Monthly Archives: October 2011

Trick and Treat: Energy loans under review, as Hallowe’en looms

Jim Lane The Obama Administration got tricked, and handed out some bad energy loan candy. Turns out that the Washington press corps, and House Republicans, were asleep on the job, too. Until the money ran out, that is. We’re not sure if there’s been any more perfect timing for an Obama Administration announcement, than the news that it will start up an investigation of the DOE loan guarantee program just as Hallowe’en weekend got underway. Hallowe’en, is of course, the time of disguise, the celebration of the macabre, and the ghostly return of the...

Electric Vehicle and Lithium-ion Battery Investing For Imbeciles

John Petersen In their 1969 bestseller "The Peter Principle" Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull quoted a Latin-American student named Caesare Innocente who lamented, "Professor Peter, I'm afraid that what I want to know is not answered by all my studying. I don't know whether the world is run by smart men who are, how you Americans say, putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." After watching the events of the last few weeks, I think most of my regular readers would agree that the imbeciles are clearly steering the ship. Last March I went...

Obama Cleantech Stimulus: Bad Policy, Bad Politics and Bad for Cleantech

David Gold The Solyndra debacle is no surprise to this cleantech venture capitalist. The inherent conflict between trying to get money out of the U.S. Treasury as quickly as possible to stimulate the economy and, at the same time, have government agencies that are ill-suited at making business decisions do just that was nothing other than a recipe for disaster. Anytime a government program is giving money to the private sector with the intent of getting the money back, the program is doomed to failure.  Bureaucracies, politics and the lack of a profit motive simply...

The Pending Solar Apocalypse Not!

Garvin Jabusch The hysterics around recent solar industry announcements that in general profit margins are narrowing are, as usual with all things solar recently, completely overblown. "Is This A Death Spiral for Solar Companies?" might be my favorite histrionic headline. Artist's depiction of death spiral in binary star system J0806 with two white dwarfs destined to merge.  Image Source: NASA/Tod Strohmayer (GSFC)/Dana Berry (Chandra X-Ray Observatory)   Yes, narrowing margins are making life difficult for smaller, higher cost producers. But this is and has always been a standard part of the evolution...

Departure Of First Solar CEO Rob Gilette Another Sign Of Solar’s Troubles

Clean Energy Intel First Solar's Blythe Solar Farm under construction First Solar's (FSLR) stock price was hit hard yesterday, falling some 25%, as a result of the departure of CEO Rob Gilette. The stock has bounced today. However, the very volatile price action is simply a sign of the extreme nervousness and underlying weakness in the sector. A number or readers have questioned my stance of being uninvested in the solar sector during the recent Solyndra-related market turmoil. Since I see solar as being a significant part of the long-term clean energy solution, this does raise some contradictions. Consequently, let...

2012: Game on for 13 biofuels contenders

Jim Lane 13 companies knocking on the door of greatness – will they make the grade? 13 companies. 5 already public – eight filing for IPOs. In the first category, Codexis, Amyris, Gevo, Solazyme and KiOR. In the second category, PetroAlgae, Myriant, Ceres, Mascoma, Genomatica, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Fulcrum Bioenergy and OriginOil. They’ve shown what it takes to get to the threshold of great things – do they have the Right Stuff to succeed at scale? The public companies It’s been a good October for the newly public companies, after a miserable summer. Amyris...

Politics Likely to Continue to Cast Shadow Over Solar

by Clean Energy Intel Solar stocks have clearly been heavily affected by the political fall out following the Solyndra affair - and unfortunately the political debacle only looks likely to get worse. The Hill now reports that the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are deeply focused on attempting to prove that the Obama Administration broke the law in restructuring the $535m loan guarantee it had granted to Solyndra. Clearly, this is largely politically motivated and as such is only likely to remain so as we move deeper into the election season. However, from an...

Can the Geothermal Industry Overcome Challenges to Raising Capital?

By Jane Pater Salmon, Navigant Consulting Geothermal energy presents baseload clean energy at a lower cost than many other renewable energy alternatives. Despite this compelling value proposition, long development horizons and the risks associated with exploration and drilling activities present hurdles to developing the country's rich geothermal potential. Financing projects that use conventional geothermal technology remains challenging in the uncertain economic environment. In the past year, geothermal project developers used alternative strategies to overcome three common challenges to geothermal project finance. While the challenges for raising capital at the project level are consistent with those faced in...

The Dawn of the New Algae: cleaning up and enriching biofuels, with biofuels

Jim Lane Iowa algae and corn ethanol project points the way towards optimizing delivery of feed, fuel, carbon reduction. In our 10-part series, the Bioenergy Project of the Future, based on extensive interviews with industry leaders, we outlined what is expected to be the multi-product, multi-input structure of biofuels and biomaterials projects in the future. In step 1, we identified the acquisition of an existing first-generation ethanol plant as an appropriate base, because it had so many assets already in place, including a feedstock aggregation system, relations with growers and customers, rail lines, roads, water, power and so on. In...

Another Reality Check for EV Investors

John Petersen Earlier this month Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s Global Manufacturing Industry group rained all over the plug-in vehicle parade when they published the results of a survey of over 13,000 individuals in 17 countries that concluded: "The reality is that when consumers actual expectations for range, charge time, and purchase price (in every country around the world included in this study) are compared to the actual market offerings available today, no more than 2 to 4 percent of the population in any country would have their expectations met today based on a data analysis...

Nissan Keeping Options Open: BEVs, Hybrids and Cheaper Fuel Cells

by Clean Energy Intel Nissan Leaf (Left) & Landglider at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. Image source: Wikipedia / Tennen-Gas Nissan and its sister company Renault have clearly made a commitment to 'advanced-drive' autos. The facts speak for themselves:     Nissan put the Leaf on the streets in December of 2010 - the first mass-produced, battery electric vehicle. Sales reached 15,000 units worldwide by September of this year.     Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has said he expects sales of BEVs to make up 10% of the sales of new light-duty vehicles by 2020....

Occupy Wall Street and the Next Economy: Clamoring for Solutions

Garvin Jabusch The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS), now in its fourth week, is getting a lot of media attention. Opinions are divided. By and large, conservatives represent the protesters as 'a mob' (a notable exception is former governor of Louisiana and current GOP presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, who said on MSNBC that "politicians need to listen to these young people, it could change America"). Meanwhile, progressives view them as a justifiable, if not inevitable, reaction to the social inequity that results from a system rigged in favor of the ultra-wealthy. In their foundation document, the ...

Trade Like It’s 2008

Tom Konrad CFA Three stocks I sold recently, and why. Three years later, I'm still kicking myself that the severity of the 2008 financial crisis and stock market collapse took me by surprise.  Not that I wasn't in good company.  If a majority of investors had been prepared for the crisis, it would never have happened in the first place: The overpriced CDOs and other securities which were a large part of the cause would never have become overpriced.  But making excuses for past mistakes is not useful.  Learning from them...

Solar: Polysilicon Prices Accelerate To The Downside

by Clean Energy Intel In a further sign of the continue supply-demand imbalance in the solar sector, weekly data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that the spot price of polysilicon, the raw material used in most solar panels, accelerated to the downside last week, falling at the fastest pace since June. Prices of solar wafers and cells also continued their decline: 'The average selling price dropped 5.8 percent on the week to Oct. 10 to $43.78 per kilogram, according to the latest results from the London-based research firm’s survey of contracts conducted from Oct. 3 to...

Solar Verticals and “Balance of System” Valuations

Garvin Jabusch Tom Konrad has kindly provided an opportunity for me to contribute a response to his recent piece “Inverter Stocks: A Value BOS Play on Solar.” I’m grateful for the opportunity because it gives me the chance to discuss these stocks and along the way to clear up some misconceptions it seems may exist regarding Green Alpha’s portfolios and our vision of the next economy. Tom wrote, for example, that “Garvin... has been making the case that the solar sell off is irrational on this blog since...

Lithium-ion Battery Stocks: Investment Opportunities or Subsidized Laggards?

John Petersen I'm often critical of public lithium-ion battery manufacturers based on objective investment metrics including their financial condition, their results of operations, their potential markets and the fundamental soundness of their business plans, but I don't usually drill down into thornier issues like technical merit and business execution because those questions are out of my depth and in the words of Harry Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations." Every once in a while, however, organizations that are competent to evaluate those issues publish analytical reports that can help investors cut through the hype...