Monthly Archives: August 2009

Rarer Rare Earths Are Not Going To Sink The Wind Power Sector

Charles Morand Once the electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle frenzy fizzles out, as cleantech frenzies typically do when reality comes knocking (i.e. corn ethanol and solar PV), the next hot thing to hit the world of alternative energy investing could very well be rare earths, or the lack thereof. Rare earth metals are used in a number of technologies, most importantly for alt energy investors in NiMH HEV batteries and in permanent magnets for wind turbine generators and electric motors (made with the element neodymium). This article, as its name indicates, will focus on the wind sector. ...

PHEVs and EVs; Plugging Into a Lump of Coal

John Petersen Since I've stirred up a hornet's nest over the last two weeks first by debunking the mythology that PHEVs and EVs will save their owners money and then by showing how PHEVs and EVs will sabotage America's drive for energy independence, I figured I might as well go for the triple-crown of harsh realities by showing readers that in the U.S., where 70% of electricity comes from burning hydrocarbons, PHEVs and EVs won't make a dent in CO2 emissions. They'll just take distributed CO2 emissions off the roads and centralize them in coal and gas...

Vacation, Updated Graphs, and 2 Conferences

Vacation and Meet Me at the Colorado Renewable Energy Conference or the International Peak Oil Conference. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I'm on vacation this week, so I'm going to leave you with a preview from a presentation I will be giving at the Colorado Renewable Energy Conference on Aug 29 in Golden Colorado. I'm updating my Investing in Renewable Energy presentations, and I've been able to incorporate a lot of the work Charles and I did on clean energy mutual funds and ETFs since January this year. ETF Holdings Revealed Charles did some in-depth work...

How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America’s Drive For Energy Independence

John Petersen Yesterday I asked a frequent commenter and staunch electric vehicle advocate whether he ever questioned the ethics of building an EV that can save one owner 400 gallons of gas per year while using enough batteries to build ten Prius-class hybrids that could save their owners a combined total of 1,600 gallons of gas per year. I then spent an hour in stunned silence as the critical importance of that question crystallized in my mind. I didn't get a responsive answer from the commenter, but I did get one of those rare moments of clarity...

Supercycle Or Not, Expensive Oil Is Unavoidable

Charles Morand In an upcoming article in the journal Resources Policy, David Humphreys, former Chief Economist at Rio Tinto and Norilsk Nickel, argues that skeptics are right to question the notion that mineral prices in the 2003 to 2008 period were rapidly uptrending as part of an emerging multi-decade supercycle. He argues that the rise in demand underpinning steep mineral price increases had two distinct causes: (1) an "extended economic upswing" driven by an ample supply of cheap credit (we know now where that got us); and (2) a "deeper-rooted structural shift in the economy" resulting from...

A123 Keeps Powering Forward on its IPO

John Petersen A123 Systems filed another amendment to the registration statement for its proposed IPO on August 19th. With this amendment, A123 is much clearer on its anticipated Federal funding than it was in earlier filings. In addition to discussing the recent DOE announcement that they'll receive $249.1 million in ARRA battery manufacturing grants, they've reduced their estimate of the ATVM guaranteed loans that they'll be eligible for from $1 billion in their July filing to $235 million in the current filing. This most recent number is specific enough to indicate that it reflects ongoing negotiations rather than...

Debunking The PHEV Mythology

John Petersen This week has been fascinating because of three articles that found their way to my computer. The first was a thematic piece in McKinsey Quarterly titled "Profiting from the low-carbon economy" that included a carbon abatement cost graph which showed full hybrid automobiles (HEVs) offered CO2 abatement savings of roughly $50 per ton while plug-in hybrid automobiles (PHEVs) imposed CO2 abatement costs of roughly $20 per ton, or slightly more than a nuclear power plant. The second was GM's widely publicized announcement that the Volt would get 230 miles per gallon. The third was...

Biochar’s Likely Market Impacts

Biochar is still mostly a research and cottage industry, yet it has the potential to impact returns for a broad range of investors. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Biochar, or amending soil with biomass-derived carbon, shows great potential to improve the productivity of soils, as well as to increase the utilization of fertilizers by plants, while sequestering carbon to reduce the drivers of climate change.  On August 10, I went to the 2009 North American Biochar Conference to look at the potential for investors.  Before I went, I took a look at the publicly traded companies...

Western Lithium to Profit from Electric Car Stimulus

Jason HamlinThe lithium market is buzzing as GM, Nissan and other car manufacturers get set to roll out a new series of electric cars that will greatly increase demand for the obscure silver-white alkai metal. GM has announced plans to construct a $43 million plant in Michigan to build lithium-ion batteries for its Chevrolet Volt electric-powered car, which captured headlines with its claim of 230 miles per gallon. Adding to the lithium mania is Washington’s support in the form of $2 Billion in stimulus funding: “New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run...

NanoMarkets LLC Forecasts $8.3 Billion Annual Market For Smart Grid Batteries By 2016

In August of last year I wrote an article titled "Grid-based Energy Storage: Birth of a Giant." Over the last 12 months I've written a series of follow-on articles that discuss the principal classes of manufactured energy storage devices and the companies that are making or planning to make products for smart grid energy storage applications. My entire archive of articles on the energy storage sector is available here. One of the biggest problems I've encountered over the last year has been a dearth of reliable third party information that can help investors understand the breadth and...

Vinod Khosla on the Future of Lithium-ion Batteries

John Petersen On Monday of this week, the treehugger blog published a guest essay from Vinod Khosla that clarified his stance on the future of next generation lithium-ion batteries. The essay was prompted by "blog chatter" about an article in Earth2Tech where he was quoted as saying that lithium-ion batteries are overhyped. Since the Khosla essay included a link to my article "Why Lead-Carbon Batteries Will Deflate the Li-ion Bubble," I think it's important to tell readers that Mr. Khosla has written his own essay on the subject and encourage them...

The Performance Of Solar PV Systems

Aug 11-09 Solar PV Charles Morand A couple of weeks ago, I noted the importance of examining parameters other than module costs when gauging the economic competitiveness of solar PV energy. I noted how multiple factors influence the levelized cost of energy produced by solar PV systems, and thus its relative cost position on the grid. Nothing new here.   However, besides standard test conditions (STC) conversion efficiency, or nameplate conversion efficiency, public data on parameters other than cost per watt-peak is not always easy to come by. That's...

Why I’m Long Active Power

10.08.09 ACPW John Petersen This morning I awoke to a comment from Seeking Alpha contributor Michael Eisenberg who asked me to lay out my core thesis on why Active Power, Inc. (ACPW) merits attention from investors who are interested in the energy storage sector. While Altenergystocks and Seeking Alpha don't generally like to publish articles about companies that trade for under a dollar, I believe Active Power merits an exception to the general policies. As regular readers know, I've been a small company securities lawyer for almost...

Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List: Index and Bonus Picks

Index to the Clean Energy Shopping List Series, and a few Bonus Stocks. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I started my "Clean Energy Shopping List" series on the premise that the market was near a peak, and it would be better to wait than to buy now.  My market call turned out to be premature (or just plain wrong... time will tell) and the market has since advanced more than I thought it would.  But I feel the challenges facing our economy and financial system are too grave not to bring down the market from its current heights eventually, so...

President Obama Announces Battery Manufacturing Grant Awards

John Petersen During his address today at Navistar International's (NAV) facilities in Elkhart, Indiana, President Obama announced a total of $2 billion in ARRA battery manufacturing grants and another $400 million in Recovery Act awards for transportation electrification. The complete list of grant recipients, most of whom are private companies, is available here. The recipients of $1.25 billion in the primary class of grants for cell and battery manufacturing facilities are as follows: Johnson Controls JCI $299.2 Production of nickel-cobalt-metal battery cells and packs, as well as production of battery separators...

My ATVM Loan and ARRA Battery Grant Preview

John Petersen The next few days are going to be a very exciting time in the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors because the Obama Administration is preparing to announce a series of major ATVM Loan and ARRA Battery Manufacturing Grant awards. President Obama will be in Elkhart, Indiana where he will presumably announce an ATVM loan to Navistar (NAV) and may announce some additional ATVM loans or ARRA battery grants. Vice President Biden will be in Detroit where he is scheduled to announce one or more ARRA battery grants and perhaps some ATVM Loans. Secretary...