Three Thoughts on a Cleantech Bubble


It’s hard to get one’s head wrapped around all the money being poured into the various sectors of cleantech these days. Last year investment in clean energy surged 67 percent over the previous year, but at the same time there was more than $2 billion left in clean energy VC funds, according to New Energy Finance. Now in just the past few weeks we’ve seen several multimillion dollar funds closed with the specific purpose of dousing the sector with even more capital.

Does this influx of investment mean we have a cleantech bubble on our hands? It’s up for debate, but not surprisingly most of those that work in the industry are denying it. That was one of the questions asked during a panel about the commercialization of clean technology at ASME’s Energy Nanotechnology Conference yesterday in Santa Clara, Calif. Here’s their claims:

Rich Helfrich, Managing Director, Alameda Capital: “I don’t think it’s a bubble. I think we’re getting irrational in certain sectors, like thin-film photovoltaics.” [Later, he added] “I’ve been told the best time to make money is when there’s blood in the streets.”

Ralph Jacobs, Chief Technologist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “The greentech bubble? I don’t think it’s there. The demise of corporate R&D is real. The government has stepped in, doubling budgets in the NIH and DOE. The challenge is to get these advanced technologies out of government-run organizations and into the private sector.”

Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst, Greentech Media: “We saw an Internet bubble where companies were going public without revenue. We’re not in a bubble because non-profitable companies [aren’t able] to go public. It’s an intelligent market. Nanodynamics pulled back their IPO, and cited unfavorable market conditions. What do you think those conditions were? Photowatt, a Canadian company, tried to launch their IPO, and nobody bought it.”


Lou Covey

The problem with a lot of clean tech is weeding out the people looking to suck the government subsidies out before they are cut off. There’s a lot of “carpet bagging” going on out there that are inflating the cost, especially in solar.

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