Monthly Archives: December 2010

A New Solar Fuel to the Rescue?

Cerium - an oil saviour? Eamon Keene Making fuel from solar energy is the holy grail of the renewable industry. In 2008, David Nocera, an energy professor from MIT, gushed about a "major discovery" which would unleash a solar revolution. The MIT press reported on a "simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy". Ostensibly this was a way to split water to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen and each house would have its own solar panel, which would mean that "electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a...

Why Energy Storage Investors Must Understand Newton’s Laws

John Petersen Vinod Khosla, the founder of Sun Microsystems and an icon of cleantech venture capital investing, is famous for bluntly telling audiences that "Economics matters, NOTHING that defies the law of economic gravity can scale." This principle is a simple yet self-evident adaptation of Newton's law gravitation to the human condition. An equally self-evident characteristic of the human condition is explained by Newton's laws of motion, which state: First, that a body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion with a constant velocity, unless acted upon...

Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2010: The Year in Review

Tom Konrad CFA My ten annual stock picks have outperformed their clean energy benchmark for the third year running. Each year, I publish a list of ten renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cleantech stocks that I feel will outperform their peers in the coming year.  In both 2008 and 2009, my picks have beaten their industry benchmark, the PowerShares Wilderhill Clean Energy ETF (PBW), the most widely held industry ETF and the one that I recommend for making short-term bets on the clean energy industry.  The 2010 list is here. This year has been an interesting...

Why Cheap Will Beat Cool During The Next Decade Of Vehicle Electrification

John Petersen Last Friday I received my copy of the presentations from September's European Lead Battery Conference in Istanbul. Most of the presentations were written for a technically astute audience and don't offer much in the way of concrete guidance for investors, but an overview presentation from Ricardo PLC, a global leader in engineering solutions for low carbon, fuel-efficient transportation, included three slides that merit serious investor consideration and show why I'm convinced cheap will beat cool for the next decade of vehicle electrification. I've posted a copy of the Ricardo presentation here. Technology Timeline The...

Ocean Power Technologies Deploying Wave Power Device

by Donna Salmons When we think of the ocean, it is often in the context of romantic travel and sand filled beaches. But the ocean, or more exactly the waves from the ocean, may soon be a source of power that a wave power device uses to create energy. At least that is the plan from Ocean Power Technologies . The Oregon Coast Project OPTT is planning to deploy its PowerBuoy project in 2011. The 150KW device, known as the PB150, is slated to be launched off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon....

Critical Energy Metals – A One Way Bet?

Global Technology Metals Eamon Keene The Department of Energy (DOE) released a report Wednesday which undertook a strategic review of the use of critical metals in the emerging clean energy space. "Critical Materials Strategy" is a 170 page report which provides a useful overview of the possible metal bottlenecks - and hence investment opportunities - in clean technologies. The investment thesis which can best benefit from shortages is called "Strategic Positioning". Developed by Patrick Wong, former CIO of Dacha Capital, this thesis "basically looks at parts/processes in the building of any product...

Solar Windows Coming But What Kind?

Dana Blankenhorn One thing any new industry needs to do is beware of its own hype. I still remember, almost 20 years ago now, sitting in on the launch of a tablet PC called Momenta. I was just then finishing a book for New Riders to be called “A Guide to Field Computing,” all about hand-held computers and terminals that could collect, transmit and calculate outside. I had reason to believe. But I didn't believe. Yes, they had big-time backing, big names in the executive suite. Yes, the press release was slick, glossy and over-sized. Yes, the shrimp...

Active Power – A Solid Investment Opportunity And A Valuable Object Lesson For Investors

John Petersen In December 2008 I went hunting for opportunities in the energy storage sector and selected six pure-play stocks that seemed seriously undervalued. I bought Enersys (ENS) at $6.00, Exide Technologies (XIDE) at $2.00 and Active Power (ACPW) at $0.26. While Enersys and Exide have been fabulous performers with appreciation to date of 442% and 397%, respectively, Active Power has been the runaway champion with appreciation to date of 923%. My other three picks have performed poorly. C&D Technologies (CHHP.PK) is down 96% and finalizing a restructuring that will give 95% of its equity to...

Chinese wind power company seems to understand American political capitalism

by Michael Giberson American University’s Investigative Journalism Workshop has published reports detailing the extensive political connections in the United States developed by Chinese wind power company A-Power Energy (APWR) in its effort to build a 600-MW wind farm in West Texas. A-Power (APWR) and their Chinese and American partners were seeking $450 million in section 1603 grants and U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees to help fund the project. New York senator Charles Schumer objected to the idea that stimulus funds would flow to Chinese workers and sought to block the project’s access to the funds. A-Power chose to fight...

Rare Earth Element Shortages Threaten Global Wind Power Development

by Kidela Capital Group In spite of the recent global economic slowdown, the growth of new wind energy developments has so far continued unabated. Wind turbine technology has evolved considerably in the last decade, and new wind farms are steadily popping up across the globe. To meet rising demand for renewable, clean sources of energy, the push for more efficient wind energy technologies has moved from a proverbial light breeze just a few years ago, to a steady gale today. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) recently predicted that the world’s wind power capacity will increase by...

Nuclear Stocks: Too Hot for an Eco Portfolio?

Guest Author Nuclear energy is not the “bad boy” it once was For many years, nuclear energy was labelled as a potential threat to the environment as well as the global population.  Interestingly enough, the memories of the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are now distant and the perspective of nuclear energy is changing in positive fashion.  The growing worries created by the ballooning demands on the world’s energy sources, an increase in the competition for energy supplies, rising concerns regarding global warming, and the volatility of the gas and oil prices are reasons that...

Is Lithium-ion A Dead-End Electric Drive Technology?

John Petersen Last week Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun. After watching the video presentation several times I can't help but wonder whether the Secretary didn't politely caution his audience that lithium-ion batteries are a dead-end electric drive technology. I could be misinterpreting Secretary Chu's remarks, but if you own stock in a lithium-ion battery developer like A123 Systems (AONE), Ener1 (HEV), Valence Technologies (VLNC) or Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTID), or are considering any of these companies for your portfolio, the discussion that starts 25 minutes into the following video could be...

The Best Clean and Renewable Energy ETFs

Tom Konrad CFA For short term holders, the Powershares Wilderhill Clean Energy ETF (PBW) is the best If cost is the most important factor, an individual investor without the time or expertise to build a clean energy stock portfolio should choose one of the clean energy Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).  I recently reversed my former stance, and now believe that cost should not be the only factor, because the evidence suggests that, in clean energy at least, the active management available from a mutual fund or an advisor who works with individual stocks can...

Kandi Technologies – An Intelligent Vehicle Electrification Plan

John Petersen The last thing regular readers expect from me is an article praising a vehicle electrification plan, but I've seen one that overcomes most of the problems I've been writing about for the last couple years and is simply too intelligent to ignore. It's a uniquely Chinese solution to their particular problems, which means it might not work in the U.S. or Europe, but the potential in the target market could be huge. Kandi Technologies (KNDI) has developed the "KD5010" a two-passenger electric vehicle for city dwellers that looks a lot like a stretched Smart Car....

How the Gabelli Green Growth Fund Got Its Five Stars

Tom Konrad, CFA An interview with John Segrich, CFA, portfolio manager at the the Gabelli Green Growth Fund (SRIGX). When I did my recent past performance comparison of clean energy mutual funds, I found that the Gabelli Green Growth Fund (SRIGX and SRICX) beat all its rivals by a long shot over the last three years, earning a coveted five-star rating from Morningstar.  In general, I'm a skeptic about short-term past performance: If you look at enough funds, sooner or later you'll find one that has had great performance by sheer luck.  Even when a few years'...

Structural and Electrical BOS Components for Solar PV

by Joseph McCabe, PE When investing in the solar industry always remember the old joke: Question: Do you know how to make a small fortune in solar? Answer: Start with a large one. There are exceptions to this rule, like when PowerLight was purchased by SunPower the PowerLight principles came away with valuable SPWRA stock options. Powerlight was a structural balance of systems (BOS) company. They had unique rooftop and single axis tracking structural technologies for photovoltaics (PV), and used that IP to win jobs with various PV module manufacturers, the lowest priced ones at any given time. ...