Archive for the ‘Alternative Energy’ Category

Biofuels Electrical Power Generation #9023

February 11, 2009

Biodiesel Power Generation
This is the first company in the USA that is generating electrical power from biodiesel made from inexpensive feed stocks (i.e., chicken fat, pig fat, and waste soybean residue). The beauty of this strategy is that the electrical grid is obligated by law to purchase all the power that this company can generate. Unlike wind or biomass, biofuels power is easily installed in urban settings and the economics greatly exceed that of solar or hydrogen cell generation. This company has already achieved breakthroughs with the following events:

1. Developed the nation’s first grid-connected biodiesel powered electric generation plant.
2. Purchased a heat recovery steam generator which makes steam from the exhaust heat from the turbine providing a Combined Heat and Power Project which increases efficiencies and profitability of the power plant.
3. Developed a process to use cheaper fuels through trans-esterification of off-spec oils and gasification of waste products such as glycerol.

This company has recently been approved by the SEC to begin public trading. There is currently a Private Placement Offering for $7,000,000 (minimum participation is $25,000).

Please contact the Energy Exchange  if you would like more information about this investment opportunity.

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More Green From the Golden State

December 11, 2008

green-energyOn December 5th, as is customary for his post, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger powered up the lights for State Capitol Christmas Tree. What makes this years tree-lighting  especially noteworthy is the use of a hydrogen fuel cell. Energy-efficeint LED bulbs are being powered by clean energy.

Said Schwarzenegger, “California leads the nation in energy efficiency standards. Once again, California is a pioneer in protecting our environment with this tree, which is powered entirely by a clean, zero-emission power source.”

In Anaheim, Disney is working to prove the Governor’s statements true, having recently revamped it’s classic submarine ride, substituting magnetic cols for steam power, and colorful, recycled glass for paint.

The quality of the show is still the number one priority for the employees of Disney, as stated Frank Dela Vara of Disneyland Environmental Affairs. “Our culture is that we want to be very careful about those pieces that we put on stage, and we don’t want to take that feel of the show away from the guests.”

Falling Gas Prices Feel Good But Are Stifling Small Operators and Innovation.

November 17, 2008

Small investors support stripper wells
T. Boone Pickens has certainly been doing the rounds of the talks shows this past week. Not only was he on Meet The Press on Sunday but he was also talking to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show only a couple of days earlier, no less. One point he made very succinctly was that although the current low prices at the pumps are making us all feel good about filling up our SUVs it is having a damaging effect when it comes to innovation in renewable energies, and also making many of the small independent operations in the U.S. economically inviable.

In a very interesting article by Andy Vuong for the DenverPost.com,  Andy highlighted the plight of the nations ‘stripper’ wells. A ‘stripper’ well, whether it be drilling for oil or gas, is defined by the federal government as producing not more than 15 barrels a day. What I hadn’t realised is that these small stripper operations account for as much as 18% of U.S. domestic oil production and 9% of natural-gas production, whilst supporting as many as fifty thousand jobs nationwide. Many of these small operations are supported by small, non-operating investors and while oil prices were high they were a worthwhile investment. The problem for many of them now is that with prices falling once again, while costs and environmental regulatory requirements are increasing, they very soon become economically inviable.

The other problem falling prices create, as T. Boone Pickens highlighted on Sunday, is that they stifle both the determination and the investment needed to stimulate the progress towards renewable energy. One example is Picken’s plan for the world’s largest wind farm. While natural gas prices were high ($12 per million BTU in July), replacing the money the U.S. spends on foreign oil with wind power was feasible. But with prices now down to $6 per million BTU the returns are not high enough to warrant the investment. Mr. Pickens thinks that crude oil prices will be back to $100 within a year. Ironically, higher oil prices will not only be be better for the small domestic oil and gas operations, it will be better for the country as a whole. As Picken’s keeps reminding us, dependence on foreign oil is a security issue. Whatever the short term economics, the U.S. has to move towards replacing its dependence on foreign oil with its own supplies of clean renewable energies. We will always need oil as well, even if it is not to run our cars or heat our homes. Hopefully prices will recover quickly enough to retain a good mix of small to medium-sized oil and gas operations across the U.S. One thing we don’t need is another 50,000 people out of a job at this time!

Most Important Year for Solar Power Expo

October 13, 2008

Solar Power International Expo 08
This week San Diego hosts the largest solar energy Expo ever held – Solar Power International 08, running through 13th – 16th October. Coinciding with Solar Energy Week, this 5th annual conference and expo promises to be extra special. Congress has just passed legislation eliminating both the residential cap on residential solar systems and the utility exemption, while giving a further 8 year extension of the federal investment tax credit for solar energy. This sets the grounds for a massive expansion on an industry that has already grown steadily over the last 10 years by as much as 40% per year.

As many as 20,000 people are expected to attend the event where over 400 exhibitors will be displaying every conceivable part of the solar industry. Although the conference and expo have traditionally been more of an international business to business networking event, more emphasis is being placed on the general public this year so that they can get a better understanding of the great possibilities which lie ahead. For example, “Public Night” on the evening of October 15, will give the public a chance to access the Solar Power International expo floor, and on the 18th there will be a ‘Tour of Solar Homes’.

Julia Hamm, executive director of SEPA and chair of Solar Power International said, “The companies and organizations participating in Solar Power International ’08 are offered the ideal forum for learning and networking to discover new partnerships and revenue opportunities that will lead to the expedited expansion of an industry that can be such an important part of the nation’s economic recovery.
More details about the conference and expo, including interviews with industry experts, can be found at the Solar Power International website – www.solarpowerinternational.com

Silicon Valley’s Venture Capitalists Support Obama Energy Plan

September 29, 2008


Obama’s pledge of $150 Billion for new, what has been termed as ‘Cleantech’ industries (meaning carbon-free energy technologies such as solar), has found support amongst Silicon Valley’s Venture Capitalists, who see cleantech as the successor to the dot com boom of the 1990s. Venture Capitalists like Google.org who in May announced their participation in BrightSource Energy’s venture financing with a $10 equity investment as part of their RE< C (Renewable Energy that is cheaper than coal) initiative. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/05/googleorg-announces-investment-in.html

Whilst Silicon Valley groups like Cleantech & Green Business Leaders for Obama have gone all out raising funds for the Obama campaign, it is noticeable by contrast how the vast majority of Big Oil’s support has gone to the McCain campaign by nearly 4 to 1. Although McCain also backs alternative energies and also wants to give tax breaks for consumers who purchase zero-emission cars, a large part of his plan relies on offshore oil drilling and the building of 45 nuclear power plants neither of which are actually going to produce any energy for many years to come. Also, with only 3% of the world’s oil reserves at hand, it must be becoming obvious by now that oil is becoming a resource far to precious to merely burn. A huge number of industries and components rely on oil as a primary ingredient. There are alternatives for using as fuel and energy, there aren’t alternatives for a lot of these petroleum based products.

Obama’s says that his green energy plan will create 5 million new jobs, including many for the soldiers returning from Iraq who will be retrained for these industries. The plan has been described as having the “potential to be a game-changing move akin to the Telecommunications Act of 1996”, where the removal of local network monopolies triggered a tech boom in the communications industry. The question now is, will the entrenched vested interests of big oil have the clout to get McCain into the Whitehouse? There is no doubt that renewable energies will see development either way, but the drive and enthusiasm of important venture capitalists like those in Silicon Valley would be severely undermined by a McCain/Palin government.
To read more – http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=a3L0EYeR3vjA&refer=home

Oil Companies Create Venture Capital Funds for New Technologies

September 15, 2008


A very interesting bit of news appeared toady in the Wall Street Journal. In an article by Russell Gold, called “Just in Case – as big oil companies begin to invest in new technologies, some skeptics wonder what they are up to.” Mmmmm, I think to myself as I stroke my non-existant beard – does this in anyway remind of something?

Check out the video above which is a trailer for the 1996 Documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”. Seeing that it was, indeed, made in 1996 it does particularly strike one on viewing how similar the situation then is to the one today – almost exact as a matter of fact.

Gold describes the move towards creating venture capital funds by large oil companies as “a quiet trend”. Does he mean by that that the oil companies don’t want the general public to know too much about it? One can’t help but wonder.

Whereas Exxon apparently can’t see the point in doing this (oh yeah?), one of the major players seems to Chevron, according to Mr. gold’s article:

“Lately, Chevron has increased the share of its venture funds going into renewable energy to 33% from 18%. It has provided seed capital for BrightSource Energy Inc., an Oakland, Calif., company that turns solar energy into steam, and Southwest Wind Power, a Flagstaff, Ariz.-based company that builds small-scale wind turbines that can be placed on top of light poles.

One argument made, based on the relatively modest investments in renewable and alternative energy technologies compared to the oil companies overall size, is that such investing is an attempt at what is called “green-washing” –  “an effort to green up the image of a company that produces a lot of fossil fuels.”

Certainly General Motors, one of the ‘prime suspects’ in ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’, does seem to be moving towards alternatives to the gasoline-powered car, at least if all their advertising for hybrid SUV’s is anything to go by. Ultimately, one has to ask oneself “are they capable of investing in new technologies just to kill them off”. Yes, I think they are – given the kind of invested political climate we have had over the last eight years or so. Somehow though, I think the genie has been let out of the bottle now, and I don’t think the oil companies are going to ever be able to get it back in. Let us hope that such actions are nothing worse than “green-washing”. In the end it is down to vigilance by the individual and by the media. They can only get away with anything untoward if we let them.

You can see Russell gold’s article in full at the following link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122123947896128695.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Will Congress Renew Tax Credits for Renewable Energy?

September 8, 2008


In a recent story by Jim Abrams for the Associated Press it was highlighted that the roughly $500 million in investment and production tax credits that are maintaining the current expansion by renewable energy companies at this time are due to terminate at the end of this year unless Congress renews them. I understand that few people have any faith left in Congress to do anything, but are we really that jaded that we think there is a possibility Congress won’t renew these tax credits? Or that we think that through shear ineptness they will somehow forget something that important?

With solar and wind power being so high up on the agendas of both political parties, let alone the ubiquitous Mr. Pickens, the idea that Congress would jeopardize the current expansions of these embryonic industries seems inconceivable. The article cited a comment by Greg Wetstone, of the American Wind Energy Association, saying that “his group is predicting a loss of 76,000 jobs and $11.4 billion in investment if Congress allows its production tax credit to expire.” 

“Investors like to know what tax policies apply when they are putting millions of dollars down on a project. There’s a pretty clear history that these projects are less likely to go forward without a credit,” said Mr. Whetstone.

In another quote, Navigant Consulting, which advises on renewable energy technology, estimated that “investments in wind and solar power in 2009 would amount to $26.6 billion with the credits; that would fall to $7 billion without them.”

Mr. Abrams goes on to point out that Congress did “let the credit expire in 2000, 2002 and 2004. In those three years, wind capacity installation dropped 93 percent, 73 percent and 77 percent, respectively, from the previous year.”

Come on – give me a break! Look when those years were – 2000, 2004? The very years Mr. Bush was elected President – Bush/Cheney, remember them? The big oil men? How one can possibly extrapolate the actions of Congress in 2008 with those of 2000 – 2004 I do not know. Even in the unlikely event that John McCain and his “drill-baby-drill” mentality were to be elected in November there is no way that Congress is not going to renew the tax credits. In fact, surely, you are likely to see a huge expansion as plans to ‘reduce the reliance on foreign oil’ begin to be drafted. You are welcome to read the article for yourselves at http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1546667/
wind_solar_energy_built_on_temporary_tax_breaks/

But, I would contend if Congress is so messed up that they would get something wrong as serious as possibly stifling an emerging alternative energy industry at this important time then we may as well all pack our bags.

USA’s Solar Panel Capacity Set to Double with PCG Deal

August 18, 2008


In an announcement by Paul Davidson of USA Today we see the first vestiges of what I think will be a major new solar energy industry. California based Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) have made a deal with two key players in the solar energy field – SunPower and Optisolar, who will build the two largest solar farms currently in the world which will supply enough energy to light nealy a quater of a million homes.

The new solar farms should come on line within the next three or four years and will double the current USA’s solar panel capacity. Davidson highlights the fact that over 90% of current solar panel capacity has been installed, not as part of any government initiative but by “maverick consumers and businesses” installing panels on their roofs.

However, Ron Pernick of research company Clean Edge thinks that as major utility companies like PCG begin to take up solar energy as part of its supply it is likely to push the share of solar energy supply from its current 1% share to something like 25% in the next 15 – 20 years. Personally, I think with the right governmental initiatives that figure will be arrived at much sooner than that!

In a quote from Julia Hamm of the Solar Electric Power Association Davidson sums up the piece nicely – “Just a handful of utilities doing something big changes the scale of the entire market.” Let us hope that this deal is but the first of many that brings America’s solar power industry up to where it should have been years ago.

Solar Energy in the South West? Duh!

July 18, 2008


I don’t know about you, but anyone who has ever lived in, or visited, south west America will know that they get more than their fair share of sunshine down there.

It has always amazed me that solar energy which, lets face it, has been around a while now, is not more prominent in that area beyond a few street signs. Are the vested interests from the oil conglomerates so pernicious in this country that even somewhere like Arizona has virtually no solar energy industry? Apparently so.

I even heard, on NPR a few days ago, that a German company was in Arizona looking to set up a solar energy project – Germany! They barely know what the sun looks like!
Can you imagine what a difference it would make to energy consumption if everyone’s house in Arizona was fitted with a couple of solar panels!?

Well, finally, I see that California is implementing not one, but two solar energy projects starting this month. Here is just a snippet from the story put out on the web by businesswire.com –

“Southern California Edison (SCE) has selected First Solar to engineer and supply the PV power plant system for a 2 megawatt project to be installed on the roof of a commercial building in Fontana, CA. This is the first installation in SCE’s plan to install 250 megawatts of solar generating capacity on large commercial rooftops throughout Southern California over the next five years. SCE began installation of this initial project on July 14, 2008, and expects to connect the PV power plant to the grid in September 2008. In March, SCE, with California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced the five-year solar PV installation project, which is the largest rooftop solar program ever proposed by a U.S. utility.”

You can read the full story at – http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/
?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20080716005457&newsLang=en

but suffice it to say that we are very likely to see more and more of these kinds of alternative energy projects over the next ten years or so. If you want to invest your money in energy these days this is precisely the kind of initiative I would want my money invested in.

Pickens Plan for Reducing Reliance on Oil

July 15, 2008


I don’t know if you have seen the series of advertisements on TV recently – you know, the one with the oil baron guy – T. Boone Pickens talking about how he has a plan to reduce America’s dependency on oil with a plan to invest in alternative energy. He doesn’t seem to be trying to do another Ross Perot, which is the first thought that struck me, but an oil man interested in reducing our dependency on oil? It is certainly novel, if nothing else.

Pickens’ Plan calls for a $1 trillion investment in a series of wind farms across middle America, with a further $200 billion investment needed for the infrustructure to transmit the resulting electricity to the national grid. This might seem like a huge amount of money but, as Pickens points out – that is a one time cost which has to be seen against the on-going $700 billion spent on an annual basis on foreign oil.
Either way, oil is not going to last forever, so if you are thinking about investing in the energy market, companies looking to alternative supplies could be a good long-term bet.

If you want to check out the “Pickens Plan” for yourself you can visit his website at www.pickensplan.com and make up your own mind!