Showing posts with label Green Energy Invention “Breaks the Laws of Physics”. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Green Energy Invention “Breaks the Laws of Physics”. Show all posts

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stimulus money starts flowing for Green Tech

After weeks of supportive words from the president, U.S. green-tech professionals saw something else this week: money starting to flow.

The Department of Energy said last Friday that it expects to provide $535 million in loans to California start-up Solyndra, which has a novel design for rooftop solar arrays. The alternative-energy loan, the first of its kind in four years from the DOE, is a positive sign for the finance-challenged green-tech industry, investors and entrepreneurs said this week.

"I'm happy to see our government supporting advanced research initiatives particularly in regards to energy because the country needs it," said John Walecka, a founding partner at RedPoint Ventures, one of the investors in Solyndra.

"The government doesn't have any intention of running businesses. But from what I can see, they are sophisticated and thoughtful in how to structure deals--that's very clear," he said.

Because of the troubled credit markets, the DOE program has become the "provider of last resort" to companies that need financing to expand and build manufacturing plants, said venture capital investor Paul Holland of Foundation Capital, who was in Washington this week at a meeting of energy professionals at the White House.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has revamped the DOE's loan-vetting process to break the logjam of these loans, which many high-profile green-tech start-ups such as Tesla Motors and battery maker A123 Systems have applied for. Meanwhile, the government's economic stimulus plan calls for $1.6 billion for research through the national laboratories and for investments to bulk up and modernize the transmission grid to transport solar and wind power.

In anticipation of a big inflow of money, green business people have reported spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C. Everyone--from small start-ups to established wind project developers--is hiring lobbyists to influence policy.

"If you just take wind, every developer in the country will be knocking on the DOE's door and asking to get a piece of the pie," Jim Barry, chief executive of renewable energy project developer NTR said at the Jefferies Global Clean Technology conference in New York earlier this month. "The higher quality projects will rise to the top."

Wind and solar benefit
Businesses involved in building large wind farms or solar projects will directly benefit from stimulus spending, according to investors. Companies that sell smart-grid equipment and software to utilities, meanwhile, could benefit indirectly from investments to modernize the grid.

In the short term, loans and changes in the way the federal government subsidizes renewable energy will help finance projects that might have been stalled because a lack of tax equity, Kevin Walsh, managing director of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services, said at the Jefferies conference. Utilities are also expected to invest in their own renewable energy projects, rather than rely on third parties.


Solyndra's rooftop solar arrays are made up of hundreds of tube-shaped solar cells. Will more green start-ups get government assistance this year?

(Credit: Solyndra)But even with the hefty commitment to clean energy in the stimulus plan, many of the rules surrounding those policies still need to be worked out, Walsh said. He called the current period "the implementation phase" and noted that there is more energy-related legislation in the works, including an expected energy bill this year and climate regulations.

Depending on the industry within green tech, the financial impact from stimulus-related investments won't necessarily be felt this year, Mark Bachman, an equity analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, said in a research note Monday.

"Investors should expect neither loans for renewable energy, manufacturing facilities and transmission projects nor matching smart grid and facility construction grants to add materially to 2009 expectations. The lion's share of these funds will be released in 2010 and impact sales and EPS (earning per share) in late 2010 and beyond," Bachman wrote.

Government-funded bubble?
In all, the stimulus plan has $39 billion in direct investments through the DOE and another $20 billion in tax incentives, Obama said earlier this week. The challenge with implementing these policies is setting subsidies at the right level to promote nascent industries without funding flawed companies, said Paul Clegg, an equity analyst from Jefferies.


"There is a risk that we overstimulate or we keep some of the wrong companies in business," he said. "We're likely to see a lot of boom and bust cycles and, as a result, a lot of volatility."

Even though the DOE made a point in acting quickly by approving a loan to Solyndra, bureaucratic delays or mismanagement are another risk.

"Any time you have a big new initiative, you have to assume a certain amount of waste and a certain amount of mistakes," Foundation Capital's Holland said. "However, directionally, these are really the right things for the country."
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer

Friday, November 7, 2008

Are We Doing Enough to Protect the Ozone Layer?

The gaping upper atmospheric hole over the Antarctic, famously known as the "ozone hole" may be able to repair itself in about half a century or so, but some experts say it’s still fragile and needs our attention. The ozone layer protects us from ultraviolet-B radiation from the Sun, which causes skin cancers and other harmful conditions. As a thinning ozone layer increases ultra-violet radiation, wildlife feels the negative impact, as well.

Important as it is, we’re simply not doing enough to safeguard the ozone layer, or at least according to one of the scientists who first discovered the big hole over Antarctica.

Dr. Joe Farman was one of three British Antarctic Survey scientists who first reported signs of severe damage to the ozone layer in 1985. He is now openly criticizing the agreement that allows developing countries to keep on using ozone-depleting chemicals until 2040, and other policies that he says are counter-productive.

"Frequent reviews rescued the Montreal Protocol from deficiencies in the original draft, and another comprehensive re-examination is clearly needed," Farman has stated.

The Montreal Protocol regulating these substances is 20 years old this week. Member countries of the Montreal Protocol are meeting soon to review progress. Farman says that we need a much faster phase-out of ozone-destroying chemicals, and for the safe destruction of current stockpiles. Senior figures in the UN, as well as European and US politicians, are starting to listen.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol was designed to phase out chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons which were found to be depleting the ozone layer in the Earth's stratosphere. Industrialized nations phased out almost all CFC production in 1995, with developing countries having a deadline of 2010.

Many of the substances, used in applications such as refrigeration, aerosols and fire-fighting, have been replaced with related families of chemicals including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These chemicals are less destructive to the ozone layer, but because production in the developing world is now increasing rapidly, there is renewed concern about their impact.

Current regulations mean that in 2015, developing countries will have to freeze their HCFC use at or below the level it is then, phasing out entirely by 2040.

"The rate of HCFC use is skyrocketing," noted Clare Perry, senior ozone campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). "So it's actually going to cost less to phase it out sooner when investment in plant and equipment is at a lower level."

French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the EU will be push for a faster phase-out at this week's ozone treaty meeting.

"The schedule for eliminating HCFCs must be pushed up by 10 years - that will be the benchmark for deciding if the negotiations are successful," she said.

Accelerating the phase-out would require new funds from the industrialized world, as well as changes to the current funding regulations. Farman also recommends that cash be set aside to combat leakage of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as the fire retardant halon 1301, from developing world installations.

"There is some production in developing countries," he writes, "but the main source is now through leaks from existing installations, and during recycling. It is surely time to consider collecting the existing stockpile, and destroying it.

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