Clean Power

The future of solar financing

The complex world of solar financing has led to some serious startup innovation in the space. But as the sector grows up will it become a vertical or a horizontal play?

Report: Better Place laying off hundreds

After slow sales in Israeli — the first test bed and flagship market — Better Place is laying off hundreds of employees. The company is struggling with losses as it figures out how to make Israelis want to sign up for electric car charging like a cell phone service.

How U.S. solar makers can break into China: JVs, pilots

Selling solar panels and projects into China is notoriously tricky for American solar makers — the market is already flooded with low cost Chinese solar panels, and domestic suppliers seem to carry favor. What’s the answer? Baby steps: joint ventures and pilots seem like the way to go.

Green clouds are all about scale

Do data centers that run on clean power seem like pipe dreams? Not when companies hit the massive scales of webscale computing. Execs creating business models from green data centers say that it’s the large size of the projects that makes clean power attractive.

Report: AQT Solar searching for a buyer for assets

Silicon Valley solar startup AQT Solar is the latest thin film solar company to struggle: the company is reportedly looking to sell its assets. Just earlier this year the company raised more funding and planned to make 30 MW of its solar cells by mid year.

A green Hadoop could manage solar-powered data centers

Finally the worlds of big data geeks and clean energy nerds have collided. Researchers have proposed building a “GreenHadoop,” that is a version of the MapReduce programming framework that could manage a data center’s computing workload to optimize clean energy from a solar system.

Chart: Japan to see a solar power boom

In the wake of one of the world’s largest nuclear power disasters in history last year in Japan, the country is re-thinking its energy policy and looking to provide incentives to boost clean power starting this July. Our charticle:

Report: The clean power cash grant program was working

A new report out of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Labs says that the $9 billion clean power cash grant program (formally called the 1603 grant program), which expired at the end of 2011, was actually working and creating jobs and economic output.

My great hope for the energy future

Professor Tom Murphy lays out his rosy vision for what he thinks the world could accomplish in the near term to maximize the chances of coming out shiny and happy on the tail end of the fossil fuel saga.

3 energy innovators under 35 you should know

MIT Tech Review’s annual list looking at 35 innovators under 35 always has gems for the energy sectors. This year’s list is no different and the publication highlights three under-the-radar entrepreneurs at startups including ultracapacitor company FastCAP, geothermal drilling startup Foro Energy and battery company Wuhe.

Solaria raises $30M to push concentrating solar PV

Concentrating solar photovoltaics use optics to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells to boost energy production. While the tech is still in an early stage, some startups are looking to ramp up, like Fremont, Calif.-based Solaria, which has raised another $30 million.

Thank you Google for a green victory

Despite that Google is ending its efforts to reduce the cost of clean power below coal, we’ve actually made it there. And clean power entrepreneur Jigar Shah says to Google: Thank you for pioneering this, and it’s time to declare it a victory!

Pump up the energy storage

If we adopt solar and wind as major components of our energy infrastructure, we have to solve the energy storage problem in a big way. Here, we will take a peek at pumped hydro and evaluate what it can do for us.

Our Pearl Harbor moment for solar is coming

There will soon be enough solar projects globally to drive economies of scale to reach our Pearl Harbor moment in solar. That moment won’t be the end, but will start the first war for control of the power sector in 100 years.

First Solar: Boosting production is a bad idea

Solar manufacturers have been on supercharged expansion mode over the past five years in order to cut costs and solar prices. But to continue that march at this point is just unwise. First Solar is now putting off bringing online a solar panel factory in Vietnam.

On the ground with clean power in India

In contrast to the politicization of solar in the U.S., India is quickly moving to install 20 GW of solar by 2022. Vineeth Vijayaraghavan is the founder of Panchabuta, a site focused on Indian cleantech. Here’s what he’s been watching, reading, and writing about this week.

Solar Mosaic, Kickstarter for solar aims high

Introducing crowd sourcing meets solar, with a kick. Startup Solar Mosaic has built a Kickstarter-style platform that is bringing together peer-to-peer lenders that want to make loans for solar projects in underserved communities, and plans to one day offer ways to make money from solar.

Silevo unveils hybrid solar cell tech, Chinese factory

Are there still opportunities for tech innovation for solar cells, now that solar panels are rapidly becoming commoditized? California startup Silevo thinks it has a shot with a hybrid solar cell design and a plan to build its first factory in China.

Solyndra execs’ testimony: silence

The second congressional hearing on what happened with solar maker Solyndra concluded this morning, and Solyndra’s CEO and CFO aren’t talking. Right after CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover were sworn in, they invoked their fifth amendment rights.

BrightSource turns to taller tech for new solar plant

Solar project developer BrightSource Energy isn’t close to completing it first solar power plant, but it’s already getting the ball rolling on its second project, which will use a taller tower and is a more efficient use of the land.

How much is your home worth with solar?

Going solar is an expensive undertaking, so homeowners are often eager to know whether solar adds value to their homes and if they can recoup some of the investment when they sell their homes.

A wind power controversy unfolds in California

The California Energy Commission on Wednesday filed a complaint against a wind turbine maker, contending that the company has exaggerated the performance of its equipment and caused the commission to overpay in rebates.

GM backs solar car port maker Sunlogics

After investing in batteries, wireless tech, and electric car innovation, the venture arm of GM is now turning to solar car ports. On Thursday GM Ventures announced that it has invested $7.5 million into Sunlogics, a company that makes canopies covered in solar panels.

First Solar boasts world-record solar cell

Solar-panel prices are falling fast, and that is putting enormous pressure on manufacturers to boost their solar gear’s efficiency. First Solar feels the pressure, too, and on Tuesday boasted a world-record solar cell at 17.3 percent efficiency.

mc10: Stretchy electronics for better devices

Electronics that can break out of their rigid boxes, and be embedded into stretchy, even wearable, materials — that’s the goal of startup mc10, which packages up semiconductors, like silicon, so they can bend, twist and wrap around other structures.

A battery startup flows toward launch

Startup EnerVault is getting closer to commercializing its flow battery, which uses large liquid tanks of chemicals to store energy. The Silicon Valley company will be building a demonstration project next year to help launch the technology into the market in 2013.

The vision for solar windows

Is combining solar cells and windows a case of chocolate and peanut butter (perfect combo) or one of those unions which equals less than the sum of its parts? Startup Pythagoras Solar has designed — and is selling — a double-pane window embedded with solar cells.

Google has now invested over $780M in clean energy

Google has emerged as one of the most aggressive clean power investors in 2011, and has now invested over $780 million into clean power projects and technologies. The latest funding is another $102 million into a wind farm being built in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

The story behind solar startup Alta Devices’ innovation

Alta Devices has garnered high-profile investors, but it’s been fairly quiet about the tech it’s developed to bring in those investors. But after chatting with Alta’s CEO, Christopher Norris, we have a lot better idea on its innovation. Here’s the story behind Alta Devices.

Utility takes on solar challenge with grid redesign

Adding more clean power to the grid will require utilities to redesign the network that transports solar electricity locally. Southern California Edison on Monday laid out its plan to make its distribution grid more responsive to the fluctuating infusion of solar electricity throughout the day.

Solar Bragging Rights Land On Facebook

SunReports has launched a Facebook app that displays how much power your home solar system is generating. Monitoring solar systems can make sure solar panels are working right, while solar installers are hoping that showing off solar systems via social networks will lead to more sales.

BrightSource vs the environmentalists

Solar company BrightSource says it employs between 60 and 100 biologists at any time to make sure animals in the desert surrounding its inaugural solar plant Ivanpah are unharmed. A group of environmentalists have been protesting the plant, and part of the construction was temporarily halted.

Using Big Data to Make Solar Smarter

Solar rooftops only work in specific environments — an area with enough sun, or a roof with the right tilt — and a company called Geostellar is using big data tools to help its solar installer customers deliver more solar in places where it actually makes economic sense.

The Mystery of the Imperial Valley Solar Project

What’s going on with a 709 MW solar project planned for the Imperial Valley in Southern California? We just learned from San Diego Gas & Electric’s spokesman, Art Larson, that the utility canceled its contract to buy power from the project.

Concentrating Solar PV’s Future Is Shining Brighter

Concentrating solar photovoltaic technology hasn’t always gotten a lot of respect, but it’s getting more attention these days thanks to government aid and a few well-known players and projects. In fact the technology could see 1 GW of power projects installed by 2015.

GTherm: Cutting Cost and Quakes From Geothermal Power

Three-year-old startup GTherm has a new approach to tapping the Earth’s heat for power generation at sites where conventional geothermal technologies fall short. The company says it can do it for less cost, and through a safer method, than competing systems.

GE to Crank Up Gas Power Plants Like Jet Engines

Natural gas power plants aren’t usually all that efficient. On Wednesday, GE announced a power plant design that’s more efficient than the standard and also allows plant operators to better manage supply and demand and integrate clean power with natural gas.

Google Has Now Invested Over $400M in Clean Power

Mark down yet another clean power project that Google plans to back. This morning, Google announced that it’s providing $55 million for part of the construction of a 1.5 GW wind farm being built by Terra-Gen Power in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

PG&E Sinks Wave Power

Looks like PG&E is finally giving up on wave power, for the time being. PG&E’s spokesman Denny Boyles tells KQED that it has essentially abandoned the wave power projects it had been researching, including pilot projects and permits for three areas along the California coast.

SunPower Swings to a Loss, Italy Shaking Up Solar

Solar companies know what to blame for their weak first quarterly financials this year: Italy and the country’s revision of its solar subsidies. Solar bellwether SunPower this afternoon, announced a quarterly loss of $2.12 million ($0.02 loss per share).

Bill Gates: Energy Solutions Need to Be Big, Not Cute

To solve the world’s energy problems and combat a rise in global warming, the solutions need to be dramatic and powerful. And definitely not cute. That’s the blunt assessment of Bill Gates, who dismissed smaller scale technologies like residential solar installations as being “cute” but ineffective.

Solar Rises on the East Coast

California is home to the U.S. solar industry, and it will continue to be. Of the roughly 2 gigawatts of installed domestic solar photovoltaic capacity, half of it is in California. But the industry is spreading out. — to the other coast.

Nanosolar’s Road Map to 1 GW of Solar

While many of the next-gen thin film solar companies are in a make-or-break stage of ramping up to high volume production, a good deal of these companies don’t seem to have much trouble finding customers. Nanosolar says its scored a 1 GW deal with European utilities.

Nuclear Waste Startup Kurion Working on Japan Disaster

Reuters reports that the beleaguered Japanese utility that owns the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company, plans to start treating contaminated water at its reactors with technology from stealthy startup Kurion, Toshiba, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, and Areva.

Facebook to Greenpeace: We’ll Do More

Facebook didn’t exactly meet Greenpeace’s Earth Day challenge, which called for the social network giant to pledge to cut out coal as an energy source for its data centers. But Facebook did respond in a letter, in which the company said it would do more.

BrightSource Energy’s S-1: By the Numbers

The biggest cleantech news of last week hit the wires late afternoon on Friday: Solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy filed for a $250 million IPO. Here’s the nitty-gritty of BrightSource’s financials, PPAs, and partner deals, via BrightSource’s S-1 by the numbers:

Report: Solar Homes Fetch Higher Prices

Does a solar electric system add to the sales value of a home? The Berkeley Lawrence National Laboratory decided to answer this question, and the result is a report being issued Thursday that showed that, indeed, solar homes command higher prices.

Green:Net 2011 Live Coverage

Today, at our third-annual Green:Net event, we’re looking at digital energy: how technology can reduce energy consumption and help the environment. The livestream begins at 8:25 PT, and we’ll update this post throughout the day with the liveblogs from the event.

Google Invests $100M in (Another!) Wind Farm

Google’s investments in clean power are now rivaling that of stand alone clean energy investors. The search engine giant has invested $100 million in the world’s largest wind farm under construction in Oregon. With this investment, Google has put more than $350 million into clean power.

Molycorp Buys Up Another Rare Earth Firm

Rare earth mining company Molycorp has made another acquisition, and yes, its shares are even higher than when we last covered the company earlier this month. Molycorp has acquired Santoku America, based in Tolleson, Ariz., from Japanese firm Santoku Corporation, for $17.5 million.

Greenpeace Ramps Up Pressure on Facebook’s Coal Use

Greenpeace has hit a new record with its Facebook “unfriend coal” campaign: a Guinness World Record for how many comments a single Facebook post has received in a 24-hour period. Greenpeace will also unveil a report on clean power and the cloud at Green:Net 2011.

PHOTOS: A Hot Day for Solar at SunPower’s Factory

It was a union of sorts between federal, state and industry initiatives, culminating in a day that will be remembered in solar power history. DOE Chief Steven Chu, California Governor Jerry Brown and SunPower executives announced a series of key solar projects. Here’s my photos:

PHOTOS: Chromasun’s Rooftop Next-Gen Solar Project

A rooftop at Santa Clara University is now home to a next-generation solar technology. Specifically the university has commissioned a solar concentrating photovoltaic project — which uses both mirrors to concentrate sunlight and also solar cells — from startup Chromasun.

Google Backs German Solar Farm

Looks like Google’s wind power investments last year aren’t its last clean energy bets. On Thursday afternoon Google announced that it will invest €3.5 million ($5 million USD) into a solar photovoltaic farm in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany, which is near Berlin.

GE To Ramp Up Thin Film Solar Dramatically

The mystery’s over. GE apparently is serious about building a thin film solar business and the New York Times is reporting that GE plans to announce on Thursday that it will build a factory to produce 400 MW worth of thin film solar panels per year.

The Next-Gen Utility: When Every Rooftop Is a Power Plant

Will your local utility one day go the way of dinosaurs? As more home and business owners install solar panels, wind turbines and other electricity and heat generating equipment, the roles of the utilities will change and new business opportunities will rise.

Weak Numbers Underlie Record Q1 Cleantech Deals

A quick scan of the top cleantech deals for the near record first quarter, sent cold shivers up my spine. The deals may be getting done, but are we sure investors are making money? Three of the biggest deals represented 17 percent of the quarter’s dollars.

PHOTOS: The Nichols Solar Concentrating PV Farm

A solar farm using concentrating solar photovoltaic technology, which combines mirrors and solar PV cells, was just completed in Hanford, Calif. at the Nichols Farms. It’s a 1 MW solar project, using technology from SolFocus, and built by Bechtel. Check out the photos:

UN Taps Microsoft for Green Data Center Tech

The United Nations has opted to use Microsoft’s green pre-fab “data center in a box” technology for its new office in Nairobi. The technology can reduce the energy costs associated with the data center and will help the U.N. make its new Nairobi office energy neutral.

Nuclear Players’ New Love: Solar and Wind

Renewable energy is enjoying a rising profile at the expense of nuclear power. But nuclear power producers and technology developers aren’t necessary the losers there. Some of them have been snapping up solar and wind companies and power plant projects, and the trend will continue.

Why A Company Would Ditch A DOE Loan Guarantee

What would lead a company to walk away from negotiations for a coveted federal loan guarantee, as solar company Suniva did recently? It has to do with the terms of the government deals, the time it takes to obtain one, and the recovery of private markets.

Nuclear Costs to Soar Post Japan Disaster

Researchers are already predicting how the nuclear disaster in Japan will affect the nuclear industry. According to Mark Cooper, a senior fellow at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and Environment, construction costs of nuclear reactors are likely to soar for awhile.

Battle Over Solar Permit Costs in Colorado

Solar equipment installers and manufacturers have pointed out for some time now the hassles of dealing with disparate permitting rules and costs from one city or county to the next. A new report highlights this challenge in Colorado, where a bill is pending to cap fees.

Enphase Launches Solar IT Offensive

Enphase Energy has made a name for itself as a trailblazer of the microinverter market. But keeping that lead won’t be easy, and the company is launching a series of new products that are smaller and lighter and more tailored for different customer types.

GE’s Thin Film Solar Challenge

General Electric has shown no lack of ambition to be a big player in the solar energy market, but how well it’s doing developing cadmium-telluride (CdTe)-based technology — and become a major CdTe solar panel makers — remains a bit of a mystery