Monthly Archives: October 2012

BYD Stalled Despite Japanese Carmakers’ Woes in China

Doug Young BYD's G3 at the Shenzen High -Tech Fair in 2009.  BYD needs more exciting new products to thrive despite Chinese buyers spurning Japanese auto brands. Photo credit: Brücke-Osteuropa. The prognosis isn't looking good for Japanese car brands in China, with Honda (Tokyo: 7267) becoming the latest predictor that the gloom plaguing Japan's big 3 automakers could last into next spring and perhaps even longer. That looks like bad news for not only Honda, Toyota (Tokyo: 7203) and Nissan (Tokyo: 7201), but also their Chinese...

Flux Powers into Battery Management

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Proper electric and thermal management of advanced battery packs is imperative.  During operation, voltage and temperature differences in the battery cells can lead to electrical imbalances and decrease system performance.  A good battery management system can ensure strong power delivery and extend battery life.  Dozens of battery management systems have cropped up to fill this need for the lithium ion batteries used in new electric vehicles and alternative energy applications.  The highly populated field has not intimidated the newest competitor, Flux Power Holdings, Inc. (FLUX:  OTC/BB). Flux is a 2008 spin-off of...

Amyris: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 5885 Hollis Street, Emeryville, CA Year founded: 2003 Annual Revenues: $38 billion (DuPont overall for 2011) $1.2 billon (Industrial Biosciences unit for 2011) Company description: Amyris is an integrated renewable chemicals and fuels company founded in 2003 and based in Emeryville, CA, with additional operations in Chicago, IL and Campinas, Brazil. Amyris has over 400 employees, with three-quarters of its employees located in the United States. Amyris subsidiaries include Amyris Brasil Ltda., a wholly-owned Brazilian company through which Amyris conducts its Brazilian operations for the manufacture and...

Solazyme: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Year founded: 2003 Annual Revenues: $38 billion (DuPont overall for 2011) $1.2 billon (Industrial Biosciences unit for 2011) Company description: Solazyme, Inc. is a renewable oil and bioproducts company that transforms a range of low-cost plant-based sugars into high-value oils. Headquartered in South San Francisco, Solazyme’s renewable products can replace or enhance oils derived from the world’s three existing sources – petroleum, plants and animal fats. Initially, Solazyme is focused on commercializing its products into three target markets: (1) fuels and chemicals, (2) nutrition and (3) skin and personal...

Altair Nano: Advanced Battery Sellout

by Debra Fiakas CFA Advanced battery developers have not had an easy time of it in recent years, or at any time for that matter.  There have been three bankruptcy declarations this year alone.  Ener1 and A123 Systems (AONE:  OTC/PK) were rescued by deep-pocketed buyers, who scooped up technology, contracts and relationships.  In this second post in the series we look at another advanced battery sellout. Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI:  Nasdaq) has managed to avoid court rooms.  However, it did have to put itself up on the block, selling a majority of its...

The Battle For the Heart of Suntech

Doug Young Dr. Zhengrong Shi Suntech Founder, Chairman and CSO.  Photo credit: Suntech Solar panel maker LDK (NYSE: LDK) started its long march to a takeover by the state with a major stake sale this week, but the equally cash-starved Suntech (NYSE: STP) looks like it may put up a bigger fight to maintain its independence. What's happening at Suntech comes down to a single word: Pride. The latest twist at Suntech also has broader implications, as the kind of pride we're seeing...

Siemens Bows Out of Solar, Announces Renewed Focus on Wind and Hydro Power

Vince Font Siemiens wind turbines at the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm 4 km from Gunfleet Sand, Essex, Great Britain. Siemens AG is selling its solar business, and will focus its renewable energy efforts on hydro power and wind energy.  Siemens is an established “clear market leader for offshore wind power” according to Managing Board member Michael Süß.  Photo credit: Ashley Dace Citing slow growth, low profit and high cost, Siemens AG (NYSE:SI) announced that it would be selling its solar energy business as part of...

Dupont Industrial Biosciences: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 1007 North Market Street Wilmington, DE 19898 Year founded: DuPont: 1802 DuPont Industrial Biosciences: 2011 Annual Revenues: $38 billion (DuPont overall for 2011) $1.2 billon (Industrial Biosciences unit for 2011) Company description: Last year, DuPont purchased Danisco and its Genencor unit and added their expertise into a new unit: DuPont Industrial Biosciences. This integration allows us to optimize DuPont’s bioscience technology and commercialization capabilities with Genencor’s biofuel enzyme technology. DuPont is committed to being a part of the solution to develop renewably sourced biofuels. For...

Last Battery Developer Standing

by Debra Fiakas CFA Advanced battery producer A123 Systems, Inc. (AONE: Nasdaq) has flamed out, with the cinders of its lithium ion technologies snapped up by Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI:  NYSE).  Much has been written in the financial press over the past few weeks about the fate of A123 and the next step by Johnson Controls.  What is more, because A123 had received government loan assistance, the political pundits have taken advantage of the company’s embarrassment to make their case for or against government in general and public alternative energy investment in particular. What really has me...

Codexis: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 200 Penobscot Drive Redwood City, CA 94063 Year founded 2002 Annual Revenues: $107 million (2010) Company description: Codexis serves major worldwide markets where clean technology can make a positive economic and environmental impact. Codexis CodeEvolver ™ directed evolution technology accelerates development of high value sustainable products. Our focus is on the cost-effective conversion of renewable resources into transportation fuels, pharmaceuticals and biobased chemicals, and on the development of new technologies for effective air and water treatment. Stock: CDXS; NasdaqGS Type of Technology(ies): Directed evolution – CodeEvolver™ directed evolution...

LDK Sells 16.6% of Company in Chinese State Bailout

Doug Young The nascent state-led bailout of China's struggling solar industry has taken another step forward with word that LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK) has just sold a big chunk of itself to a partly state-owned consortium for enough cash to perhaps fund its operations for another month or 2. This new rescue package values LDK at just $140 million, which is probably still too high a figure for one of China's weakest solar panel makers in an industry where everyone losing big money due to a huge supply glut. Let's take a closer look at this latest announcement...

Big Biofuel Balance Sheets: A Stampede of Elephants

Jim Lane Elephant herd running photo via Bigstock 28 big balance sheets deploying capital into commercial-scale advanced biofuels. Who’s writing the checks, and for what, and when? It’s become an article of faith among the unenlightened that advanced biofuels are always five years away, and the chief investors are the US Department of Energy and a gaggle of key Obama campaign donors. The Wall Street Journal, last December, opined: “Congress subsidized a product that didn’t exist, mandated its purchase though it still didn’t exist,...

How Grid Parity (Among Other Fallacies) Almost Killed The Solar Industry…

...and why it will survive. Paula Mints The photovoltaic industry is currently in a state of extreme contraction brought about by overbuilding, which was brought about by the belief that the feed-in tariff incentive model would continue expanding from region to region and which was exacerbated by decades of fighting for profits and incentives in a world that largely considered the PV industry either a science experiment or the lifestyle choice of hippies. The current infighting has made enemies of colleagues. Artificially low prices have encouraged governments to believe that enough progress has been made,...

Solar REITs: A Better Way to Invest in Solar

Tom Konrad CFA The last day for a solar developer to submit an application for the Treasury’s 1603 grant program was September 30th, and only for grandfathered solar projects which broke ground before the end of 2011. Solar panel prices have continued to drop this year, but solar project development remains a capital-intensive business.  The 1603 program allowed solar developers to monetize the solar investment tax credit (ITC) much more quickly than they could otherwise, and this essentially reduced their cost of capital.  As the rush of projects begun before the end of 2011 are completed, developers are looking...

Bankruptcies (A123,Satcon) and Life After (Solyndra): The Week In Cleantech, 10-19-2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad October 14: Is a Heating Oil Crisis Coming? Heating Oil Furnace.  Photo by Tom Konrad “People still use heating oil?” Those were the words said to me by a friend of mine who's spent 41 of his 45 years on earth in Southern California. To be honest, I'm not sure he's ever even seen an oil delivery truck. But here in the Northeast, there are still plenty of folks that rely on heating oil. Particularly those living in older homes in the cities,...

China Speeds Up Solar Lifeline

Doug Young Solar Lifeline image via Bigstock A new Chinese media report shows that after more than a year of talk, Beijing is finally turning its aggressive talk on solar energy into action by more than doubling its approval of new solar power plants this year. The main question now is: Will any of its struggling solar panel makers survive long enough to enjoy the expected boom in business when some of these new plants start to get built. Of course industry watchers will know the answer is...