The Week in Cleantech Archives

Main


July 16, 2013

Two Weeks In Cleantech, July 2nd to July 16, 2013

Jeff Siegel

7/2/13: LDK Sells Shares

LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK) is down in pre-market this morning after announcing the sale of 25 million newly issued shares to Fulai Investments Limited for $1.03 per share with an aggregate purchase price of $25.75 million. LDK closed at $1.40 yesterday afternoon.

7/9/13: How High Can Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) Go?

  • First Energy Corp (NYSE:FE) has announced that it plans to deactivate two coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania by the end of the year. The reason? FE claims its weak power prices and the high cost of complying with stricter environmental rules. But let's face it, the primary culprit is dirt cheap natural gas, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The two coal-fired power plants that are about to be put out to pasture represent about ten percent of the company's total generating capacity. Interestingly, FE doesn't look like a bad deal right now. I like it below $36.00, particularly with that 6% dividend.
  • It looks like shorts might be getting squeezed again today on SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY). The stock is up a little more than one percent this morning, touching $41.50. If it crosses $42, we'll likely see a run up to around $46. Full disclosure: I currently own shares of SCTY.
  • Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) crossed $120 for the first time this week. In pre-market, it's now trading above $125. Will it keep heading north? We'll soon find out.

7/15/13: SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) Will Profit from China Announcement

China has announced that it plans to more than quadruple its solar capacity to 35 gigawatts by 2015. Folks, this is massive and should not be ignored. Particularly because China-based solar companies are so heavily reliant upon the actions of the Chinese government. From mind-boggling incentives and subsidies to mandated solar integration, the Middle Kingdom is doing everything it possibly can to keep its solar machine running.

Certainly this is good news for Chinese solar stocks. The major players here, like Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ), and JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO), are all up in early trading. But this is also good news for solar installers looking to keep those cheap panels rolling in. Certainly solar financing and leasing company SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) has a lot to gain from this, too. SCTY is also up in early trading, and actually crossed $44.40 in pre-market.

7/16/13: Siemens (NYSE:SI) Could Benefit from New Green Bonds

More good news for renewable energy supporters. This morning we learned that the European Investment Bank has issued an $848 million “green bond” which it will use to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Germany and France. I suspect that with the Germans getting so aggressive on offshore wind, Siemens (NYSE:SI) is likely to benefit from new projects getting financing through the “green bond.”

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

January 11, 2013

The Big Green Apples: The Week In Cleantech, Jan 11, 2013

Jeff Siegel

This Car gets 108 Miles per Gallon

Although it's little more than a compliance car (which is why it's only being sold in California), the electric Fiat 500e actually offers some pretty impressive fuel economy numbers.

The official EPA numbers indicate 108 MPGe. This makes it the most efficient highway car in the marketplace. The range clocks in at around 87 miles, so that means it probably gets anywhere from 60 to 90 miles, depending on driving style and conditions. With a level 2 charger, you can juice it up in about 4 hours.

I-wind

Although the patent was filed back in June, 2011, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) media machine kicked into gear last week as it began to spread the news of the company's new wind turbine.

The technology, which allows for the generation of electricity by converting heat energy, instead of rotational energy, offers on-demand power by way of stored wind energy.

According to the patent, the new generation system can reduce costs associated with natural variations in wind supply. As well, it can be used as a replacement for conventional energy storage systems.

Of course, this isn't Apple's first investment in renewable energy. You may remember last year when Apple filed plans with the North Carolina Utilities Commission to double the number of fuel cells the company operates at its Maiden data center.

These fuel cells, which are manufactured by Bloom Energy, use methane from a nearby landfill as a feedstock. Apple also owns and operates a 20 megawatt solar farm in North Carolina for the same data center. That solar farm, by the way, is the largest end-user-owned onsite solar array in the nation.

Mitsubishi Soleil

Mitsubishi Corp. has recently announced that it has acquired a 50 percent stake in a solar power plant in France. This particular power plant boasts a capacity of 55 megawatts, and has been operational since June.

Interestingly, this news comes around the same time we learn that France has doubled the production capacity target for solar. The government intends to offer more financial support to small solar farms that use European-made panels.

Although I'm always happy to see the solar sector get some love in the policy arena, I have little faith in the ability of the new French government to avoid continued fiscal hardships. New regulations and extremely high tax rates for the wealthy are likely to accomplish little more than chasing out those who provide employment for French workers.

Of course, I could be wrong. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I expect we'll see a nice little bump in solar installations in France this year.

The Big Green Apple

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a $1 billion Green Bank in an effort to further develop the state's clean energy economy.

Cuomo said the “Green Bank” would help lower capital costs and bring cleaner energy solutions to scale. He went on to say. . .

“The NY Green Bank leverages private capital in a fashion that mitigates investment risk, catalyzes market activity and lowers borrowing costs, in turn bringing down the prices paid by consumers. Through the use of bonding, loans and various credit enhancements, a Green Bank is a fiscally practical option in a time of severe budget conditions. The NY Green Bank is another forward-looking way for our state to lead on energy policy and improve our residents' economic prospects and quality of life. The benefits of early innovation will be tremendous, as we see states around the nation moving quickly to catalyze their clean and renewable energy sectors.”

Kudos to Cuomo for manning up on this one!

China and India Will Lead Global Solar Market Growth in 2013

In a recent note to investors, Deutsche Bank predicted the global solar market to rise 22 percent to 33.4 gigawatts this year as a result of increased investment in China and India.

Although declines are anticipated in Germany and Italy, those are expected to be offset by aggressive solar agendas elsewhere.

China is also moving forward to cut its idled wind farm capacity this year.

As you know, China's race to install wind turbines at such a rapid pace left many without connections to the grid due to lack of transmission and distribution. This, perhaps, was one of the worst cases of planning we've ever seen in this space.

However, China's State Grid Energy Research Institute claims that the rate of wind capacity still sitting idle could fall from over 20 percent to ten percent this year. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out over the course of the year.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.

January 04, 2013

Wind Industry Lifeline, SunPower's Buffett Deal: The Week In Cleantech, Jan 4, 2013

Jeff Siegel

PTC Extension

It looks like the wind power tax credits survived the fiscal cliff deal. But I wouldn't get too excited. The credit was extended only for an additional year. Which, as we see time and time again does not allow for any real, long-term commitment by developers or manufacturers.

Of course, I still don't believe subsides are the best way to transition our energy economy, anyway. The truth is, decades worth of subsidies in the energy markets has never allowed for a real free market to flourish. It's why prohibitively expensive nuclear power still exists in its current form and it's why you don't pay $8.00 for a gallon of 87 octane. If you did, we wouldn't need any form of tax credit to help sell electric cars. But that's another diatribe, for another day.

In the meantime, I am happy to know that the extension of the tax credit could end up saving as many as 37,000 jobs. I just hope they're keeping their resumes fresh for next year.

Editor note: The PTC's provisions were also changed so that projects under construction in 2013 can qualify.  This change also applies to geothermal projects.  More here.

Record German Solar Installations Despite Cuts

Despite cuts to solar subsidies in Germany, German developers added a record number of solar panels in the first 11 months of last year.

Installations resulting in more than 7,200 megawatts more than doubled that which was initially targeted by the government. This is a 62 percent gain over the previous year's numbers. For the full year of 2012, installations are expected to top 8,000 megawatts.

Cuomo Boosts Energy Efficiency in New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently issued an Executive Order that directs state agencies to increase the energy efficiency of state buildings by 20 percent. The goal must be met by 2020.

The Governor also launched a new program that will use state building energy data to prioritize projects that can deliver the greatest energy savings per dollar. Those buildings that are the largest and most inefficient will be among the first to undergo energy efficiency upgrades, such as new lighting fixtures and controls, HVAC systems, electric motors and automated energy management systems.

Sunpower (NASD:SPWR) Soars on Buffett Deal

It was announced January 2nd that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought two solar projects from SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) in a deal said to be worth about $2.5 billion.

This is great news for this particular domestic solar company. As CEO Tom Werner noted, the stamp of approval from a Buffett utility combined with expected cash flow from the projects will make SunPower more bankable and more credit worthy.

Of course SunPower continues to deal with very tight margins in a very competitive space. And although the Buffett deal is a feather in its cap, SunPower is still a bit risky for me. That being said, I wish nothing but success for SunPower. At the time of this writing, SPWR is up about 34%.

Hawaii Reduces Solar Subsidies

We recently learned that the state of Hawaii is about to see a 50 percent reduction in the state's solar tax credit.

Although I don't tend to be a fan of subsidies, in Hawaii, this is really a matter of economic security.

Bottom line: With nearly all of Hawaii's power coming from diesel generators, this is just an accident waiting to happen. And if you destroy the beaches, you destroy the economy. It's that simple.

Hawaii is a treasure among treasures, and lawmakers should be doing everything possible to rapidly decrease the island's reliance on imported oil. The climate is absolutely perfect for solar, wind and geothermal, as none of this needs to be shipped in. The islands are blessed with an abundance of these resources on a daily basis.

Insurer XL Refuses to Pay For Fisker's Sandy Losses

As a result of severe flooding during Superstorm Sandy, high-end extended range electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive lost 340 vehicles, estimated to be worth about $33 million.

The company followed up with its insurer, but word is, that insurer, XL Insurance, has denied Fisker's claim.

This is just one more headache in a long line of headaches for the automaker.

Fisker is now suing XL over the claim.

I'm not sure how this will all pan out, but certainly $33 million worth of damage to a startup electric car maker is nothing to sneeze at. You can read more here.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.

December 15, 2012

Solar Installations Booming, EV Sales Soar: The Week In Cleantech, 12-15-2012

Jeff Siegel

December 10: 47,500 Electric Cars

  • Electric Car Sales Soar. . .Again

    In case you missed it, Todd Woody over at Forbes reported last week that electric car sales reached a record in November for the fourth consecutive month. Total sales of electric cars for 2012 are now up to 47,500.

    You can read the entire piece here.

  • Chinese Win Bid for US Battery Maker

    Well, we thought Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI) was going to take the lead on this one. We were wrong. Wanxiang America Corporation has just picked up nearly all of A123's assets for $256.6 million. A bargain if we've ever seen one. The only thing Wanxiang didn't get were military contracts, which have been acquired by U.S.-based Navitas Systems for $2.25 million. You can read more here.

  • 100 Megawatts of South African Solar

    Suntech (NYSE:STP) and Siemens (NYSE:SI) are getting ready to supply about 100 megawatts of solar panels for two projects being developed in South Africa. The systems are expected to produce about 180 gigawatt-hours of electricity, or enough to power about 15,000 homes.

December 11: Solar Installations Booming

  • According to a new report, 684 megawatts of solar panels were installed in the US during the third quarter. This is 44 percent more than Q3 of last year. And solar installations in the current quarter may nearly double from Q3 to 1,200 megawatts. This would represent the most installations ever in a three-month period. The U.S. Now has more than 6.4 gigawatts of installed solar electric capacity, or enough to power more than one million average American households. You can read more here.
  • Shell Goes Solar

    Royal Dutch Shell, along with three venture capital firms, is pumping $26 million into GlassPoint Solar – a California solar startup that uses the sun to heat water and create steam for enhanced oil recovery. Most of these operations burn natural gas to create steam, but GlassPoint claims its technology is cheaper. You can read more about that here.

12-12-12: Is 99% Renewable Energy Possible?

  • 99% Renewable Energy

    According to a new study by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College, a well-designed combination of wind, solar, storage and fuel cells could nearly exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low.

    You can check on the details here.
  • Electric, Natural Gas Fleets Mandated in Indianapolis

    By 2025, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard hopes to transition the city's entire fleet of vehicles to electric and natural-gas powered vehicles. The Mayor says this transition should save taxpayers $1,200 a year per car. You can read more here.

December 13: Is China's Solar Industry Getting Desperate?

  • Another Billion Dollars for Chinese Solar

    Well it looks like the Chinese government is jumping in again to save its struggling solar industry. The Middle Kingdom's finance minister recently reported that China will raise its subsidies for its solar sector by $1.1 billion this year. As well, the nation will continue to integrate more solar domestically in an effort to work through excess inventory.

  • Nissan Ready to Ramp-Up Production of Electric Car

    Nissan announced this week the launch of the United States' largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in Smyrna, TN. The facility, which is making battery components for the ramp-up of production of the all-electric Nissan LEAF early next year, is one of three of its kind operated by a major automaker. Check out the video below. . .

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.

October 19, 2012

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?

oil furnace
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, and of course up in some of the more remote rural areas of Pennsylvania, Vermont and New York, where you still can't access a natural gas line.

In any event, those who do still rely on heating oil are certainly hoping for a mild winter this year. Because according to the Energy Information Administration, a crisis could be coming.

Check out this excerpt that was recently published in the industry publication, This Week in Petroleum. . .

For the week ending October 5, distillate inventories in the U.S. Northeast (PADDs 1A and 1B) were 28.3 million barrels, about 21.5 million barrels (43 percent) below their five-year average level (Figure 1). Distillate inventories have historically been used to meet normal winter heating demand but are also an important source of supply when demand surges as a result of unexpected or extreme cold spells. The low distillate inventories could contribute to heating oil price volatility this winter. In addition, outages at several major refineries, notably Petroleos de Venezuela’s Amuay Refinery, Shell Oil’s Pernis Refinery in the Netherlands, and Irving Oil’s Saint John Refinery in Canada, have added to the fundamental market pressures in the Atlantic Basin.

Translation. . .

If you're relying on heating oil to keep your home warm this winter, you definitely should consider topping off the tank before winter kicks in, and maybe get used to wearing a light sweater.

And for more long-term planning. . .

If you can access a natural gas line, I strongly recommend making the investment. Although natural gas prices are going to start heading back up next year, there's still going to be a lot more volatility in heating oil pricing going forward.

Interestingly, up in some of the more rural areas of New York and Vermont, where heating oil is quite common, solar is quickly becoming very popular. Particularly for farmers who use solar to supplement their power generation.

One gentleman I met last week during a trip to Essex, NY installed a solar array two years ago. Since then, he's been able to offset his heating oil usage by more than 40 percent. And at the Essex Farm, owners use a sizable solar array to power their small, but profitable operation.

Not bad.

I suspect that as solar prices continue to fall while oil prices continue to rise and remain volatile, we'll see more and more solar in some of these rural areas where family farms still exist, and natural gas is not on its way.

October 16: Will Bankrupt Solyndra Get Another $1.6 Billion?

As Bright as a Beijing Sky

While taxpayers get screwed on the Solyndra deal, Solyndra owners may now be able to walk away with another $150 million.

I'm serious! Turns out the IRS has suggested Solyndra's bankruptcy plan was essentially a way for owners to use an empty shell corporation to avoid paying taxes.

As stated by the IRS, the only reason for the shell corporation to exist post-confirmation is to enable its owners to exploit tax attributes, which would be lost in liquidation.

Tax expert and Forbes' contributor Robert Wood recently wrote: “Is it a good deal for creditors to get $7 or $8 million out of the Solyndra mess? Maybe, but the IRS claims the outsize tax benefits Solyndra’s smiling owners will reap are more like $150 million.”

If this all adds up, I think the real conspirators here are the folks that facilitated this entire Solyndra fiasco.

At least the Chinese have a market for their product...

Of course, China's dominance in the solar space won't last forever. The Middle Kingdom's heavily-subsidized and heavily-manipulated solar industry will eventually crumble, because over-investment always leads to failure.

Nouriel Roubini pointed this out last summer, using the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, and East Asia before the 1997 financial crisis as examples of over-investment scenarios that have gone wrong.

Rest assured global solar demand will only continue to grow by leaps and bounds. And this is why the big dogs — like GE (NYSE: GE) and Siemens (NYSE: SI) — are watching and waiting patiently, ready to pounce when the future of China's solar industry inevitably becomes as bright as a Beijing sky during rush hour.

If you're unfamiliar with that reference, here's a visual:

beijing

Some view, huh?

October 15: Is A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) Going to Zero?

There was so much enthusiasm when high-performance battery manufacturer A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) came on the scene.

The promise of an advanced battery manufacturing facility pumping out batteries for next-generation electric cars while providing jobs for US workers was a bold one, and one that a lot of folks cheered. But certain realities rapidly turned that promise into what now looks like another bankruptcy in the alternative energy space.

Yesterday A123 put out the following statement. . .

The company may not have sufficient cash to fund operations and may need to seek the protections provided under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. No assurance can be given that the company will be able to avoid restructuring, reorganization, or a bankruptcy filing.”

Now despite the fact that we never wished anything but success for the company, we've been warning investors all year about this one, even when a handful of analysts got all giddy when the stock popped back in June.

Here's what I wrote back then. . .

Yesterday, A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) shot up more than 50 percent after announcing it had developed an improved lithium-ion cell that can cut costs of electric cars.

While I've always been a big supporter of this company (wishing them the best), as an investor, I can't help but to wonder what happened yesterday.

Just a couple of months ago, the company began replacing defective battery packs at a cost of $51.6 million. This helped the company report a record loss of $125 million for Q1, 2012. The company even had to issue a “going concern” statement.

Last month, when shares closed below $0.90 the company had long-term debt of $161 million compared to a market valuation of $129.3 million. To put that in perspective, when the company went public, it debuted at $13.50.

Now don't get me wrong. The company's announcement of its technological breakthrough should not go unnoticed. But neither should the fact that this company is still dealing with $51 million in battery replacements, foreign competitors that continue to maintain a significant manufacturing cost advantage, and of course, bankruptcy concerns.

Sure, technological breakthroughs are great. They're important, and they've been produced by plenty of other companies that no longer exist today. That's the reality. Personally, I do hope A123 comes out on top when all is said and done. But it's going to be a long, tough ride. And I just don't see any rational justification for a 50% pop on an announcement of a technological breakthrough from a company that's barely treading water right now. In fact, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the company went belly up by the end of the year. I hope I'm wrong on that, but it doesn't look good.

Unfortunately, I may not have been wrong when I wrote those words.

And what really makes this sting is that A123 landed a $249 million federal grant to build a U.S. factory back in 2009. Rest assured, you'll be hearing plenty about that over the next few days. And rightly so. After all, these are your tax dollars we're talking about here. And you have every right to know how they've been spent.

Of course, you'll probably be hearing all about it tonight during the second presidential debate, too. Romney campaign strategists must be doing back flips right now.

I just hope the analysis following the debate doesn't mutate into yet another attack on electric cars. Which, as I've said a thousand times before, serve as one of the many tools we can use to end our reliance on OPEC.

But I'm sure it will. Because nowadays, it's more important to dive into the pool of partisan buffoonery than it is to embrace positive contributions to our national security, our environment and our nation's long-term economic sustainability.

And so it goes. . .

October 17: First Solar (FSLR) Lands Huge Deal

TK: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has signed a memorandum of understanding with PT. Pembangkitan Jawa Bali Services to collaborate on and deliver 100 megawatts of utility-scale solar power plants in Indonesia.

“We are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with a world leader in solar energy for the development of utility-scale PV power plants in Indonesia. Solar PV electricity can help Indonesia meet its fast-growing power needs while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels,” said PJB Services president Bernadus Sudarmanta in a press release. ...

Full article at Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

October 17: Satcon (SATC) Files for Bankruptcy

TK: Details at Renewable Energy World.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.

Tom Konrad, CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com.

September 28, 2012

EV Woes at Tesla and Toyota: The Week In Cleantech, 9-28-2012

Jeff Siegel

September 25: Toyota (NYSE:TM) Scraps Electric Car

320px-2012_Toyota_Prius_plug-in_hyrid_--_07-14-2012[1].JPG
2012 Toyota Prius photographed in Washington, D.C., USA.. (Photo credit: IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons)

Claiming the company misread the market, Toyota (NYSE:TM) is scrapping its plans for a global roll-out of an electric mini-car called the eQ.

To be honest, I'm not particularly surprised. Toyota has not been very aggressive, or interested really, in pursuing the electric vehicle (EV) market. And I get it. When it comes to delivering a superior conventional hybrid vehicle, Toyota still runs the show. The Prius is one of the most popular vehicles in the marketplace, with more than 3 million units sold since the hybrid superstar first launched.

My point is, it doesn't need EVs to lure fuel economy-conscious drivers into showrooms.

Look, it's no secret that when gas prices head north, so do Prius sales.

Hell, back when oil crossed the $140 mark and gasoline was well over $4.00 a gallon, folks were running to Toyota dealers and paying above sticker price to get one of these vehicles. Even today, boasting 50 miles-per-gallon can certainly help provide a nice hedge against unstable gas prices.

So when it comes to superior fuel economy, Toyota's got a good thing going. And I suspect the company has no interest in pouring a bunch of capital into EV development, when all it has to do to keep fuel economy-conscious drivers coming in, is continue to inch those miles-per-gallon up every few years with Prius upgrades.

That being said, I do wish company reps would back off the anti-EV rhetoric – however subtle it may be.

Here's what I mean. . .

In response to this recent decision, Toyota's vice chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said:

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”

Do not meet society's needs?

Roughly 70 percent of US consumers drive no more than 40 miles per day. Every all-electric car from a major automaker on the road today can deliver that – and then some.

How long it takes to charge?

This is such a bullshit argument. Every EV owner I know charges while he sleeps, wakes up, drives to work, returns home and plugs back in. It ain't rocket science, and unless you only sleep for four hours a night, long charging times are really not the deal-breaking issue that some would have you believe.

Look, the thing is, Toyota doesn't need to come at it this way. The company does not need to justify its decision to anyone. And certainly management doesn't need to recite the tired and inaccurate arguments of the anti-EV brigade.

Truth is, Toyota has done a lot to help integrate fuel economy into the car-buying lexicon. The company charged forward with its hybrid offerings when a lot of folks mocked the technology and the ability of Toyota to even make it work economically.

The company proved the naysayers wrong, and today Toyota gets the last laugh.

So if Toyota decides not to pursue electric vehicles right now, that's fine. This doesn't change my opinion of the company or of the Prius, which is a superior vehicle. And it definitely doesn't change my opinion regarding Toyota's leadership role in providing vehicles that can help us reduce our foreign oil consumption.

But putting out those careless and untrue comments about the electric vehicle market? Come on, Toyota. You're better than that!

September 25: Will Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Crash and Burn?

English: Photo of the Tesla Model S, from the ...
The Tesla Model S, from the unveiling on 26-Mar-2009. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Back in March, I was speaking at a conference about the future of personal transportation.

I discussed how a new generation called the Millennials or Generation Y would ultimately force change in the marketplace and present a real challenge to car makers.

You see, there have been a number of studies that have suggested this particular generation, which represents the kinds of numbers that allowed the baby boomers to dictate a lot of our consumer decisions today, is less interested in car ownership than previous generations, preferring public transportation, biking, walking and car-sharing services like Zipcar (NASDAQ:ZIP).

And for those folks who are now around the ages of 19 and 31 that are receptive to car ownership, they account for about 25 percent of the US automobile market. In ten years, that's expected to rise to 40 percent.

So what will they drive?

According to a recent Deloitte study, these folks tend to mock gas guzzlers and embrace hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs).

If you're a regular reader of these pages, you know I've long been a supporter of electric vehicles, and I firmly believe that by the end of this decade, EVs will capture between one and 1.5 percent of the total vehicle market.

On the surface, this may not seem like much. But it's actually a pretty aggressive target, and a pretty big deal.

As a result, we've profited from the early development of this market from every angle. Although most of this was the result of riding the early wave of lithium and high-performance battery plays a few years back. Today, it's a bit more difficult. And while I remain a strong supporter of electric vehicle development, I'm extremely cautious as an investor. In fact, the only EV-related stock I've played this year was Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), and I jumped out back in March after the stock started looking a bit top-heavy after crossing the $36 mark.

Since then, I've watched the stock tumble and rise a few times. I've seen a number of trading opportunities (although I did not play the stock this way), and I've read some pretty long and detailed analyses of the company by both credible analysts, overly optimistic bloggers posing as analysts and the typical anti-EV narcissists who get off at watching a game-changing industry struggle with the early bumps and bruises that come with any disruptive technology. The latter, of course, typically provide little more than noise. But I suspect they'll be coming out in full force this week after Tesla's recent announcement that it was cutting its 2012 revenue forecast.

Due to a slower-than-expected rollout of the Model S sedan, the company has adjusted its full-year revenue to come in at around $400 million to $440 million. This is down from Tesla's prior outlook of between $560 million and $600 million.

This is a pretty big discrepancy, and in pre-market the stock has fallen about ten percent.

So today, the haters will be busy little bees, finding as many ways as they can to not only trash Tesla, but the EV market as a whole. We'll hear about how no one wants these cars, how sales are disappointing, how the technology “isn't there yet” and probably a few cheap shots at Washington for supporting the development of something that can ultimately help us displace a decent amount of foreign oil.

It's all bullshit.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not rushing out to buy Tesla. And quite frankly, I think some of these recent upgrades are insane. I was truly surprised, and a bit suspicious, when I read that Morgan Stanley put a $50 price target on this one.

Of course, I don't have access to the same intelligence and data as the suits over there, so perhaps I'm missing something. But I don't believe Tesla will really impress enough to push the stock to those levels until we get some better clarity on Model S volumes and gross margins in Q4.

I remain bullish on Tesla as a small, but growing force in the auto industry. And I definitely wouldn't bet on Tesla to crash and burn. But I'd be hesitant about believing overzealous price targets. At least until we see how Q4 shakes out.

Editor's Note: Also in EVs...

While EVs are struggling in the West, China has a plan for their rapid adoption.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

September 22, 2012

Solar & Battery Orders; Solar Stock and EV Woes: Two Weeks In Cleantech, 9-22-2012

Jeff Siegel

September 17: Will LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK) Become a Penny Stock?

LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK) has sent a revenue warning and cut its full-year revenue forecast for the second time this year. The company is now expecting Q3 revenue to come in at between $220 million and $260 million. Analysts were expecting more than twice that on the low-end of LDK's estimates with $453.6 million. And to add insult to injury, I overhead an analyst last week saying China solar companies, like LDK, are on a one-way track to penny stock status. Ouch!

I was actually at the Solar Power International Conference last week, where I overheard that analyst, and I'll have some updates on the solar space later in the week.

All in all, the solar industry is exactly where I've been saying it is – maturation mode. Growing pains are really starting to sting, but there are definitely some silver linings, especially for installers. Although some companies falling into the installation category are about to get trounced thanks to a Consumer Reports investigation that'll highlight a handful of shady operations in the solar installation game.

That issue of Consumer Reports is coming shortly, and you can read more about it here. In the meantime, we continue to watch everything unfold from a safe distance, waiting patiently for a bottom sometime next year.

September 18: Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Solar Development

Last week, I attended the Solar Power International Conference in Orlando.

As always, I was overwhelmed with an avalanche of data that continues to illustrate the rapid growth of the solar industry.

There are a few reports I picked up at the conference that I'll be sharing with you throughout the week.

The first comes from the folks at the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Vote Solar Initiative, and it highlights the top 20 commercial solar users in the US.

Check it out. . .

slrchrt

Some key findings of the report include:

  • The top 20 corporate solar users' installations generate an estimated $47.3 million worth of electricity each year. Together, US commercial solar installations have reduced business' utility bills by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

  • The amount of solar installed by the top 20 solar-power companies could power more than 46,500 average American homes. Combined, US commercial installations could power more nearly 400,000 American homes.

  • More than 1.2 million solar PV panels were used for the top 20 corporate solar users' installations. Combined, these arrays would cover more than 544 acres of rooftops.

  • Walmart and Costco combined have more solar PV installed on their store rooftops than all of the PV capacity deployed in the state of Florida.

  • The top 10 companies (by capacity) have individually deployed more solar energy than most electric utilities in the US.

September 20: GE (NYSE:GE) Lands $63 Million in New Battery Orders

General Electric (NYSE:GE) announced yesterday that its new Energy Storage Unit has landed $63 million in new Durathon battery orders since that particular unit launched in July. In its first weeks of operations, it secured 10 new telecom customer orders in Africa, Asia and the US. These batteries will power more than 3,500 cell towers.

As supporters of the new energy economy, we understand the importance of cost-effective energy storage technologies. And while there are plenty of opportunities out there, GE will remain aggressive. There's just too much at stake for this global behemoth not to.

The batteries that will power those 3,500 cell towers can function in a variety of extreme conditions and store as much energy as lead-acid batteries twice its size, while lasting up to ten times longer.

In other energy storage news, a small UK company called Atraverda, Ltd. just secured its first commercial battery order in the US. The company announced yesterday that it finalized a supply agreement with ZENNRG to supply batteries for a smart grid, distributed energy storage application. The first year of the supply agreement is worth about $1.2 million.

ZENNRG is a Texas-based firm that develops, manufactures and sells energy storage modules for distributed storage markets.

Atraverda produces Bipolar Valve Regulated Lead Acid batteries using a proprietary conductive ceramic technology that results in greater energy efficiencies at lower costs. As well, the construction of these batteries requires 40 percent less lead than traditional lead-acid batteries.

September 21: Can Electric Cars Survive Without Subsidies?

A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report has indicated that US federal policies to promote electric vehicles will cost $7.5 billion through 2019 and have little impact on overall national gasoline consumption over the next several years.

It's that last part that I'm pretty sure the media knuckle-draggers will neglect to mention.

I tend to put a lot of faith into what the CBO says. It seems to be one of the few places where partisan influence is absent. So I have little doubt that there is relevance to this report. That being said, priming the pump for a transition away from conventional internal combustion isn't going to result in a major displacement of gasoline and CO2 emissions overnight.

Look at it like this. . .

When the US government plowed an enormous amount of tax payer dollars into developing an infrastructure that would ultimately support an Interstate Highway System, those highways weren't particularly crowded in the first few years following their completion. It took time.

The US government also provided an enormous amount of incentives to automakers in the early part of the last century, as it was clear that taking the lead on auto manufacturing would strengthen the nation's economy and provide a strategic advantage in terms of national security and military initiatives.

I would argue that electric vehicles offer the same benefits.

The world will eventually move away from conventional internal combustion. It won't happen in a matter of a few years or even a few decades, but it will happen. And it's starting now. And as we slowly move away from conventional internal combustion, we can slowly begin the next chapter in taking the lead on the next generation of auto manufacturing.

As well, the more EVs we have on the roads, the less foreign oil we demand. That's an indisputable fact that should not be trivialized. And little by little, as more of these electrified vehicles hit the streets, the more wiggle room we'll have to compete and prosper in a post-peak world.

It's also worth noting that while some may kick and scream about $7.5 billion over the course of about ten years, which works out to about $75 million per year, we continue to charge taxpayers roughly $4 billion a year for oil industry subsidies. And of course, this does not include the blood we continue to spill overseas in an effort to secure those lucrative oil supplies.

So when folks start carrying on about this new CBO report, I would urge you to remind those with partisan blinders that $4 billion a year in oil subsidies does zero to displace gasoline consumption and CO2 emissions, and actually facilitates our continued reliance on a resource that is rapidly being depleted.

$75 million a year, however, actually provides the platform for a strategic transition away from a transportation system that will only cost more tax dollars and more lives as we move forward.

Now I should clarify, I'm no fan of any of these subsidies. Quite frankly, I'd love nothing more than to see every single energy subsidy abolished and allow the market to dictate the winners and losers – not Washington. Because if that were to happen, oh we'd quickly find out just how expensive gasoline really is – and just how lucrative electrified transportation will be.

Electric vehicle production costs will continue to fall as we move forward, while the costs to maintain our reliance on oil will only increase.

Of course, if we do pull back the curtain of subsidies and allow the consumer to pay the real price for gasoline – one that is not the result of both direct and indirect subsidies – you wouldn't need a single tax credit to get folks into electric cars. The price at the pump would be well over $6.00 a gallon, and those EVs would practically sell themselves.

Now I'm not so naïve to believe that will happen anytime soon. The corporate puppet masters that run Washington simply won't allow it. But if we're going to be honest about the value of electric vehicles, we must at least be honest about the fact that Washington continues to funnel more of your tax dollars to a very mature and very profitable oil & gas industry than it does to facilitating the growth of vehicle electrification.

And if we're going to be honest about letting the market dictate winners and losers, than we must stand behind our convictions and hold both sides of the aisle accountable for continuing the illusion that a free market really exists.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

August 31, 2012

Two Weeks In Cleantech, 8-31-2012

Jeff Siegel

August 21: What Will Happen to Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL)?

Following the hypocritical “unfair subsidy” complaint against China solar panel producers along with the 31 percent import duty placed on them by the US government, the Chinese have now responded through their Commerce Ministry by stating that the United States must cut support for six government-backed renewable energy programs or face unspecified penalties.

And so continues the trade war, which was launched by the sour-grapes management of SolarWorld,(PINK SHEETS:SRWRF) and supported by those in Washington who have no clue how bad this could be for the US economy, the growth of clean energy, and domestic job creation.

China's Commerce Ministry said that it will now adopt relevant legal measures, demands that the United States cancel part of the measures that violate World Trade Organization rules and give Chinese renewable energy firms fair treatment.

This isn't even close to over.

Meanwhile, and this certainly wasn't unexpected, Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) just missed on revenues and lowered shipment guidance for FY 2012. It's crazy, I made a fortune on Trina just a few years back. Once one of the most lucrative solar plays in the market, hitting highs in excess of $30 a share, it's now trading for around $4.60.

Although solar's future remains bright, it remains a minefield for investors. And as I've stated in the past, I will likely remain on the sidelines until sometime in 2013, when more consolidation tightens up the marketplace, and more of that glut gets eliminated.

August 22: The Wind Energy Taxpayer Boondoggle

Companies like Gamesa (PINK SHEETS:GCTAF) and Vestas (PINK SHEETS:VWDRY) were once all the rage as the wind energy industry embarked on a tremendous growth trajectory.

But like all industries that experience rapid growth, eventually the party comes to an end, and reality sets in.

Although the wind energy industry continues to grow dramatically all over the world, recessionary headwinds, loss of government support, and dirt cheap natural gas are creating a temporary slow-down. As a result, the wind energy industry is going to have a rough time in 2013.

Truth is, we've seen plenty of indications of this throughout 2012. Particularly with so many wind turbine manufacturers idling or shutting down plants, lowering guidance and laying off workers. In fact, we learned today that Vestas is now set to go forward with its second round of lay-offs this year. This time around, 1,400 folks will lose their jobs.

The company has not made it clear where the jobs will be cut, but you can bet that a sizable portion will be from the US, where there just doesn't seem to be enough support in Washington to extend the wind energy tax credit for another year.

Although I would argue that a one-year extension is of little use at this point.

The best way to move forward on this is to extend the credit for four to six years, with the understanding that it will never be extended again. This will at least give the wind industry enough clarity to make long-term decisions and prepare accordingly. That's not possible when you keep handing out these tax credits every year or two. As well, it'll keep the industry from turning into a decades-long tax payer money sucker. We've already gone down that path with nuclear.  We don't need to make the same mistake twice.

As stated in a 2011 report published by the non-partisan group Union of Concerned Scientists, after decades of government support, nuclear power is still not viable without subsidies.

The report also notes that government subsidies to the nuclear industry over the past 50 years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away.

And as reported in Forbes. . .

“Nuclear power is no longer an economically viable source of new energy in the United States, the freshly-retired CEO of Exelon, America's largest producers of nuclear power, said in Chicago Thursday. And it won't become economically viable for the foreseeable future.”

Not economically viable?  After 50 years of taxpayer subsidies?!

Now understand, this is not an attack on the nuclear industry. It's merely an observation of how subsidies can become dangerous and addictive. We simply can't afford any more of these decades-long subsidies burdening taxpayers. Not for anything.

I don't know if the wind energy tax credit will be extended before the end of the year.  I am doubtful.  But if it is extended, and it's only extended for one year with the possibility of going through this same song and dance next year, and the year after that, and the year after that - well, we're just wasting valuable time and money.  And that's not going to help anyone.

August 27: How Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Crushes the new Hybrid Lexus

  • The GS 450h, the new generation hybrid version of the Lexus GS 350 looks like it's going to deliver an EPA-rated 31 mpg. This is a 35% improvement over the previous generation, and of course, a complete yawnfest. I get that this is about luxury and not necessarily fuel economy, but I'd happily take a Tesla Model S over a 31-mpg Lexus any day of the week. You can get a Tesla Model S for about $58,000 before the $7,500 tax credit. The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is priced at around $59,000. If I'm dropping $60k on a car, you have to at least give me the same fuel economy as a 50 mpg Prius. The Tesla Model S, by the way, delivers about 160 miles on a single charge. With that, I'd never have to pull into a gas station again. Unless maybe I wanted to grab a candy bar or bag of chips.

  • It was once the world's largest maker of solar cells. But around 2009, Q-Cells reluctantly handed over that title to a handful of low-cost suppliers from China. And today we learn that South Korea's Hanwha Corp (NASDAQ:HSOL) is looking to buy the now insolvent German group. Of course, this comes as no surprise to those of you who are regular readers of these pages. We've been preaching about, and watching unfold, the continued consolidation of the solar industry. We expect to see more of this throughout the rest of this year and well into 2013 and beyond. We believe that by 2015, there will be fewer than a dozen major solar players operating globally. For now, we continue to watch everything play out from the sidelines.

August 28: California - Fiscally Responsible?

Although California tends to be a punching bag for fiscal irresponsibility, such rhetoric isn't always honest. California, just like every other state in the nation, has its fair share of waste. This is certain. But thanks to a plan designed to reduce petroleum consumption in fleet vehicles, the Golden State has successfully slashed its petroleum use by 13 percent compared to a 2003 baseline.

Under Assembly Bill 236, California will reduce or displace petroleum consumption by 10 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020. Today we can see that the state is certainly on its way to reaching that goal.

Some of the actions that have enabled California to come this far include the following. . .

  • In 2009, California eliminated 3,397 of the state's oldest and most fuel inefficient passenger vehicles.

  • Also in 2009, the state reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by eliminating non-mission critical VMT. This was done by eliminating 2,121 vehicle home storage permits.

  • In 2010, California restructured the lease rate of its rental fleet by separately billing state agencies for their fuel. As a result, these agencies began actively managing their fuel usage internally.

  • In 2011, the state, along with Coulomb Technologies, installed 24 Level 2 fast-charge charging stations at five separate Department of General Services parking facilities.

  • In 2012, Governor Brown issued an executive order for California's state vehicle fleet to increase the number of its zero-emission vehicles through the normal course of fleet replacement so that at least 10 percent of fleet purchases of light-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2015, and 25 percent by 2020.

  • Also in 2012, California directed state agencies to order solar reflective colors when they acquire new light-duty vehicles. This enables a vehicle's air condition system to work less, thereby reducing fuel consumption.

Quite frankly, this really should be used as a model for other states. There's no doubt that a significant reduction in petroleum use serves to provide a budgetary buffer – particularly in these tough economic times that are only going to get tougher as inflation takes hold.

This also gives states the opportunity to get aggressive on petroleum reduction without relying on the heavy hand of the federal government.

That being said, this type of thing should also be done responsibly. California has unfortunately relied on the utilization of biodiesel and ethanol to help it reach its goals. Long-term, this is not economically or environmentally sustainable. Certainly it would be nice to see more natural gas and electricity serving as fleet fuels in the future.

August 29th: Wall Street Journal Misinforms Investors about Electric Cars

Jim Jelter over the Wall Street Journal wrote his obligatory electric vehicle-bashing piece right on schedule.

After it was announced that GM has temporarily suspended production of the Volt for a month in order to address both an oversupply issue and to prepare for production of the 2014 Impala, Jelter wrote that he didn't buy it. What's to buy?

We went through this song and dance back in March. GM temporarily halted production of the Volt due to an oversupply, and the anti-EV brigade ran to tell everyone that electric cars, including the Volt, were dead. Meanwhile, since that date, nearly 11,000 Volts have been sold.

This may not seem like much. And it's not. In fact, it's well below targets. But let's revisit some other numbers from previous disruptive vehicle technologies.

When Toyota first launched the Prius Hybrid in 1997, the Japanese automaker sold only 3,000 units. GM sold 7,671 units in its debut year. So in its first year, GM sold 4,671 more units of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

And look at the all-electric Nissan LEAF. In its first year, Nissan sold more than 20,000 units. And let me remind you that the LEAF carries with it the issue of range anxiety – something Prius owners never had to deal with. So essentially, we're talking about a vehicle that requires the driver to make some pretty major changes in operating and fueling behavior.

Anytime you ask the consumer to do something differently than he's done for years, it's a monumental task. Yet more than 500% more units of the Nissan LEAF were sold in year one compared to the Toyota Prius in its debut.

Today, Toyota has sold more than 3 million units of that particular vehicle.

Jelter says consumers aren't embracing electric cars. But the data suggests otherwise.

I'm not sure if ol' Jimbo thought electric cars would bust out of the gate, selling millions in a matter of years. But I would suggest he, and other EV haters take a look at previous technologies that took decades to develop – but are now standard for most Americans. Cell phones, high-speed Internet. Hell, even what is now the outdated conventional internal combustion vehicle.

It was in 1903 when the president of the Michigan Savings Bank told Henry Ford's lawyer that the horse was here to stay, and the automobile was only a novelty – a fad. We know how that one worked out.

Of course, the Volt story was really just used as a segue for an attack on the latest fuel economy standards that'll take our CAFE up to 54.5 miles per gallon. Claiming that it will tack on another $3,000 to production costs, the new standard is being vilified. Never mind the fact that by 2025, when the standard will be reached, 87 Octane will likely cost you anywhere between $7.00 and $9.00 a gallon.

Now I fully admit, I rarely agree with much government intervention in these situations. Quite frankly, perhaps the market can get us to the 54.4 mpg fuel economy standard by 2025 on its own. But being that this really is a matter of national security, I don't see much of a downside to this new CAFE standard. I'd certainly rather take these types of steps to displace foreign oil, then keep our military in the Middle East to protect and secure oil supplies.

Of course, none of this really matters. At this point, partisan slavery always wins out over rational policy. And while I wish guys like Jelter would stop contributing to the illusion that electric cars are failures, I at least give him credit for acknowledging that, as a nation, we are struggling to get long-term planning in place – because of politics. Following on his brief coverage of Romney's joke of an energy plan, Jelter writes. . .

So what is it going to be? More regulation or less?

This is exactly the kind of political sparring that drives corporations crazy. What one party puts in place, the other seeks to remove. As long as their so-called principles leave no room for compromise, regulatory matters are doomed to lurch back and forth with every election. This stifles long-term planning and kills investment.

I couldn't agree more.

Sadly, there seems to be no middle ground. And while the Wall Street Journal will continue to publish it's anti-EV rhetoric – which, quite frankly, is incredibly unpatriotic seeing as EVs require not a single drop of Saudi oil to operate, left-leaning rags will continue to sing the praises of over-regulation, which absolutely inhibits our ability to kick OPEC to the curb.

Neither are doing us any favors.

That, my friends, should make this a national security issue, not a partisan one.

August 30: Is Suntech (NYSE:STP) a Giant Fraud?

  • Yesterday, an Italian court filed criminal charges against an investment fund controlled by Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE:STP). The charges claim Suntech illegally built solar farms to take advantage of state subsidies. If the charges stick, about $100 million in subsidy-backed solar farms could be dismantled. This comes on the heels of the world's largest solar panel maker getting hit with a class action lawsuit that claims the company didn't reveal that a Global Solar Fund executive (and shareholder) used $700 million in fake German bonds to help guarantee some of the fund's financing. And just when you think it couldn't get worse, Suntech is now desperate to land some financing to cover a convertible bond due in early 2013. Suntech has certainly had better days. 
  • In more positive solar news, it looks like India's making new moves in the solar space again. According to Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, India may soon auction about 30 percent of the solar projects it has planned to be online by 2017. This would double the nation's solar capacity. In total, India is aiming for 20 full gigawatts of solar by 2022. Following India's blackout last month, solar got a fresh coat of shine. Considering the country currently relies on coal to generate more than half of its electricity, and coal shortages have India on high alert, this isn't surprising.

DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

August 17, 2012

First Solar Goes to Thailand; US Stays in OPEC's Grasp: The Week In Cleantech, 8-17-2012

Jeff Siegel

August 15: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Moves to Thailand

In an effort to continue its steady expansion, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has set up a Thailand operating subsidy and has officially opened its Bangkok office.

The Thai subsidiary is charged with the responsibility of expanding FSLR's market for utility-scale solar projects. Senior Manger of Business Development told reporters. . .

“The long-term energy fundamentals in Thailand are very favorable for a solar power solution to meet their growing energy needs, and we will continue to invest here as part of our strategy to develop sustainable, utility-scale solar markets.”

Yesterday, my colleague R.T. Jones commented on how non-China solar companies are competing against China's solar dominance. This could be seen as an example of that. Although to assume China's solar industry is also not sailing through rough seas is naïve.

In fact, a Reuters report that came out yesterday indicated that as solar panel prices continue to fall, China solar companies will continue to struggle with increasingly heavy debt loads. We've been saying this for almost two years now!

So what's next?

Major consolidation.

Mark my words, although I remain extremely bullish on the long-term outlook for solar, we will not have much more than a dozen or so profitable solar companies operating globally after 2015.

August 16: Ford (NYSE:F) Ready to Dominate Electric Car Market

  •     Ford (NYSE:F) announced yesterday that it now has more than 1,000 engineers working on vehicle electrification, with dozens more to be added next year. The company is also now doubling its battery-testing capabilities in hopes of accelerating its hybrid and electric vehicle development by 25 percent. The Focus Electric is Ford's first all-electric offering for the masses. It's actually a pretty sweet car, although like most electric cars, it is a bit pricey. To be honest, I think the company's actually going to get a lot more traction from its C-Max, which is a crossover SUV that comes in both conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric models. The former offers a pretty impressive 47 mpg, and the latter offers equally impressive fuel economy with a 20-mile all-electric range as well. Another reason I think Ford's got a winner here is the price. The conventional hybrid model goes for about $26,000. Competitive with the Prius V (The Prius version of an SUV crossover), but offering a bit more room and luxury. And the electric model comes in at about $34,000. It does qualify for a $3,740 federal tax credit, which brings it in around the $30,000 mark. Not bad for a plug-in model, especially considering the roominess of the vehicle. I definitely think Ford's going to crush it on the C-Max.
  •     CX Solar Korea has announced it's leading a group of investors that will pony up nearly $1 billion to build a massive solar farm in Pakistan. The $900 million project is set to begin with a 50 megawatt installation, with follow-on projects that'll reach 300 megawatts by 2016. CX Solar is now in talks with panel suppliers. Since the company will be using both conventional crystalline silicon and thin film, it'll be interesting to see if First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) gets a call about the latter. Although, as we reported earlier this year, Pakistan has been turning towards cheap Chinese solar panels to combat high electricity tariffs and dependence on diesel generators, which cost more to operate than solar. Pakistan has also been moving forward on the wind power front. Back in May, the Islamic Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank came to an agreement on a $133 million financing deal for two wind projects in that country.
  •     A couple of years ago I read a report that showed China boasting massive growth in wind farm construction. The problem, however, was that many of these farms were not connected to the grid. And in fact, weren't even close to being connected. Talk about a chicken and egg situation gone bad. But this morning, we learned that China's wind power capacity actually linked to the grid has increased by 87 percent. This year, just over 50 gigawatts of wind were connected, thereby moving China closer to its goal of 100 gigawatts by 2015, and 200 gigawatts by 2020. Although few take China at its word these days, I do believe the Middle Kingdom isn't going to just let massive groupings of turbines sit and rust. The nation is desperate for more power, and I have no doubt that in about eight years, there will be 200 gigawatts of wind power helping to keep the lights on in China.

August 17: Obama and Romney Slow Our Escape from OPEC

This is why I hate politics. . .

On the table is a plan to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Although automakers put up a stink early on, most have since signed on to get this done. However, the Obama administration is now dragging its feet due to “continued opposition.” Gee, I wonder who opposes making our vehicles more fuel efficient?

According to a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rule is undergoing inter-agency review and the process is expected to be completed soon. And by soon, she means after the election. Because the truth is, the Obama administration doesn't want to kick the GOP beehive any more than it has to before November.

Now It's no secret that Mitt Romney opposes the future CAFE requirements. He claims this is an example of an over-reaching government, and that he would instead work with manufacturers to find ways to encourage fuel economy on the part of the consumer. What those “ways” are however, are still unknown. He said that trying to have the manufacturer push the product on the consumer – something the consumer doesn't want – is not the right approach.

Yeah, I would love to meet the guy who actually has to work for a living complain about a vehicle that gets better gas mileage. If consumers don't want vehicles that are fuel efficient, than why does every single car commercial on television clearly state the vehicle's fuel economy?

Of course, I get it. It's all politics. I highly doubt that Romney really wants to oppose something that allows us to displace enormous amounts of foreign oil. But you know the drill. It was proposed by this administration, so in an effort to secure votes, he must oppose it.

And that's why I hate politics. It gets in the way of progress.

Now look, if you're you're a regular reader of these pages, you know I'm no shill for Obama either. Quite frankly, I have zero interest in what either side has to say during election time. It's all empty rhetoric and bullshit designed to trick voters into believing that their guy will save us from decades upon decades of lies, deception and an extraordinarily unacceptable amount of fiscal irresponsibility.

But let's be real about the CAFE issue.

At this point, no one is forcing automakers to do anything. They've signed on!

And the bottom line is that by increasing fuel economy standards to 54.4 mpg, American consumers will save $1.7 trillion, and we will be able to displace about 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. Or roughly half of what we currently import from OPEC.

That, my friends, should make this a national security issue, not a partisan one.DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

August 11, 2012

Two Weeks In Cleantech: 8-11-2012

Jeff Siegel

August 1: Siemens (NYSE:SI) Lands Major Australian Wind Turbine Deal

  • Yesterday morning, New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group announced that it's now looking to invest up to $833 million for an expansion of the the utility's solar power programs. This investment seeks to facilitate the developing of an additional 233 megawatts of solar capacity. The expansion is expected to create about 300 direct jobs annually over the next five years.

  • In 30 days, Mitsubishi Motors will launch its all-new Mirage global compact car in Japan. At a cost of between US$12,800 and US$16,500, the 3-cylinder vehicle offers a very competitive fuel economy of 64 mpg US. This exceeds Japan's 2015 fuel economy standards by 20%.

  • The forecast for German wind power has been raised after expansion in the first half was greater than expected. Beating estimates by about 200 megawatts (2,200 megawatts vs. 2,400 megawatts), first half installations expanded by 26 percent. Of course, only 45 megawatts of offshore wind was added in the first half, which came below estimates. The shortfall is primarily the result of connection delays. These connection delays are expected to result in Germany's 10 gigawatt target to be reached later than expected – likely by 2020. Still, 10 gigawatts of offshore wind in less than eight years is nothing to trivialize.

  • Siemens (NYSE:SI) has announced that it has secured its first contract to build a 270 megawatt wind farm in Australia. The new power plant is expected to be online by 2014, and when completed, will provide electricity for 180,000 homes.

  • US firm RenuEn Corporation has just announced that it has secured a 50 megawatt solar project in Pakistan. This project will be managed by a foreign operating subsidiary, which is joining RenuEn upon closing of the acquisition. A 25-year power purchase agreement is in place, with the government of Pakistan being the power purchaser.

August 2: ABB (NYSE:ABB) Lands $55 Million Transmission Deal in Brazil

  • ABB (NYSE:ABB) announced this morning that it has landed a $55 million substation and transmission infrastructure deal in Brazil. Brazil is actively building out its wind power capacity with plans to install 7 gigawatts over the next five years. This will be in addition to the 1.5 gigawatts currently installed. I'm bullish on ABB right now and think at current levels, the stock is undervalued.

  • Frost & Sullivan has recently reported that the number of electric car charging stations in the U.S. could reach 4.1 million by 2017. Today there are about 10,000 publicly-available charging stations. If this isn't monumental growth, I don't what is. And it speaks volumes about where this industry is heading, despite what the partisan slaves and naysayers would like you to believe.

  • For some of India's rural poor, solar saved the day during those massive blackouts last week. This, according to David Biello from Scientific American who wrote, “some of the formerly energy poor – rural subcontinent – found themselves better off than their middle-class compatriots during the recent blackouts, thanks to village homes outfitted with photovoltaic panels. In fact, solar power helped keep some electric pumps supplying water for fields parched by an erratic monsoon this year.” It's worth noting that India has plenty of reason to embrace solar. For one, it's becoming harder and harder for India to secure coal supplies. As reported in the Economist, by 2017, domestic coal production in India will meet only 73% of demand. The country's already spent $7 billion over the past six years acquiring outside coal pits in Australia and Africa. Now there are a lot of folks in India who rely on diesel-powered generators, too. But with higher diesel prices, it actually costs more to run those generators compared to solar. And of course, for a country that was ranked as having the world's unhealthiest air pollution, according to a Yale study, a little extra solar is certainly going make breathing a lot easier.

August 6: Is First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Moving to India?


  • General Electric (NYSE:GE) announced today that it will be partnering with Enel Green Power (OTC:ENLAY) to provide about $156 million in common equity for one of Minnesota's largest wind farms. As is no surprise, this wind farm will be using GE turbines. GE actually owns 51 percent of this 200 MW wind farm now under construction in southern Minnesota. When completed, it will help the state of Minnesota reach its 25 percent renewable energy goals by 2025. With this deal in place, GE's total wind portfolio is now just shy of 10 full gigawatts.

  • Looks like First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) may be considering manufacturing in India, according to a recent piece in The Hindu. During an earnings conference, First Solar CEO Jim Hughes said in regards to India, “Ultimately, if the kind of visible demand that we expect develops in that market, that is likely a market where we would look to put manufacturing in place.” We've discussed the rise of solar in India in the past, and continue to believe India could soon prove to be one of the most lucrative solar markets on the planet. You can read more about that here.

  • To date, the U.S. military has ponied up for 168 road-capable plug-in electric cars. But according to an Air Force spokeswoman, more are on the way. Yes, while partisan slaves and dim-witted naysayers continue to attack the development of electric cars – you know, those things that help us displace an enormous amount of foreign oil and help bolster national security, the military remains quite bullish on electric cars.

  • While the future may not be so bright for the wind energy production tax credit, wind power that is already installed in the United States continues to show its immense value. According to Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL), Colorado's largest utility, on April 15, nearly 57% of the electricity that was generated in the Centennial State came from wind power. Xcel has credited the record with new advances in technology, including an update of its weather forecasting ability and an upgrade of software the utility uses to control its wind farms and fossil fuel plants.

August 8: China Rescues A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE)

  • A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) has announced that it landed a $450 million financing deal with a Chinese auto parts maker. This infusion will likely help the company stay afloat at a time when it continues to bleed cash. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm a fan of the company, but I'm still not convinced that AONE can swim upstream against the reality of cost advantages boasted by foreign competitors. Still, today's news catapulted the stock from yesterday's close of $0.47 to almost $0.60 in pre-market. It'll be interesting to see how the stock does today.

  • In an effort to cut its $4 billion annual energy bill and to lessen the potential of blackouts, the Defense Department is working with developers to build solar and wind farms on 16 million acres of open land that currently surrounds military bases. According to a recent DoD study, the lands that surround military bases in Southern California alone could generate seven gigawatts of power. That's the equivalent of seven nuclear reactors, or enough to power more than five million homes.

  • Although sales of SUVs have fallen over the past few years, mostly due to the fact that it can cost well over $100 to fill one up, Americans still love these vehicles. It's why smaller, crossover SUVs continue to sell. And to make sure the electric car segment doesn't miss out on an opportunity to convert internal combustion lovers to electric, a number of automakers are electrifying SUVs. Toyota has its new RAV4 EV, which goes on sale this month, and Ford's new C-Max Energi comes in both conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric. The conventional hybrid model delivers a stellar 47 mpg and the electric model offers the highest electric-only speed of any plug-in hybrid on the road. So is this the new trend in vehicle design for SUVs? Brad Berman from Plugincars.com dives into thi

June 29, 2012

Fixing Leaks, Diluted Pacific Ethanol, and "Another Solyndra": The Week In Cleantech: 6-29-2012

Tom Konrad

June 25: Pure Technologies Expands in the US

Pure Technologies Ltd. (TSX:PUR, OTC:PPEHF) today announced plans for a major expansion of its Engineering Services business through the establishment of up to five new regional offices in the United States.  Last year, Pure was struggling when the Arab Spring stopped work at their biggest customer, a Libyan water authority, but the company did an admirable job cutting costs and developing business in other parts of the world.  Work (and payments) from Libya resumed this spring, and the company's business in North America is growing at a breakneck pace (40% per annum) as well, as this expansion demonstrates. 

Pure has a number of technologies for water pipe inspection and leak detection which can deployed while the pipes are in service.  As water and energy become increasingly interlinked, often the best way to save energy is to save water.  Pure Technologies delivers an extremely cost-effective way of doing that.  Press release.

June 26: Markey amd Napolitano introduce bill to repower dams

 Natural Resources Democratic Ranking Member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Subcommittee on Water and Power Ranking Member Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to improve the performance of federally-owned and operated hydroelectric dams across America. The “Hydro 2.0 Act” would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to utilize revenues from new power production at existing sites to upgrade the efficiency of dozens of dams and improve their environmental performance before looking to build new dams.

New hydro generation technology allows old turbines at existing dams to produce more electricity from the same power flow, but federal ownership and a lack of a budget for new investment has so far prevented many profitable upgrades from being made. This bill would unlock the future earnings from new hydropower investments as a source of funds to make the upgrades.  The net result: federal revenues would increase (even after paying for the debt required to finance the investments), jobs would be created retrofitting the dams, and more clean power would be generated at a net profit to the taxpayer. 

The bill explicitly does not authorize the construction of new dams.  Bill summary.

June 27: GTM Research Predicts 21 GW of PV Production Capacity to be Retired by 2015

  • GTM's new report, PV Technology, Production and Cost Outlook: 2012-2016 looks at the continuing oversupply of the PV market, and expects oversupply to continue, until supply and demand come into balance as cost-cutting, capacity closures, and an expanding market bring them back into balance by 2015.  I took a look at the implications for solar stocks.
  • Reports about Kandi Technologies (KNDI) being the only approved provider for the Chinese city of Hangzhou's 20,000 EV rental program are flooding the Chinese press.  But some shareholders are disappointed because some reports say it may take up to two years to complete the roll-out.  They seem to be forgetting that Hangzhou is a pilot program, and Kandi's selection makes it much more likely that the company will likely play a starring role in China's much grander EV plans.  If China's plans for 500,000 EVs by 2015 and 2m by 2020 are slow off the mark, it's because of the high cost of EVs from firms like BYD (BYDDY).  Kandi's $7,500 mini-EVs could change that.

June 28: Pacific Ethanol Diluted

  • Pacific Ethanol (PEIX) prices public offering of 28 million units at $0.43 per unit, with each unit consisting of 1 share and warrants to purchase an additional 1 1/2 shares at $.53 and $.63.  The highly dilutive offering caused the stock to drop 40% to $0.31 in interday trading.
  • A bill to reduce the high "value added tax" (VAT) rate on electric vehicles has passed Iceland's Parliament.  This bill removes the Value Added Tax (VAT, currently set at 25.5 percent for vehicles), on the first $45,000 of the price of EVs. Electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and other smaller cars will be VAT free.  More at Autoblog Green.

June 29: Does A.S. Stand for Abound Solar or Another Solyndra?

  • Abound Solar announced that it would suspend operations and seek bankruptcy protection.  The company had borrowed about $70 million against a $400 million US DOE loan guarantee.  Taxpayers will likely lose between $40 million and $60 million, depending on the price received for Abound's assets, making this loss about on tenth of that lost with Solyndra, not that the anti-green PR machine will mention that. More here.
  • Alterra Power (TSX:AXY,OTC:MGMXF) received an unsolicited offer for its 2/3 stake in the HS Orka geothermal plant in Iceland.  The company does not need the money, but will consider the proposal.  More details here.

DISCLOSURES:
    TK: Long PUR, KNDI, AXY

Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com.

June 22, 2012

3 EVs in the News: The Week In Cleantech: 6-15-2012

Tom Konrad and Jeff Siegel

June 18: Is First Wind's New Joint Venture Worth $3 Billion?

JS: First Wind Holdings, LLC (First Wind) and Emera Inc. (TSX: EMA) announced today the closing of their transaction to jointly own and operate wind energy projects in the Northeast U.S. through a new company called Northeast Wind Partners.  More here.

June 19: Rio Earth Summit Looks Unlikely to Mend Broken Promises

TK: The optimism of 20 years ago has been replaced by disillusionment and an uncertain future.  More here.

June 20: Renewable Energy Industry Pushes Back Against Bad Press

TK: The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) launched a new resource to counter misinformation about energy.  ACORE and its members will respond to news items on EnergyFactCheck.org and @EnergyFactCheck on Twitter.  More here and here.

June 21: CTA Orders First Battery Electric buses from New Flyer

TK: The two buses will be used in a Chicago Transit Authority pilot program to determine how they perform in Chicago's cold climate.  The New Flyer (TSX:NFI, OTC:NFYEF) will be based on the company's light Excelsior chassis and feature traction drives from Siemens (NYSE:SI).

June 22: Tesla Launches the Model S: Make or Break?

TK: The first Tesla (NASD:TSLA) model S will be delivered today.  There has been much speculation this week about its likely success or failure, and what it will do to the company's stock.  But around the world in China, officials confirmed that Kandi Technologies (NASD:KNDI) will be part of the City of Hangzhou's 20,000 vehicle rental program.  Already profitable from selling off-road vehicles, there's no question about EVs breaking Kandi, and making large profits on mini-EVs in China is looking more certain by the day.  More here.


DISCLOSURES:
    TK: Long NFYEF, KNDI. 
    JS: No positions.


Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com.

June 15, 2012

Two Perspectives on A123, Solar's Strong Showing in Q1: The Week In Cleantech: 6-15-2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

June 11: A trade complaint may filed against Chinese solar manufacturers in the EU

TK: The EU is still a much larger market than the US, which already has countervailing duties.  China's largest panel makers, will likely shift their focus to China's domestic market while boosting production.  More here.

June 12: A123 (AONE) announces battery new technology

TK: A123 (NASD:AONE) says their new Nanophosphate EXT technology will allows lithium ion batteries to operate at extreme temperatures, eliminating the need for liquid cooling systems in EVs, and reducing the cost of an EV by $600.  The greater temperature range would allow the new batteries to operate inside the engine compartment, as a drop-in replacement for conventional lead-acid starter batteries.  Perhaps the most promising application for these batteries would be in backup power systems in places with an unreliable grid.  Lead acid batteries charge too slowly to be recharged from the grid in such places, and so must be supplemented with diesel generators.   Lithium-ion's faster charging rate might allow some installations to dispense with a generator entirely, and would save others considerably in fuel costs.  More here.

June 13: A123 Systems (AONE) Soars For No Rational Reason

JS: A123 Systems (NASD:AONE) shot up more than 50 percent after announcing it  had developed an improved lithium-ion cell that can cut costs of electric cars.

While I've always been a big supporter of this company (wishing them the best), as an investor, I can't help but to wonder what happened yesterday.
Just a couple of months ago, the company began replacing defective battery packs at a cost of $51.6 million. This helped the company report a record loss of $125 million for Q1, 2012. The company even had to issue a “going concern” statement.

Last month, when shares closed below $0.90 the company had long-term debt of $161 million compared to a market valuation of $129.3 million. To put that in perspective, when the company went public, it debuted at $13.50.

Now don't get me wrong. The company's announcement of its technological breakthrough should not go unnoticed. But neither should the fact that this company is still dealing with $51 million in battery replacements, foreign competitors that continue to maintain a significant manufacturing cost advantage, and of course, bankruptcy concerns. I'm not certain the latter will happen, but I'm definitely not willing to roll the dice on that either.
Sure, technological breakthroughs are great. They're important, and they've been produced by plenty of other companies that no longer exist today. That's the reality. Personally, I do hope A123 comes out on top when all is said and done. But it's going to be a long, tough ride. And I just don't see any rational justification for a 50% pop on an announcement of a technological breakthrough from a company that's barely treading water right now.

TK: Rockwool International (COP:ROCK-B, OTC:RKWBF) announced plans for its first US manufacturing facility.  The Danish insulation company previously served the whole North American market from two facilities in Canada.  The new US facility will be built in Marshall County, Mississippi, and was prompted by continued double-digit growth in North America and demand for Rockwool's products and interest from "leading do-it-yourself chains."   North America accounted for 8% of Rockwool's sales in 2011, and the share is expected to increase in coming years.

June 14: U.S. Solar Industry Posts Solid Q1 With 506 MW Installed

TK: At this pace, installations in 2012 should easily surpass last year's installations, despite the expiry of the 1603 tax grants and tariffs on low-cost Chinese panels.  More here.

June 15: Global Wind Day

TK: Today more than 200 events in 40 countries will be held to build pressure on world leaders to commit to double the share of renewable energy by 2030 at next week's Rio+20 Summit.



Next Week: REFF-Wall St and Peak Oil Symposium

TK: I'll be in NYC early next week to attend the Renewable Energy Finance Forum - Wall Street and Oil Supply & Demand: Studying the Wildcards.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend all of both, since they overlap. 

DISCLOSURES:
TK: Long RKWBF
JS: No positions.

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com.

June 08, 2012

Biofuel and Solar Debates; News for New Flyer, LSB, Finavera, Ram Power & Exide -The Week In Cleantech: 6-8-2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

June 4: Public Transit Ridership Rising Sharply

The American Public Transportation Association reported Monday that Americans took almost 125 million more rides on public transit in January, February and March than they did in the same period last year — an increase of 4.98 percent, the largest since the first quarter of 1999.  The rise was due to a combination of high gas prices and economic growth.  Good news for mass transit stocks, like New Flyer (NFYEF), which just unveiled a battery-electric bus prototype.

June 5: World Environment Day

TK:

  • RDM
Rio+20Today is World Environment Day, a day for positive environmental action.  This year's theme is the Green Economy: Does it Include You?  As alternative energy investors, it certainly includes us!  Artists Project Earth launched the album Rhythms del Mundo Rio+20 featuring Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, Sting, and a host of other great artists to commemorate the day.
  • LSB Industries (LXU) gained almost a dollar today when it detailed the status of its El Dorado chemical plant, which had been damaged on May 15th.  The price increase is somewhat surprising, given that the damage was quite extensive, and my best guess is that LSB will be liable for it full insurance deductibles.  In other words, the financial impact on LSB is as large as it could have been.  But given that the stock sold off way too far (again, because of the insurance coverage) it perhaps should not be surprising that the stock is now overreacting on the upside.
  • New Flyer (NFYEF) completes an offering subordinated notes, the proceeds of which will be used to redeem the debentures which form a part of New Flyer's old IDS structure.  The new notes will be listed on the Toronto stock exchange, but not offered for sale in the US.

June 6: Solar Industry Unites to Avoid a Major Solar Trade War

JS: Here's the latest solar trade conflict update from the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy.

TK: Finavera Wind Energy (FNVRF) secured an $850K bridge loan, at 7% interest.  This loan will be used to fund ongoing development, and should be enough to tide the company over until a development deal can be reached for Finavera's Tumbler Ridge project.

June 7: Debate over RFS2 is creating uncertainty for investors

TK:

  • The hope for a new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) was to provide stability that investors needed to invest in the biofuels industry.  Now the political debate over RFS2 is doing just the opposite by "creating uncertainty in the minds of investors," according to Terrabon CEO Gary Luce.
  • Ram Power Corp (RPG.TO, RAMPF) is negotiating a tariff increase for its San Jacinto project in Nicaragua.

June 8: Exide (XIDE) surprises analysts with loss; stock rises.

TK: Exide (XIDE) missed analyst earnings expectations for their fiscal fourth quarter by 11 cents, reporting a loss per share of 3 cents against expectations of a 8 cent profit.  The stock initially sold off to a low of $2.35, but rose as soon as the market digested the details, and is currently trading at $2.67.  As I wrote last week, "It’s hard to see how even an earnings miss could send the stock down much from the current price of $2.31."  Still, the stock price jump is surprising.  From listening to the conference call, I think the positive reaction is mostly due to progress in restructuring the business, and a large jump in cash flow from a cash flow loss of $73 million in the previous quarter, to positive $8.2 million this quarter.

DISCLOSURES:
TK: Long LXU, NFYEF, FNVRF, RAMPF
JS: No positions.

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com.

June 01, 2012

Trade Wars and Patent Wars and EVs- The Week In Cleantech: June 1, 2012

Tom Konrad CFA

May 29: Chinese City of Hangzou Planning Electric Leasing Program to Include EVs

  • This article in Zhejiang Online does not mention Kandi Technologies (KNDI) by name, but it does say the city of Hangzhou is planning on adding electric cars to its electric vehicle rental system, and the price will be the same as electric bike rentals.  To keep the price and space usage down, Kandi Technologies mini-EVs and Smart Vertical Parking System (described here) seem ideal.
  • What Goldman's $40 billion investment pledge means, and what it doesn't mean.
  • Neste Oil's (NEF.F) claims against Syntroleum Corporation (SYNM) for alleged patent infringement of one patent were rejected by the US Patent office.  The office has yet to rule on infringement of a second patent.

May 30: Polysilicon Prices Rise, but Not for Long

According to Bloomberg, polysilicon prices rose for the first time since February last week.  But this tiny bit of good news will not be much help to polysilicon manufacturers like MEMC Electronic Materials (NASD:WFR.)  The article went on to quote an analystsaying that the modest gain does not “alter the fundamental dynamics of excess capacity coming in.”  Last week, S&P downgraded MEMC’s debt to junk, although Deutshe Banks says balance sheet at MEMC concerns are overblown and reiterates a Buy recommendation.

May 31: US slaps duties on Chinese Wind Towers

June 1: Exide Technologies (XIDE) closes recycling plant, looks cheap.


DISCLOSURE: Long KNDI, MXWL, NFYEF



May 25, 2012

Wind and Geothermal Deals; More Efficient Heat Pumps- The Week In Cleantech: 5/25/2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

May 21: Are more wind deals a sign that the bottom is in sight?

TK:

  • Western Wind Energy (WNDEF.PK) and Alterra Power (MGMXF.PK) both announced deals to acquire wind development pipelines last week.  Is the recent flurry of deals a sign that the worst may be over for wind developers?  More here.
  • New tests conducted at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have revealed that US warplanes are capable of flying faster and carry more payload on missions, when flying with synthetic fuels, including biofuels, compared to conventional military jet fuels made from petroleum. The House is considering a bill which would block the use of such fuels unless they are cheaper, as well as better. More here.

May 22: US Geothermal (HTM) secures funding

TK: The deal with Lincoln Park Capital fund provides for the market price issuance of shares for $750,000 upon closing, and up to $10 million subsequently, at the company's discretion, with no discount to the market price.

May 23: Does organic food make you a jerk?

JS: Does organic food make you a jerk?  This is the question that's been popping up in all kinds of anti-organic food blogs over the past week or so. And it all started after a new study suggested organic foods reduce prosocial behavior and harshen moral judgments.

What a load of crap!

Before I even read the study, I suspected it's findings would be about as reliable as Chinese drywall. And I was right. Although one of my favorite writers today, Jess Zimmerman, did the best job at proving how ridiculous this study was to begin with. You can read her piece on this one here.

TK:  Axion Power (AXPW.OB) received a $150K grant from the US DOE to help commercialize PbC batteries.

May 24: Proxy Battle at Renewable REIT

TK: Power REIT (PW) looks cheap because of proxy battle. Its annual meeting is today.

May 25: The Next Generation of Geothermal Heat Pumps

TK: Both Waterfurnace (WFI.TO. WFIFF.PK) and Climatemaster (LXU) are launching new lines much more efficient heat pumps.  Here's how they work.

May 26-8: Have a great 3 day weekend!

DISCLOSURES:
TK: Long WNDEF, MGMXF, HTM, AXPW, PW, WFIFF, LXU
JS: No positions.

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com.


May 18, 2012

EVs are a Struggle for A123, but Aptera is Back and They Thrive in Hawaii-The Week In Cleantech: 5/18/2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad CFA

May 14: New Flyer (TSX:NFI, OTC:NFYEF) Sees Bus Market Revival

North America's largest supplier of heavy-duty transit buses sees overall demand at an "all-time high." More here.

May 15: Electric Car Battery Company Struggles

JS:

A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) has announced Q1, 2012 results. . .

Revenue fell 40% from $18.1 million in Q1, 2011 to $10.9 million. Net loss came in at $90.8 million, compared to a net loss of $53.6 million last year, and as of March 31, the company has $113.1 million in cash and cash equivalents.

I don't know a single person who was expecting to see anything positive coming from Q1. This stock, despite a lot of early optimism, has been getting crushed since early 2010. Sure, traders have been having a field day with this one. But those who initially thought AONE was a good long-term play left the building last year.

To be honest, it's unfortunate AONE has had such a rough go at it. Certainly I applaud any group of individuals with the stones to launch an energy storage company on US soil.

Besides intense competition from already established companies working in this sector, like Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI) and EnerSys (NYSE:ENS), developing disruptive technology in this space is a costly, and extremely risky proposition. And of course, any young company looking to help develop next-generation electric vehicles is just asking for an avalanche of criticism from naysayers, partisan slaves and crotchety old bastards who still haven't figured out that supporting electric car development is actually a patriotic endeavor. I definitely expect those dolts to pump out a few op-ed pieces this week highlighting the $249 million grant AONE got from the government.

Regardless, when it comes to making wise investment decisions, none of this matters. You know the deal – never get emotional. And while I would love nothing more than to see AONE succeed, in this market environment, I have to continue watching this one from the sidelines.  Although it will be interesting to see how it does throughout the day.  The stock headed north at the open, climbing around 6 percent in the first 10 minutes of trading.

JS:

A vehicle with a 200 MPGe has just been saved from the scrapheap.

Aptera Motors has been through a lot in trying to get its ultra-sleek Aptera 2e off the ground, including, but not limited to completely running out of money and being denied a $150 million loan from the Energy Department.

Earlier this year, management announced that Aptera was shutting down its operations. However, thanks to a new Chinese-American partnership, Aptera may be back in business.

A few weeks ago it was announced that a Chinese investor purchased all of Aptera's assets, and is now looking to get the 2e on the market as early as next year.

Now known as Aptera USA, which is made up of several American minority investors and Chinese auto and motorcycle giant Jonway Group, the company is plotting a pan-Pacific assembly line for the 2e. The plan is to have the composite body of the 2e built at the Jonway facility in China and then shipped to Santa Rosa, California where Remy electric motors and batteries will be installed.

This type of pan-Pacific assembly isn’t unique. Coda Automotive has a similar method.

Rick Deringer, a real estate developer who helped broker the Aptera deal, says that pricing of the 2e has yet to be determined but that 25,000 could be manufactured next year with zero government assistance.

When Aptera USA bought the assets of Aptera Motors, it also purchased designs for prototypes and a list of 58,000 potential customers, including the 5,000 who had placed deposits on the 2e before Aptera Motors went out of business.

And here’s the kicker: Deringer also explained that one of the prototypes bought from Aptera Motors included plans for a four-door battery-powered car with the capability of getting just under 200 MPGe. In addition, Deringer said plans are in motion for developing a hybrid version of the 2e, an electric truck and solar-powered charging stations.

May 16: Investors Overreact to Explosion at LSB Industries (LXU) chemical plant

TK: Early Tuesday morning, an explosion at LSB Industries‘ (NYSE:LXU) El Dorado, Arkansas chemical facility damaged the facility.

The explosion was in the DSN concentrated nitric acid plant, and damaged both the plant and surrounding equipment.  No employees or anyone in the community was injured, and management believes that there was no environmental release.  The entire El Dorado facility was shut down pending an assessment and repair of the damage, but management was not able to provide any timeline.

The stock  sold off on the news, at one point down over $6, and closing down $2.36 at 30.01.  The stock is back up to $31.10in after hours trading, after a management conference call to discuss the incident.  Management tried to put the damage in perspective during the call.

Key points were:

  • The facility was insured for both damages (with a $1 million deductible) and business interruption after a 30 day waiting period.
  • The El Dorado facility accounted for 29% of operating profits from LSB’s chemical division in Q1, although this was expected to be lower in Q2 as the company’s Pryor plant was offline for much of Q1.  The chemical division accounts for about 2/3 of the company’s sales.
  • The El Dorado facility has lower margins that the company’s other facilities, which are currently benefiting from low natural gas feedstock prices (El Dorado uses anhydrous ammonia as a feedstock.)

Putting this all together, I estimate the uninsured potential cost to LSB from the accident  to be:

  • $1 million in property damage deductible.
  • 30 days of lost operating profits from El Dorado, or about $1.8 million.

With 22.34 million shares outstanding, this amounts to an uninsured potential loss of 12.5 cents a share.  It could, of course, be much lower.  The fact that no one was hurt and there were no environmental releases seem to indicate that the explosion was relatively contained.

The uncertainty around the nature of the explosion seems to have investors selling first and asking questions later.  Should the stock really sell off even $1 on a potential one-time loss of $0.125?

Before other investors gather their wits, this seems a great chance to get into a stock with a trailing P/E of about 9, no net debt, and significant growth expected this year.  For more details on LSB, see my coverage of their first quarter earnings call last week.

May 16: Western Wind (WNDEF.PK) to Acquire Big Project Pipeline.

Western Wind Energy announced a deal to acquire a 4 GW wind development pipeline for 8 million common shares, worth $12.8 million at $1.60/share.  A company spokesman told me that 40% (1600 MW) of the pipeline would be viable without the PTC.  It helps that most of the projects are in Renewable Portfolio Standard state, like CA and HI.

May 17: Electric Car Sales Soar in Hawaii

JS:

Electric car supporters often talk about the perfect storm. . .

A timely mix of high gas prices, sufficient electric vehicle infrastructure, strong policy support and enough inventory to meet demand.

While I continue to believe the US will reach this perfect storm in another 10 to 15 years, it's already begun in Hawaii.

According to the latest numbers, it looks like 1.2% of all vehicles sold in Hawaii last year were electric. This, compared to 0.1% on a national level.

Of course, this isn't particularly surprising. After all, residents of Hawaii are now shelling out about $4.50 a gallon for 87 octane. And for those looking to go electric, there's now one charging station for every 5,500 residents. This is actually a pretty big deal considering just how young the EV market is right now.

Hawaii has also been a leader in policy support. With a $4,500 tax credit, HOV access, and free parking at meters and parking garages, lawmakers in Hawaii have been quite aggressive in their efforts to get more EVs on the road. The Aloha State was even the first state to disallow condominium associations from blocking the installation of home charging stations.

As an added bonus, Hawaiian Electric Co. is now running a program that offers discounts on electricity rates when consumers charge their EVs at night. And most of that power comes from wind.

By necessity, Hawaii is quickly taking the lead in the US when it comes to transitioning to the new energy economy. And it is also by necessity that the rest of the nation will eventually do the same.

Hawaii currently has a 40% by 2030 renewable portfolio standard in place, and hopes to have 40,000 EVs on the road by 2020.

May 18: New Solar Tariff Puts American Jobs at Risk

JS: Well, it happened. . .

Chinese solar modules are now expected to be hit with huge tariffs.

Here's what the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (pretty much the most vocal and rational voice on this issue) had to say. . .

Leaders and member companies of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) today responded to the preliminary Anti-Dumping ruling by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) with the following statements:
 
Jigar Shah, the President of CASE, stated, “Today SolarWorld received one of its biggest subsidies yet – an average 31% tax on its competitors. What’s worse, it will ultimately come right out of the paychecks of American solar workers. Fortunately, these duties are much lower than the 250% tax that SolarWorld originally requested. This decision will increase solar electricity prices in the U.S. precisely at the moment solar power is becoming competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity.”
Read more.

TK: Stagecoach Group (LSE:SGC) expands in CA and TX with purchase of part of Coach America's businesses.  Read more.

Disclosure: TK: Long LXU, NFYEF

    JS: No positions.

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com, where his notes were first published.


May 12, 2012

The Week In Cleantech: Solar Companies at Firesale Prices, and More to Come - 5/12/2012

Tom Konrad CFA

May 7: Auction of Uni-Solar Fails to Draw a Qualified Bid

As if there weren't enough bad signs for the solar industry these days, Energy Conversion Devices (OTC:ENERQ.PK) is cancelling the auction for United Solar Ovonic LLC (A.k.a. Uni-solar) as a going concern because of the failure to receive a qualified bid in the court-approved bankruptcy proceeding.  The companies have retained an auction services firm to prepare for the sale of Uni-solar's assets.

May 8: Earnings Misses Hide Strong Revenue Trends at Ameresco (AMRC) and Pike Electric (PIKE)

Ameresco (AMRC) and Pike Electric (PIKE) reported earnings before the market open, and both missed analyst expectations, yet showed strong underlying strength in revenue growth.  I went into more detail on Ameresco here.

Pike chart.pngLast week, I predicted that Pike would have a strong quarter because of strong earnings announcements and revenues at Quanta Services (PWR) and MasTec (MTZ). 

While the earnings number was a slight disappointment, coming in at 6 cents compared to a predicted 8 cents, the underlying trend was strong.

While the mild winter led to a large percentage drop in storm repair revenue, down $10 million from $16 million to $6 million,  Pike’s core business showed strong year-over year growth, and even made up for the storm repair shortfall.  Core revenue was up $19 million to $157 million from $138 million the previous year.

Pike initially opened down 11 cents at $8.01 on the earnings headline, but finished the day up 19  cents at $8.31 after the market had had a chance to sort out the difference between recurring core revenues and the highly variable storm repair work.

May 9: Westinghouse Solar Bought by Australia's CBD

This morning, CBD Energy (ASX:CBD) and Westinghouse Solar (NASD:WEST) announced an all-share merger which will give Westinghouse shareholders and preferred shareholders 15% of the combined company on an as-converted basis.  Westinghouse will gain the benefit of CBD’s financial strength, much needed because all solar manufacturers are struggling with declining prices and margins, as well as better access to global markets.

CBD will gain a foothold in the North American market, where it hopes to leverage Westinghouse’s existing relationships to sell not only for solar, but for CBD’s industrial energy efficiency products and energy storage systems. 

Finally, CBD shareholders will gain the improved liquidity of a US stock market listing and Westinghouse's assets at a firesale price.  Based on prices at the close on Tuesday  ($0.40 per share for WEST, A$0.05 per share for CBD), the share swap amounts to a 50% haircut for Westinghouse common  shareholders.

May 10: MEMC's Earnings call shows there is more pain in store for solar stocks

Yesterday, I wrote about the signs we might look for in MEMC Electronic Materials’ (NASD:WFR) first quarter earnings call that would indicate a revival for solar stocks.  Cliff’s notes: There’s more pain ahead.

The signs to look for were:

  • The first signs of improving cash flow and margin expansion.
  • Progress towards MEMC’s stated goal of getting wafer production cost down to $0.20 a watt. One potential bullish sign would be if management signaled an even more aggressive $0.15 per watt goal.
  • Continued growth in SunEdision and and external distribution channels. Any slowdown here would be a very bearish sign.

This is what we got:

Gross margin fell to 10% from 11.6% in the previous quarter, and 18% for all of 2011.
  • The company “made progress” on reducing production costs, but their “cost reduction efforts are not finished.”  No mention was made of adopting more aggressive cost reduction goals.
  • SunEdison’s pipeline of projects under construction fell to 147MW from 255MW in the previous quarter.  Solar project sales declined 60%.

I’d score that about a half point out of three, for the “progress on cost reduction.”  Any way you slice it, it looks bad.  Other bad signs:

  • Weak revenue outlook for the rest of the year.
  • Loss per share was 26 cents, 10 cents below analyst expectations.
  • Revenue declined 15.6% from Q1 2011.
  • Margins continued to slip.

Look for a further decline in most solar stocks.  There will be a bottom, but Q1 2012 was not it.

Also...

LSB Industries (NYSE:LXU) and Waterfurnace Renewable Energy (TSX:WFI, OTC:WFIFF) both introducing much more efficient geothermal heat pumps (EER 40.) More here.

May 11: New Flyer (TSX:NFI, OTC:NFYEF) Sees Strengthening North American Transit Bus Market

  • New Flyer(TSX:NFI, OTC:NFYEF) says that more transit agencies are putting out tenders for transit buses during first quarter conference call, but the market remains very competitive.  They expect selling prices to stabilize, but not increase for the rest of the year.
  • A123 (AONE) Systems expects to spend $6.68 million recalling potentially defective battery packs.
  • Investors don't understand Lime Energy's (NASD:LIME) strategy.  More here.

Next Week: Alterra (TSX:AXY, OTC:MGMXF) and Ram Power (TSX:RPG, OTC:RAMPF) report first quarter earnings.

Disclosure: Long AMRC, MTZ, NFYEF, LIME, WFIFF, LXU, MGMXF, RAMPF

Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com, where his notes were first published.

May 04, 2012

The Week In Cleantech - Orion, Great Lakes, Solazyme, Gevo, Lime, Quanta, and MasTec:May 5, 2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

April 30: Orion Energy Systems (OESX) Triples Stock Buyback

TK:
  • Sometimes microcap stocks fall just because no one is paying attention.  The directors of Orion Energy Systems (AMEX:OESX) clearly think their company is one such.

    Orion is an energy management company with a focus on high efficiency lighting systems and alternative energy system integration in commercial buildings.  The company is profitable, with a trailing Price/Earnings ratio of 18, a Price/Sales ratio of 0.5, and sold at less than half of book value ($4.05) when the market closed on Friday at $1.93.

    The energy management industry has seen increasing competition and eroding margins recently, which accounts for Orion’s recent drop in earnings, and in turn partly accounts for the company’s rock bottom share price.

    But company insiders clearly feel the sell-of has gone too far.  In February, two directors  were buying Orion stock in the $2.60 to $2.70 price range.

    Now, with no net debt, and net cash of $11M ($0.48/share), the board has tripled their previously announced share buyback program to $7.5M.  With analysts expecting continued profits in a range of 3 to 5 cents a share in 2012, and 7 to 16 cents in 2013, and long term growth of 35% per year, the company looks very cheap (relative to book value) for a growth stock.

    A cheap green stock with substantial growth potential in an industry which is economic without subsidies?

    Sounds like a good deal to me.

May 1: Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Scraping Bottom

TK: gldd dredgeI follow Great Lakes Dredge and Dock (NASD:GLDD) because it’s involved in many industries which will gain from Peak Oil and Global Warming:

  • Beach nourishment and levy building will gain from more flooding and sea level rise
  • Harbor and dock work will gain as more freight shifts to more fuel-efficient water based transport.
  • Offshore wind power requires extensive marine construction.

Today, the company reported first quarter income of 2 cents, compared to analysts’ expectations of 10 cents.  That should cause the stock (which has been rising strongly since I bought it last year) to sell off sharply over the next few days.

I sold some at the open today, but plan to buy back in to probably a bigger position after the market digests the bad news.  I like this one long term, and the miss was largely-attributable to one-off factors.  In addition, GLDD’s backlog built up significantly this quarter, which is good for the long term outlook.

That said, the stock is not exactly cheap compared to expected earnings of $0.47 cents for 2012, especially since those are likely to be revised down to $0.39 given the $0.08 earnings miss.  Trailing twelve month earnings are $0.26.  At $7.35, that’s a P/E of 19 for 2012, and a trailing P/E of 26, with long term growth expected at about 10%.

UPDATE: GLDD traded up to $7.52 intra-day before heading down around 2pm and closing at $6.91.  I took the opportunity to unload the balance of my holdings at $7.40.

Also: Assurant launches insurance for solar project developers.

May 2: Solazyme (NASDAQ:SZYM) Pops on Deal with Dow

JS:

Solazyme, Inc. (NASDAQ:SZYM) announced this morning that it and the Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) have entered into an offtake agreement that allows Dow to purchase all of Solazyme's non-vegetable microbe-based oils for use in dielectric fluid applications. The length of this deal runs through 2015.

Solazyme and Dow have also entered into a multi-year extension of a current joint development deal that allows Dow to provide additional development work on Solazyme's tailored algal oils. Solazyme is up about 5% in premarket.

As I've mentioned in the past, I'm not really a fan of biofuels – both as an investment and as a serious contributor to our energy and climate problems. It's definitely one tool in the shed, but it's not going to give us the most bang for our buck. That being said, Solazyme is one of the few biofuel players that I believe will still be around three years from now. It's partnership with Chevron and its ability to generate a few bucks in the food and cosmetics space gives it a little more flexibility than most of its competitors.

Last month, Solazyme hit my initial price target of $16. At which time, most who held out for that target, took their winnings and moved on. Right now, the stock is trading around $11.35. Although today's announcement could offer some support, I'm hesitant about re-visiting this one at these levels.

TK:

May 3: Has the Gevo (GEVO) hour come?

TK:

  • Gevo (GEVO) reports 1Q Earnings, transitions ethanol plants to isobutanol.  More here.
  • Lime Energy (LIME) strategy validated by utility contract win.  More here.

May 4: 2012 looks to be the Year of the Strong Grid

TK: Quanta Services (PWR), MasTec (MTZ) beat expectations this week.  Other Strong Grid stocks may benefit.

Disclosures:

  • TK - Long MXWL, LIME, MTZ, OESX.
  • JS - No positions.

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com, where his notes were first published.

April 27, 2012

The Week In Cleantech: Powersecure, Altair Nano, Zipcar, Waste Management, and Maxwell -Apr 27, 2012

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

April 23: Solar Grade Silicon Industry Under Pressure

TK:

April 24: Will PowerSecure (NASDAQ:POWR) Bounce Today?

JS:

  • PowerSecure International (NASDAQ:POWR) announced today that it landed $10 million worth of new orders for its smart grid power systems and LED area lights. Some of these deals are actually repeat orders, which certainly offers some confidence for the company's products. That being said, I don't know how much today's announcement will effect the stock. Earnings are a couple weeks away, and I suspect most investors that don't want to take on much risk will hold off on making any moves until those earnings are released on May 2. Traders, on the other hand, could end up playing this thing today for a quick one. We'll find out shortly.
  • Altair Nanotechnologies (NASDAQ:ALTI) announced this morning that it has entered into an economic cooperation agreement with two Chinese cities to promote the development, production, sale and deployment of energy storage systems. I think ALTI is smart to expand its presence in China, and at the end of the day, deals like this could really bolster the company's growth prospects. I actually like this company and made a boatload on it a few years ago. But the battery space is incredibly competitive right now. And given the uncertainty of the market, I'll likely view these smaller battery companies from a distance this year. Still, I wish nothing but success for ALTI.

April 25: Zipcar (NASDAQ:ZIP) Raises Profitability Outlook

JS: Zipcar (NASDAQ:ZIP) announced Q1 results today. For the first quarter, revenue increased 20% to $59.1 million compared to $49.1 million a year prior. Total membership also grew 23%.

I've actually been a fan of the car sharing model for years. In fact, I first wrote about car sharing back in 2006, before Zipcar went public. Interestingly, the company I focused on for that article was Flexcar – which actually merged with Zipcar in 2007.

Today, Zipcar is the major player. And I wish nothing but success for this forward-thinking company. Of course, car sharing is not monopolized by Zipcar. There are a few others that are also doing quite well. Take Car2Go, for instance – a company that's been building some nice momentum recently.

This particular car service offers the advantage of not having to book a car in advance or commit to a return time and location.

I'm particularly fond of the company's San Diego operations, too. This is where car2go boasts 300 electric cars in its fleet.

Quite frankly, as we start to see more and more electric cars on the road, I suspect the car sharing model will quickly adapt and take advantage of the fuel and maintenance cost advantages of electric vehicles.

There's actually another car-sharing operation in Chicago called I-GO. This small outfit boasts 36 electric vehicles in its fleet – all of which are charged at solar-power charging stations around the city.

Of course, Zipcar isn't sleeping on this. The company actually launched its first large-scale electric vehicle program in Chicago last month with five Chevy Volts, and is looking to add another 20 electric cars to its fleet this year.

TK:

  • Daimler Buses is winding down North American operations.  Production of Orion transit buses will cease after fulfillment of current orders.  This should help the remaining North American Transit bus manufacturers, including New Flyer (NFYEF.PK).  (Thanks DLane.)

April 26: Waste Management (WM) Dumped by Investors: You Shouldn't

TK: 

Waste Management (NYSE:WM) is dipping on a slight earnings disappointment this morning.

I like this company as a long term income play.  Although, contrary to popular belief, we will stop throwing away as much trash because of resource depletion, WM has been assiduously re-positioning itself to help customers reduce their waste streams, and to make the most (in terms of biofuels, electricity, and recycled commodities) of the remaining waste stream.  In other words, unlike most of the industry, WM is preparing for a more sustainable future.

That sustainable future may be arriving by stealth right now, in terms of decreasing volumes which most people attribute to the economic downturn.  I’m not so sure.  This change in the waste management industry will be (at least in part) secular, rather than cyclical.  Higher commodity prices are driving reduced consumption, reuse (think FreeCycle and eBay (NASD:EBAY) , and recycling.

But the transition is likely to be slow enough that forward thinking companies like WM will be able to transition with it.  Wait a few days for the impact of this earnings disappointment to sink in, and pick up a little to take advantage of the well protected 4% annual yield.

JS:

LINN Energy (NASDAQ:LINE) announced Q1, 2012 results today. Net loss narrowed to $6 million, from $446.6 million a year ago, and production increased 51 percent to average 471 million cubic feet of natural gas equivalent per day.

While my primary focus is on clean, alternative energy, it is unwise for any energy investor to put all his eggs in the alternative energy basket. This is why we are well diversified throughout the energy sector, and certainly have a piece of the booming domestic oil & gas market. LINN Energy is currently my top pick here. It has one of the best hedging programs in the industry, it's expansion plans are aggressive, yet rational and also well underway, and it offers a fat 7% dividend. And yes, I do own shares. I'd be crazy not to.

April 27: Analysts Downgrade Maxwell Technologies (MXWL), Market Makes Sure It's Dead

TK: Maxwell (MXWL) is selling off badly as growth investors abandon ship as analysts respond to lowered guidance by downgrading the stock and chopping earnings estimates. I don't expect to see the stock back near $16 anytime soon, but once the value investors come in to absorb the selling by the growth investors, I think people who buy today below $10 could see a quick 20-30% profit.  If so, I'll probably hold mine. I like this company long term... I just prefer to buy when others are panicking.

For more, see my coverage on Forbes:

I may write more later today, if anything new comes up.

Disclosures:

  • TK - Long NFYEF, WM, MXWL. 
  • JS - Long LINE

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad CFA is Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com, and a blogger on Forbes.com, where the note on WM was first published.

April 20, 2012

The Week In Cleantech-4/20/12: Solar Industry Consolidation, Fact and Fiction

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

April 16: Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) Soars in Pre-Market

JS:

  • Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) announced this morning that it landed a deal with a Michigan hospital to supply a dual-mode C1000 Power Package. The unit will provide both prime and backup power to save energy and increase reliability at the facility. Not sure how much this will do for the stock today, but I still maintain that Capstone Turbine below $1.00 is a gift. Particularly for those who can exercise a little patience.
  • Consolidation looks to continue in the solar space. On Saturday, the China Business Journal reported that China National Offshore Oil Co (CNOOC) is in talks to buy solar player Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ). As a result, we're seeing a lot of positive movement in solar this morning. Don't know if this will actually play out, but as we've been saying for almost two years now, the solar space is undergoing some serious consolidation. And we expect this to continue for some time. CSIQ is up almost 12% at the time of this writing.

***Update***

Reps from Canadian Solar have denied the CNOOC takeover talk.  A spokesperson wrote in an email:

"Canadian Solar is not currently in discussion with China National Offshore Oil Corp regarding a potential strategic transaction between the two companies."

And this is why I wrote, "Don't know if this will actually play out. . ."  Until the deal is done, it's not a deal. 

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that Canadian Solar popped nicely this morning.  The stock has shed a small amount of what it picked up in pre-market.  Will be interesting to see how this plays out throughout the rest of the day.

TK:

  • Union of Concerned Scientists releases study: No matter where you drive, driving electric saves money and emissions.  More here.

April 17: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Shuts Plants, Cuts 30% of Workforce

JS:

  • Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) announced yet another order this week. This time for the sale of 30 additional C65 microturbines to be used in the Eagle Ford shale play. This follow-on order brings the total sold units to more than 150 over the past nine months. Capstone is up about 6 percent in pre-market. As I noted yesterday, Capstone below $1.00 is a gift. I continue to recommend accumulating shares below $1.00.
  • First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) announced today that it will cut about 30 percent of its workforce, shut manufacturing plants in Frankfurt, Germany and indefinitely idle four production lines in Malaysia this year. Although we did really well with First Solar a few years back, since last year we've been keeping our distance from most pure solar plays. I still believe the solar industry will prove the naysayers wrong over time. But for the next year or two, I expect continued shaking out and consolidation. First Solar is up about 4% in premarket. I'm uninterested in that action.

April 18: EnerNOC (ENOC) Moves into Demand Response for Natural Gas

TK:
  • Demand response (DR) companies were beaten up badly over the  last two years because of increased competition in the space.  EnerNOC (ENOC) has signed a new deal to help National Grid (NGG) automate temperature-based pricing for natural gas.  Will its competitors follow? More here.
  • Rockwool International (RKWBF.PK) holds AGM, announces DKK 9.60 (1.8%) annual dividend.

April 19: Aviation Biofuels Advance, attract opponents over costs

TK: 

  • UOP announced that Honeywell (HON) Green Jet Fuel will be used for the world’s first comprehensive test program using a new biofeedstock specifically designed for biofuel production, new Resonance Energy Feedstock.  More here.

April 20: How Chinese Panels Are Impacting the European Solar Market

TK:

  • It may not all be China, but only solar cost leaders will survive.  Euro governments are cutting subsidies; advocates push for focus on residential sector.  More here.
  • Solar companies follow range of startegies: Restructuring (FSLR and SPWR), vertical integration (CSIQ), or sticking to its knitting (STP.)  More here.

Disclosure: None

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad CFA is the Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com

April 14, 2012

The Week In Cleantech- 4/14/12

Capstone(CPST), Siemens (SI) and China BAK(CBAK) announce deals; Brightsource withdraws IPO.

Jeff Siegel and Tom Konrad

April 9: Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) Lands Another 10 Megawatts

JS:

  • Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) announced this morning that it received about 10 megawatts worth of new orders from two oil and gas producers in the Eagle Ford shale play. For the past few years we've seen Capstone become one of the many beneficiaries of the oil & gas boom in the U.S. I expect to see Capstone continue to benefit from this space. That's the good news. The bad news is that today's announcement comes on a day when it looks like the broader market could struggle. This will likely weigh on any gains. Still, I remain bullish on Capstone below $1.10.
  • China BAK Battery (NASDAQ:CBAK) announced today that it has entered into a new contract to supply high-performance batteries to China-based Chery Automobile, Inc. The deal calls for BAK to deliver 1,000 lithium-ion units that will be used to power Chery's Ruilin M1 electric cars. This is the second high-performance battery order CBAK has landed from Chery. This particular stock got a nice boost a few weeks ago after picking up about $2 million from the Chinese government for a battery module project. It'll be interesting to see if today's news will give it another boost.

April 10: Rising Oil Prices Cost Importers $5.5 Billion a Day

TK: IEA chief economist Fatih Birol calls it a serious cause for concern.  More here.

April 11: Siemens (NYSE:SI) Lands $54 Million Rail Deal

JS:

  • Siemens (NYSE:SI) has announced that it has won a $54 million contract to provide signaling technology for an extension of a subway system in Athens. Apparently, this deal came to fruition about a week after Greece's Parliament ended a dispute over an alleged bribe scandal involving the company. As part of a deal to end the dispute, Siemens said it would spend more than $131 million to “enhance activities in Greece.” Despite the irony of the “bribery” agreement, this is yet another example of how Siemens is a global leader in the rail space. I'm bullish on Siemens, and currently have a $114 price target on the stock.
  • Just days after landing its high-performance battery deal with Chery Automobile, China BAK Battery (NASDAQ:CBAK) has announced that it has regained compliance with the NASDAQ minimum bid price requirement. I imagine this will offer further support for the stock going forward. Especially today, if the market really does prove to shake off the stink of 5 straight days of losses.

April 12: Brightsource Withdraws IPO

TK: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) company Brightsource withdrew its IPO today.  The company cited "tough market conditions."  As in the recent bankruptcies of two other CSP companies: Solar Millennium (S2M.DE) and Stirling Energy Systems and a 13% decline in solar stocks over the past month.

April 13: If You Rely On Water To Live, You Need To Watch This Video

JS: As demand for food increases across the globe, agriculture is becoming the largest driver of climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental destruction.

But there are solutions. And ecology expert Jonathan Foley offers these solutions in his TED talk, which was just recently posted.
Check it out. . .

Disclosure: None

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where his notes were first published.
Tom Konrad CFA is the Editor of AltEnergyStocks.com

April 07, 2012

The Week In Cleantech- 4/7/12

Easter Treats for Energy Focus, Solazyme, Capstone, Alstom, and Iberdrola; SemiLEDS Lays an Egg

Jeff Siegel

April 3: Solazyme (NASDAQ:SZYM) pops 12% in pre-market

  • Energy Focus, Inc. (OTCBB:EFOI) announced this morning that it landed a $1.8 million order from “a leading Energy Service Company” for its LED lamps. Despite the fact that I hate reading press releases about deals like this when all companies are not named, this is a pretty solid deal for EFOI. The company struggled a bit last year, but 2012 has been looking up. Particularly after it was announced a few weeks ago that the company had entered into a 5-year cooperation agreement with Communal International, Inc. This deal essentially allows EFOI access to the Asia market. EFOI could get a quick boost today, although the very speculative nature of this particular stock will likely keep it from getting much love from those seeking to go long in the LED space.
  • Solazyme, Inc. (NASDAQ:SZYM) announced this morning that it and Bunge (NYSE:BG) are forming a joint venture to build, own and operate a commercial-scale renewable tailored oils production facility adjacent to Bunge's Moema sugarcane mill in Brazil. Although I'm not a huge fan of today's conventional corn-based ethanol that we're using in the U.S. (at an enormous cost to the tax payer and to the environment), Solazyme's access to Brazil and its sugarcane will prove to be a good thing for the company. In fact, the stock is up about 12 percent in pre-market. Fortunately, I updated the members of my Green Chip Stocks service to this on back on March 9, when it was trading at around $13.00 a share. Right now it's around $16 – which was my initial price target.

 Certainly I'm pleased with the gains, but my only hangup with this one is that the company doesn't seem to have much of a cushion as it seeks to expand. I wouldn't be surprised if the company had to raise some additional capital sometime in the next year or so.

April 4: Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) Lands Singapore Deal

Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) announced this morning that it picked up a sale in Singapore for its C1000 microturbine unit. The microturbine is being sold to N&N Agriculture, which is one of Asia's biggest high-tech egg farms. Biogas generated from animal waste will be used to fuel the unit.

Although this is only one order, Capstone's continued expansion into Asian markets is a bullish indicator for the company.

Capstone tends to be one of those stocks that's a hit with traders. When it falls into the $1.10 to $1.20 range, short interest heats up. Historically that short interest will stick around until a few more orders come in. Capstone has a tendency to pick up new orders every month or two. I've played this one many times before – jumping in below $1.10, then waiting it out for a series of new deals to push it back up to around the $1.40 level. What can I say? When it comes to making money, I'm a creature of habit. Not sure how Capstone will perform today, though. Given the way the broader market looks in pre-market, this announcement could fall in deaf ears. But I'm still a buyer at these levels.

April 5: SemiLEDS (NASDAQ:LEDS) Revenue Drops 21%

SemiLEDs Corporation (NASDAQ:LEDS) announced Q2 results this morning. The LED maker showed a 21 percent decrease in revenue, guided to a larger-than-expected loss, and offered a quote from the CEO that I guess is supposed to keep investors from jumping ship. Noting that “given the ongoing challenging industry environment, we are pleased with our quarterly financial and operational results.” It's no secret that the LED space is a tough one to be in right now. And quite frankly, I don't see it easing up anytime soon either. However, LEDS is still a major player, and if it can continue to tread water (as it's been doing) this year, I think it'll be OK. After all, despite the decrease in revenue, the company still beat estimates.  I suspect the stock will get a nice boost this morning.  Of course, the last place I'm going right now is the LED sector. We'll re-evaluate around the second half of this year.

April 6: EDF, Alstom, Iberdrola Chosen For Offshore Wind Deals in France

Yesterday we reported that a decision on which companies will be selected to build 3 gigawatts worth of offshore wind in France, would be made shortly.

Well, this morning we learned that state-owned utility EDF, in partnership with Alstom (PINK SHEETS:AOMFF) won three of the deals. The fourth was won by Iberdrola (PINK SHEETS:IBDRY) of Spain.

The companies will now build 2 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity – or the equivalent of two small nuclear reactors.

France initially launched a call for bids last summer in an effort to help the nation transition 23 percent of its power generation to renewables.

Although this is a big deal for the offshore wind industry, these projects in France still don't come close to what's currently being developed in Spain, Denmark, and of course, Germany, where that country is seeking to replace nearly all of its soon-to-be retired nuclear power plants with offshore wind.

While debate continues in the U.S. over whether or not to embrace offshore wind (although it looks like the state of Maryland is getting very aggressive here and is likely to be a leader in offshore wind in the next few years), Europe is going full-speed ahead. And certainly we're looking to get a piece of this action. My top plays on Europe's offshore wind development are Siemens (NYSE:SI) and ABB (NYSE:ABB).

signature 

Disclosure: None

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

March 31, 2012

The Week In Cleantech: March 31, 2012

Jeff Siegel

March 26: Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) Upgraded to $49

  • A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) announced today that it will have to replace battery modules and packs that may contain defective cells. The replacement is likely to cost about $55 million. The stock is down about 4 percent in pre-market. If the broader market stays positive today, the damage could be contained. I expect to see a number of follow-up articles blasting A123 because, well, the company works in the electric vehicle space and it's received government support. The combination of the two makes it a popular target.
  • On the upside of electric vehicles today, Wunderlich just upgraded Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) from hold to buy, with a $49 price target. I'm a huge fan of Tesla, but admittedly a bit surprised at the $49 price target. My personal opinion is that $49 is a bit optimistic. I'm more comfortable with somewhere between $36 and $38 right now. Of course, this would certainly be an instance of where I'd be happy to be wrong.

March 27: GE (NYSE:GE) Lands $200 Million Saudi Deal

  • GE (NYSE:GE) has announced that it landed a $200 million supply contract with Saudi Arabia. The deal has GE supplying steam turbine technology, power generation services and distributed control systems for Saudi Electricity Company. Saudi Arabia is looking to add an average of 4 gigawatts of power each year with the goal of doubling grid capacity by 2020. For those who want exposure to energy, but don't want to go “all-in” on a pure play, GE is a great way to do it. It's a solid long-term investment with a nice dividend.

March 28: Japan Seeks Natural Gas Assets In The U.S.

Early this morning we learned that Japan's second-largest city gas distributor Osaka Gas, is in talks to import natural gas from Dominion Resources, Sempra Energy and Freeport LNG. Apparently, Osaka is looking to invest in LNG-export plants in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland, as well as fields near those facilities.

Following Fukushima, Japan's LNG imports have surged. And some are expecting the U.S. to ultimately supply 20% of all Japan's natural gas imports. As I've mentioned in the past, I'm extremely confident that the U.S. is going to start exporting more and more of its natural gas bounty. Between new demand in Japan and the fact that the stuff is going for $12 per million BTUs in Europe and $18 in a few Asian markets, there's no way we're not going to jump on this opportunity.

The fact is, natural gas is dirt cheap right now. And producers will not ignore the boatloads of cash they can make from exports. In fact, there are currently nine domestic producers in line to get approval to export roughly 10 billion cubit feet of LNG per day. Despite those who think we need to hoard everything, the market will dictate the decision on this. I remain extremely bullish on LNG exports.

March 30: Bombardier (TSX:BBD-B) Lands $208 Million Rail Deal

  • Finavera Wind Energy (TSX-V:FVR/ FNVRF.PK) has received an environmental assessment certificate for its new Tumbler Ridge wind project. This is actually a pretty big deal as this decision allows the company to finally move forward on construction of the project, which has been under development for about five years now. This is a very thinly-traded stock, and I'm not sure how many people realize the significance of this announcement. It'll be interesting to see how the stock moves today. But at $0.34, I imagine there will be some buyers this morning.
  • Bombardier (TSX:BBD-B/BDRBF.PK) (TSX:BBD-A) announced this morning that it has received a $208 million order for 16 TWINDEXX Vario multiple units for operation on the Kiel-Hamburg and Flensburg-Hamburg railway lines. A TWINDEXX what?!!!   Here's a picture of one:

bombard

If the market cooperates today, there could be a little bit of momentum for the stock. If Bombardier was strictly a train play, I'd be all over it. But there's still a bit of stink on the company's Aerospace division, which took a hit last quarter. That being said, I don't think this division is quite as bad off as some would lead you to believe. Certainly the company's business jet market is doing pretty well. I'll be interested to see how next quarter's aerospace division performs. As for its rail division, it remains solid.

signature 

Disclosure: Long IAALF

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

March 24, 2012

The Week In Cleantech: March 24, 2012

Jeff Siegel

March 20: Another Solar Stock Disappoints

  • IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. (TSX-V:IB) (PINK SHEETS:IAALF), a beryllium alloy producer that's doing some ground-breaking work in the world of nuclear fuels, announced this morning that its advanced castings are being supplied for the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, which is expected to dock with the International Space Station in a little over a week.

For the sake of clarification, IBC serves a variety of industries, including automotive, telecommunications and a number of industrial applications. But I actually started following this one after discovering the work its doing in the world of nuclear fuels. It's not the company's main focus, but it's one I believe makes this a good long-term play on the development of “safer” nuclear technologies. (Full Disclosure: I currently own shares of IBC)

Don't know if today's news will really move the stock, but I do believe it'll put more eyes on it.

  • For the third consecutive quarter, JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) posted a loss.

Not that I need to repeat the refrains of this sad song, but the disappointing loss comes as a result of falling prices and a slowdown in sales. JASO also forecast lower shipments for Q1. The stock is down about 9 percent in pre-market.

As I've mentioned in the past, it is unlikely that we'll see much in the way of good news for the solar sector anytime soon. That doesn't mean we don't see some fantastic opportunities in solar. The sector will continue to shake the laggards loose, sales will pick up, this annoying glut will eventually come to an end, and those who don't lose sight of the long-term picture here will do quite well. But this is the ultimate exercise in patience. My two cents: Be a fence-sitter for now, but be ready to scoop up some nice discounts later in the year.

March 21: Solar Tariff Does Not Change Fundamentals

  • Chinese solar stocks got a fat boost yesterday after it was announced that the U.S. would impose lower-than-expected import fees on solar panels produced in China. Even after a disappointing quarter and a 9 percent fall in share price in pre-market, JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) ended the day up 4.4%. The boost might stick around for a few days, but the tariff decision has not changed the fundamentals. We still maintain that the solar sector will remain unstable well into the second quarter.

For a more personal take on this whole thing (where you can blast me for being misguided or applaud me for pointing out the starry-eyed elephant in the room), you can read my thoughts on the issue here.

  • In other solar news, Daqo New Energy (NYSE:DQ) announced Q4 and FY, 2011 this morning. To be honest, I'm tired of repeating the same bearish reports on this sector. But if you need a reminder as to why we're sitting on the fence with solar right now, you can check out Daqo's earnings here.

Daqo is down more than 10 percent in pre-market.

March 22: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Sells 50 Megawatts


  • Enbridge, Inc. (NYSE:ENB) announced this morning that it will acquire a 50 MW solar project developed by First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR). With this acquisition, Enbridge now has a piece of the US solar market. First Solar will recognize revenue from this project – the Silver State North project – after final testing and commissioning. This should be around Q2, 2012.

Of course, Enbridge's decision to grab some U.S. solar doesn't mean the company's shifting gears. Sure, you can definitely make some decent bread from some of these bigger solar projects in the U.S. But the lion's share of this company's profits won't be coming from solar. In fact, CEO Pat Daniel recently confirmed that ENB's future is pretty much natural gas. And mark my words, that's a solid future to have.

Although natural gas isn't quite as “clean” as some would have you believe, there's a ton of dough to be made here. My favorite play on natural gas right now is Linn Energy (NASDAQ:LINE). The company recently acquired BP's natural gas assets in Kansas and about another $175 million worth of natural gas assets in East Texas. It ponies up a fat 7% dividend, and yes, you better believe I own shares.

March 23: Another DuPont (NYSE:DD) Solar Deal

  • China Sunergy (NASDAQ:CSUN) has announced that it and DuPont (NYSE:DD) have signed a Letter of Intent for strategic collaboration relating to solar pv technologies, materials, power transformers and insulation over a three-year period.

    Although few are aware of this, DuPont is actually one of the biggest players in the solar space. The company's materials are in about 70 percent of the world's installed panels. Last year it did about $1.4 billion in solar sales, and the company expects to break the $2 billion mark by 2014.

    Today's news comes just one month after DuPont announced a $100 million deal with Yingli (NYSE:YGE) to supply its polyvinyl fluoride film and photovoltaic “paste” which will be used in the production of modules.

    China Sunergy is up about 7% in pre-market.

signature 

Disclosure: Long IAALF

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

March 19, 2012

The Week In Cleantech: March 13-19, 2012

Jeff Siegel

March 13: Do Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Shorts Get Burned?

  • LED-maker Energy Focus, Inc. (OTCBB:EFOI) announced this morning that it entered into a 5-year cooperation agreement with Communal International, Inc. Under the terms of the deal, Communal will introduce Energy Focus to new potential customers in Asia and assist in reducing manufacturing cost. This is a stock we played a few years ago for massive gains after the company landed a number of deals with the U.S. Military. Not sure how today's news will impact the stock, but it could be good for a quick pop. We'll find out shortly.
  • Last month, I reported in our Modern Energy Roundup that there was a lot of short action on Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), but I wasn't willing to take the short bet, writing: “Tesla has a way of burning those who bet against it too much.” Well, yesterday the stock hit a 52-week high of $36.29. Will it keep heading north? Probably. Morgan Stanley actually has a $44 price target on this one. But I wouldn't be in a rush to pick some up now. I'd let it cool off a bit and look to pick some up on dips.

March 14: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Lands Major Deal With FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE)

  • ABB (NYSE:ABB) announced today that it signed a deal with ECOtality (NASDAQ:ECTY) to utilize ECOtality's exclusive network for ABB's electric vehicle charging systems. This isn't really much of a surprise as ABB ponied up $14 million for a piece of ECTY last year.

ECTY has been on a downtrend since last summer and continues to attract bears like honey, salmon and oblivious campers who want to befriend grizzlies. Although the company does seem to regularly land installation deals, the fact that much of its earlier momentum was facilitated by the government makes it a target. All in all, it's not a bad company. But it is battling the growing pains that come with any new disruptive market. Just something to keep in mind even if today's news gives the stock a boost.

  • First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) announced this morning that it landed a deal to build a 20 MW solar project in Hagerstown, MD. The electricity generated will be sold to a unit of FirstEnergy Corporation (NYSE:FE). The stock was up about a two percent in premarket, but don't count on this deal to pop the stock too much. First Solar still has a bit of stink on it right now. That being said, it's nice to see today's announcement. The new project is expected to provide 125 jobs. It's also a reminder to the solar haters that First Solar isn't going gently into that good night.

March 15: ABB (NYSE:ABB) Lands $100 Million Contract

  • ABB (NYSE:ABB) has announced that it landed a $100 million substation deal from Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto is actually undergoing a multi-stage Electrical Infrastructure Replacement project right now. It's expected to be competed in 2013.

I'm actually a big fan of ABB. The company is involved in nearly every major transmission and grid project across the globe. It also offers exposure to the growing demand for offshore wind in Germany and China – which, despite the naysayers, is proving to be a massive growth opportunity. And of course, the 3.4% dividend is a nice bonus. The stock should cross $21 today. By the end of the year, I expect to see ABB trading at no less than $26.

  • According to unconfirmed rumors, Alstom (PINK SHEETS:AOMFF) may be looking to acquire a couple of wind turbine manufacturers, including Gamesa (PINK SHEETS:GCTAF) and Vestas (PINK SHEETS:VWDRY). And the Financial Times Deutschland reported today that India-based Suzlon Energy was looking to sell its wind business, which has been valued at $1.5 billion. Apparently, the company recently opened its books to Alstom.

Of course, these are still just rumors. But if Alstom ends up facilitating a major consolidation of wind turbine manufacturers, it could certainly strengthen the non-Chinese wind turbine manufacturing sector. Which of course, is an absolute necessity if these companies have any shot at competing against the low-cost Chinese producers.

The fact is, China is getting very aggressive in this space. In fact, just recently China's Sinovel Wind Group landed a wind turbine deal in Sweden. This was the first time a European country has purchased and installed Chinese-made wind turbines.

The Chinese are also aggressively moving into the U.S. space, too. Earlier this week it was announced that China's Ming Yang Wind Power Group had just opened its first North American R&D center in North Carolina. And last month, we learned that Xinjiang Goldwind (the second largest Chinese wind turbine producer) had landed 14 North American wind power contracts. The most recent in Shawmut, Montana.

March 16: Solar Stocks Impress on Guidance

  • Real Goods Solar (NASDAQ:RSOL) announced earnings yesterday. For Q4, 2011, net revenue nearly doubled to $40.3 million. It should be noted that most of the revenue growth can be connected to the company's acquisition of Alteris Renewables. And ReneSola (NYSE:SOL) announced Q4 and FY, 2011 this morning. Guidance was exceeded for FY revenues and shipments. The stock was up about 7 percent in premarket. Certainly happy to see some positive guidance, but the sector still remains a bit shaky. If you proceed, do so with extreme caution.

March 19: Uncertainty Weighs On Solar Stocks

  • LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK) announced this morning that it lowered the top end of its Q4 revenue guidance, noting that gross margins would be negatively affected by falling market prices for wafers and modules. Q4 revenues are expected to come in at around $440 million to $450 million. Previous forecast was $440 million to $520 million. Analysts are expecting about $432 million. LDK is down about 3.6% in premarket.  If pressure continues throughout the day, it may also weigh heavily on other key solar players today.
  • India's renewable energy ministry announced that it's seeking to extend a tax break for wind farms. India is currently the third largest market for wind turbines. If approved, Vestas (PINK SHEETS:VWDRY) and GE (NYSE:GE) will likely benefit as both have some decent skin in India's wind game. And of course, India-based Suzlon will benefit as well.

signature 

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.

January 04, 2009

2008: The Year of (Un)Sustainable Biofuel

Last year, I used a special run of AltEnergyStocks.com's new Cleantech News (CTN) aggregator to bring you the ten stories of 2007 which bloggers found most interesting or controversial. Continuing the tradition, below are the ten stories of 2008 which Cleantech and Green Bloggers were talking about.

One of my favorite features of CTN is how it not only provides links to the original articles, but also links to the articles referencing it. Hence the list below includes links to the entire conversation.

Unsustainable Biofuels

In January, The Gaurdian kicked things off with an article saying burning biofuels may be worse than coal and oil a theme echoed by New Scientist. WSJ.com: Energy Roundup and Peak Energy took note.

In April, The Telegraph published an article linking first world driving to third world starvation. Alt Energy Investor saw it as a reason to prefer Brazillian sugarcane ethanol over the corn based variety. Climateer Investing ranted about ethanol boosting venture capitalists, Sharon Astyk at Gristmill took a more holistic view of how we use the food we have,seeing it as a call to re-examine the unfair way we distribute food.

Biofuel controversy reached a crescendo in July, when the Guardian brought us news of an internal World Bank Report which found that biofuels had increased food prices by 75%, which had apparently been kept secret since May to 'avoid embarrassing President Bush'; Blogosphere reaction was intense, with The Oil Drum, Green Car Congress, Peak Oil News, Peak Energy, and AutoblogGreen, quoting or highlighting parts of the article. Earth2Tech, Green Tech blog, WorldChanging, and Gristmill referenced the report and explored the food-fuel connection further, while American Fuels brought us a counter-argument from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Sustainable Biofuels

With all the controversy, others were discussing better ways to do things.  In March, Worldchanging brought us the two articles on Common Sense on Biofuels and Growing Sustainable Biofuels.  Earth2Tech and Peak Energy found them compelling.

Later that month, Earth2Tech brought us a list of 15 Algae Startups Bringing Pond Scum to Fuel TanksAlternative Energy Stocks' Week in CleanTech, Matter Network, Next Big Future, and Dark Enough to See the Stars referenced it in articles about sustainable biofuels, while EcoGeek.org took it as a sign that Algae had reached a tipping point, but I warned people away from PetroSun, a publicly- traded algae company in the list.  

On the lighter side, TreeHugger exhorted us to Grow our Own Oil with The Diesel Tree.  The idea of Australian farmers tapping these Brazillian trees for agridiesel caught the imaginations of The Good Human  and GroovyGreen.com.

Politics

In September, the BBC told us why IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri thinks we can do more for the climate by not eating meat than we can by reducing drivingWatts Up With That? thinks Pachauri is "putting his religious views forward from his position as IPCC chair." But back in August, WorldChanging wondered if Cattle Can Save Us From Global Warming.
 
In November, The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital quoted Steven Chu saying "Coal is My Worst Nightmare."  AutoblogGreen expects to be writing a lot about him in the coming years, while Joe Romm at Gristmill had five reas"avg">ons Chu is a great pick.

Wind

In June, The Guardian told us of the massive growth of wind in China, although it's still behind coal.  The WSJ.com: Environmental Capital and  NewEnergyNews took note.

Energy Storage

In July, ScienceDaily trumpeted a 'Major Discovery' Primed To Unleash Solar Revolution: Scientists Mimic Essence Of Plants' Energy Storage System, also covered by Technology ReviewNew Energy and Fuel hope this means the Hydrogen economy might finally take off, but Clippings thinks plants still have the edge.  

Why So Much Biofuel? 

Clearly, these are not the most important stories of 2008... but they did get bloggers blogging.  Probably the most significant events in CleanTech were Obama's election (surely that must trump his choice of Energy Secretary?) and how the Credit Crunch will change the future of CleanTech.  Rather, this is an eclectic look back at what really got our blogging juices flowing in 2008.  Since September, Cleantech bloggers have probably been wishing for that more innocent time when the biggest issue we had to blog about was the sustainability of biofuels.

If you're looking for news from specific CleanTech industries, try AltEnergyStocks.com's category pages, and which collect stories for each of our categories such as Solar, Energy Efficiency, Clean Transportation, Mutual Funds and ETFs, Batteries, Wind, Waste-to-Energy, and many more.  Scroll past the stock list on any of these pages, and catch up on your favorite Alternative Energy sector. 

Tom Konrad

October 11, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Oct. 5 to Oct. 11) - Move Away From Pure-plays And Into Conglomerates

In General Industry News,

The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital told us about the Green Meltdown. There is no doubt that alternative energy stocks have a rough ride ahead of them. On the one hand, revenue-less companies whose business model is heavily leveraged to technological innovation may not be able to access sufficient funding to go on for an extensive period of time. On the other hand, business models that rely on cheap credit and large amounts of debt, like large wind and solar parks, will get squeezed by credit tightness.

In Environmental Markets,

McKinsey discussed how climate change could affect corporate valuations.

In Ocean Power,

Greentech Media let us know of a new report on ocean power firms. The authors argue that that ocean power will grow from a 10 MW affair today to 1,000 MW and $500 in revenue million annually within six years. The one challenge the authors probably couldn't get into their report is the lack of financing. Many of the small firms working on Ocean power technologies don't have especially solid balance sheets, and such firms could become casualties in the current crisis.

In Ethanol,

Auto Blog Green reported on the Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference. Interesting updates from three leaders in the field, including SunOpta (STKL) whose stock price never recovered from inventory problems at their food distribution operations a few months ago.

In Batteries,

Environmental Leaders informed us that hybrid vehicles were going to drive demand for batteries and smart grid applications. Some interesting statistics here, and another area where certain diversified firms like Johnson Controls (JCI) are currently doing work that could pay off soon.

In Solar,

Barron's Tech Trader Daily informed us that Goldman was turning cautious on solar, fearing oversupply and the impacts of the credit crisis. Actually, looks like a number of them are turning negative on solar.

September 27, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Sep. 21 to Sep. 27) - Tax Credit Or No Tax Credit?

In Solar,

John Gilluly at The Chip Stock Trader let us know that help was on the way for solar stocks. An interesting take on the solar installation business with a stock pick - Akeena Solar (AKNS).

But Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital suggested everyone should put away the champagne: the much awaited bill extending tax credits for solar and wind, it seems, may not be passed this session. Failure to agree on a bailout plan over the weekend would just about fully re-load the gun for solar shorts to get back to work next week.

In Clean Transportation,

Don Dion at Seeking Alpha let us know of a new ETF tracking the clean transportation trend - the PowerShares Global Progressive Transportation (PTRP)

Research Recap informed us that natural gas was going to play a stronger role in many markets. Notice how the article does not discuss uses related to road transportation. Given growing prevalence in power generation, is it reasonable to believe natural gas can also be a transportation fuel?

In Environmental Markets,

Environmental Leader informed us that the RGGI was holding its first mandatory auction.

In Waste-to-energy,

Nick Hodge at Green Chip Stocks talked about making tons of cash from tons of trash. Waste-to-energy, because of the potential for generating carbon offsets, is an interesting area to keep an eye on.



The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

September 21, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Sep. 14 to Sep. 20) - White Roofs A New Energy Efficiency Play?

In Solar,

Eric Savitz at Barron's Tech Trader Daily wondered whether stock loan deals would be repaid. It's always important for shareholders to pay attention to which financing structures companies chose. In this case, if you understood this well, it could have a been good lateral short play on Lehman's problems. However, if you were long ESLR and had not paid this financing too much attention, you were probably not pleasantly surprised.

Good CleanTech let us know about a new report claiming that thin-film will make up a whooping 40% of the solar PV market by 2012.

In Energy Efficiency,

Kristin Underwood at TreeHugger informed us that lighter roofs could save up to $1 billion yearly. I found it interesting that this is mandated in California. Might be a good idea to look for companies in the roofing and paint industries with exposure in this area.

In Wind,

Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital wondered how long the economics were going to work in favor of clean energy. Wind's variability, it seems, is becoming a lesser concern than nat gas and coal prices volatility.

In Clean Transportation,

Katie Fehrenbacher told us that Picken's Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) was hooking up with a Seattle-area garbage collection company. At a forward PE of nearly 60x, investors are implicitly putting a lot of hope on the future of natural gas-powered road transportation. Is this a sound bet?

In Politics,

Matter R Network informed us that McCain had voted 50 times against clean energy measures over the course of his career. Our friend and Contributor Editor Neil Dikeman argued a couple of weeks ago that McCain-Palin was nothing short of a "cleantech dream ticket". Yet every time the facts are put forward the picture that emerges isn't especially promising for alt energy investors.

In Biofuels,

Michael Kanellos at Greentech Media told us that the biofuels business was going horizontal. This could be an interesting trend to watch.

In Oil,

Matthew McDermott at TreeHugger argued that tar sands could be the oil industry's version of sub-prime meltdown.


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

September 14, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Sep. 7 to Sep. 13) - Toyota Speaks Of 'Liquid Peak' And Korea Gets Into Solar

In Geothermal,

Richard T. Stuebi at Cleantech Blog told us about geothermal heat pumps, the forgotten one.

Matthew McDermott at TreeHugger informed us that Ormat had bought exploration rights on an Alaskan volcano.

In Solar,

Eric Savitz at Barron's gave us more details of Cypress Semiconductor's spin-off of its SunPower unit. He also provided growing evidence of an impending shake-out in the solar PV sector driven by panel oversupply.

Jeff St. John at Greentech Media told us that LG was plotting a partnership with Conergy. He also discusses plans by large South Korean firms, Hyunda i Corp and Samsung, to get involved in solar. Large, well-capitalized conglomerates getting involved in solar PV could be the biggest threat yet to the weaker pure-plays.

In Clean Transportation,

Energy Tech Stocks reported that Toyota sounded like a Peak Oil advocate in a recent report. But, reported Green Car Congress, Toyota is putting its money where it's mouth is.

In Biomass,

Jaymi Heimbuch at Eco Geek reported that Austin was building the nation's largest wood-waste biomass plant. He also highlighted, however, one of the main risks with such plants: feedstock shortfalls.

In Energy Storage,

Ecoworld discussed the potential cost of large-scale energy storage for grid balancing purposes.



The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

September 06, 2008

The Week in Cleantech, September 1-6, 2008: Solar also Rises; Batteries are Something to Crow About

In Solar,

New Energy Finance told us that Spain had raised the cap on new solar capacity, but not enough to appease critics.

Ucilia Wang at Greentech Media brought us analysts' picks for 2009's winning Solar stocks, but they didn't mention Sharp (SHCAY.PK), which GoodCleanTech told us had developed a technique to halve silicon wafer costs.

In Clean Transportation,

Autoblog Green brought us Insight into Honda's new Global Hybrid.  And Autoboog Green also told us GM's Lutz was bragging about the Volt's "flawless" batteries, GoodCleanTech introduced Mazda's plans for a rival.

Treehugger told us that while Oslo was ramping up chargin stations, Th!nk can't build cars fast enough to meet demand.

In Energy Storage,

The Next Big Future told us that Nickel-Zinc batteries pack more punch than NiMH, but are much cheaper than Lithium-ion, and Treehugger told us of New Jersey's big investment in Compressed Air Energy Storage.

In Biofuels,

Biofuel Review described New Zealand's new law to promote sustainable biofuels, but Cleantech.com brought word to another biofuel IPO that couldn't be sustained.

The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here. If you like (or dislike) this alternative format, leave a comment and let us know. 

 

August 30, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Aug. 24 to Aug. 30) - And The Tax Credit Drama Continues...

On Sunday, Technology Review showed us the first tidal power generator. Harnessing the ocean's power is the next frontier in utility-scale alternative power generation, but this has so far proven difficult given all that the sea can throw at what humans try to put in it. This installation produces power at a hefty 0.30 to 0.40/kWh, but scale can bring this down to 0.20/kWh. Cut that in half again and now you're talking.

On Monday, Clean Edge told us that Schott was planning a partial spin-off of its PV unit through an IPO. Given the headwinds the Eurozone economies are facing, and the impact this is having on equity markets, this will be a real test of solar investors' will.

On Tuesday, Ernest Scheyder at Forbes informed us that new efforts to store wind power were underway. This is great news for wind aficionados such as myself, and the direct involvement of a large integrated utility is testament to the potential of large-scale storage technologies. Of course, don't expect these technologies to come in cheap.

On Wednesday, Paul Davidson at USA Today informed us that wind and solar projects were in a race to finish before tax credits expired. This rush to get projects in the ground is no-doubt creating a tremendous amount of inflationary pressure across the supply chain, meaning that the costs of that solar and wind energy will be higher than would have been the case had the industry been operating under a predictable, long-term policy framework.

On Thursday, David Ehrlich at Cleantech.com told us that thin-film was getting fat on cash. The big winner: Nanosolar.

On Friday, The Master Resource Report showed us a graphical depiction of why electric transportation makes more sense from an energy balance perspective than ethanol-powered vehicles. After you click on the link and download the PDF, scroll down to the last page. You can access the full presentation on Tesla`s website.



The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

August 23, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Aug. 17 to Aug. 23) - Do We Need An Energy Revolution Or Evolution?

The Economist is currently running an interesting poll on whether we can solve our energy problems with existing technologies or whether we will need breakthrough innovations. Add your vote!

On Sunday, Domenick Yoney at AutoBlog Green told us that electric bike sales were soaring world-wide. I'm not sure what's a good play on this, but an interesting trend to note nonetheless.

On Monday, Matthew McDermott at TreeHugger told us about another biofuel feedstock we may not have considered. Earlier this summer, David Pauly at Bloomberg was telling us about yet another such potential feedstock, which apparently is the craze with commodity speculators.

On Tuesday, Jennifer Kho informed us that New Energy Finance was predicting a 43% solar silicon price drop.

On Wednesday, Cleantech.com reported that Nexus India Capital had closed a $220 million fund. India is not as flamboyant a growth story as China, but anyone who's been to Bangalore can attest to the fact that this is country with the ability to be a dominant player on the technology front. Add to this major problems with the nation's power infrastructure, and you can see why this quiet giant might one day be a major player in alt energy technologies.

On Thursday, Reuters informed us that carbon funds were to grow in 2008, albeit at a slower pace because of uncertainty. If there is one sector that's exposed to the whims of politicians in the broad environmental investing space, it is this one. I like emissions trading; my grad work was in the area of market-based policy tools. But the contrarian in me can't help but feel a little uneasy at so much capital flowing into something that's so closely tied to the political mood du jours.

On Friday, TheStreet.com let us know all that we needed to know about wind energy. The Title says it all!


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

August 16, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Aug. 10 to Aug. 16) - Big Solar Getting Ready To Rival Big Wind

On Sunday, Tom Philpott at Peak Energy told us about The End of Food. The book, that is. While food is neither alt energy not cleantech, it is a key environmental theme in my view and will grow in importance as the effects of climate change are felt across the globe.

On Monday, David McClellan at Solve Climate argued that the costs of nuclear energy were rising out of reach. A good attempt at coming up with a comparison of wind and nuclear prices, and interesting in the context of my earlier article on power plant costs.

On Tuesday, Matthew McDermott at TreeHugger told us about a new software that allows windfarms to predict output to four days in advance. Whenever I cheer wind on, and I do that a lot, I get comments to the effect that wind won`t ever count for much because of predictability and dispachability problems. To that I answer: if you`re paying no attention to technological developments on the storage and predictability fronts, you`re missing the boat.

On Wednesday, Andy Hoffman and Derek DeCloet at the Globe & Mail informed us that Timminco had faded under market glare. And so it goes for Timminco (TIMNF.PK), arguably the biggest solar story of 2007 because no one saw it coming. Moral of the story? Solar remains marred in technology risks. This is an industry that is in flux and not unlike the internet in the 1990s; it'll be game-changing one day but there is no way to tell today what the industry will look like once it's reached maturity. In such volatile times as these, handle with care...

On Thursday, Matthew L. Wald at the NYT told us about two large solar plants planned for California. Now that's the kind of news we like to get out of the solar sector! This is the sort of scale that rivals wind, and declining costs should make more of these of possible.

On Friday, David Ehrlich at Cleantech.com reported on the future of the US wind market. Potentially bright indeed, although keep on eye on headwinds over the next few months in the form of an expiring PTC, higher financing costs and higher capital costs.


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

August 02, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Jul 27 to Aug 2) - The Era Of Economical Large-scale Storage Is Upon Us

On Monday, Michael Graham Richard at TreeHugger told us that Toyota was boosting production of the Prius by 70% next year. This follows on the footsteps of Ford announcing plans to nix production of trucks in North America and retool factories to make smaller cars typically sold in Europe. The thing to note about such commitments is that they have to be anchored in pretty credible forecasts. It's one thing for pundits on CNBC to tell you where they think the price of oil is going based on a 20-day moving average. It's quite another for a global business that's known to need about three years to respond to shifts in consumer tastes to announce it's seriously getting into small and hybrid cars, and putting capital behind it.

On Tuesday, Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech showed us why cleantech investors love and back Obama. Interesting analysis but cleantech investors should keep one thing in mind: Obama is from a coal state (Illinois) and McCain is from a state that could become a major solar player in America (Arizona).

On Wednesday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital reported that Senate had again rejected tax breaks for renewable energy. Check in on Monday to find out why that might not be the end of the world.

On Thursday, MIT News informed us that a major discovery from...well...MIT scientists would unleash a solar revolution. Large-scale energy storage to make renewable power dispachable is undoubtedly the next frontier that, if reached, will allow alt energy to grow to the next level. This is good news indeed.

On Friday, Sam Abuelsamid at AutoBlog Green reported that Ford didn't see plug-in hybrids for another five years. San Francisco certainly wants to make sure it doesn't miss out when this happens. Expect battery technologies to receive a lot of attention in the next few years.


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

July 26, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Jul 20 to Jul 26) - Will The US Solar PV Market Disappoint?

On Sunday, Edgar A. Gunther at Gunther Portfolio provided some silicon updates from Intesolar North America 2008. Solar investors never get enough silicon updates, so here's another one!

On Monday, Stacy Feldman at Solve Climate told us that China was now making increasingly more wind power parts. Actually, she is reporting on an article that was written last week and that I missed because I took a break from the Week In Cleantech last weekend. With regards to Chinese companies active in wind, we already list some in our Cleantech Stocks section, and will be sure to keep on top of it.

On Tuesday, CNN Money reported that fundamentals were to responsible for the run in the price of oil. That's great news! This should ensure alt energy doesn't fall out of favor anytime soon.

On Wednesday, Ucilian Wang at Greentech Media informed us that the electric car market could race for materials. Commodity traders take heed!

On Thursday, Heath Aston at the Times reported that Ford was pinning hopes on small cars. Who needs McKinsey when you have AltEnergyStocks.com.

On Friday, Notable Calls reported on a bearish call on the US PV market. Apparently, the utilities ain't having it with PV, and prefer its cousin CSP. Needless to say, my favorite wind is and will stay on a tear, although that's not in the report...


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

July 12, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Jul 6 to Jul 12) - GE A Real Play On Cleantech?

On Monday, GreenBiz informed us that new cars in California would have to display a global warming score. This is interesting, and it would be good to see data on whether it actually impacts consumer behavior.

On Tuesday, David Ehrlich at the Cleantech Group reported that cleantech investments had hit a record high. Interesting results, though I suspect that if problems in capital markets persist and VCs can't find acceptable exits things could change.

On Wednesday, Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech outlined ten things we should know about nat gas vehicles. An ambitious proposal by Pickens, but I question the logic of substituting a finite energy source for another finite energy source. This seems to me like it would leave customers just as exposed to commodity price risks as they are now.

On Thursday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital wondered whether GE was becoming a cleantech play. GE has been a cleantech heavyweight for years, but the point is well taken that as it sheds units, the effect of its environmental businesses on overall results will become clearer.

On Friday, Matthew McDermott at TreeHugger mapped the alternative energy potential of the US. Well, Forbes did and he reported on it. But what drives alt energy development? Physical conditions or the generosity of local incentives? A bit of both I guess, but the latter certainly weighs a lot more than the former in developers' models.

June 28, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Jun 22 to Jun 28) - More Oil Sands, Please...

On Sunday, Ed Pilkington at The Guardian informed us that a leading climate scientist was going to push for oil company leaders to be tried. I'm not sure one will ever be able to draw exact parallels between fossil energy and cigarettes, seeing as the latter had no bearing on industrialization and economic growth. Nevertheless, alt energy investors would benefit greatly if fossil fuels were given the same treatment as cigarettes by local policy-makers. Are potential bans on drive-thrus a sign that such times are upon us?

On Monday, Martin LaMonica at CNET News told us that VC and PE investors saw no bubble in cleantech. Of course, toward the very end, it is acknowledged that some sectors exhibit bubblish behavior (i.e. solar and biofuels). In my view, the way this issue was addressed by the investors as reported in the article is inappropriate. A bubble isn't about the long-term capital needs of an industry; it's what happens in the near term when too much capital is chasing too few opportunities, leading to a mispricing of risk. Arguing that there is no bubble in cleantech based on the fact that the industry will have important long-term capital needs if it is to deliver on its promises is, in my view, akin to saying there was never a bubble in housing because over a 20-year period the US housing stock will need significant capital infusions to keep up with demographic growth.

On Tuesday, Shawn McCarthy at the Globe & Mail informed us that the oil sands were trying an image makeover. I certainly hope they succeed, and that America sources a growing portion of its energy needs from there. Since this is already some of the costliest crude to extract and since the marginal cost of a barrel of tar sand oil continues to mount, an energy strategy based on this resource will do wonders for the price of gasoline, thus bolstering the case for alt energy as an investment theme. Mine on!

On Wednesday, Research Recap alerted us to the world's first ever credit rating agency for carbon offsets. Of course it was only a matter of time before something like this emerged. Interesting idea but not sure what the prospects are.

On Thursday, Cleantech.com informed us that Duke was buying a wind power developer. Further sign of the rapid maturation of this sector, which in my view holds better near-term prospects than solar. Tune in on Monday for a post by Tom on a new way for US investors to play wind.

On Friday, Craig Rubens at earth2tech told about Gordon Brown's plans for a GPB100 billion green revolution. Seeing as the UK has lagged most of its Western European counterparts in the deployment of alternative energy, the potential certainly exists for plenty of growth there. The question is: is this for real or is it a desperate attempt by an unpopular politician to build credibility with its electorate? Nevertheless, should the UK go Germany's way, it could present interesting opportunities.

On Saturday, Matt Richtel at the New York Times told us that venture investors were wrapping up in an unusually bleak quarter. Small cap investors - such as yours truly - beware! This also means that things are tough for small public firms trying to raise funds. Interesting point made about the fact that VCs may be focusing too much on ventures that Wall Street doesn't care for, compounding cyclical issues.



The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

June 21, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Jun 15 to Jun 21) - Incentive Instability Rears Its Head Again In America

On Sunday, Andrew Williams at Red, Green and Blue told us about one senator's attacks on the solar industry. Surprising for someone from a state with such a vast solar potential, but in line my claim that politics remains one of the biggest risks facing the sector.

On Monday, Lou Schwartz & Ryan Hodum at Renewable Energy World informed us that China's wind power industry was blowing past expectations. An interesting discussion of the hot wind regions within China.

On Tuesday, Neal at Cleantech Blog told us all about SpectraWatt, Intel's new solar play. Just when you thought the sector was headed for a shakeout, in comes a player that promises to slash costs and focus on efficiency...oh yeah, and whose parent dominates the semiconductor industry.

On Wednesday, David Ehrlich at Cleantech.com told us that GE was fighting to keep its tax credits alive. And the PTC saga continues, and the US wind industry once again will have to hold off on making investments until this is reintroduced at the 11th hour.

On Thursday, Jennifer Kho at Greentech Media reported on a plug-in hybrid that caught fire. As as pointed out in the article, it won't take too many incidents like this to tarnish the brand. Could there ever be short opportunities here?

On Friday, Green Data Center Blog informed us that Microsoft had launched a new blog for energy efficiency best practices. Given the importance of software and the tech space in general to implementing smart grid and other efficiency measures, this could be an interesting resource for finding out new trends.


The Week In Cleantech is a collection of our favorite stories from the past week generated by our Cleantech News service. Register your site with us if you want your articles to appear here.

June 14, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (June 8 - June 14) - Are Large Industrials Going to Consolidate Solar?

On Tuesday, Eize de Vries at Renewable Energy World described the challenges of growth for us. A very detailed article on where the main tension points are in the global wind value chain.

On Tuesday, Tate Dwinnell at Self Investors told us that wind ETFs were coming. At last North American can play wind directly.

On Wednesday, Energy Tech Stocks informed us that a new FERC forecast indicates U.S. demand response firms should do well this summer. An interesting piece of insight from FERC, and noteworthy that demand response is increasingly seen as an effective peak load management strategy.

On Thursday, David Appleyard at Renewable Energy World explained how inverters were continuing to push efficiency. A thorough article on an important piece of hardware for solar investors.

ON Thursday, Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech told us that GE was becoming a prime investor in PrimeStar. Earlier this week, Richard Asplund discussed how large industrials were moving into solar. Many analysts predict a shakedown in solar, and big industrials are well positioned to consolidate the space.

May 31, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (May 24 - May 31) - Who Is Going To Pay For Carbon Capture?

On Wednesday, Cramer at TheStreet.com inherited some wind stocks for us. The article begins by claiming that Cramer is a "longtime bull of the wind power business." I'm not sure what 'long-term' means for Cramer, but in January 2007 the extent of his knowledge on Energy Conversion Devices (NASDAQ:ENER), which is not a wind play but is nonetheless a good proxy for understanding of the alt energy sector overall, was that since oil prices were expected to trend down the stock was a "sell! sell! sell!", presumably because there was nothing more to this company than oil prices...oups...But I digress. This is actually an interesting piece and I like the building of the wind turbine from scratch concept. He's unfortunately missing a key piece of the value chain: the companies that are building and operating wind parks. But as a longtime expert of this market, I'm sure he's got that covered elsewhere.

On Thursday, Kent Croft told us on The Street TV (video) that he was plugging into power for us. A quick discussion on four plays on the US electricity grid.

On Thursday, Ken Schachter at Red Herring told us that energy storage was the next big thing. Notice in the latter part of the article how the biggest thing of the next big thing is bulk storage for utilities, a topic that is right up there with increased grid efficiency.

On Friday, HardAssetInvestor saw the light for us. An interesting piece discussing one area of opportunity related to the grid: direct current/alternating current and electricity transmission. The company discussed in this article, ABB (NYSE:ABB), was recommended by our own Tom Konrad last July and is up 30% since he made that call.

On Friday, Matthew L. Wald at the NYT informed us that mounting costs would slow the push for clean coal. On Wednesday, we reported on a recent study claiming that the costs of building power generation facilities were shooting up. If the capital costs of building conventional power generation are rising, and if operating costs are also growing because of higher fuel prices, then it's not surprising that a technology whose environmental effectiveness is unclear at best but that is certain to raise both capital and operating costs ends up falling by the wayside. I think great gains can be achieved relatively cheaply through efficiency, but by-and-large dealing with the negative externalities created by fossil fuels is going to be a negative -sum game, meaning that having your cake and eating too might not be an option.

May 25, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (May 18 - May 24) - Is AMSC A Dog?

On Monday, Richard T. Stuebi at Cleantech Blog discussed the war for talent in cleatech. An interesting look into personnel recruitment issues in the cleantech/alt energy sectors, and perhaps a sign that the industry is maturing. My own experience in MBA school is that cleantech remains an industry that very few students seriously consider as a career option, even though there is a multitude of ways one can leverage an interest in this industry professionally. Hopefully this will change.

On Tuesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break argued that smart grid represents a new boom opportunity for IT. An interesting piece on how established telcos and and IT companies are getting involved in smart grid, which will present tremendous opportunities in the years ahead. Successful involvement in smart grid programs has the potential to generate rates of return much higher than what telcos are accustomed to, so with their relatively cheap cost of capital this could create real shareholder value. Definitely something to watch given the potential size of this market.

On Tuesday, Steve Gelsi at MarketWatch told us that Jefferies was eying cleantech IPOs later this year. The correction in equity markets experienced earlier this year hit alt energy stocks particularly hard, but things seemed to have improved markedly in the last couple of months, even as the state of the US economy remains a matter of debate. Is this a leading indicator of good things to come for the sector, or is it merely a short-lived bump before another bust?

On Tuesday, Toby Shute at The Motley Fool told us that Pacific Ethanol was not dead yet. An interesting point made about the capacity to switch feedstock as a competitive advantage (which, incidentally, many corn ethanol producers don't have).

On Wednesday, Edward Silver at the LA Times informed us that in the wind-power biz, we needed to beware giving some stocks a whirl. A bearish take on two stocks: one on which investors have been bearish (NASDAQ:ZOLT) and one on which they have been bullish (NASDAQ:AMSC). The latter undoubtedly qualifies as a squarely contrarian call, at least according to what Motley Fool users across categories think of this stock. Thanks to Climateer for this one.

May 18, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (May 11 - May 17) - Coal's Clout

On Monday, Chris Baltimore at Reuters discussed how Democratic candidates were playing up "clean coal". It's always interesting to read about politicians courting different audiences. In this case, out of convenience, both candidates are avoiding substantive debate on energy policy, during which it would certainly emerge that clean coal is more dream than reality.

On Monday, Julian Murdoch at Hard Assets Investor told us that it was in the wind. An interesting piece on one of my favorite sectors, wind, with a discussion of a few good plays. Speaking of wind, T Boone Pickens was responsible for the wind announcement of the year to date this week.

On Tuesday, Mike Taylor at Renewable Energy World compared the cost of utility-scale solar: PV vs. CST. Quick article but useful in what to watch for in the solar space in the next few years. Large-scale storage - no surprise here!

On Thursday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break informed us that grocery manufacturers were launching a smear campaign against biofuels. These are presumably deep-pocketed opponents, and this campaign won't help corn ethanol's already shaky image. Neal at Cleantech Blog, who is generally in support of corn ethanol, reports on a study that claims that corn ethanol has lowered gasoline prices in the US, and claims that the case for government support is therefore not as weak as is often argued here.

On Friday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital wondered about the future of German solar subsidies. I've come across a few pieces over the past while discussing this backlash in Germany. It is unrealistic to expect rate and tax payers to subsidize the renewables industry foreover, especially where customers pay a lot for power. So maybe instead of heavily subsidizing renewables and non-renewables, policy-makers should look into ending subsidies for fossil fuels and forcing the market to fully internalize the costs of pollution and CO2. Germany was the main culprit in handing over too many carbon emission allowances to its utilities in the first phase of the EU ETS, which resulted in huge windfall profits for some of the dirtiest power producers in Europe. Sounds to me like someone wants to have their cake and eat it too, and it's unclear how sustainable that is.


May 11, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (May 3 - May 10) - Big News For Energy Efficiency

On Sunday, Jim Fraser at Energy Blog reported a claim by Sungri that it can produce 5-7 cents per kWh CSP. This is quite the claim, and if true, would represent nothing short of big bang for the solar space. Nevertheless, I remain wholly unconvinced.

On Sunday, John Laumer at TreeHugger told us that Waste Management was going to fuel Altamont (CA) area trucks with landfill-harvested liquid natural gas. Landfill gas (LFG) can be used for both power generation and for liquid fuel production. I did a bit of research into this a few months ago and, with the right kind of incentive, LFG could become a valuable asset for firms and municipalities with the right to it. This is an area to keep an eye on.

On Tuesday, Jozef Winter at ecogeek discussed Xcel Energy's announcement of a $100 million investment for 'Smart Grid' initiatives. This is good news for the energy efficiency space, especially as smart grid/efficiency stocks have been struggling over the past while (see COMV and ENOC). I see energy efficiency as a low-hanging fruit with plenty of potential, but unfortunately there aren't sufficient incentives yet to drive massive investments in this space. It is therefore encouraging to see a mainstream utility make a large capital commitment to the concept.

On Friday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital wondered why pricey oil wasn't helping cleantech stocks more. Sure, alt energy stocks are decoupled from the price of oil on the upside, but it's still unclear whether this decoupling would hold on the downside. The broader point from this story: alt energy earnings remain volatile and so alt energy stock prices are volatile.

On Friday, Eric Savitz at Barron's Tech Trader Daily told us that Citi sees a solar glut in 2009 and 2010. So the solar-cell makers with low cost structures will get a competitive edge in a situation of general oversupply - no big surprise here. But who will have an edge in consolidating the industry?

May 03, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Apr. 27 - May 3) - Competition In Thin-film About To Heat Up?

On Tuesday, Jennifer Kho at Greentech Media informed us that LDK's CEO was starting up a thin-film solar firm. Given thin-film's potential and the stock market successes of one thin-film maker in particular, the emergence of competition doesn't come as much of a surprise. And who else to do better than an already-successful solar entrepreneur.

On Wednesday, Craig Rubens at earth2tech featured an interview where the CEO of PG&E painted the future of utilities for us. An interesting interview on the potential and challenges of plug-in hybrids and net metering.

On Wednesday, Scott Krisner at Innovation Economy suggested that battery-maker A123 Systems had signed, sealed but not yet delivered on an IPO. Cleantech investors have been yearning for battery pure-plays for some time, so if this is indeed an accurate report it is sure to draw a lot of attention. The question is, will capital markets be ready for something like this in the fall?

On Thursday, Felicity Barringer and Andrew Ross Sorkin at the NYT told us that a prominent green group was helping an equally-prominent buyout firm becoming greener. KKR certainly raised eyebrows last year when, as part of the TXU deal, it decided to cancel a number of coal power plants on grounds that they represented a potential future liability. This week's announcement will, once again, re-ignite the debate as to whether shareholder value can be created (or at least material risks averted) by managing environmental matters in the same systematic way other areas of the firm such as HR or accounting are handled. PR or good business...what do you think?

In yet another indication that solar is slowly moving toward the mature industry status, Good Clean Tech informed us on Thursday that OptiSolar was planning on building the largest solar farm in the world. 550 MW of PV solar panels is a big deal, and at that scale the economies make the returns on projects like these very attractive.

April 26, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Apr. 20 - Apr. 26) - Are Alt Energy Stocks Decoupled From Oil Prices?

On Monday, Michael Kanellos at CNET's Green Tech Blog told us that cellulosic ethanol was to surpass corn...in 14 years. Turns out he got that info from one of the leaders in making enzymes to break down cellulose. So if it takes about 14 years for cellulosic ethanol to scale up production levels to about 15 billion gallons annually, or roughly 10% of current liquid fuel consumption in the US, could there be a risk that cellulosic misses the boat altogether? Most of the estimates thrown out there for the cost of cellulosic to be competitive with corn are in the neighborhood of four to eight years, but once costs come down will the industry be able to scale up fast enough to even stay relevant in the race for alternatives to gasoline?

On Tuesday, Toby Shute at The Motley Fool argued that Google's gigawatt was gaining steam. What gives Google an edge in renewable energy, according to the author? The firm's expertise in scalable solutions. I've never been a big fan of launching into things in which you don't have a competitive advantage or even expertise, so I'm somewhat skeptical of Google's forays into wireless and especially clean power . Nevertheless, the folks at Google can certainly tell a strong business model from a bad one, and I'm sure they know a thing or two about execution. Maybe one day I, too, will be silenced.

On Thursday, Matthew Hougan at Seeking Alpha shone light on solar ETFs. This piece provides a detailed overview of two solar ETFs launched recently. ETFs are a great way to balance concentrated exposure to a sector with a healthy amount of firm-level diversification, at a cost that makes sense for retail investors. For solar, you have the choice: you can go pure play or solar light.

On Thursday, Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech asked if PG&E would own solar power plants. The argument made here is interesting, namely that large utilities can leverage their strong balance sheets to acquire cheap capital for the construction of large-scale renewable energy projects like a solar thermal plant. Given the nature of these projects, where there is long-term revenue certainty and costs is where big gains can be realized, the ability to come in with cheap capital can make a notable difference over time. In fact, as the solar industry follows wind and consolidates, there is where you should expect the big players to have a significant advantage.

On Friday, Dan Lewis at AEI wondered whether Brazil's latest oil find would undermine its booming ethanol industry. Broadly speaking, he is wondering whether whatever oil can be found and economically extracted from unconventional sources is enough to put a dent in the current supply-demand imbalance, if indeed there currently is an imbalance, and therefore shift political and investor attention and resources away from the search for alternatives. This is every alt energy company's CEO's greatest fear, as there is no doubt that expensive oil has increased their access to, and lowered their cost of, capital. It has also provided some of the political justification for the generous subsidies alt energy has enjoyed in many jurisdictions. So the question begs asking: given the lengths to which certain governments have gone to promote alt energy, would a sharp drop in the price of oil be as much of a shock to the system today as it may have been five years ago? I think not, although alt energy stocks would take a serious beating for a time.

April 19, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Apr. 13 - Apr. 19) - Buffett Encore

This week, IMF officials voiced strong concerns over current biofuels policies in the US and Europe. On Friday, the head of the IMF claimed that biofuels posed nothing short of a moral problem for the West, and that he would support a moratorium on biofuels made from foodstuffs. Also on Friday, the IMF's Chief Economist called biofuels "a new form of protectionism" that is "now front and center in global geopolitics." For anyone who's been reading the news over the past month, you can't help but agree with this assessment. With food prices now rising in real terms for the first time in 30 years, humanity faces something it has never experienced in its history: global tightness in food supplies. Under such a scenario, producer nations shut their borders to export to shield their populations from steep agflation, wealthy closed economies like Venezuela or Russia fix prices for foodstuffs and subsidize the difference, and the poorest of the poor get zip. For as long as I have written for this site, I have always claimed that this would be the single largest problem facing corn ethanol in the US - much more so than industry-specific concerns like oversupply. While the current administration can be expected to dig its heels in on this issue, pressure over the past two years has only been increasing and I am doubtful that, in the current context global food shortages and the lack of evidence that ethanol does anything at all to reduce foreign oil dependency, the US and European biofulel industries can expect enduring support from their politicians. The deal they have been getting is much too good to be true, and I expect reality will set in sooner rather than later.

On Tuesday, Ted Nace at Grist told us about the education of Warren Buffett. Interesting piece on how MidAmerican, a Berkshire Hathaway company, abandoned plans to build a number of coal plants. While Buffett typically adopts a hands-off approach with his managers, he does get involved in important capital spending decisions, so you can rest assured he had a say in this. Now for anyone who has been following what's been happening with coal power in the US, it's not exactly true to this decision went unnoticed at the time. Moreover, while Buffett does not have a track record of making high-profile pronouncements on the environment, MidAmerican has built a significant portfolio of wind generation assets and, again, you can bet the Oracle had a hand in making this happen. Were these decisions made because Buffett has suddenly turned environmentalist? Not a chance! Am I happy that the greatest visionary in US capitalism is seeing green in green? You bet!!

On Tuesday, the WJS's Environmental Capital about the latest large oil producer to throw the peak production towel. The May edition of Bloomberg Markets also featured an interesting article discussing declining production at Pemex, the Mexican oil giant (unfortunately this article isn't available free of charge). In both cases, it probably doesn't help that federal authorities have done everything in their power to discourage foreign investment. Nevertheless, given the opacity surrounding the state of global oil reserves generally, these tidbits of info can't help but lend further credence to the peak oil theory.

On Thursday, Chris Baltimore at Reuters told us about a certain billionaire Texas oil man who is making big bets on wind. Projects of this magnitude will do wonders for the economics of the sector by helping prices come down. I also like the idea of a north-south wind corridor and an east-west solar corridor. I'm not sure, however, that natural gas will ever power a significant portion of cars. It would appear illogical to me to switch out of a non-renewable fuel source at great costs to replace it with another.

On Thursday, Jim Fraser at the Energy Blog informed us that Trina Solar had canceled a $1 billion polysilicon plant. The reason? The poly supply shortage is easing and Trina can sourse all that it needs in the market place. Polysillicon has been the main enemy of margins in the solar PV industry over the past couple of years. Could it be time to start looking at some of the solar stocks that were particularly exposed to this?

April 05, 2008

The Week In Cleantech (Mar. 30 to Apr. 4) - Sawdust Futures, Anyone?

On Sunday, Aline van Duyn argued that businesses face clean water scarcity risks. Arguments about business risk and water scarcity, or about investing in water as the next hot commodity, come and go, but nothing ever seems to stick. This is probably because very few companies have yet managed to make big bucks from water problems. However, on the risk side, things could materialize sooner than some think. Question: what's put Canada on the map globally, attracted vast amounts of capital, has all oil majors in a stampede, and is (tacitly) key to America's plans for a safe and secure energy future? You got it, the Oil Sands.

On Tuesday, Green Wombat wondered whether it was too late for big solar to save the day. This is a huge deal and, in my opinion, a significant sign that solar thermal is coming of age (which I don't believe can be said of PV yet). But Wombat hits it on the nail when he says that bureaucratic and procedural hurdles, coupled with an uncertain policy environment, are slowing solar development down materially. My prediction (get ready for some real insight): don't expect those hurdles and uncertainties to disappear anytime soon.

On Tuesday, Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog wondered whether cellulosic ethanol would always be the bridesmaid. Interesting piece, especially in light of Neal's accurate predictions on the corn ethanol industry earlier. For my part, I have steered clear of all biofuels so far with my portfolio. When I look, I see big promises but no positive operating earnings for years to come in the case of cellulosic, or just a complete mess for corn ethanol driven mostly by wonky government policies. All in all, I yet have to encounter a good risk-adjusted value proposition in this space. Now don't get me wrong, there is a lot of smart money piling in, and I certainly get excited by the potential promises of cellulosic ethanol...I just have a hard time seeing where I can make money out of it.

On Thursday, Clarke Canfield at The Seattle Times told us about the latest commodity to be bubbling up: sawdust. While there isn't really an angle for most investors here, this is indicative of a broader secular trend of basic commodity scarcity, something the world has never really experienced for a prolonged period of time. While the sawdust story is amusing, tightness in commodity markets is not something to be taken lightly, as illustrated by recent unrest caused by global rice shortages.

On Friday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog informed us that Transalta Corp and Alstom were planning on building the first coal power plant CCS project in North America. Let us hope this one doesn't go the FutureGen way. This could also be an interesting proposition for Alstom. As in many other areas, a technological race is currently underway for end-of-pipe GHG management solutions, and emerging as a technology leader could mean access to booming markets for pollution control like China and India.

March 28, 2008

The Week in Cleantech, March 24 to March 28, 2008: Truckers Slow Down, Algae and EVs Power Ahead

On Sunday,

Maria Manka at the Green Options Blog asked if branding will be blowing in the wind farms.

On Monday,

Utility analyst Daniel Scotto warned of increasing power outages in an interview with EnergyTechStocks.

On Tuesday,

Will Dunham at Reuters broke the news of another large chuck of the Antarctic ice shelf disintegrating.

On Wednesday,

Marianne Lavelle of Beyond the Barrel rolled out the news of truckers backing a national 65 mph speed limit to save gas (and money.) 

On Thursday,

Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech listed 15 algae startups attempting to commercialize pond scum.  Algae startups are all the rage, with an in-depth article by Jennifer Kho at Greentech Media about GreenFuel's "well under way" initial commercial algae production plant.  Unlike the Petrosun Drilling algae farms I wrote about two weeks ago, the GreenFuel CEO is admirably low-key about the immediate prospects about for this facility. Hank Green at EcoGeek is feeling inundated under the green wave, but feels that Algae may have come of age.

On Friday,

Jim Kingsdale's Energy Investment Strategies plugged us in to a Danish plan to prepare the nation for electric vehicles (EVs.)  EVs were also on our minds when Craig Rubens at Earth2Tech wheeled out the news from my personal favorite EV maker (Aptera) that "Manufacturing Starts Now."

Preston at Jetson Green surprised us with the gigantic margins by which green buildings financially outperform their conventional counterparts.

March 22, 2008

The Week in Cleantech, March 16 to March 21, 2008: Solar is Booming, But So is China's Coal Hunger

On Tuesday,

Michael Hoexter at RenewableEnergyWorld covered the increasing number of companies constructing Concentrating Solar Power plants around the world.

Dave Room at EcoLocalizer reported on a new model for residential solar purchasing: 24 neighbors banded together to put out their own Request For Proposals (RFP.)

On Wednesday,

Big Gav at Peak Energy rounded up stories on a less talked about biofuel, biogas, which I prefer to ethanol and biodiesel because of the superior crop yields in terms of miles per acre.  Miles per acre was big on the blogs this week, with both me and Philip Proefrock at EcoGeek quoting a study which highlights the potential of solar using this measure.

Jacques Leslie at The Christian Science Monitor warned that China's pollution nightmare will become everyone's pollution nightmare.  Disquieting news, given that China's CO2 emissions are likely to grow 11% per year until 2010, according to researchers in California. 

On Thursday,

Steven Mufson and Blaine Harden at The Washington Post, showed us how China's ravenous appetite for coal was leading to booming exports and profits for coal miners in the US.  Should we really be exporting coal to China at the same time we complain about the global warming caused by their coal fired power plants.  China can ban coal exports, but so can the United States (or at least slap a gigantic carbon tax on them)

Environmental Leader told us how we ("green tech leaders") can open up a $104 Billion market in green technology products.

On Friday,

Hank Green at EcoGeek let us in on the details (and sponsor) of the $10M Automotive X-Prize competition.

The markets took a break.  Happy environmentally conscious egg dyeing!

March 15, 2008

The Week in Cleantech, March 9 to March 15, 2008: CARB may Kill Your DIY PHEV, so Dude, Get a Bike

jcwinnie at After Gutenberg detailed the Mcgyan process which promises to convert a much array of oil feedstocks into biodiesel with a reusable catalyst and less waste.

AutoblogGreen plugged us in to Zap's new Prius PHEV conversion kit, but Green Car Congress brought us a study that warned we might need to do some serious water planning before such too many people start using them.

On Monday,

Craig Rubens at Earth-to-Tech painted a picture of a new photovoltaic coating from Corus Colors.

On Wednesday,

David Erlich at Cleantech.com rolled out the story of GE's new organic light-emitting diode (OLED) printing process.

On Thursday,

Tom Whipple at EnergyBulletin took at look at a largely unrecognized driver for the current financial turmoil: Peak Oil.

Earl K., at Climate Progress, warned that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is about the kill the electric car, again, and asked us to take action before the March 27 meeting.

On Friday,

Kevin Bullis at Technology Review gave us the skinny on Solaria's photovoltaic panels made with thin strips of silicon.

On Pi-Day,

Warren McLaren at Treehugger reminded us that there's a greener transportation option that water-guzzling PHEVs which is taking off in Britian, and Jasmin Chua found us a cartoon to cheer us up about the whole mess.

March 08, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Mar. 2 to Mar. 8) - King Coal Not Plentiful And Cheap? Nooooo....

On Wednesday, David Strahan at The Guardian calculated some lump sums for us. A couple of years ago, when it became clear that we were running into serious supply problems with oil, one pundit after another told us that we would never have to worry about coal. After all, in the US alone, there was 250 years' worth of supply at current consumption rates. Well, that was then, and this is now. And if skyrocketing feedstock costs aren't enough to deter you from building a coal plant, maybe rising capital costs will. Is King Coal's reign looking shaky? It might be time to re-visit Tom's article on constructing a peak coal portfolio.

On Wednesday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital wondered whether TXU was in too much debt to go green. The question is framed wrongly - it's not about whether TXU is too leveraged to go green, but rather about whether looming climate regulation will upset the economics of the power generation industry to a degree where the firm's new capital structure won't be optimal anymore. But the point is well made; while KKR and TPG were hoping that the cancellation of coal plants would reduce risk, it turns out that too much leverage may still put them in an environmentally-driven bind. Damned if you lever up to your eyeballs and cancel coal projects, damned if you don't.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Kho at Greentech Media wondered whether there would be competition for First Solar. Judging by the firm's trailing and forward PE ratios, you definitely wouldn't guess there's competition on the way. Whether the challenger discussed in the article makes it or not, it is somewhat dumbfounding that no one had gone after First Solar in any meaningful until now. But I for one certainly don't think that that will remain the case forever, and until I have a clearer picture of what the competitive landscape will look like once the industry has matured a bit, I wouldn't touch that stock at this level with a ten-foot pole.

On Friday, Robert Rapier at R-Squared Energy Blog argued that cellulosic ethanol was dead. This is an interesting take on the ethanol debate, and not a new point of view from the author. Of course, political leaders have invested much political capital in both corn-based and cellulosic ethanol, and this could ensure that many hurdles are surmounted at whatever the cost. Path dependency in policy-making can be an incredibly powerful force, and the US is showing no sign of veering off the ethanol path. Although I do like gasification technology, I'm definitely not ready to write-off cellulosic ethanol just yet.

On Saturday, Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog told us about doing cleantech the right way. I've discussed GE's cleatech moves on a number of occasions in the past. There's no doubt that by applying its notorious corporate culture and discipline to the emerging fields of cleantech and alt energy, GE has been able to achieve great successes, fast. As pointed out by Neal, this flies in the face of VC folks who often believe that large conglomerates are not nimble enough to play in high growth spaces like cleantech. In fact, in these times of uncertain equity markets, larger and more stable firms are a safer way to play cleantech than emergent pure-plays. Where's GE headed to next? Looks like electric cars and batteries.

February 29, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Feb. 24 to Mar. 1) - Solar: From Darling To Dog?

On Sunday, TraderMark at Fund My Mutual Fund opined that the solar sector was headed for a shakeout. Well, he didn't quite opine that...he reported the major points from Greentech Media's Solar Market Outlook event. The main conclusion is that it's not only 2008 that's going to be a tough year for solar, but rather the next 3 to 4 years as the industry matures and consolidates. TraderMark argues that the solar sector will follow a boom-bust-echo path; we're currently just exiting boom times (read: incredibly rich valuations times) and the whole think is about to go bust, but if you can pick up future winners on the cheap during this period echo will do great for you.

On Wednesday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog reported that the end might be in sight for silicon shortage in the solar industry. The timing will be unfortunate for many PV hopefuls. Just as solar PV manufacturers get a break on the cost side, the revenue end will likely give as too much supply forces prices down. Where should you look for good long-term investments? Low manufacturing costs and healthy balance sheets to come out ahead in the consolidation game.

On Thursday, The Economist discussed the transition process from geek to green. Do high-profile techies have what it takes to be good at running successful cleantech and alt energy firms? On the one hand, there is a decidedly 'tech' feel to a whole side of the business. On the other hand, the forces driving much of the momentum in cleantech and alt energy are vastly different from those driving the technology industry. Mind you, the internet sector did broadly follow a boom-bust-echo development path (see first item), so maybe experience navigating this sort of environment is what will really matter as the sector matures.

On Thursday, David M. Herszenhorn at the the NYT discussed the passing by the House of a bill to extend tax credits and other incentives to the alternative energy sector. Concerns about those credits are partly responsible for the current volatility experienced by alt energy stocks, most notably solar. It seems ridiculous to me to argue that Big Oil needs tax breaks to operate profitably. Alternative energy, on the other hand, still needs a push in the near term, although it holds tremendous promises in the long run from nearly any point of view. Given demands by industry actors to end political uncertainty soon so as to not stunt growth, separating the two issues would probably be a more pragmatic road to take at this point. After all, old pork-channeling habits die hard, so in its current form don't expect that bill to go down without a fight from the White House.

On Friday, Gerard Wynn at Reuters informed us that banks are in talks to shape U.S. climate policy. This news comes just a few weeks after a coalition of major US banks claimed they were going to place more weight on climate risks in lending. Are these two pieces of news coincidental? Not at all. As the entities that will be running the trading show in carbon markets, big banks have every incentive to ensure that the system is structured in a way that will maximize value for them and their shareholders. Of course there are those who are cynical about this and claim that carbon markets will be nothing but a big money grab by big finance. I'm in the camp of those who believe that you have to be real about it, and that if everyone loses it will be years before any real climate action is taken. After all, Gordon Gekko's famous "Greed is good" speech became famous for a reason.


February 23, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Feb. 17 to Feb. 23) - Does The Residential Real Estate Sector Hold The Climate Change Key?

On Monday, Richard T. Stuebi at the Cleantech Blog gave us the heads up on a McKinsey Global Institute study on energy 'productivity' (read efficiency). MGI makes an good case for policy-makers to pay more attention to energy efficiency, and the authors outline what investment commitments would have to made in different sectors for their ideal scenario to be realized. One interesting insight - the residential sector would be near the top at 25% of investment flows. Are retail energy efficiency solutions one piece of regulation away from taking off?

On Tuesday, Nick Hodge at Seeking Alpha told us about how to invest in BIPV companies. If one believes that the MGI's masterplan for energy productivity (discussed above) has a good chance of being implemented, than the BIPV sector would be a huge winner. Another funny coincidence: one the global leaders in this space just got smashed for margin, inventory and guidance hiccups. Can you guess who that is? This could be a good time to look at picking some up on the (relative) cheap.

On Wednesday, Energy Tech Stocks argued that the chance of a disastrous drought in the U.S. southwest presented a huge opportunity for utility-scale solar firms like Ted Turner’s. It's no mystery that the once mighty rivers of the US west aren't so mighty anymore - so could the lost hydroelectric potential be recouped through massive solar developments? That's certainly a possibility and I'd go further and argue that, given yet unresolved variability and storage issues with solar PV, CSP is what you should really be interested in if you think the west is going solar for its baseload needs.

On Wednesday, Climateer at Climateer Investing told us about an interesting article that wonders whether massive railroad infrastructure will fundamentally change US transportation logistics. Railroads could be one of the great winners of tightening environmental standards, rising fuel costs and chronic traffic problems in most of North America's major urban areas. Of course, this isn't 1873 anymore and one doesn't build a railway where ever one feels like it. But because hardly any money has gone in the railroad network since 1873, upgrades alone could provide some interesting opportunities. Look for the suppliers.

On Thursday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital told us about a new carbon market. I've been keeping an eye on the little Massachusetts-based, Toronto-listed company discussed in this article for a couple of years now because of my interest in environmental markets. While I think that what these guys are doing is very innovative, I am a little concerned about crowding out. America's environmental markets (i.e. NOx/SOx, RECs, etc.) are neither especially large nor especially liquid. While the advent of carbon trading and the growth of the RECs markets could change that dramatically, it is unclear whether everyone will be able to play this game profitably. At the end of the day, in the exchange business, scale and reputation drive business which drives liquidity which drives efficient prices which drive more business, although the World Energy folks don't view exchange-based trading as an optimal solution (hmmmm...I wonder why that might be). At the other end of the spectrum, the more established brokers will drive a lot of the OTC business. While the entry of NYMEX into this sector boosted confidence that carbon trading is indeed be on the horizon for North America, it also made that whole space a lot less attractive for existing and potential competitors.


February 09, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Feb. 3 to Feb. 9) - Happy Year Of The Rat!

On Monday, Lisa Lee at Reuters informed us that banks were to weigh CO2 emissions in power lending. This is, without a doubt, the story of the week. However, anybody who has been following this space knew that the writing was on the wall. Cai Steger at The Invisible Green Hand put together a comprehensive list of coal power projects that have either been canceled or put on hold due to environmental concerns in the recent past. Somewhat paradoxically, the same week, a major US coal export terminal announced that it was boosting capacity. Don't be fooled, although coal may have suffered a small setback in America, it continues to do very well globally as a fuel source for power gen.

On Tuesday, Julian Murdoch at Hard Assets Investor gave us an overview of the latest Bush budget from an alternative energy perspective. This is an interesting read and I don't have too much to say about it, other than that the Bush Administration definitely did not throw alt energy any bones to make up for ground lost elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Ryan Stanton at Mlive.com told us that methane from landfills was seen as a viable, renewable source of energy. Landfill methane, old story right? Well I'm not so sure. While the technology and the concept have been with us for the better part of the past 20 years, the economics of these projects could be significantly altered in the years ahead for two main reasons: (a) the proliferation of incentive programs for clean power generation across North America, and (b) my favorite, carbon credits. It will be interesting to see what happens with firms heavily involved with this, which at the moment would be your large-cap waste management companies. Could they be in a position to build nice portfolios of carbon offsets for eventual re-sale in a North American carbon market...a la Blue Source?

On Wednesday, Massie Santos Ballon at Cleantech.com met with someone who is challenging silicon's grip on solar. Despite rough times in equity markets and uncertainty around federal incentives and the price of oil, solar remains a pretty exciting space because such innovations promise to bring down costs significantly in the next few years. However, although it is fair to say that an economic slowdown will not ravage the industry, hefty valuations across the sector as recently as last month suggest that a little more pain may be on the way if equity markets continue to soften. Watch for good bargains!

On Friday, Michael Kanellos at CNet News.com gave us some scary stats about greening the grid. What are two of the biggest issues facing the grid according to these two utilities executives? Grid expansion/upgrade and storage - two of our favorite sectors. The numbers given early on in the article provide you an idea of the scale of expenditures required over the next few decades. Check out Tom's article for a selection of transmission stocks.

Finally, the AltEnergyStocks.com team would like to wish all of our Chinese readers Happy New Year. This year is the year of the Rat. We put year of the Rabbit earlier - that was a mistake. Apologies.

February 02, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Jan 27. 30 to Feb. 5) - Renewable Fuel Credit Trading Goes Live

A few weeks ago, I argued that signs were pointing toward an imminent return of diesel powertrain technology in North America. On Monday, however, Mike Millikin at Green Car Congress informed us that US new-car shoppers did not see diesels as a likely mainstream powertrain. Instead, hybrids really seem to have captured the imagination of US car shoppers. The respondents' perception of diesel seems rooted in stereotypes dating back to the 1980s, which I suppose is normal given that that is when US drivers last experienced diesel engines to any significant degree. It will be interesting to see whether the car makers that are banking on diesel making a comeback in North America manage to change that perception.

On Wednesday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital discussed rate cuts and renewable energy. Well...not quite. His post focuses mostly on what would happen to solar stocks should OPEC turn on the taps. Should OPEC nations find the capacity to increase their collective output, this would be yet one more item solar bears would have on their side for 2008. But the question is, can OPEC even find that capacity?

On Wednesday, Bioenergy Business told us that a new US renewable fuel standard trading exchange had gone live. Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of all things market-based for regulatory compliance, be it carbon credits, SOx emissions or RECs. This new kid on the environmental exchange bloc promises to be interesting, especially given that, unlike CO2 or RECs in certain states, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is mandatory.

On Thursday, Climateer at Climateer Investing gave us the heads up on an article that argues that China could soon be the world's top wind turbine manufacturer. There are two interesting angles for investors here. First, current tightness in wind turbine supply should ease by 2009 as new capacity continues to be added, which will lead to price decline and potential top-line impacts for the current turbine majors. Second, after a plethora of Chinese solar IPOs on US exchanges over the past 3 years, could Chinese turbine makers be next? Keep in mind, however, that quality will continue to be a key issue and that the incumbents have a serious advantage here.

On Friday, Renewable Energy Access informed us that the Senate Finance Committee had added renewable energy tax credits to the White House's proposed Stimulus Bill. Not quite sure what to think of that. For one thing, that package really isn't where these support schemes belong, and the fact that Senators resorted to trying to squeeze this in there highlights Congress' complete lack of leadership on this issue more generally. Second, like many others, I happen to think that this 'stimulus' effort is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that demands more fundamental and long-term action.

January 27, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Jan. 20 to Jan. 26) - Renewable Energy Is Coming Of Age

On Tuesday, Todd Woody at Green Wombat told us the the clock was ticking on the crucial solar investment tax credit. When the solar ITC was dropped, the potential impacts were unclear although many folks had a good idea of what might happen. It now seems as though this is indeed throwing a spoke in the wheel of more solar development in the US, although industry leaders apparently remain sanguine. Given the amount of debt financing solar developments typically get, throw on top of ITC concerns high levels of uncertainty in capital markets over the direction of the economy (for at least the first half of 2007), and you have a perfect storm in terms solar financing drying up. We've recently argued that 2007 could be a bear year for solar...to be continued!

On Wednesday, BCC Research argued that the global market for electric energy storage would be worth $3.8 billion by 2013. A gentle reminder that large-scale energy storage is one of the biggest challenges facing North American power grids at the moment, especially as more renewable energy is brought on stream. But besides renewable power, effective large-scale storage could go a long way in dealing with base/peak fluctuations cleanly and cheaply. Regular readers know that both Tom and I like large-scale storage a lot, and these numbers seem to confirm our hunch.

On Wednesday, Keith Johnson at the WSJ's Environmental Capital informed us that alternative energy was coming of age. The Iberdrola Renovables IPO did indeed mark a turning point in the world of public alternative energy firms - the emergence of pure play renewable energy behemoths.

On Thursday, Renewable Energy Access informed us that Acciona (ACXIF.PK), the Spanish wind power heavyweight, had received its first wind power contract in Canada. This news came a week after the company had announced the opening of its first wind turbine manufacturing facility in the US. On Wednesday, Repower System AG (RPWSF.PK) announced its intention to open a turbine facility in Canada. 2007 saw growing activity by large foreign wind players in the North American market, and it is fair to say that North American really has become the world's new 'wind frontier' (at least for the time being). What's the significance of this? Just as the European wind power boom is waning, many of those firms are now finding new growth pipelines that will carry them through the next few years until Asia really takes off. You can also expect a continuation of the intense consolidation activity that's been the norm over the past two years. Find small publicly-traded firms with wind development rights and you have good plays on this consolidation - for this, however, you will mostly have to look on the Canadian side of the border.

On Saturday, Alex Steffen at World Changing showed us what happens when Big Oil starts to scenarize about climate change. Given the degree to which companies such as Shell influence energy policies, this is interesting insight in how they see things develop over the next few years.


January 19, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Jan. 13 to Jan. 19) - CO2 'Wildcatting': The Next Big Alt Energy Play?

On Sunday, Cory Jenkins at Seeking Alpha told us about the next green energy phenomenon. The carbon offset space where credit origination is coupled with commoditization of what would otherwise be 'waste' (i.e. methane from livestock can be used to produce power instead of vented into the atmosphere) is a space I am very excited about. Some of you may have read the article in the December edition of Bloomberg Magazine on privately-owned Blue Source, and, if you haven't, I'd definitely recommend it. I think the business model makes an increasing amount of sense the more whatever you initially capture (e.g. methane) can be sold directly for revenue. Bank most of the credits, wait for regulation to happen, and you may find yourself sitting on an asset worth a lot of money. Again, unlike the more complex tech plays in the cleantech space, I like this because I can actually understand what's going on and can see a very healthy market develop for such services.

On Monday, Jim Gillies at The Motley Fool told us about the worst stock for 2008 (drum roll): First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR). One quote from this article pretty much sums up how I feel: "Never confuse a business with its stock." Ratios alone will tell you that this story is over-hyped, and Porter's Five Forces tell you that unless certain specific conditions are met at all times (and they are not in this case), it won't be too long before something gives and your margins get squeezed. To be continued...

On Wednesday, Xavier Navarro at AutoBlog Green informed us that the EU was ready to ban certain biofuels. The EU is citing false concerns to shield its grossly inefficient farmers from global competition. What's new? What's new is that we are now exiting a world where prices for agricultural commodities had been in steady decline in real terms for 30 years, and entering the brave new world of agflation. More than ever, the distorting effects of Western agricultural protectionism will be felt not only abroad but also at home. Concerns surrounding agricultural inflation driven by increasing demand for proteins by China and India's exploding middle classes remains, in my view, one of the biggest risks facing the non-cellulosic ethanol sector. The Food Vs Fuel debate will become, in the years ahead, more real than ever.

On Wednesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break discussed the ugly side of next-gen energy storage. This story should serve as a cautionary tale to investors who get excited after one contract is signed or one milestone reached by a company working on the technology du jours. Many companies in the cleantech space are attempting to develop applications that will never make it past the lab's doors. In times of credit tightness and equity market softness (i.e. now), the technology risks discussed by Tyler are compounded by financial risks, as many of these firms get wiped out after they burn through their cash and are unable raise additional financing. Right now is a good time, if you are holding stocks like this, to take a real close look at various measures of working capital. A balance sheet implosion would prove just as disastrous for an investor as a battery explosion.

On Wednesday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing gave one of the reasons why residential energy techs don't get adopted. Add to that substantial behavioral barriers, and you start to get the picture. The residential market for green solutions offers the potential for high margins but the the hurdles as they currently stand make that space, in my view, unattractive from an investor's standpoint. Building-related cleantech firms have a much better shot with commercial customers, but here the margins are typically lower.

January 05, 2008

The Week in Cleantech (Dec. 30 to Jan. 5) - Will The Solar Bears Come Out In 2008?

Technology Review, my favorite science publication, gave us last week a wrap-up of the year in energy. It's a recap of the main energy-related stories the magazine published in 2007, and is well-worth a read if you want to start 2008 up-to-date on where the science is on most issues of relevance to alt energy investors.

On Monday, Jerome Ball at Alternative Energy Trading argued that the solar PV industry would veer into oversupply in 2008. This is one of the most cogent analysis of the solar PV market I have read in a while, and it takes a somewhat contrarian view - what's not to like! I'm entirely out of solar PV at the moment simply because last time I had cash on hand and was looking for PV stocks, I couldn't find what to me seemed like good value. On a related note, on the VC front, Rob Day's Cleantech Investing Readers’ Survey (Part II) revealed that many folks out there feel like solar may be exhibiting signs of bubblishness. Will solar PV be the great bear story of 2008?

On Wednesday, Dan Lewis at AEI told us which were the best and worst returning alternative energy stocks in 2007. Ignore the non-US securities and an unsurprising picture emerges: the vast majority of top performers are solar stocks (many of them Chinese listed in the US) and most of the dogs are ethanol stocks. Unsurprising as it is, this picture is still worth a thousand words. Tom argued some time ago that the correction in ethanol stocks may have been overdone, and Jerome Ball (see above) recently argued that the solar bull may be running out of steam. Might 2008 be a good time to start looking at some of the ethanol stocks again?

On Wednesday, Sebastian Blanco at AutoblogGreen told us that new CAFE requirements had helped turn Detroit's eye back to diesels. Interestingly, while arguments are raging within the cleantech community over whether biofuels or electric powertrains will emerge as the dominant choice for road transportation in North America, diesel may quietly be staging a comeback. While both biofuels and electric cars are years away at best from seriously threatening the dominance of gasoline here, diesel could emerge as a contender sooner rather than later, as evidenced by its prominence at this year's Detroit Auto Show. Purists will certainly say diesel isn't 'clean', but one would be hard-pressed to argue that ethanol is. Moreover, I've always favored evolutions over revolutions, especially when it comes to my portfolio. So, could 2008 be the year to start looking for auto part makers with exposure to diesel?

On Thursday, the Biopact Team told us that investments in renewables broke the $100 billion barrier in 2007. It's a nicely-done overview of a recent study (PDF document) by New Energy Finance on alternative energy investment flows in 2007. On the public market side, the Iberdrola Renovables IPO was unmistakably the deal of the year. The interesting thing about this whole cleantech story is that it's been occurring in concurrence with a very strong bull market in North American equities, often blurring the line between good investment and good market. If 2008 turns out to be the difficult year that many expect it will be for equity markets, we could see the first real round of shake-outs in the short history of cleantech as an asset class, where many of the weaker players either fold because they can't raise money or get gobbled up. As pointed out by Rob Day in his Cleantech Investing Readers’ Survey (Part I), successful VC exits in the cleantech space have been few and far between thus far, and a bad year in equity markets could compound this problem.

December 28, 2007

The 10 Most Blogged Cleantech Stories of 2007

What were Cleantech bloggers blogging about in 2007?  We don't have to wonder... instead, I asked Brian, AltEnergyStocks.com's web guru, to do a special run of our Cleantech News Algorithm.

The Cleantech News Algorithm automatically by scans nearly 300 cleantech blogs and news sources, selected for their cleantech content. It takes three main criteria into account: 1) what other bloggers are saying about a news item, 2) how users across the Internet prefer a news item (which we call 'social popularity'), and when the item was written.  Normally it gives high priority to fresh news items, but this time Brian tuned it to look at all of 2007.

The result is an eclectic list of 10 items green bloggers found interesting, controversial, or just worth a link.  Part of the fun is that we not only have the articles, but also a list of the blogs that had something to say about them... it's a who's-who of Cleantech blogging.

Do you see yourself here?  If not, you don't have to write a controversial story to get a link on Cleantech News or  next year's top 10.  You can write about the same stories that draw other bloggers' attention... it's rather like a bloggy Family Feud.  (If you write about cleantech or related subjects, and your feed isn't in the list, you can submit it here.)

An Eclectic Look Back at 2007

#10 Part II: The Price of Biofuels
Technology Review's second installment in their look into the state of the art of biofuels (part I is here) brought out the cellulosic skeptics at WSJ.com: Energy Roundup, Earth2Tech, Gristmill, and After Gutenberg.

#9 Is There a Green Business Bubble?
Joel Makower asked on May 18th, 

Is all of this focus on the greening of business merely a fad? When will the bubble burst?

His answer, and the thought provoking reasons he gave for it, drew comments from: Triple Pundit, Mitra - Natural Innovation, Peak Energy, and Environmental Economics & Sustainable Development.

#8 Dean Kamen's Stirling Solution.
Green Wombat's August 2nd article about the inventor's willingness to take a fall and use of Stirling engines to extend the range of electric vehicles and provide power to rural communities caught the attention of Earth2Tech, Peak Energy, After Gutenberg, EcoGeek, and AltEnergyStation.

#7 Algal Biodiesel: Fact or Fiction?  

Robert Rapier questioned another biofuel 2.0 at his R-Squared Energy Blog on May 18th, and his article became a standard counterpoint to the algae optimists in many articles atPeak Energy, Clean Auto Technology, The Oil Drum, Peak Oil Optimist, and Gristmill (where my own Biodiesel's Nightmare article was unfortunately misattributed by the author.)

#6 Is IBM Going Solar?  

When AltEnergyStocks.com's Contributing Editor Neal Dikeman looked into IBM's solar push at Cleantech Blog on July 26th, bloggers at Energy Answers, Triple Pundit, Peak Energy, Global Warming Watch, and GUNTHER Portfolio helped spread the news.

#5 TerraPass customer survey results: indulgence myth pretty much dead  

When TerraBlog from TerraPass boasted about how their customers claimed not to be buying their way out of guilt in a survey on August 22nd, AutoblogGreen and  Triple Pundit were somewhat skeptical, but EcoGeek.org, Environmental Economics, and Green Car Congress just relayed the news.  Gristmill made the best point about this "odd, moralistic, trope."

#4 Start here  

RealClimate did a public service back on May 22nd, when they published a good introduction to climate science for the uninitiated.   Reasic, Climate Progress, The Conscious Earth, Peak Energy, and TerraBlog all found it helpful.

#3 1934 and all that 

RealClimate then topped this in early August.  Climate skeptics were shooting off about an error in US temperature data, so they did everyone a favor on August 10th, and pointed out that it amounted to

A couple of hundredths of degrees in the US rankings and no change in anything that could be considered climatically important.

Climate Progress (twice, no, three times,), Peak Energy, Gristmill (twice), TerraBlog,  and maribo helped debunk the "debunkers."

#2 TreeHugger Acquires Discovery Communications  

TreeHugger gave humourous spin to the site's acquisition by Discovery on August first.  But It's the Environment, Stupid., Practical Environmentalist, AutoblogGreen, Maria Energia, Greenway Communique, The Good Human, and Triple Pundit all took the acquisition of a green webportal by a mainstream media company seriously.

#1 Is the fuel-cell car dead?  

When Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break speculated about Hydrogen fuel-cell leader Ballard's possible deal with Daimler and Ford to shed its automotive division on November 5th,  Peak Energy, After GutenbergClimate Progress, Gristmill and I joined in the speculation about the end of the politically driven fuel cell vehicle boondoggle.  However, Energy Problems and Solutions and  Hydrogen Cars and Vehicles Blog still hold out hope to for the Hydrogen economy.

December 21, 2007

The Week In Cleantech December 17 to December 21st, 2007: Two Political Baby-Steps, One Double-Cross

Over the Weekend,

Craig Mackintosh at Celsias struck a note of cautious optimism about the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali.

Jim Fraser at the Energy Blog transmitted the findings of a study of interconnected wind as baseload power.

On Monday,

The Biopact team reported on as study the potential for bio-based bulk chemicals to cut the consumption of non-renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

On Tuesday, 

Rachel Barron at Greentech Media splashed the news of PG&E's agreement to purchase wave power from Finavera Renewables (Toronto: FNV, Pink Sheets: FNVRF).

Konrad Imielinski at GoG2G attributed the sharp rise in hard-hit ethanol stocks to the immanent passage of the Energy Bill. 

On Wednesday,

Craig Rubens, at earth2tech, published a great FAQ about thin film solar.

Oliver Lewis, at Celsias, filled us in on what was in (and out of) the Energy bill.    In: Biofuels, 35MPG CAFE standards, efficiency incentives.  Out: Renewable Energy incentives, taxes on oil firms.

David Roberts, at Gristmill, dissected the EPA's use of the above bill's passage as a flimsy excuse to deny California's application for a waiver from federal fuel economy standards. California will contest the ruling.

On Thursday,

Clean Edge summarized the Energy Information Administration's new Annual Energy Outlook.  Once again, the EIA is raising projections for oil prices, but they still think prices will fall back and that the US will be able to increase our production in the short term and decrease our imports over the next decade.  

On Friday,

Karla Harby at the New York Academy of Sciences briefed us on how flywheels can address changing power demands.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

DISCLOSURE: Tom Konrad and/or his clients have positions in FNVRF.

DISCLAIMER: The information and trades provided here are for informational purposes only and are not a solicitation to buy or sell any of these securities. Investing involves substantial risk and you should evaluate your own risk levels before you make any investment. Past results are not an indication of future performance. Please take the time to read the full disclaimer here.

December 14, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Dec. 9 to Dec. 15) - No Christmas This Year For Renewable Energy

On Tuesday, Dan Lewis warned us not to hold our breath for offshore wind (I really like the boat pic). As prime on-shore wind areas are exhausted over the next decade, especially in Europe, many people have their sight set on the ocean as the next wind frontier. However, technical and cost hurdles may not make this a viable proposition for a few more years yet. One factor that could help: the cost and availability of wind turbines. But that's showing little sign of improvement. 

On Wednesday, Mike Millikin at Green Car Congress told us that a federal court had rejected challenge to California's vehicle GHG regulations. This could provide a significant boost to the clean car market in California and in other jurisdictions following its lead

On Wednesday, Stephanie I. Cohen at Market Watch wondered whether the solar industry could live without the federal tax credit. The conclusion: sure, but solar development will slow and will be restricted to a few states with strong incentive programs. Does that also apply to wind? Industry actors certainly seem to think so, although wind appears to be in a stronger position to compete against thermal generation at the higher end of the cost spectrum without subsidies. 

On Wednesday, Rachel Barron at Greentech Media told us that Shell was shedding solar. This is probably good news for company shareholders. While Shell is technically an 'energy' company, it is neither a specialist in power generation nor manufacturing. The company's efforts in next-generation biofuels, given its extensive expertise in all areas of the liquid fuel value chain, could yield much more interesting results. 

On Thursday, Renewable Energy Access informed us that Senate had voted down renewable energy's tax title. It's probably no surprise that, despite giving renewables the cold shoulder, US law makers still managed to funnel pork ethanol's way. Given the state of financial markets at the moment, this doesn't come at a particularly opportune time for alt energy investors. Nevertheless, it is probably safe to assume this is just a temporary set back, and I am quite certain that something will materialize at the federal level for the sector before too long. Nationally and globally, there are definitely industries that are doing worse than this one. 

On Friday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog relayed Ausra's announcement of the first US manufacturing plant for solar thermal power systems, and reviewed the background on Ausra and their innovative CLFR technology.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

December 01, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Nov. 25 to Dec. 1) - Don't Mess With Texas!

Many of our readers may know about this already, but earlier this week I came across The Energy Challenge, a series of articles by New York Times writers on energy and environment issues. This is a great resource for alt energy investors and aficionados.

On Monday, David Biello at Scientific American discussed the state of the science for us. This is likely nothing new for many of our readers but serves as a good reminder of why I believe the cleantech space will be so strong in the next few decades.

On Wednesday, Rebecca Smith and Kevin J. Delaney at the WSJ described Google's electricity initiative for us. Most MBA students will probably tell you that this sounds a lot like unrelated diversification for Google, and that they wouldn't favor it from a shareholder's standpoint given the value-destruction history of such endeavors. On the plus side for alt energy investors, this means there is a new strategic investor out there with deep pockets and the desire to do deals. I'm certainly going to keep an eye on their next few moves.

On Wednesday, Graham Jesmer at Renewable Energy Access argued that wind power was helping Texas move past oil. While California, with its plethora of dot-com-venture-capitalists-reborn-as-green-warriors (YouTube clip), tends to be the darling of cleantech enthusiasts, Texas I would argue is at the fore of where the real action is. Jurisdictions like Texas will do more than Vinod Khosla ever will to actually bring down the cost of clean power gen through fostering industry scale. In fact, Texas could be the place that tips the economics of power gen in favor of wind sans subsidies...mind you, China might be able to help with that.

On Friday, Daniel Englander at Greentech Media unveiled the 2008 Greentech Market Taxonomy for us. This is a neat way of thinking about opportunities in that very broad space (i.e. cleantech or greentech...I have no preference), and the author hopes folks can build on his model to push the analysis further. For public market investors, there are probably many ways to augment this framework. For example, a table of where most of the financing is coming from (i.e. public Vs. private) for each sector would be a good starting point. For power gen, a comparison of costs of production on a per MW basis. And you could go on.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

November 24, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Nov. 18 to Nov. 24) - Ethanol: Making Losers Of Many People

On Monday, Joe Carroll and Mario Parker at Bloomberg News argued that the current ethanol bust was making losers of Bush, Gates and D.E. Shaw. We are proud to say that at AltEnergyStocks.com, we have always been corn ethanol bears, even when many of these stocks were trending up. But beyond bragging about our foresight, which, by the way, was shared by several people, the current fiasco is a cautionary tale of the dangers of government trying to create a winner industry when that industry makes no sense on most levels. Things may change, but to date all that ethanol has managed to achieve is: cost American tax-payers millions of dollars, fill the coffers of already-millionaire farmers, destroy billions of dollars in shareholder value, deplete scarce water resources, inflate food prices, prevent an open global market for biofuels that would benefit nations with a true comparative advantage such as Brazil, and placate a handful of inefficient farmers who account for a fraction of the total US population. Might it be time to pull the plug and let this white elephant die off before it tramples anything else? Apparently not.

On Monday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup discussed the difference between peak and plateau. Whether oil supply is currently peaking or plateauing, one thing is certain: demand is steadily growing. So if the debate really has shifted from whether supply is increasing to whether it is peaking or plateauing, basic microeconomics is quite clear about what the outcome will be on prices. The only question remaining, then - and this comes back to peak Vs. plateau - is "how fast will prices rise?"

On Thursday, Climate Progress reported what could, if true, be the story of the week. Well, I suppose that's open for debate, but I do agree with the author that this announcement should be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, Chinese officials making these types of declarations in public is likely a signal that China is warming (no pun intended) to the idea of seriously negotiating on this issue. China is, after all, the world's largest source of CDM carbon credits, and regional players are betting that it may soon seek to formalize its position as a major environmental market.

On Thursday, James at Green Investments discussed India's cleantech - a huge opportunity for investors. As in other areas, India's cleantech potential is often overshadowed by China's. But India is no cleantech joke. I'm surprised the author omitted to discuss Suzlon and the REpower deal, which squarely put India on the global alternative energy map.

On Friday, Jennifer Kho at Greentech Media told us all about turning coal's CO2 into biomass. Coal is plentiful and cheap, and, despite the way many folks feel about it, it just ain't going away anytime soon. In terms of investment, I have discussed in the past opportunities related capturing greenhouse gases from power gen facilities. While very speculative and closer to pure tech plays than alternative energy, companies in this field could nonetheless one day be offering solutions in very high demand. I believe this is a space worth keeping an eye on.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

November 17, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Nov. 11 to Nov. 17) - Is The Era Of Carbon Capitalism Upon Us?

The December edition of Bloomberg Markets Magazine is devoted partly to the rise of carbon capitalism. An interesting series of articles on the budding carbon economy. While there are currently few ways for North American investors to play this, I continue to believe that this is an area the environmental investor must keep an eye on.

On Monday, Jim Kingsdale at Seeking Alpha discussed ethanol and biodiesel: two very different biofuels. This is an interesting piece with a bullish outlook for two biodiesel stocks. Biodiesel often lingers in the shadow of ethanol in North America, yet it is a very interesting way to play biofuels. On the conventional fuel side, it seems as though diesel has all it takes to make a comeback in North America.

On Tuesday, Rachel Oliver at EcoSolutions told us all about CSP. We've addressed in the past the fact that concentrating solar power (CSP) already makes economic sense, which cannot be said of PV. This article, however, points to a whole new world of CSP possibilities in a region where many of the basic requirements for successfully concentrating solar power are in place.

On Wednesday, Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech argued that we could save the planet with genomics. This is a very interesting endeavor, and I for one am a strong believer in the ability of genetic and biological engineering to help surmount many of the problems that currently plague biofuels.

On Wednesday, EERE News informed us that the AWEA had boosted wind power projections to 4,000 MW for 2007. The article discusses the fact that the current shortage in turbine components is leading manufacturers to add new capacity. The wind turbine manufacturing industry, led by the likes of Vestas (VWDRY.PK), GE (NYSE:GE), Siemens (NYSE:GI) and others, looks rock solid at the moment. However, look out for that extra capacity to eventually ease out the supply side of that attractive wind equation.

In a recent survey of executives, McKinsey found that, of all sociopolitical issues, the environment and climate change were believed to be the ones that would impact shareholder value the most over the next five to ten years (PDF document). Nothing groundbreaking here I suppose, but I take such results as a powerful sign that the current momentum in cleantech has legs. Make no mistake, this sector remains, as acknowledged by some of the main players, heavily depend on policy and regulatory incentives for its viability. Having business on side is therefore critical.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

November 10, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Nov. 4 to Nov. 10) - Cellulosic Is Here!

On Monday, Richard Stuebi at Cleantech Blog highlighted the extent to which NBC is in the dark about energy efficiency. I couldn't agree more with Stuebi here - this idea is so painfully bad that it's a bit of a mystery why anyone in their right minds would agree to it. In the space of a few minutes, GE likely managed to undermine over two years of flashy press events and other publicity stunts aimed at convincing investors and the populace that "green is green." If Alt Energy Stocks awarded a prize for misplay of the week, this would certainly be it.

On Monday, James Kanter at The Business of Green wondered why oil majors were so keen on renewable energy. I'm not sure I agree with the thesis put forth in this article. It seems to me that, ceteris paribus (especially with regards to forex), scarcer oil means higher prices (at least in the short term), and that, given the inelasticity of demand for oil, this should drive up top line growth and share prices (and, by extension, option values). Regardless of the answer, the question is worth posing: do oil majors invest in alternative energy because they see a business case or are they doing it for reputational reasons. The jury is out.

On Wednesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break argued that geothermal was flourishing under the shadow of solar. A few months ago, I had a chat with an investment banker who worked on a number of alternative energy deals, and he too was of the opinion that geothermal was a fundamentally great alternative energy play. Here's a list of geothermal stocks I recently came across.

On Wednesday, Scott Miller at BIOConversion Blog told us about the groundbreaking of the country's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility. This indeed should eventually usher in a new biofuel era for North America. Don't hold your breath, however, because cellulosic will continue to account for a small percentage of total ethanol production over the next couple of years. Nevertheless, this is where you want to be looking long-term, especially given cellulosic's new appeal with policy-makers. Al Gore, among others, also seems to like cellulosic ethanol.

On Friday, Xavier Navarro at Autoblog Green green discussed China's recent mission to the European Parliament to study CO2 regulations. China is already the single largest market for CDM carbon credits (PDF document), and there is no doubt it soon will be a major cleantech and alternative energy market. This should be good news for close China watchers.

On Friday, our very own Tom Konrad appeared on Consuelo Mack's WealthTrack. For the unfortunate few who missed it, you will soon be able catch the discussion here.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

November 03, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Oct. 28 to Nov. 3) - Electric Cars Plugged Into A Smarter Grid

On Monday, Hybrid Cars told us that Honda was ready to embrace the hydrogen economy. I don't believe that there currently is anywhere near enough hydrogen refueling stations in North America to make this a viable project. Nevertheless, I am impressed that Honda is ready to move on this years before anyone predicted it would happen. I still believe that hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer the most attractive opportunities in the near and medium terms, and I doubt that this will usher in a renaissance for fuel cell stocks.

On Monday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog discussed a new start-up that will seek build the infrastructure necessary for the electric car market to grow. This does indeed seem very ambitious but the shear amount of money thrown at this project commands a high degree of respect. To be continued.

On Tuesday, Clean Technology Investor informed us that Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) was shopping around for solar generation assets. As I've discussed before, a wave of consolidation is currently underway in the North American alternative energy sector. Independent entities with existing renewable generation capacity or even the rights to develop projects in certain areas will command increasingly higher premiums, thus presenting interesting opportunities for investors. The main problem for public market investors is that many of these assets and/or project pipelines in the US are held by private concerns. Nevertheless, this is a trend worth keeping an eye on.

On Wednesday, GreenBiz.com informed us that Citi had just released a new report on the impact of CAFE standards on automakers. This in an interesting take on this debate, and certainly seems to run counter to what is typically argued by automakers with regards to tighter fuel efficiency standards. One thing is certain: auto investors can no longer afford to ignore the environment. It has become too salient a consideration for policy-makers and cars are an easy target. You can access the report directly here (PDF document).

On Wednesday, Justin Moresco at Red Herring profiled the latest smart grid financing deal for us. I continue to believe that the energy efficiency and smart grid spaces are going to offer very attractive opportunities in the years ahead.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

October 27, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 21 to Sep. 27) - More Casulaties In The Wake Of Global Warming Concerns

On Monday, Maria Surma Manka at Green Options told us how Kansas killed coal plants. This is an interesting precedent, and it certainly buttresses the argument that coal will increasingly mean uncertainty and risk in the US power gen industry.

On a related note, on Tuesday, David Ehrlich at Cleantech.com reported on NY's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade plans. This is the first of the RGGI states to flesh out its plan in some detail.

On Tuesday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog discussed the timeline for solar power parity with fossil fuels. Does this mean that there is more to the rich valuations we have seen in solar stocks over the past year than mere irrational exuberance? I certainly believe so.

On Tuesday, Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech provided an update on GE's cleantech activities. Large companies' cleantech initiatives are of interest to cleantech investors for three main reasons: (a) for the risk-averse, purchasing a blue-chip stock with some exposure to cleantech is a safer way to play this space than buying smaller-cap pure-plays; (b) companies like GE bring scale to the game (e.g. wind) and force prices down, which results in a better and more efficient industry overall; (c) large companies will be at the fore of strategic M&A activity in the sector, and watching their maneuvering closely can help identify potential acquisition plays.

On Thursday, Jeff Vail at Energy Intelligence discussed 2015 NYMEX oil futures. He makes an interesting argument but limits it to fossil-fuel alternatives to conventional oil. In areas such as renewable energy and clean cars, there are projects to be shown. And while this is in large part due to various forms of state support, the fact that the market is getting comfortable with relatively high long-run oil prices certainly plays a part.

On Thursday, Environmental Finance informed us that Q3 saw record US clean-tech VC investment. The cleantech VC space has seen several quarters of healthy growth now. Where is that sector headed next? Rob Day at Cleantech Investing wonders the same. As I've said before, public market investors should try to keep a close eye on what's hot on the VC side.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

October 18, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Oct. 14 to Oct. 20) - High Energy Prices: More Support Ahead For Alt Energy?

On Sunday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing (now part of Greentech Media) reflected on CEO turnover in the cleantech industry for us. This is an interesting piece and a good reminder for public market investors that the management team is a key success factor for any company. The ability to execute effectively on a business plan is more than half of the equation - a good idea or technology alone won't get you very far.

On Monday, Mike Millikin at the Green Car Congress us told us about a new web-based resource for carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS is sure to get an increasing degree of attention over the next few years, and this website could provide a great source of information for anyone interested in how regulation is shaping up around this issue. One caveat: the site is still under construction.

On Tuesday, Carl T. Delfeld at Seeking Alpha wondered whether China's environmental mess represented an investment opportunity. I'm not sure that this piece is entirely factually accurate, but the broader thesis is certainly valid. I would go one step further than the author: if you really want to play China's environmental mess - and there is a play here - look for individual firms with strong exposure to China. Two examples that come to mind are: Fuel Tech (NASDAQ:FTEK) and American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC).

On Tuesday, Rafael Coven at The Cleantech Group discussed the ups (mostly) and downs of cleantech in Q3 2007. An interesting look at the cleantech space and why it can be expected to perform well even in times of market uncertainty.

On Tuesday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that the White House was very concerned about high energy prices. Can the alternative energy industry expect another big boost from US legislators soon? Going back to the article discussed immediately above, unwavering government support is, in my view, one the most fundamental pieces of the equation with regards to why cleantech stocks will do well over the coming years. Government is a dirty word in many business and financial circles, but the cleantech investor who ignores this critical factor is missing a huge chunk of the picture.

On Wednesday, Peter Fairley at Technology Review told us how to fix the power grid. Some of the investments that have worked out the best for me so far have been in seemingly "unsexy" areas that nonetheless showed strong potential. Large-scale electricity storage is undoubtedly one of these areas and definitely worth keeping an eye on.

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

October 06, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 30 to Oct. 6) - A Good Week for EE, A Bad One for Biofuels

On Sunday, Sebastian Blanco at AutoBlog Green informed us that European biodiesel producers were intent on stopping the "US biofuel invasion". I have long argued that the drive to ramp up biofuel production in the US was more about placating the farming lobby than it was about global warming or weaning America off foreign oil. It follows, then, that just like agriculture, generous biofuel subsidies are going to lead to frictions in the international trading system. The same is true, by the way, for Europe. To be continued...

On Monday, Eli Hoffman at Seeking Alpha reported that the end of the ethanol boom could be in sight. Call this a bad week for US biofuels investors. Those with a subscription to the WSJ can read more about this here.

On Tuesday, David Ehrlich at Inside Greentech (now part of the Cleantech Group) informed us that Comverge (NASDAQ:COMV) had acquired Public Energy Solutions. Consolidation is looming upon the cleantech industry, and I am happy to see that at least some of it is being driven by pure-plays. Energy Efficiency holds a lot of potential and Comverge is definitely a firm to keep an eye on. EnerNOC (NASDAQ:ENOC), Comverge's competitor, also got busy last week.

On Wednesday, EERE News reported on plans by eight utilities to boost their investments in energy efficiency over the coming years. See story immediately above for my thoughts on this space.

On Thursday, Tom Lydon at Seeking Alpha argued that green ETFs were growing strong. Although I currently have no exposure to them, I am a big fan of ETFs as a cheap and convenient way for investors to play certainly themes like cleantech or global warming. The proliferation of cleantech ETFs over the past 12 months provides investors with ample choice as well as the ability to focus on sub-themes (e.g. North American alternative energy).

On Friday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog told us that TECO was canceling a planned IGCC power plant because of uncertainty around carbon capture regulation. This piece of news is certainly reminiscent of the recent decision by TXU's new owners to cancel the construction of several coal-fired plants in Texas. While this seems to support mine and others' belief that there are material risks on the regulatory horizon for power gen firms with large exposure to coal, I view the current lack of clear policy direction as negative for everyone. It appears to me as though most companies and investors are now ready to move on this, but are finding themselves waiting for the Federal government to make up its mind. Sounds familiar?

September 29, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 23 to Sep. 29) - One Step in the Direction of Deep, Liquid and Global Carbon Markets

On Sunday, Lascelles Linton at AutoBlog Green informed us that VW intended to offer a hybrid option for ALL of its models. I'm a big fan of electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies, but this looks to me like a risky bet. VW is already a leader in fuel efficiency, which taken alone represents a competitive advantage in an era of rising fuel prices and tightening environmental standards. HEV is a whole different ball game, and it remains unclear at this stage whether this will end up being the winner technology. If I were a shareholder, I probably would not applaud this move.

On Thursday, Biopact told us about the world’s first Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) spot market auction that took place on the Brazilian Mercantile & Futures Exchange (BM&F). Detractors like to point to flaws in the first phase of the EU ETS to argue that the entire idea of emissions trading is doomed to fail. Yet transactions such as this one, involving a European financial institution acting on behalf of industrial clients based in Western Europe, and an emerging market futures exchange, point to the potential behind an integrated global carbon market.

On Thursday, Peter Fairley at Technology Review discussed how to store solar power efficiently. An old theme coming back again - large-scale storage to smooth out the inherent variability of most forms of renewable energy. Could solar thermal offer part of the answer? As the article points out, storing heat is, for the time being, easier than storing electrical power.

On Friday, Clean Edge reported on FPL's (NYSE:FPL) latest set of alt energy initiatives. The interesting piece here is the $1.5 billion investment in solar thermal. Something tells me there is a bit of a solar thermal renaissance occurring at the moment - something to keep an eye on perhaps..?

On Friday, Todd Sullivan at Seeking Alpha argued that ADM's collaboration with ConocoPhillips was good news for shareholders. This is indeed an interesting partnership, but is not an entirely unique initiative. Many oil majors have been quietly (or not) trying to get involved with next-generation fuels. The movement toward diversification away from conventional oil is only going to intensify in the coming years, and there will be significant money to be made for players who are ahead of the pack.

On Thursday, Environmental Finance informed us that HSBC was stepping into the climate change index arena. Call it climate change or call it cleantech, many of these indices track exactly the same thing; exposure to environmental technologies on the revenue side. Until recently, small pure-play cleantech outfits that were largely responsible for creating such indices. The entry of big finance into this game is a promising sign that cleantech is an increasingly entrenched investment theme rather than just the latest fad.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

September 22, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 16 to Sep. 22) - More Solar Thermal, More Storage, and a Better Grid

On Tuesday, Andrea Quong at Red Herring told us that investors reaped returns on clean energy. A quick look at returns in the European cleantech VC and PE spaces.

On Wednesday, Emily Gertz at World Changing gave us the run-down on the legal climate on climate change. This action by NY's Attorney General formalizes what many have been saying for a while - certain power gen companies, and the investors that own them, could be exposed to serious regulatory risks related to global warming in the years ahead. Strangely, those companies and their investors often seem to favor the ostrich approach.

On Wednesday, Steve Gelsi kept up with T-Boone Pickens for us. Interesting that Pickens decided to go boutique with this IPO. This is a very interesting business model and probably a growth stock worth keeping an eye on. More broadly, it's always interesting to hear an energy legend talk about where energy is going.

On Wednesday, Todd Woody at the Green Wombat wondered whether the sun could power the US. This is article raises some interesting questions about the capacity for alternative energy combined with large-scale storage to provide reliable base-load power. As our regular readers know, Tom is a big fan of solar thermal and we both very much like storage.

On Thursday, North American Wind Power informed us that a new consortium was bring formed in California to facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the grid. This is an important piece of news. Transmission is one of the most critical hurdles to alternative energy growth, and proactive measures specifically targeted at renewable energy hotspots could be provide a major lifeline for future expansion.

On Friday, Martin LaMonica informed us that a "clean coal" start-up had just raised $100m. This outfit has some significant backers, both in the industry side (Dow, AES, Suncor) and on the VC side (Kleiner Perkins). Its target area of operation, Alberta's tar sands, is fast becoming the number one North American greenhouse gas emitting region. Investors should keep an eye on Alberta not only because of its oil sands, but also because it is a prime market for rolling out greenhouse gas control technologies.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

September 15, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 9 to Sep. 15) - TXU In, SaskPower Out!

On Tuesday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that Alcoa couldn't wait to go geothermal. This is indeed an interesting development. Aluminum smelters are some of the most electricity-intensive industrial processes around, and, in a context of rising energy prices, there are very real incentives to explore alternatives for firms in this industry.

On Wednesday, Kevin Bullis at Technology Review looked into making cheaper solar cells for us. Could Heliovolt be the next First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)?

On Wednesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break warned us of the inherent limitations of so-called "clean coal". The failure of this project, which would have been one of the first such initiatives to be fully rolled-out in North America, does indeed speak volume. As an investor, carbon capture and sequestration is not something that I would put my money behind, at least in the foreseeable future.

On Thursday, Environmental Finance gave us the final cut of the TXU buy-out story. This deal set a very interesting precedent in the US: big finance saw enough of a potential regulatory risk to force management to back down on a large capital expenditure plan. What does that tell you about older coal-fired plants across America? Some players in the power generation industry stand to take a big hit under Federally-imposed carbon caps, so you may want to take a peek at your favorite utility's generation portfolio.

On Friday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog discussed Novozymes' latest foray into biofuels. Last February, we told you that Novozymes was building exposure to cellulosic ethanol through its work on enzymes to break down cellulose. This is further evidence that the company is indeed serious about its biofuels activities, and good news for those who hope to see the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol come down.

On Friday, Jim Hansen at The Master Resource Report worried about a lithium shortage. Should we try to replace the entire vehicle fleet with PHEVs and EVs based solely on Lithium batteries?

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

September 08, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Sep. 2 to Sep. 8) - Is Geothermal Really Alternative Energy's Klondike?

On Wednesday, Energy Tech Stocks gave us the heads up on a recent warning by Raymond James & Associate about declining oil production. Interesting to see a thesis that was derided as pure fantasy as recently as two years ago slowly creeping up into the mainstream.

On Thursday, Sam Abuelsamid at Autoblog Green opined that CO2 regulations in Europe could place the balance of power on the auto parts suppliers' side in the fight for profit margins. We have noted in the past how some of the most interesting (and 'safest') clean car investment opportunities rested with parts manufacturers. Besides CO2 regulations in Europe, tightening fuel efficiency standards the world over should help parts manufacturers do well relative to car makers.

On Thursday, Andrea Quong at Red Herring informed us that VCs were striking out for greener pastures. It is always interesting to know where cleantech venture capitalists are turning their attention to.

On Thursday, Biopact reported on China's latest alternative energy plans. Of course the caveat with this grand scheme is that half of the proposed US$265 billion will go toward large hydro, which tends to receive mixed reviews from just about everyone. Nevertheless, US$133 billion in investments in biofuels, bioenergy, wind and other forms of alternative energy, not to mention pollution control, will create very interesting opportunities for a variety of different companies.

On Friday, Rob Day, formerly of Cleantech Investing and now with Greentech Media, outlined for us the main barriers to adoption of energy efficiency applications in commercial buildings. An interesting piece that partly explains why, despite seemingly compelling economics, energy efficiency technologies such as smart metering aren't taking off as fast as could be expected.

On Friday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog reported on a small Icelandic bank's big bet on geothermal. Geothermal tends to fade in and out of the alternative energy newswire, yet it may be one of the most compelling alternative energy investment stories out there. I haven't read the report but I trust that it is packed with very useful information for the would-be geothermal investor.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!


September 01, 2007

The Week In Cleantech August 26- August 31, 2007: Markets Closed for Blogger's Wedding

Last Week,

Jacques Diouf at Biofuel Review reminded us that biofuels are a great opportunity for the worlds poor.

James Fraser at The Energy Blog told us about Penn State's new method of converting black liquor into DME for biofuel, and Green Car Congress, told us about the partnership which is exploring commercialization.

On Monday,

Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break told us about Vinod Khosla's big bet on Concentrating Solar Power.  Excellent article, especially since Khosla slams half-measures that don't make a big difference in the global warming problem.  He also said, "I think that (enhanced transmission) is absolutely key to all renewables."  If I had Khosla's cash, I'd be putting big private equity money in CSP, too. 

Randy Udall, writing for ASPO-USA, analyzed the schizophrenic nature of the National Petroleum Council report.  

On Tuesday, 

Carlin Lee at The Daily Speculator told us to taste a sweet ERoEI with Cosan (NYSE: CZZ.)  

Larry Greenemeier at Scientific American told us about the Digitized Energy Storage Device, a type of ultracapacitor which may provide hybrid vehicles with power and improved efficiency.

On Wednesday,

Preston at Jetson Green picked out his Top Three Free Reports on Green Building Costs

On Friday,

Eric Stavitz of Barrons told us about rumors that LED maker Cree, Inc (CREE) might be bought out by GE (GE) or Phillips (PHG).  I wrote about the LED industry earlier this week.

Equity Green cracked us up with this video about that unnoticed miracle of life, coal.

On Saturday, our own Charles Morand got married. In possibly unrelated news, the US markets will be closed for three days.

DISCLOSURE: Tom Konrad and/or his clients have positions in CREE, GE, and PHG.

DISCLAIMER: The information and trades provided here are for informational purposes only and are not a solicitation to buy or sell any of these securities. Investing involves substantial risk and you should evaluate your own risk levels before you make any investment. Past results are not an indication of future performance. Please take the time to read the full disclaimer here.

August 24, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Aug. 19 to Aug. 25) - What Can The Volt Do For GM?

On Monday, Ian Talley at the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that there were no alternatives at NYMEX. While the reasons behind this delay may be unclear, the US Futures Exchange is moving ahead with what I believe are the first US wind power futures to be traded on a US exchange.

On Wednesday, Dan Lewis at AEI informed us that Vestas was closing a second manufacturing plant in Australia. Not supporting the emergence of a strong renewables industry is, to say the least, an interesting policy choice on the part of the Federal and the various State governments in Australia. Wind investors now know what market not to bother with!

On Thursday, David Ehrlich at Inside Greentech told us that offshore wind was getting pricey. We've discussed in the past how supply-chain gluts in the wind sector could create interesting investment opportunities in the turbine vendor space. However, a number of news items have recently hit the wire around this issue, and there are now some concerns around whether those gluts could hamper overall sector growth.

On Thursday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog informed us that GM was planning on going full-steam ahead with the Volt. Of course, the Volt is not forecasted to hit the road until 2010, which gives competitors Toyota and Honda plenty of time to continue innovating in the clean car space. Much could happen with GM in the coming 2 1/2 years...

On Thursday, Environmental Finance told us about the newly-formed Western Climate Initiative (WCI). Another step in the direction of non-voluntary North American carbon markets.

On Friday, our very own Tom Konrad unearthed a special section on the Economist's website that lets you browse many of the articles they have published on the topic of alternative energy.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

August 18, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Aug. 12 to Aug. 18) - Bubble or Biggest Investment Opportunity of the Century?

On Sunday, Dan Lewis at AEI wondered what we could re-weight the dollar exposure of alternative energy into. An interesting take on global monetary policy and alternative energy investing.

On Monday, Kevin Bullis at Technology Review informed us that novel batteries were getting a boost. This is a big vote of confidence for A123. The growing interest from consumers and policy-makers in hybrids and HEVs will make batteries an essential area to keep an eye on for the cleantech investor.

On Thursday, Todd Woody at Green Wombat informed us that big banks were backing big solar. The growing involvement of major financial institutions in large-scale alternative energy projects, most notably wind and solar, is indeed a good indication that the industry is reaching a certain degree of maturity in North America. As the scale of these projects increases and their cost of capital decreases, alternative energy will become increasingly competitive with conventional power generation sources.

On Thursday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog told us about a new report on the thin-film solar market. Thin-film is indeed an exciting development and has been very much on the radar of investors lately, as evidenced by the stellar rise of First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) over the past few months. Although valuations in the solar space may have appeared a bit high over the past while, the current correction will provide good opportunities to gain exposure to fast-growing thin-film.

On Thursday, Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool made us aware of the biggest economic opportunity of the century. An interesting exposé of where investment opportunities could materialize in four main areas: climate change regulation, renewable energy generation, biofuels and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at The Cleantech Blog wondered where the shakeout was. As always, Neal does a good job of shedding a different light on a hot industry - in this case solar.

August 11, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Aug. 5 to Aug. 11) - Nasty Correction or Good Buying Opportunity?

On Tuesday, Carl T. Delfeld at Seeking Alpha told us about the new kid on the cleantech ETF block, the PowerShares Global Clean Energy ETF (AMEX:PBD). For more details, check out Powershares section on PBD. This fund tracks the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index - an index put together by New Energy Finance (NEF) of London. NEF is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting organizations in the clantech finance space at the moment.

On Tuesday, Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool reminded us that a bill is just a bill. At AltEnergyStocks.com, we view cleantech in a similar light; although there may be some bumps along the way, it is highly unlikely that anything will permanently stall the juggernaut at this stage.

On Wednesday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup gave us the views of various pundits on where cleantech stocks stand in the context of the current market correction. Is the glass half full or half empty? If you have been cautious and have been amassing cash for the past little while, than none of this is so bad.

On Wednesday, WattHead added a touch of humor to to the Cape Wind debate. Cape Wind aside, offshore wind is an interesting emerging area. Over the past month, some sizable money has gone toward offshore wind in Europe.

On Wednesday, David Roberts at Gritsmill outlined, for us, what makes a good cap-and-trade system. As we've discussed in the past, for emissions trading to achieve most of its goals, politicians must resist certain temptations that politicians are generally unable to resist.

On Thursday, Biopact informed us that cellulosic biofuels may already be cost-competitive. Many observers agree that the future of biofuels lays with cellulosic, and the biggest hurdle to date has been cost.

August 04, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Jul. 29 to Aug. 4) - Hybrid Hummer, Anyone?

On Monday, Cassandra Vinograd at the WSJ's Energy Roundup told us about Merrill Lynch's new Energy Efficiency Index. You can read more about the index here. As our regular readers know, we are big believers in energy efficiency as an investment thesis, and think significant opportunities will materialize in this space in the coming years.

On Tuesday, Todd Woody at Business 2.0 wondered whether a small Norwegian company was about to reverse 100 years of automotive history. Could we be looking at the next wonder-boy of the clean automotive movement?

On Wednesday, Dan Lewis at AEI shared a few post-mortem thoughts on Biofuels Corp with us. As the cleantech industry matures and a group of winners emerges from the pack, expect to see the body count go up.

On Thursday, Biopact told us about an interesting jatropha biodiesel deal in Mozambique. Jatropha is currently generating a lot of buzz as a potential source of feedstock for large-scale biodiesel production. Many emerging markets, for their part, are looking hard at biofuels as a potentially-lucrative trade to get involved in. Time to start paying attention to jatropha players in the South?

On Thursday, Environmental Finance reported on E. ON's (NYSE:EON) latest alternative energy move. Besides the fact that $4.1 billion over 2.5 years is a significant amount of money, the interesting thing here is that this project is one of the first major off-shore wind farms in the world. Off-shore wind offers many promises, and is an area worth keeping an eye on.

On Saturday, Sebastian Blanco at AutoBlog Green told us about Paris Hilton's latest attempt at appearing environmentally-conscious. This admittedly doesn't have much to do with cleantech investing, but I got a good laugh out of it.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

July 29, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Jul. 22 to Jul. 28) - Are Ethanol Stocks About To Come Out Of Their Funk?

On Tuesday, Himanshu Pandya at Financial Nirvana informed us that alternative energy companies were taking advantage of the recent run with stock offerings. As pointed out by Himanshu, shareholders don't currently seem to care too much about value dilution, so companies may as well take advantage of this to raise cheap capital.

On Thursday, Angela Barnes at Report on Business argued that cool ethanol stocks could be expected to heat up. While we are no fans of corn-ethanol, the slew of generous support schemes put in place by North American governments to support ethanol growth should eventually positively affect fundamentals.

On Thursday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog told us that Japan had certified a new Toyota plug-in car for use on public roads. Toyota continues to raise the bar while the Big Three continue to hemorrhage North America market share - what's new?

On Thursday, Environmental Finance informed us that Banc of America was buying into carbon trading. Upwards and onwards for emissions trading in North America and for Climate Exchange PLC (CXCHF.PK).

On Thursday, The Economist showed us where the wind blew. Remember that we've often told you to keep an eye on grid-related plays.

On Friday, Peter Fairley at Technology Review argued that thin film's time in the sun may be upon us. By looking at First Solar's (NASDAQ:FSLR) share price has done over the past year, it certainly seems as though shareholders agree.

July 21, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (Jul. 16 to Jul. 20) - Are Fuel Cells About To Explode?

On Monday, the Boston Globe told us about a new report that sheds some doubt on contentions that cleantech is the new darling of venture capitalists. Thanks to the WSJ's Energy Roundup for this one. Red Herring also published an article on this report last week.

On Monday, Eli Hoffman at Seeking Alpha told us about Barron's latest five cleantech stock picks. Of those, I am particularly familiar with SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and Fuel Tech (NASDAQ:FTEK). Both are a bit rich at the moment but I like Fuel Tech's exposure to China, especially at a time when the country trying hard to clean up its act.

On Monday, Stockerblog at Seeking Alpha provided us with an extensive list of fuel cell stocks. I remain skeptical as to whether fuel cells will ever be a technology of significance in the transportation or large-scale energy storage industries. Nevertheless, some interesting opportunities exist in certain niche applications such as forklifts.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman reported on an interview he recently conducted with with Stuart Hemphill, the Director of Renewable and Alternative Power for Southern California Edison (NYSE:EIX). This is a very interesting piece. Hemphill and us are in agreement about where some of the biggest growth area - and, incidentally, challenges - in alt energy lay: transmission and efficiency. The article also indirectly identifies another major opportunity area: independent power producers focused on renewables.

On Thursday, the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that T. Boone Pickens was traveling to China to explore opportunities related to natural gas as a transportation fuel. Natural gas does seem to hold great promises as a bridge solution between gasoline and whatever will be powering our cars in a few decades. Energy Tech Stocks, however, warns us to keep a cool head when appraising the desirability of switching from oil to natural gas - the outcome of such a shift could be politically undesirable.

On Friday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech gave us an overview of a new report claiming that the market for fuel cells should grow substantially in the next nine years. The list of fuel cell stocks discussed above may come in handy after all.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

July 15, 2007

The Week In Cleantech, July 9 to July 15

Last week, Paul Davidson at USA Today told us about how Sodium-sulfur (NaS) batteries can increase the reliability and efficiency of the grid.

On Monday, Keith Johnson of The Wall Street Journal told us that Wind Turbine Makers can't keep up with demand. [Subscription only.]  Investment tip: this should be good for 2nd and 3rd-teir turbine makers who otherwise would not be able to sell their products.  I've noticed this in a flurry of turbine sales by Composite Technology Corp.  (CPTC.ob), a company I own not for their turbine business, but instead because I see great potential for their transmission business. 

On Tuesday, Fred Fuld of Stockerblog listed nine geothermal stocks to consider.

On Wednesday, 

On Thursday, 

On Sunday, Kevin Cameron of the New York Times told us how Electric cars are nearly ready, but batteries are less so.

  The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

DISCLOSURE: Tom Konrad (sitting in for Editor-in-Cheif Charles Morand on The Week In Cleantech) and/or his clients have positions in these companies mentioned here: CPTC.)

DISCLAIMER: The information and trades provided here are for informational purposes only and are not a solicitation to buy or sell any of these securities. Investing involves substantial risk and you should evaluate your own risk levels before you make any investment. Past results are not an indication of future performance. Please take the time to read the full disclaimer here.

July 07, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (July 2 to July 6) - Is The Grid The Next Alt Energy Fontier?

On Tuesday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech gave us the scoop on a recent GE move (NYSE:GE) to gain greater access to the European wind market. Interesting how GE is leveraging its capacity in the finance realm to complement its Ecomagination efforts.

On Tuesday, Chris Coad at Seeking Alpha wondered whether high gas prices where increasing demand for hybrids. The reverse begs asking: would a collapse in gas prices lead to a material drop in demand for hybrid cars?

On Wednesday, Dan Lewis at AEI directed us to an interesting article on vanadium redox-flow batteries (VRBs) (PDF document). While this piece focuses primarily on the potential of VRB technology and on VRB Power Systems (TSE:VRB.V or VRBPF.PK), a leader in this field, the main take-away is the growing need to develop medium- and large-scale power storage solutions. This is so because wind and solar are variable power sources and this variability can threaten the stability of power grids. Competitor technologies to VRBs include flywheels, which we have discussed in the past. Given the projected growth for wind and solar over the next decade, this is an ancillary market that investors should keep an eye on.

On Thursday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break told us about the new kid on the cleantech media block - Greentech Media. The more competition, the better!

On Thursday, Rob Hsiung at Clean Times told us about South Korea's plans for solar growth. That feed-in tariff is indeed absurd - might be interesting to find out which solar companies have exposure to South Korea.

On Friday, Dana Childs at Inside Greentech told us how Canadians had just invested another $149M in cleantech. As stated in the article: "these funding announcements are keenly watched by North American venture capitalists as a source of high-quality investment opportunities." This is also interesting for public market investors wishing identify some potentially interesting future opportunities.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

June 30, 2007

The Week in Cleantech (June 25 to June 29) - At The Copa, Copa Cabana

On Monday, Todd Sullivan at Seeking Alpha informed us that ADM (NYSE:ADM) was planning on entering the Brazilian sugar cane ethanol market. It's no mystery that Brazil is an ethanol powerhouse and will be looking, in the years ahead, to export much of its output to the lucrative US and European markets. There is a lot of talk about China becoming an emerging market cleantech powerhouse, but don't forget about Brazil!

On Monday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup reported that Shell (NYSE:RDS-B) CEO Jeroen van der Veer was a big believer in energy efficiency, but not much else. Efficiency will play a large part, but I am a lot more sanguine than Mr. van der Veeron on the capacity of humans to innovate their way out of problems.

On Wednesday, Xavier Navarro at AutoblogGreen informed us that Petrobras wanted Brazil to become the Saudi Arabia of ethanol. See above...

On Thursday, the Biopact Team informed us that Suez (NYSE:SZE) was going to build a sugarcane biomass plant in Brazil...and try to monetize the carbon credits thus generated. Brazil again. Another interesting thing about this project is the carbon credit angle. The potential of the credit income stream to add to normal ROI for these sorts of projects is becoming a lot more tangible to investors.

On Friday, Climateer Investing told us that the US Futures Exchange would offer renewable energy futures, beginning with wind power. The interesting thing with alternative energy is that it is emerging at a time of tremendous innovation in financial markets. This confluence creates a lot of opportunities for people passionate about both.

June 24, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: June 18 to June 22 - Do We Really Have to Worry About Peak Coal?

On Monday, Richard Blackwell at the Globe & Mail told us how the center of the Earth may power our portfolios. Geothermal is a sector we believe is poised for solid growth over the next few years, and the Toronto Stock Exchange is a good place to look for geothermal plays.

On Tuesday, John Addison at the Cleantech Blog gave us a few highlights from the Fuel Cell 2007 Conference. With all the talk around batteries, plug-in hybrids and biofuels, fuel cells have somewhat fallen out of favor recently. This article is a good way to catch up with what's currently happening in this industry (and there are interesting things happening).

On Thursday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup wondered whether we were overestimating coal supply. Lucky for you, we know how you can benefit from peak coal.

On Friday, Mike Millikin at the Green Car Congress informed us that Alstom had signed two development contracts for its CO2 capture technology. We have mentioned in the past how we believe that CO2 control technologies will present attractive investment opportunities once their technological viability has been established.

On Friday, Chuck Marvin at TheStreet.com discussed a new MIT study shedding yet more doubt on the viability of corn ethanol. Ironically, a lot of this bad press may create good value opportunities for some of the stronger corn ethanol players.

On Friday, Todd Wenning at The Motley Fool argued that the 21st century would be a very prolific century in terms of technological innovation, and, more importantly, he told us how investors could capitalize on this trend. Unsurprisingly, alternative energy is one of the key areas he identifies in his article.

June 09, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: June 4 to June 8 - Is China Really Getting Serious About The Climate?

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, Andrea Quong at Red Herring told us how China was about to take aim at global warming. This is latest move by the Chinese government only reinforces the perception already held by many industry observers that China is on its way to becoming a true global powerhouse for alternative energy.

On Tuesday, Martin LaMonica at CNET Newsblog informed us that cleantech investing was surpassing telecom and medical devices. Another day, another report report pointing to exceptional and sustained growth in the cleantech sector. This is nothing to alleviate fears of a bubble.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at the Cleantech Blog let us know that the cleantech media juggernaut was not slowing down. Check out this post for some interesting new cleantech sites.

On Thursday, Kevin Bullis at Technology Review told us that new batteries were being readied for GM's electric vehicle. The cat is now out of the bag - we know who will be fitting the Volt with its batteries.

On Thursday, Michael Kanellos at CNET Newsblog informed us that an algae start-up had signed a contract for biodiesel. The potential of algae as a biodiesel feedstock has been in the news a fair bit over the past few months, so it will be interesting to see what happens as firms try to scale up production. The other interesting angle here is that algae has also been identified as a potentially effective sink for for CO2 emissions - this could mean big business.

On Friday, Dana Childs at Inside Greentech warned us that corn ethanol could be unprofitable by 2008. The results of the study discussed in this piece are in line with our belief that the wealth of micro and macro factors currently lining up against corn ethanol make it an unattractive long-term proposition for investors.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

June 02, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: May 28 to June 1 - Emissions Trading More Than Hot Air

On Tuesday, I learned from a reader that a CO2 emissions trading platform for California, called the California Climate Exchange, had just been launched. The new California carbon bourse will look to service organizations with emission reduction obligations under the state's AB 32. Who's behind this? None other than Climate Exchange plc (CXCHF.PK), a company we've discussed on several occasions in the past.

On Wednesday, Mark Gongloff at the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that HSBC was going green. This is the latest in a series of similar commitments by global financial institutions. Good business sense or a waste if shareholders' money? The future will tell.

On Wednesday, Dana Childs at Inside Greentech told us that Chinese solar companies had gotten spanked after Solarfun missed its quarter. Alt energy, despite impressive revenue growth, remains a very risky asset class marred in volatility. This fact should always remain at the back of an investor's mind.

On Wednesday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing examined, for us, the issue of whether or not there is a biofuel bubble currently underway. The article looks at this debate from a venture capital angle, but some of the key points, such as the future of cellulosic ethanol, bear relevance for public market investors.

On Thursday, Environmental Finance informed us that, last week, European carbon prices had spiked to a 13-month high. It may be too early to tell, but my sense is that the second phase of the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which will coincide with the initiation of regulation-driven carbon trading in the US, will be far more successful than was phase one.

On Friday, Biopact gave us the heads up on a recent academic journal article that found that emissions trading in the EU was one of "the most significant accomplishments in climate policy to date". Moreover, contrary to what has been claimed in the popular press, the article found that emissions trading in Europe was indeed working well.


The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

May 19, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: May 14 to May 18 - Is Energy Efficiency Heating Up?

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Tuesday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing debunked the "cleantech bubble" myth for us. An interesting and fresh look at the issue of whether or not cleantech is getting too hot for its own good.

On Wednesday, Adena DeMonte at Red Herring discussed an interesting energy storage funding deal. Large-scale energy storage aimed at smoothing out supply-demand imbalances in electricity grids is receiving a fair bit of attention from utilities, and it is therefore area that I am keeping a very close eye on.

On Wednesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break told us about the upcoming RuggedCom IPO. Energy efficiency and smart-grid solutions are two areas we continue to believe will present great investment opportunities in the near and medium term.

On Wednesday, Kevin Bullis at Technology Review informed us that it may soon be possible to make cheaper, cleaner ethanol from biotech corn. Cellulosic ethanol meets conventional corn-based ethanol.

On Wednesday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech rode the marine power wave with Roger Bedard for us. Wave power has been in the news a fair of late, as the first commercial projects in the US are about to get underway. Yet one more area I would recommend keeping on eye on...

On Friday, Ilkka Luukkonen At Red Herring informed us that EnerNOC was having a stellar debut on the NASDAQ. We've written about EnerNOC in the past, and I probably don't need to remind you that energy efficiency looks fundamentally very solid to us.

May 12, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: May 7 to May 11 - Citi To Throw Big Money At Climate Change

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Tuesday, Mike Millikin at Green Car Congress detailed Citi's recently-unveiled climate change initiative for us. Yet more institutional money formally chasing climate and cleantech investments.

On Wednesday, Mark Gunther gave us the run-down of Merrill Lynch’s green metrics. The issue of how blue-chip firms are positioning themselves for a carbon-constrained world is beginning to creep into the mainstream, and you can expect more such initiatives in the years ahead.

On Wednesday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech took us inside the Silicon Valley cleantech investor brain.

On Thursday, Richard Kang at Seeking Alpha told us that the hurricane futures market required investor attention. This is indeed a very interesting (a growing) area of environmental finance. The theory here is that as the weather becomes wackier because of climate change, various commercial entities will seek to hedge their weather risks by by-passing conventional insurance solutions and going straight for the risk-taking appetite of financial markets. A growing pool of capital, including hedge funds, is now willing to step in and take the opposite side of these weather "bets".

On Thursday, Biopact informed us that biofuels were becoming a headache for OPEC. Good! Let us hope that not only biofuels, but also tougher fuel efficiency standards and plug-in hybrids turn this headache into a splitting migraine. Unfortunately, something tells me that OPEC will fight tooth-and-nail to ensure that fossil fuels retain their place in our economy. It would also be naive to assume that the US really wants big holders of its debt to go broke. After all, we don't want all those safely-stored Greenbacks offloaded on global currency markets, do we?

On Friday, Martin LaMonica at CNET News informed us that clean tech VCs were putting money on solar, not IPOs. Investor surveys are always a great starting point for a winning contrarian bet - when everyone's rushing somewhere, it makes it hard to find good value, so it's a good idea to seek that value elsewhere.

May 06, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Apr. 30 to May 4 - Are We In A Cleantech Bubble?

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...


On Monday, I received an email from the good folks at Lux Research informing me that they had just released a study looking into the 2006 cleantech VC investment numbers (PDF document). Before I had a chance to go over the press release, The New York Times had done a feature on the report. Alt energy bubble or no alt energy bubble, that is the question...

On Monday, C. Scott Miller at BIOconversion Blog told us about the balkanization of the US renewable energy portfolio. In many ways, this is paramount to the success of alt energy. Different regions have different alt energy profiles depending on the availability of certain resources. As an investor, it thus makes sense to look for that fit in appraising the viability of a project.

On Tuesday, Richard Widows at TheStreet.com showed us how alternative energy was powering certain high-performing funds. AltEnergyStocks.com often gets email queries regarding alt energy and cleantech mutual funds and ETFs - if you are one of the people wondering about those asset classes, you will find this piece interesting. The article also provides a short list of which alt energy stocks are most widely held by pooled capital.

On Wednesday, the WSJ's Energy Roundup informed us that a majority of Americans would agree to pay higher gas taxes if the money raised went to alt energy R&D. Paradoxically, however, most Americans aren't willing to change their car purchasing or driving habits...go figure.

On Wednesday, David Shukman at BBC News showed us a power station that harnesses Sun's rays. Impressive!!

On Thursday, Environmental Finance informed us that global carbon markets tripled in value in 2006. More on this a little later this week.

On Friday, Biopact told us how biofuels would have a limited effect on food prices. You gotta love a contrarian opinion!

On Friday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing asked five questions. This is the sort of the short-and-sweet feature that can provide validation for your current model or a useful starting point for cleantech investing.

April 28, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Apr. 23 to Apr. 27 - An Ethanol Conspiracy Theory?

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Tuesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break informed us that solar growth was expected to shine strong. The numbers are very impressive indeed, but it could be argued that a lot of that future growth is already priced in many of the more high-profile solar plays.

On Wednesday, Mike Millikin at the Green Car Congress told us that California would sue if the EPA was too slow on awarding it the waiver it needs to implement its climate change bill. Suffices to say that the precedent in this case is not in the EPA's favor.

On Thursday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing (for the record, this is hands down one of my favorite blogs in the cleantech space) went over the Q1 2007 numbers for cleantech investing. Very interesting yet concise comparison of the various organizations that compile data on VC and cleantech.

On Friday, Sebastian Blanco at AutoBlog Green discussed the latest ethanol conspiracy theory in the cleantech world. While I have no doubt that Big Oil will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve its monopoly over liquid fuels, especially in the automotive market, I'm always reluctant to label academics 'corrupt' unless I see hard evidence...but I may be naive. See also this post by Mike Millikin at the Green Car Congress for further criticisms of the Stanford study.

On Friday, Simon Robinson at The Big Biofuel Blog informed us that CBOT was launching small corn contracts suitable for smaller players who want to trade electronically. This is an interesting step and may provide retail investors with a good opportunity to play this very interesting angle of the ethanol story.

On Friday, the Clean Slate Report told us all about the new economics of the smart grid. We at AltEnergyStocks.com are big believers in the future of energy efficiency and believe that there will be good investment opportunities in this space. See the recent piece on the Comverge IPO by The Motley Fool for an idea of the opportunities related to energy efficiency and smart grid.

April 21, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Apr. 16 to Apr. 20 - Happy Earth Day Everyone!

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

Writing in the May edition of Scientific American, economist Jeffrey Sachs showed us the road to clean energy.

On Tuesday, Himanshu Pandya at Financial Nirvana told us about a shorting opportunity in First Solar. More on overpriced solar stocks below!

On Wednesday, Shruti Basavaraj and Katrina Chan at The Motley Fool informed us that the Motley Fool was going green. Not to be outdone, Annika Mengisen at TheStreet.com let us know, on Friday, that green was good. Happy Earth Day everyone!

On Thursday, Katherine Bourzac at Technology Review told us about a new biofuel: propane. She also told us about a new company: C3 BioEnergy.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog warned us that an old Nigerian scam was moving into solar. Unsuspecting internet users beware!

On Friday, Jennifer Openshaw at TheStreet.com urged us to save money by going solar. But the title is a bit misleading - she's actually telling us to go solar to make money!

On Friday, Dan Lewis at AEI made the bear case for China. With the valuations of certain unnamed Chinese solar companies being driven to impressive heights, this is a warning you are likely to hear more and more in the next few weeks. For those who have a subscription, the WSJ ran a piece on that exact topic today.

April 01, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Mar. 26 to Mar. 30

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Sunday, Marc Gunther told us all about the greening of Goldman Sachs. As our regular readers know, Wall Street's involvement in environmental finance is one of our preferred topic of discussion.

On Monday, Dana Childs at Inside Greentech told us that there might be some good investment action at the pump. In cleantech/alt energy, it's always a good idea to keep the whole value chain in mind!

On Tuesday, EDP 24 reported on an English study that dispels the NIMBY belief that wind farms kill property values. Thanks to Renewable Post for this one.

On Wednesday, the Green Car Congress informed us that the efficiency gains associated with hybrid vehicles might be nullified by North Americans' insatiable appetite for large and fast cars. Tougher fuel efficiency standards, anyone?

On Thursday, Notable Calls reported on a call of note by RBC Capital. The stock discussed is Zoltek [NASDAQ:ZOLT], but the article is mostly interesting for the parallel it draws between silicon for solar and carbon fiber for wind. This is a thesis worth exploring, especially if you're bullish on wind. Thanks to Seeking Alpha for this one.

On Friday, the WSJ's Energy Roundup discussed alternative energy's cover moment. Call me biased, but I think the momentum behind alternative energy is so powerful and multi-faceted that the future can be nothing but bright for the sector. That's not to say, however, that there aren't oodles of alt energy stocks there that I wouldn't touch with a 10-ft pole.

On Friday, the Clean Slate Report gave us the low-down on a cool China cleantech site. It goes without saying that every serious cleantech investor out there should keep a very close eye on China.


March 18, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Mar. 12 to Feb. 16

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, David Talbot at MIT's Technology Review told us how to nanocharge solar. Nanotech's role in cleantech should continue to increase steadily in the years ahead. On that note, Inside Greentech discusses a report on cleantech and nanotech.

On Wednesday, Stephen Trimble at Defense Tech told us that the army was foreseeing a natural gas crisis. Those who follow the coal-to-liquid space know that the army has been looking into this. But that would be at best a band-aid solution.

On Wednesday, Kevin Bullis at MIT's Technology Review discussed a recent MIT study arguing that the future is precarious for coal. Making coal clean will be, in my view, one of the most dynamic areas of cleantech research in the coming decade.

On Friday, the WSJ's Energy Roundup wondered whether Qatar could become a wind power giant. While the potential would be there for off-shore wind, Qatar would have a long way to go to catch up to the leaders pack.

On Friday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break noted how last week was a busy one for Canadian cleantech firms.

On Friday, the WSJ's Energy Roundup sang the Ballad of the sad CAFE for us. I have one thing to say about large auto makers' constant complaining about raising fuel efficiency and pollution standards: yaaaaawwwwnnnnnn...

On Friday, Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool informed us that FuelCell was generating a spark. I too was surprised by Clean Edge's numbers, but definitely worth keeping an eye on.

March 10, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Mar. 5 to Mar. 9

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, Jefferies revealed that investors were bullish on solar power, ethanol and hybrid transportation. The results of this survey will surely surprise some people.

On Wednesday, Travis Johnson at One Guy's Investments told us all about indirect investing. This is indeed a great strategy for investors wanting exposure to cleantech and alt energy minus some of the risks associated with pure plays. Thanks to Seeking Alpha for this one.

On Wednesday, Dane Muldoon at Autoblog Green discussed the results of a study that found that biodiesel massively reduces dangerous emissions. The next step is to ensure that the price customers pay at the pump reflects the true costs of gasoline's dangerous emissions.

On Wednesday, Mark Clayton at the Christian Science Monitor wondered how green nuclear power was. This debate will surely heat up in the year to come.

On Thursday, Kimi Shi at Pacific Epoch informed us that yet another Chinese company was planning a US IPO. Consolidation, anyone?

On Friday, Mike Millikin at Green Car Congress informed us that the US and Brazil were moving to formally cooperate on biofuels. On a related note, those with a paid subscription should have a read at this article from the WSJ.

March 03, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Feb. 26 to Mar. 2

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog warned that high grain prices could threaten the viability of ethanol.

On Tuesday, Rob Day at Cleantech Investing looked at the numbers for us.

On Tuesday, Dana Childs at Inside Greentech told us how an insurer warned oil companies about renewable energy.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at The Cleantech Blog told us what the trouble was with water.

On Friday, Himanshu Pandya at Financial Nirvana gave us the heads up to keep an eye on these stocks during this downturn. Stocks discussed: Suntech Power [NYSE:STP] and Fuel Tech [NASDAQ:FTEK].

On Friday, Worth Civils at the WSJ's Energy Roundup discussed T. Boone Pickens' contention that oil production has peaked.

February 25, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Feb. 19 to Feb. 23

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Tuesday, Tyler Hamilton at Clean Break told us to stop obsessing about corn.

On Tuesday, Anders Bylund at The Motley Fool discussed 3 stocks that missed the mark. Stock discussed: Evergreen Solar [NASDAQ:ESLR].

On Thursday, Jennifer Openshaw at TheStreet.com informed us that it might be time to turn on alternative energy. Stocks discussed: Archer Daniels Midland [NYSE:ADM], Pacific Ethanol [NASDAQ:PEIX], VeraSun [NYSE:VSE], Ballard Power [NASDAQ:BLPD or TSE:BLD], Distributed Energy Systems [NASDAQ:DESC], Fuelcell Energy [NASDAQ:FCEL], Plug Power [NASDAQ:PLUG], Energy Conversion Devices [NADAQ:ENER], Evergreen Solar [NADAQ:ESLR], SunPower [NASDAQ:SPWR], Ormat Tech [NYSE:ORA], Environmental Power [AMEX:EPG], General Electric [NYSE:GE], Zoltek [NASDAQ:ZOLT], Powershares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF [AMEX:PBW], Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund [GAAEX].

On Thursday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech wondered whether water was finally about to gush.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at the Cleantech Blog gave us a few big ideas from cleantech.

On Thursday, Mike Niehuser informed us on how we could capitalize on human change. Stocks discussed: Maxwell Tech [NASDAQ:MXWL] and Medis Tech [NASDAQ:MDTL].

On Friday. Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool predicted that biodiesel would, in 2007, get a big pump. Stocks discussed: VeraSun [NYSE:VSE] and Archer Daniels Midland [NYSE:ADM].

February 17, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Feb. 12 to Feb. 16

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, Tate Dwinnell at SelfInvestors told us how to profit from the Advanced Energy Initiative, part II. Stocks discussed: Fuel Tech [NASDAQ:FTEK], Exelon Corp [NYSE:EXC], Entergy Corp [NYSE:ETR], Cameco Corp [NYSE:CCJ], Energy Metals Corp [NYSE:EMU], Usec Inc. [NYSE:USU].

On Monday, George Gutowski at Financial Skeptic told us how GE's proxy got high-jacked by a poor-performing, ideologically-oriented fund. Stocks discussed: General Electric [NYSE:GE]. Thanks to SeekingAlpha.com for this one.

On Monday, Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool declared his love for Suntech Power. Stocks discussed: Suntech Power [NYSE:STP], BP Solar [NYSE:BP], Kyocera [NYSE:KYO], Evergreen Solar [NASDAQ:ESLR], and SunPower [NASDAQ:SPWR].

On Monday, Peter Fairley at Technology Review informed us that large offshore wind turbines were safe for birds.

On Wednesday, Stockerblog gave us an extensive list of fuel cell stocks. Thanks to SeekingAlpha.com for this one.

On Wednesday, James Fraser gave us the run-down on a merger that could create a cellulosic ethanol heavyweight. Stocks discussed: Diversa Corp [NASDAQ:DVSA].

February 09, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Feb. 5 to Feb. 9

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite cleantech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, Tim Hussar at Finding Cents in the Market broke into biodiesel for us. Stocks discussed are: Nova Biosource Fuels [OTC BB:NVBF.OB] and NewGen Technologies [OTC BB:NWGN.OB]. Thanks to SeekingAlpha for this one.

On Tuesday, Bret Arends at TheStreet.com told us how Cheney's fund manager wasn't too happy with the Bush Administration's energy policy.

On Tuesday, Robert Aronen at The Motley Fool discussed the corn conundrum. Corn-based ethanol investors beware!

On Thursday, Thomas Ko made a good bet against Energy Conversion Devices [NASDAQ:ENER].

On Thursday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech informed us that certain cleantech industries felt slighted by the new U.S. budget.

On Thursday, Eli Hoffmann at SeekingAlpha gave us the heads up on imminent carbon emissions trading-based ETFs.

On Thursday, Seth Jayson at The Motley Fool implied that cleantech investors would rather be right than rich. Stocks discussed are: Altair Nanotech [NASDAQ:ALTI], Capstone Turbine [NASDAQ: CPST], FuelCell Energy [NASDAQ: FCEL] and Hoku Scientific [NASDAQ: HOKU]

January 27, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Jan. 22 to Jan. 26

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite clean tech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Monday, David Roberts at Gristmill gave us Vinod Khosla's forecast for 2007 (thanks to Tyler at Clean Break for this one).

On Monday, Jack Uldrich at The Motley Fool noted how the solar industry is getting its lobbying act together and going to Washington. Stocks discussed in the article are: BP [NYSE:BP], SunPower [NASDAQ:SPWR], Kyocera [NYSE:KYO], and General Electric [NYSE:GE].

On Monday, Peter Lynch went over what happened on the solar IPO front in 2006: The Year of the Solar IPO Boom.

On Tuesday, Tate Dwinnell at SelfInvestors.com gave us the heads up on some State of the Union trading opportunities. Stocks discussed in this article are: PowerShares Clean Energy ETF [AMEX:PBW] and several of its constituent companies.

On Tuesday, Seth Jayson at The Motley Fool warned us to keep our hands out of the turbine. The main stock discussed is Capstone Turbine [NASDAQ:CPST], but the article as a whole is good in highlighting one of the main problems facing many alt energy companies: high cash burn rates.

On Thursday, Brett Arends at TheStreet.com gave us a list of truly 'alternative' energy stocks that could shine. Stocks discussed in the article are: WFI Industries [TSE:WFI], US Geothermal [OTC BB:UGTH], Fuel Tech [NASDAQ:FTEK], Nova Biosource Fuels [OTC BB:NVBF], and Covanta [NYSE:CVA].

On Friday, Jennifer Kho at Red Herring told us how cleantech, as an asset class, is growing up.

On Friday, Autopia at Wired informed us that Tesla Motors was bringing a bit of California to Michigan.


January 20, 2007

The Week in Cleantech: Jan. 15 to Jan. 19

The Week in Cleantech is a weekly roundup of our favorite clean tech and alt energy blog posts and stories from across the web. If you know of a good piece that you think should be included here, don't hesitate to let us know!

This week, we particularly liked...

On Wednesday, Himanshu Pandya at Financial Nirvana made some predictions about which alt energy stocks could see some upside from the upcoming State of the Union Address.

On Wednesday, Jim Jubak at TheStreet.com told us how to turn a profit from global warming stocks.

On Wednesday, Dallas Kachan at Inside Greentech published an interview packed with good info about ethanol and biodiesel investing.

On Wednesday, Dan Lewis at AEI wondered if ethanol stocks might be rallying ahead of a broader oil rally.

On Thursday, Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog gave us the real story on EEStor and Zenn Motors [TSE:ZNN]

On Thursday, Brett Steenbarger at TraderFeed provided some interesting insight into the relationship between the price of the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF [AMEX:PBW] and the price of oil.




Site Sponsors





Oil and Gas



Search This Site


Share Us






Subscribe to this Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Subscribe by RSS Feed



Certifications and Site Mentions


New York Times

Wall Street Journal





USA Today

Forbes

The Scientist

USA Today

Seeking Alpha Certified

Twitter Updates