities to modernize the electric grid, include demand response equipment, enhance security...

Bragawatts

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. When Solaren announced they are seeking PUC approval for a power purchase agreement (PPA) with PG&E (NYSE:PCG) for solar power from outer space, I wasn't too surprised.   California utilities signing deals for large solar projects which quite likely may never be built is something of an industry trend.  At a Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) conference last fall, John White, the Executive Director of Cleanpower.org, said that competitive solicitations for power supplies in California are becoming a sideshow, and that the "Process lacks credibility among the most serious and qualified developers."  Rainier Aringhoff, the president of one...

The Time is Right for Gas-guzzler to Dual-mode EV Conversions

Since early 2008, Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) has been quietly developing an experience base and building grass roots support for a gas-guzzler to dual-mode EV conversion initiative that has the short-term potential to transform up to 120 million gas-guzzling pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans into gas sipping EV-50s. If recent articles from sources as diverse as The Daily Green, Edmunds Green Car Advisor and the Environmental Defense Fund are reliable indicators, the initiative is rapidly gaining ground. The concept is simple – add electric power trains and battery packs to America's least fuel-efficient vehicles and give...

The Future Shape of CSP

Parabolic Troughs have dominated Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) until recently, but several companies are vying to replace them. Will the upstarts succeed, or will incumbency and improvements to trough technology ward off the competition? Dr. Arnold Leitner, CEO of Skyfuel, Inc., thinks the battle for dominance of CSP will be "winner-take-all." The technology which can deliver power when it is needed at a reasonable price should triumph. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies are rapidly producing price reductions, and can be used almost anywhere, but only produce power when the sun is shining. In contrast, CSP is still cheaper than PV enables...

Congratulating Axion and Exide

Yesterday Axion Power International (AXWP.OB) announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Exide Technologies (XIDE) following fourteen months of negotiation and technical investigation. This alliance could prove to be a sea-change event for the domestic battery industry. Copies of the press release and an archived version of the subsequent investor conference call are available on Axion's website. As a former chairman of Axion's board of directors and a very substantial Axion stockholder, I've been waiting for an agreement like this for a very long time. I'm delighted to see confirmation from Exide that my faith in...

3 Month Performance Update: Ten Green Energy Gambles for 2009

This year, I published a list of 10 clean energy stocks I thought people should buy, and, because of readers' requests, also published a list of ten speculative clean energy companies.  For the most part, these speculative companies were chosen because they have compelling technology or manufacturing capability, but were not profitable or were only marginally profitable, and they had been beaten up because they would likely all need to raise money this year. That means that if the financial crisis eases quickly, these companies should be able to raise money on favorable terms.  If the crisis continues or...

Lead-acid Batteries and How Cheap Beat Cool at Google

On April 1st CNET News published a story about a previously secret technology that Google (GOOG) has patented and implemented system-wide. The technology, which Ben Jai of Google reportedly described as their "Manhattan Project," builds a 12-volt battery into each server to provide backup power. The point that fascinates me is Google's choice of small format valve regulated lead-acid batteries to keep its servers running. When an ultra-sophisticated company like Google picks cheap over cool for a mission critical function, I think it speaks volumes about the future direction of the energy storage industry. Stephen Shankland of...

Why CSP Should Not Try to be Coal

Joe Romm, at the influential Climate Progress blog, has hit on a formula for countering the coal industry's claims that we need baseload power sources.  Since Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) in conjunction with thermal storage can be used to generate 24/7 or baseload power Joe has renamed it "Solar Baseload."   This is win-the-battle-lose-the-war thinking.  While it does neatly counter the argument we need coal or nuclear, since there are renewable power sources which can produce baseload, such as CSP, Geothermal, and Biomass.  I fell into this coal-industry trap myself in a 2007 article about Geothermal, as did AltEnergyStocks...

Congratulating Chrysler and A123 Systems

On April 6th, Chrysler LLC announced the creation of a strategic alliance whereby A123 Systems, Inc. will become a primary battery supplier for Chrysler's planned line of plug-in electric vehicles. This is a huge step toward rebuilding America's domestic battery manufacturing infrastructure and both companies should be congratulated. The next steps I see in my murky crystal ball are finalization of A123's pending IPO coupled with an announcement that A123's $1.8 billion loan request under the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program has been approved. If the foundation has been properly laid, it will all come together very quickly....