Monthly Archives: May 2009

Why Advanced Lead-Acid Batteries Will Dominate the HEV Markets

My last article, "The Obama Fast Track for HEVs" graphically highlighted some critical cost issues that I've been writing about for several months and was surprisingly popular with readers. After responding to numerous comments and considering the gaps in that article, I believe a follow-on article is appropriate to provide additional color, put a finer point on the differences between advanced lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries and try to relate those differences to the rapidly evolving HEV markets. As I explained last week and in a November 2008 article titled "Alternative Energy Storage; Lithium, Lead or Both?"...

Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio Update: Oops!

My Quick Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio has solidly outperformed its benchmark... was it bad design? Tom Konrad, Ph.D. On February 27, I used the top holdings of the (then six) clean energy mutual funds to design a tracking portfolio intended to replicate the performance of those funds at much lower cost.  If my methodology was sound, the tracking portfolio should produce returns within the range of returns of the mutual funds on which it was based. If all went well, the returns would be at the upper end of that range because of the way I chose to emphasize...

Doing Solar Incentives Right

Different solar incentives encourage different types and locations of solar installations.  Better solar installations will result if we first decide what we want from solar, and then choose the solar incentives we use to match. Tom Konrad, Ph.D. Choosing Carefully This article is based on a presentation I gave at Solar 2009 .  As with wind, the current incentives for Solar photovoltaics are good for encouraging more solar, but they are less effective at encouraging better solar.  Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison and Jigar Shah Consulting, told the audience that they should be very careful in calling...

Not All Alt Energy ETFs Were Created Equal

Charles Morand A few months ago, I conducted analyses of the wind and solar power ETFs. I've recently turned my attention to the general alternative energy ETFs, or those that span several sectors. The general alt energy ETFs fall into two categories: 1) US Only and 2) Global. The US Only ETFs are the First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge US Liquid (QCLN) and the PowerShares Clean Energy (PBW). The Global ETFs are the iShares S&P Global Clean Energy Index ETF (ICLN), the PowerShares Global Clean Energy Portfolio (PBD) and the Van Eck Global Alternative Energy Fund (GEX). The chart below shows...

From Solar 2009: Investment Opportunities in Solar Stocks: Solar Millennium (SMLNF.PK)

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. This is the third in a series of entries on opportunities in solar stocks, based on a panel at Solar 2009.  The the first article introduced the panelists, and took a look at the solar sector as a whole.  The second was about First Solar. Allen Goodman  on Solar Millennium (SMLNF.PK) "Project developers stand out because of their ability to have a relationship with the customer." Peter Lynch on Solar Millennium (SMLNF.PK) "I liked Solar Millennium before it ran up to $90 last year, I liked it at $90, and I like it today at...

The Obama Fast Track for HEVs

John PetersenToday I'm going to begin with an apology because I've done a terrible job of describing the basics of hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technology for energy storage investors. Many of my earlier articles dove straight into the mind-numbing details of battery technology without first providing an overview of what those batteries will be used for. In other words I'm guilty of putting the cart before the horse. It's time for me to make amends. While the differences between HEV technologies have always been important to automobile manufacturers, the public's understanding of those differences is limited. That...

From Solar 2009: Removing The $2,000 ITC Cap

Charles MorandLike Tom, I attended part of the Solar 2009 conference last week. One of the most interesting presentations I heard was by Andy Black, CEO of OnGrid Solar, on the potential impact on residential solar installations of removing the $2,000 ITC limit (link to the actual paper). Prior to changes in October 2008, ITC tax credits for rooftop solar PV installations were capped at $2,000. In the author's own words: This paper presents revised and expanded financial analyses of residential cases . It will look at Internal Rate of Return (IRR) only (for simplicity of...

From Solar 2009: Investment Opportunities in Solar Stocks: First Solar (FSLR)

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. This continues a series of entries on opportunities in solar stocks, based on a panel at Solar 2009.  The first article introduced the panelists, and took a look at the solar sector as a whole.  The others focus on individual companies. Pradeep Haldar Investors remain bullish on thin film technologies such as CdTe (First Solar's technology.) CdTe currently has the lowest cost, but it may not have long term sustainability. Peter Lynch on First Solar (FSLR) If First Solar ever stumbles, gravity will take over. They could fall 50% in a day. They...

AAER: Tailwinds Or Hot Air?

Charles MorandLast week, I added a little to my position in AAER (AAERF.PK). I first took a long position in AAER, the Canadian-based MW-size wind turbine maker, over two years ago. I've since pared down it significantly, both because I wanted to take some profit after a meteoric rise in share price in Q4 2007 and later because of the company's seeming inability to get orders for more than a couple of turbines at a time. Although there was, before the credit crisis hit, a severe shortage of wind turbines and wind turbine components, barriers to...

Are Energy Storage Investors Chasing Their Tails?

John Petersen I didn't learn about normal bell shaped curves in kindergarten but I developed a pretty solid understanding of the concept by the second or third grade because at report-card time A's were worth a quarter, B's were worth a dime and C's had no value at all. By the time I reached college I was chasing the right hand tail of the bell curve on my own initiative. Law school and the competitive nature of my profession merely pushed my drive for the right hand tail up a notch. Old habits die hard, so I...

From Solar 2009: Investment Opportunities in Solar Stocks, Part 1

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. The last panel I attended at Solar 2009 focused on investment opportunities in Solar.  This is the first of several entries with ideas from the speakers.   They were: Allen Goodman, of ECG Consulting Group James Groelinger, of Bellegrove Associates J. Peter Lynch, of Salem Financial, Inc. Pradeep Haldar, Ph.D., MBA of the University at Albany Each had perspectives on the solar (mostly photovoltaic (PV) industry, and struck me as very knowledgeable in the field.  The caliber of the industry and investment knowledge on display impressed me, so I'll share with readers some of the...

GE Enters the Grid-based Energy Storage Business

John Petersen I've been writing about the rapidly evolving market for manufactured energy storage devices in grid-based applications since last August when I published Grid-based Energy Storage: Birth of a Giant. At the time, only a handful of smaller public companies were working on grid-based storage solutions including Maxwell Technologies (MXWL), Beacon Power (BCON), Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI), Active Power (ACPW) and Axion Power International (AXPW.OB). Last November, France's Saft Group (SGPEF.PK) announced a partnership with Switzerland's ABB Group (ABB) to develop and commercialize utility scale solutions. Yesterday, General Electric (GE) joined the fray when it announced plans to...

Smart DOE Battery Manufacturing Grants and Dilution For Dummies

John Petersen Last month I wrote about a very smart plan the DOE developed for $4.5 billion in smart grid grants authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("ARRA"). I was particularly impressed that the DOE's plan created a functional public-private partnership where grants would be available to companies that could raise matching funds from private sources, but would be denied to companies that could not attract substantial private sector funding. While I hoped a similar plan would be adopted for $2 billion in ARRA battery manufacturing grants, my research was hindered by a broken link...

Storage: The Best Renewable Energy Integration Strategy?

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. In order to electrify transportation, well need batteries, with ultracapacitors and compressed air playing supporting roles.  Based on cost, John has been making the case that the batteries for economical cars are more likely to be advanced lead-acid (PbA) than the media darling, Lithium-ion (Li-ion.)  I generally agree, especially since recycling Li-ion batteries is an expensive and difficult process, although I see a future where both cars and oil are simply more expensive, and we have far fewer of them. But transportation is only one application for energy storage...

Why the Financial Crisis is like Energy Inefficiency

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. I have a regular column called Greener Money in Smart Energy Living Magazine.  The Spring issue just printed, and I'd like to highlight this column, because it discusses ideas I have not written about elsewhere.  The column begins: As people become more aware of how we use energy, many become amazed and appalled at the sheer waste of it.  Why are homes built without attention to insulation and sealing that would not only make them more comfortable, but also mean they cost less to live in, even with the slightly larger mortgage payments?  Why do...

DOE Energy Storage Subsidies: Heavenly Grants and Hellish Loans

Much of the buzz in the energy storage sector is focused on DOE administered subsidy programs and what they will mean for investors in smaller public companies. The buzz began when Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 ("EPACT") authorized $2 billion in loan guarantees for innovative energy technologies. It ramped up rapidly when the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 authorized another $2.5 billion in loan guarantees under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing ("ATVM") program. It reached a crescendo when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("ARRA") authorized $7 billion in smart grid,...