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Summary:

Pour enough cash into greentech startups and environmental efforts, and sooner or later a couple of your investments might cross paths — especially in a time when large-scale solar projects planned for the Mojave Desert are coming under fire from environmental groups concerned about desert species […]

quercustrust_logoPour enough cash into greentech startups and environmental efforts, and sooner or later a couple of your investments might cross paths — especially in a time when large-scale solar projects planned for the Mojave Desert are coming under fire from environmental groups concerned about desert species and habitats.

For venture capitalist David Gelbaum, it’s sooner: The former hedge fund and mathematician’s firm, Quercus Trust, is one of at least six major backers for eSolar, a solar thermal developer that won praise from the non-profit Wildlands Conservancy last week for siting its latest project — the 5 MW Sierra SunTower — on “disturbed lands,” rather than “pristine California desert.” Director David Myers summed up his stance like so: “We can’t say enough great things about eSolar.”

That works out nicely for Gelbaum, because guess who sits on the Conservancy’s board and has become the group’s biggest backer? None other than the VC himself, according to Green Wombat.

It should be said that the Wildlands Conservancy has provided one of the louder voices of support for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to ban renewable energy projects on vast swaths of the Mojave, as NYT’s Green Inc. noted recently. So while it’s unlikely that Myers showed up at eSolar’s SunTower event last week simply because of Gelbaum’s interest, the desert development issue has positioned the Conservancy in staunch opposition to some of eSolar’s potential competitors. For example, Myers has called solar thermal startup BrightSource Energy’s planned 500 MW project in the Mojave, which is among those that would be halted under Feinstein’s legislation, “devastating.”

As for Gelbaum, it makes sense for a millionaire environmentalist to back both green advocacy work and alternative energy ventures. With any luck, his investments will continue to get along.

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  1. I have one major objection to the post here as it mischaracterizes the propsal by Feinstein’s office regarding the Mojave Desert. The propsal will protect unique sensitive conservation lands from industrial develop where it is not appropriate to begin with. Companies seeking a quick profit have caused a feeding frenzy of speculation and development in the desert that is inappropriate and preposterous. All enviromentalists and many citizens support reweable energy that is truely green! For a technology to be green it must be green in application and not withdraw TENS of Thousands of acres of land from public the public for conservation, recreation and future generations. Everyone should be involved in the conversation to RESPONSIBLY green CA energy suppply and protect our treasured public lands. There are thousands of appropriate sites for renewable energy throughout the state that provide the maximum benefit to the taxpayer and consumer and it seems at first glance that compaies like eSolar are on the right track buy buying small private disturbed lands close to urban southern CA. We can find a win-win solutions!

  2. It would be really great if the reporters would spend as much time telling the really story of the land ruch for conservation lands as they did investingating potential financial ties. Funny how no one is pointing out the NIMBY investors with longstanding political ties that dont want to see green energy on the east coast and are trying to push it all to the southwest?

  3. Katie Fehrenbacher Monday, August 17, 2009

    @RL, no doubt there are ties between NIMBY folks and investors, this is just one example we saw via GreenWombat. If you know any specifics, let us know.

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