Thursday, July 31, 2008

Our New Sputnik Moment

Teryn Norris and I published two op-eds this week, one in the San Francisco Chronicle and one in the Baltimore Sun, outlining a proposal for a National Energy Education Act:

"An Energy Plan We Can Believe In," San Francisco Chronicle, July 31st.

"Realizing His Vision," Baltimore Sun, July 30th.

Adam Zemel, Breakthrough Generation Fellow, covered the op-eds on the Breakthrough blog. And Genevieve Bennett, BTG Fellow, wrote up a summary of the proposal, including a 2-page fact sheet (PDF).

Here is our piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

An energy plan we can believe in
Teryn Norris & Jesse Jenkins
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Energy is now the No. 1 issue in the 2008 elections, with both candidates touting new plans to deal with soaring energy prices. Meanwhile, Congress is at a standstill, arguing over the renewal of critical clean energy incentives and a push for more offshore drilling. But above the partisan cacophony is a proposal all Americans can get behind: a new national education initiative to meet the energy challenge.

The United States is in energy crisis. Oil and electricity prices are rapidly escalating, our dependence on imported energy is increasing, and global warming continues unabated, each presenting grave threats to our national interests and security. Solving these interlinking crises requires large strategic investments to spark a clean energy economy and develop cheap and nonpolluting energy for every American.

But let's pause for a moment to imagine what a clean energy economy would actually look like: tens of thousands of new highly skilled designers and manufacturers reassembling America's auto fleet and producing the next generation of wind turbines and solar panels. An army of new engineers and contractors rebuilding America's electrical grid, erecting wind farms and solar plants, and retrofitting our homes to save on energy costs. Lab researchers inventing cutting-edge, low-carbon energy technologies, which entrepreneurial startups and venture capitalists take into the marketplace.

Now contrast this with today's reality: nearly half of our current energy workforce is expected to retire over the next decade, our manufacturing and construction sectors are in steep decline, and American universities are graduating fewer students each year in the crucial fields of science, mathematics and engineering.

We cannot allow these trends to continue, if we are to confront today's energy crisis. It is imperative that we transform our nation's universities, colleges and vocational schools into multidisciplinary hubs of clean energy innovation that will develop solutions to revitalize our economy, end our dependence on imported oil, and address global warming as well as train a new workforce to develop and deploy low-carbon technology and infrastructure.

Fifty years ago, in the wake of the Soviets' launch of Sputnik, the federal government authorized the National Defense Education Act of 1958. The act provided billions of dollars to inspire and train a generation of Americans to confront the Soviet challenge to win the space race. It was a critical first step toward developing the human capital necessary to put a man on the moon and invent the technologies that catapulted our world into the Information Age.

Just as the National Defense Education Act launched America into the space race, overcoming the energy crisis will require new, large-scale public investments in our nation's schools.

Now is the time for a National Energy Education Act.

Such legislation would expand clean energy education through new research grants, graduate fellowships and energy-science-and-policy-focused curricula; financial aid and loan forgiveness for students entering clean energy development fields; building efficiency, clean energy installation, and green manufacturing workforce development programs; and support for "innovation pipelines" that help commercialize new technologies produced in the laboratory.

How much would it cost? Per year, it would require less than the United States spends daily on foreign oil: $1.5 billion. This would cover half of the tuition every year for nearly 600,000 students at public universities, and over five years it would be proportionate to the total cost of the National Defense Education Act. This program should not occur in a vacuum, of course, but alongside major public and private investments in clean energy technology and infrastructure development. Some of this investment activity is already in place, but much more is necessary and could be funded and incentivized by a modest price on global warming pollution.

Public investment in clean energy education will more than pay for itself, just as the post-Sputnik education programs did in the 1950s and '60s. These programs accelerated technological development and paved the way for the information-age productivity revolution - from microchips and telecommunications to personal computing and the Internet. Today, a National Energy Education Act would equip a new generation of Americans with the highest-caliber human capital, inspire them to tackle energy as their generational undertaking, and pave the way for new industries and technologies that will drive the U.S. economy for decades to come.

Our generation is ready. As two members of the millennial generation and leaders in the youth energy and climate movement, we have seen a hunger for an inspirational vision and purpose for our nation. We simply need our government to embrace this moment and provide the leadership and resources necessary to confront the American energy challenge.

Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins are associate directors of Breakthrough Generation, a project of the Breakthrough Institute, working to encourage the nation's leaders to invest in a clean energy future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GT Solar set to break the IPO drought, GCL Silicon coming next

The long-delayed initial public offering for GT Solar International, the Merrimack, N.H., supplier of solar-cell equipment, is scheduled to go forward on Thursday. The stock will trade on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol SOLR. If the offering goes ahead as planned, it will be the first IPO by a U.S. venture-backed company since the end of the first quarter, breaking the national IPO drought.

GCL Silicon Technology Holdings Inc. on Monday filed to raise up to $863 million in an initial public offering. The Hong Kong-based supplier of silicon wafers to the solar industry plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GCL.

20% of power supply for Beijing's Olympic venues to be wind-generated

A wind power plant has become operational in suburban Beijing, considered a major step towards making 20 percent of the power supply to the city's Olympic venues during the games wind-generated.

The Guanting Wind Power Plant, beginning operation on Saturday, would not only help fulfil Beijing's promise of a "green Olympics", but symbolize the first-ever large-scale employment of wind power generation project in the Chinese capital, said a spokesman for the project.

With an installed capacity of 64,500 kilowatts, the plant has 43 domestically developed wind power units at work.

Since its first unit went into operation on Jan. 20, the plant has supplied 35 million kWh of "green power" to Beijing. It is expected to supply 100 million-kWh electricity per year, enough to meet the daily demand of 100,000 households.

The power plant could help cut yearly emission of carbon dioxide by 100,000 tonnes and save 50,000 tonnes of coal each year. The Beijing Olympics opens on Aug. 8.


SolarCity Offers San Francisco Residents Solar Power for Less than Their Electricity Bills

SolarLease options for qualified San Francisco installations start at $25 per month

SolarCity, California's No. 1 residential solar power company, today announced one of the nation's most affordable solar power financing options for San Francisco residents. SolarCity's SolarLease options incorporate incentives from San Francisco's groundbreaking GoSolarSF program, and can allow many San Francisco homeowners to use clean, renewable solar power for less than they currently pay for electricity.
For example, SolarCity can provide 2.4 kilowatt systems for monthly lease payments starting at $25 per month for eligible San Francisco installations on approved credit. A 2.4 kilowatt system can typically reduce a $100 monthly electricity bill to $40 in San Francisco. In this example, the $65 cost of the combined lease payment and new electricity bill create a net monthly savings of $35. The lease structure - with fixed lease payments that increase 3.5 percent annually - is designed to allow customers to save money immediately, and continue to save over the life of the lease as electricity rates increase.
SolarCity custom designs each solar system to the homeowner's needs, based on roof space, electricity usage and other factors, so lease terms will vary for each customer. Interested San Francisco residents can estimate their potential savings by using SolarCity's solar calculator, available online at
"This program gives San Francisco residents a way to lower their electricity bills at a time when energy costs are skyrocketing. There's no longer any need to wait for affordable clean power options," said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's CEO. "Congratulations to the city of San Francisco for creating the most affordable solar program in the country."
The $3 million GoSolarSF program is expected to help 300-500 San Francisco homeowners to migrate to clean solar power this year. Eligibility requirements and other details of the GoSolarSF program are available online .
The most affordable SolarLease pricing options will only be available while the incentive lasts.

Clean Tech Open Announces 2008 California Competition Finalists

Selects 44 Exceptional Startup Businesses in Six Categories to Advance to the Next Stage of the Contest

The Clean Tech Open (CTO) tonight announced that its judges have selected 44 finalists in the 2008 California competition, from among more than 100 contestants. The Clean Tech Open is America's richest clean tech business plan contest, having awarded over $1.2 million in prizes in just two years.
Finalists compete in one of six categories, vying for the winning prize of "$100,000 Start-Up in a Box" prize package that includes all of the business essentials necessary to help take clean technology ideas from a concept to a successful business.
"Every year I am pleasantly surprised with the increased overall quality of the teams entering the competition relative to the previous year," said Rebeca Hwang, judging chair for Clean Tech Open. "Our judges are really looking forward to learning more about our entrants and had a tough time making their final decision. We are excited to see how finalists and non-finalists bring their ideas to market."
All 44 finalists may take part in a series of comprehensive entrepreneur summer workshops sponsored by the Cleantech Circle and the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and additionally receive mentoring services from a group of volunteers including successful technology entrepreneurs and other business experts.
Following formal pitches by the finalists to the judging panels, CTO will select six winners and present them with their prizes at the grand final event on November 6, 2008.
"This is my third year as judge and our panel is very impressed at this year's entrants," said Chris Vargas, partner for Cleantech Circle LLC and judging panel chair for the Energy Efficiency category. "There is a strong focus on solving real needs, developing sound businesses and creating a meaningful impact on the environment. Selecting just 5 to 10 finalists in each category becomes more difficult each year."
Finalist profiles are available at The finalists are:

Air, Water & Waste category - Prize Co-Sponsor Grundfos:
-- Clean Coal Inc.: Removes contaminants from coal
-- Over the Moon Diapers: High performance reusable diapers and service network
-- Porifera: Carbon nanotube membrane for reverse osmosis desalination
-- PURE-T: Salt free water softener using nanobeads
-- Purite: Zero-energy chemical-free whole house water filtration
-- SequesCO: Microbial CO2 capture and conversion to biofuel
-- Waste Water Works (WWW): Microbial wastewater treatment also generates electricity
Energy Efficiency category - Prize Sponsors PG&E, SCE and SDG&E:
-- Atomic Precision Systems Inc.: New semiconductor process for ultra-cheap LED lighting
-- Enovative Group: Smart pump for hot water circulation
-- NexChem: Energy-saving process improvement for zinc galvanizing
-- Transoptic: Solar energy assistance for conventional water heaters
-- Viridis Earth: Domestic HVAC retrofit to improve efficiency
-- WicKool: Energy efficient water recovery for existing rooftop air conditioning
Green Building category:
-- BottleStone: Ceramic stone countertops include 80% recycled glass
-- en-vis-age: Green, modular and customizable buildings
-- Green Design Systems: Straw wall building panels
-- Home improvement website for green products and services
-- GroundSource: Residential geothermal system with installation services
-- ISTN: Eco-friendly building insulation
-- Parco Homes: Manufactured green (zero net energy) home kits
-- Solar Red: Low cost rooftop PV installation system and components
-- Team Wawa: Water-conserving shower system
Renewables category - Prize Sponsors Google, PG&E, and SCE:
-- Covalent Solar: Organic thin film solar concentrators
-- Focal Point Energy: Solar thermal water heater for industrial processes
-- IEM Applications: Landfill methane accelerated recovery
-- Renewable Fuel Technologies: Agricultural waste biomass converted to Green Coal
-- Solar Ice: Solar powered ice maker
-- Solindis: Optical solar concentrator for thin film PV
Smart Power category - Prize Sponsors AMD and Siemens TTB:
-- 1ARC Energy: Higher capacity lithium-ion batteries
-- Cooler: Carbon calculator to allow B2B targeted advertising in LOHAS
-- Energy Empowered: Home display and control to reduce standby power usage
-- Enverity Corporation: Greenhouse gas tracking and compliance
-- Power Assure: Data center energy management software service
-- Renewable Voltage: Treats organic waste to provide hydrogen and energy storage
-- Tangerine Network Devices: Home energy display and control
Transportation category - Prize Sponsor Lexus:
-- AAA Fleets: Turnkey electric vehicles and solar charging systems for fleets
-- E-Chargers: Plug-in hybrid charging station
-- ElectraDrive: Gas to electric drivetrain auto conversion
-- Electric Drive Research: Plug-in/gas hybrid 2 person, 3 wheel sports car
-- ElectronVault, Inc.: More efficient traction battery for hybrids
-- Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics: Flexible engine sound generator for quiet cars
-- FuelMotion: Series hybrid conversions for the developing world
-- Goose Networks: Hosted dynamic scheduler for carpools/vanpools
-- Philo Fuel: GPS-based audiovisual cues to help drivers optimize fuel efficiency

Past CTO finalists have gone on to raise more than $70 million of VC funding in two years, not including the revenue gained from substantial customer contracts. Plus, of the 95 alumni companies, more than 84 percent are still viable businesses.

Carbon Sciences Targets Near Term Multi-Billion Dollar Market for its CO2 Transformation Technology

Company’s Clean Tech Process to Transform CO2 into a High Value Chemical Compound Used in the Production of Paper, Pharmaceuticals and Plastics

CO2 Mitigation Market Projected to Reach $400 Billion by 2030

Carbon Sciences, Inc. (OTCBB: CABN), the developer of a breakthrough technology to transform harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) into high value, earth-friendly products, today announced its first application targeting a near term multi-billion dollar global market.

This initial application of the Company’s technology is a process that will transform CO2 into a high value chemical compound, currently used in the manufacture of paper, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Unlike existing methods of production, Carbon Sciences’ clean tech process will be carbon neutral, use less energy and result in a lower cost product.

The demand for this high value chemical compound (Precipitated Calcium Carbonate or “PCC”) is projected to grow to 10 million tons by 2010, due to increased global paper consumption and construction in Asian countries. Of the forecasted total, approximately 70% of the PCC produced is expected to be used by the paper industry as brightness coating and filler.

The Company’s management believes that energy and CO2 intensive industries, such as paper production, will welcome this innovative clean technology because it offers two very important benefits – lower cost and carbon neutrality. For example, a paper mill with an integrated PCC plant, based on the Company’s proprietary technology, will be able to transform its own CO2 emissions into PCC for immediate use in paper production – thereby decreasing cost and CO2 emissions.

Commenting on Carbon Sciences’ go-to-market strategy, Derek McLeish, the Company’s CEO, said, “We are excited that the PCC market provides us with a lucrative near term opportunity. While the massive market for CO2 mitigation in coal-fired power plants may be years away, the multi-billion dollar PCC market is here and now.”

Mr. McLeish further stated, “According to the International Energy Agency, the CO2 mitigation technology market is projected to reach $400 billion by 2030. In April 2008, for the first time in history, President Bush unveiled a climate change proposal suggesting that the U.S. would accept binding cuts on CO2 emissions and calling for a peak by 2023, starting with the power generation industry. We believe that by focusing our efforts on the existing multi-billion dollar PCC industry, we will be well-positioned to be a major player in the even larger $400 billion dollar CO2 mitigation market in the future. This strategy is in line with our corporate mission of enabling a carbon neutral world by transforming CO2 into high value products, one industry at a time.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some Refreshing Common Sense! BLM Removes Solar Roadblock

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Blog...

Well ask and you shall receive I guess...

On monday, my colleague and I called on the federal Bureau of Land Management to stop being an Energy Delayer and lift a moratorium that locked up the vast reserves of solar energy located on federal lands. Today, the BLM announced that they would lift the planned twenty-two month moratorium on land it stewards in six southwest states rich in solar energy. The BLM had claimed that an extensive environmental impact review was necessary before solar development on federal lands could move forward and called for the moratorium on May 29th.

Today's refreshingly smart move from the federal government clears the way for over 130 solar energy development projects already submitted to the BLM to move forward and opens up the possibility of further development of this untapped and vast American energy resource.

"We heard the concerns expressed during the scoping period about waiting to consider new applications," BLM Director James Caswell said in a statement, "and we are taking action. By continuing to accept and process new applications for solar energy projects, we will aggressively help meet growing interest in renewable energy sources, while ensuring environmental protections."

I'd love to think my blogging had something to do with this, but there were plenty of voices that arrived at the same conclusion Helen and I did. Among those calling for an end to the insane moratorium on solar development was Senate Majority Leader and solar-rich Nevada's senator, Harry Reid who I imagine might be slightly more influential than this blogger...

Either way, it's clear that as the price of oil continues to rise, buoying inflation and economic insecurity along with it, the time is now to tap our vast reserves of abundant renewable energy and develop the clean and cheap new American energy sources that will power the 21st Century.

So wether it's the Bush Administration, Congressional demogauges or NIMBY enviros, we can't afford to let Energy Delayers stand in the way of a new American energy future.