Author Archives: Amnon

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

Considering the short term of one to three years, what technology advances may be expected in the CPV sector? What conversion efficiencies might be achieved and costs/kW installed reached? And what, if any, are the technical and investment barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve these forecasts?

Jeroen Haberland, CEO, Circadian Solar

In the next three years lowering manufacturing costs will be crucial to the CPV industry. As well as the gains from adopting best practises and economies of scale, part of the cost reductions will come from advances in cell manufacturing techniques to lower the amount of material required in each cell. Exploiting increasingly optimised bandgap combinations, either by metamorphic growth or by layer transfer techniques, will produce cells with higher fundamental efficiency limits. 

We expect the current trend of 1% annual increases in research cell efficiency, from the 2010 level of 42%, to continue, although advances in cells with more optimum bandgap combinations could deliver more significant increases. Production cell efficiencies meanwhile will most likely continue to lag behind world record research cell efficiencies by 2%-3%. Overall system efficiencies are expected to rise to around 32% by 2013. This will be driven not just by cell efficiency increases, but also by the combination of high efficiency optics, optimal concentration factor, innovative thermal management, high accuracy solar tracking and through automated precision assembly too.

Commercially, the emphasis will increasingly be placed on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), rather than just system efficiency and system price/watt, since LCOE is the key determining factor in commercial payback and return on investment.

The key barrier to investment is ‘bankability’ — the requirement to guarantee to financiers the kWh energy yield from CPV systems over 25 years for a given investment in the plant. Without this, either the cost of finance will be very high, or there will be no finance. Publicly funded projects are one of the best/only ways to demonstrate bankability and well thought out incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will be an important enabler for the industry to reach the economies of scale necessary to reduce system costs.

Carla Pihowich, Senior Director of Marketing, Amonix

The most important technology advances in CPV solar over the next three years will be performance improvements to III-V multi-junction cells and how they are integrated into CPV.

Amonix incorporated III-V multi-junction cells into our systems in 2007 leading to dramatic improvements in efficiency — currently 39% at the cell level, which translates into 31% at the module level and 27% at the system level. At these levels of efficiency, CPV has by far the greatest efficiency of any solar technology. In addition, as we have done in the past, Amonix will deploy performance improvements over the next year that will lessen the gap between cell and system efficiency. In the years to come, we expect multi-junction production cell efficiencies will reach 42% or higher using current or new high-efficiency cell designs.

On the question of cost, we believe that CPV offers greater potential for cost reduction than conventional PV technologies such as single-crystal silicon and thin-film PV, which are nearing performance limitations that will make it difficult for them to drop below their current installed system costs. In contrast, the CPV performance advantage has plenty of headroom and can achieve continual reductions in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

Achieving the cell and system efficiencies is not without its challenges — cell performance must be effectively transferred to production environments, for example. But we believe these challenges can be managed. Bottom line, efficiency improvements combined with the future cost advantages of CPV over PV, the greater deployment flexibility — and the advantage of using no water compared with CSP systems — make CPV the best choice for utility-scale solar deployments in sunny and dry climates.

Nancy Hartsoch, Vice-President Sales and Marketing, SolFocus

In 2010 industry-leading CPV companies have become commercial, demonstrating scalable deployment, bankable products, and volume manufacturing. So what does lie ahead for CPV?

One way to describe CPV’s path over the next one to three years is that it will have a steep trajectory. CPV conversion efficiencies are on a steep upward path. System efficiencies of 26%+ today will continue to increase as CPV cell efficiencies move from 39% upwards to 45%.

Manufacturing costs for CPV systems are also on a steep trajectory, but going downward, as factories are ramped from manufacturing hundreds of kW to hundreds of MW per year. The upward efficiency trajectory combined with the rapidly declining manufacturing cost trajectory provides a very steep reduction in terms of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for CPV in the upcoming three years.

In 2010 CPV won competitive bids around the world against other PV technologies because of its high energy yield resulting in a very strong value proposition, which will become even more commanding in the future. Bankability of the technology remains perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, this is rapidly changing through thorough due diligence on the technology and creative approaches to reduce the risk for developers.


Certification to industry standards for CPV combined with multiple years of on-sun performance and reliability data also contributes to the increasing adoption of CPV into large distributed and utility-scale projects around the globe.

With 150 MW forecast to be deployed in 2011, CPV has finally turned the corner on commercialisation and is moving forward into a market where its high energy yield with the largest energy output/MW installed has the potential to dramatically change the opportunity for the PV market. Add in the need for environmentally friendly technology and it provides an extremely low carbon footprint, along with low cost of energy, It becomes easy to forecast a major impact by CPV solar.

Andreas W. Bett, Deputey Director, Fraunhofer ISE

Concentrating PV and specifically HCPV technology is now ready to enter the market. I am aware this has already been said, but the difference is that there are now serious companies in the market.

They have set up production capacities which are in the two-digit MW range, and collectively the production capacity today is more than 150 MW. Two years ago it was less than 10 MW. This achievement is an important milestone for CPV and the first step to overcome their infancy. 

In respect to technology advances, due to steady and continuous improvement for cells, optics and tracking CPV-system AC operating efficiency will eventually be 25% on an average. System efficiencies as high as 30% are possible, but it will take more than three years to achieve this goal. These high efficiencies, in combination with advancing along a steep learning curve, will lead to energy costs in the range of €0.10/kWh at sites with solar radiation of more than 2400 kWh/m²/year.

One has to take into consideration that for the moment the cost per installed kW is not an appropriate measure for CPV technology. This is simply because the corresponding rating standards for CPV are not yet established. Indeed, missing standards can be seen as one hurdle for CPV and a barrier for investors. Consequently, the financial side must learn more about CPV technology and the industry must teach and demonstrate reliability — a major obstacle today for bankability.

At present CPV struggles not so much with technology, but with funding. However, this barrier will soon be overcome, for example if guarantees can be provided by the CPV companies.

It is then that the growth and the technology development speeds up, leading to still lower CPV costs.

Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO and Founder, Concentrix Solar

Leading players in the CPV sector continue to surpass record module and system efficiencies, leveraging optical and electrical expertise to optimise output from the world’s highest efficiency III-V cells.

CPV systems are typically twice as efficient as conventional PV systems, with current module efficiencies at 27% and expecting to break the remarkable 30% barrier in the near future.

At Soitec Concentrix we are currently working on the next generation of smart cell technology which is targeting cell efficiency of 50% – in turn leading to a system efficiency of more than 35%. Soitec’s patented Smart Cut™ technology, used for over a decade in the semiconductor industry, will provide crucial layer transfer expertise for the optimisation of the cell design.

The first results of the smart cell development programme will be available within the mentioned time period. In the long term, it will be integrated exclusively into Concentrix’ systems.

Prices for a full turnkey CPV power plant are today already below $4/watt and will go down to $3/watt in the coming years. Specific prices very much depend on size, the site of the power plant and timing. At the same time, it is well established that CPV technology provides some 40% to 50% more energy output than conventional PV and due to its use of dual-axis tracking, maintains a consistent, high output during periods of peak demand when energy prices are highest.

Given that we have already achieved a 27% module efficiency in production and that we have commercial plants of hundreds of kilowatts, we foresee no major roadblocks on performance reliability and cost for the CPV industry for driving down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) produced to reach grid parity levels.

Key issues from an investment point of view are a relatively quick return on investment and bankability. The scalability of CPV helps to address this — due to the modularity of the technology, the project size can be adjusted to the financial capabilities of the investors/banks and also energy is produced as soon as the first tracker is installed, helping to reduce the time delay normally associated with utility-scale solar power plants.

In terms of bankability, Soitec Concentrix have partnered with energy efficiency and sustainability company Johnson Controls, which will build, operate, maintain and provide lifecycle support for solar installations using Concentrix CPV technology.

The combination of the respective strengths of both companies will provide advantages, allowing the partners to accelerate and widen the successful installation of solar renewable energy utility-scale plants in high direct normal irradiation regions across the globe.

Eric J. Pail, Analyst, AltaTerra Research

Short-term advances in CPV systems will be mostly technical and focused on improving the cost/performance ratio. However, longer-term advances in market development may produce even greater economic value for the sector.

In the short term, high concentration PV (HCPV) systems will continue to see technology advancements in the efficiency of III-V multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells are at the heart of high concentrating PV systems and are a key driver to reducing costs and increasing overall system efficiency. As a rule of thumb, for every percentage increase in multi-junction cell efficiency there is a 0.75%—0.8% increase in system efficiency.

Today, most HCPV systems use 38%—39% efficient multi-junction cells and have a system efficiency of between 24% and 35%. In 2011, multi-junction cell efficiencies are expected to rise to more than 40% and on to some 42% in 2012.

The increase in the number of multi-junction cell manufacturers and number of new cell technologies under development will help the CPV industry make steep efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Like any new technology, the CPV industry still faces the challenge of justifying financing from risk-averse financers in terms of ‘bankability’. In response, SolFocus, for example, has recently announced that Munich RE will offer an insurance policy to backstop SolFocus’s warranty. Meanwhile, Morgan Solar self-financed an initial 200 kW test project to demonstrate its technology. Certification standards — particularly IEC 62108 — are also helping to provide investors with assurance. As more and larger CPV projects come online and manufacturers take direct steps to address the issue, bankability should therefore become less of a problem. 

In the long term, it is the distinctive character of concentrating PV that will lead to greater commercial uptake. With sites in very sunny regions that make use of tracking, pedestal mounting and other distinctive features of CPV installations, the industry will lower costs through volume and more effectively create economic value by focusing on customers that prize or require particular features.

 This article was originally published by the editors of RenewableEnergyWorld Magazine Dec 16 2010

Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

 Smart Grids and the Future of Privacy

The transmission networks spanning nations to provide light, heat and electricity will soon undergo a radical transformation. Most of the world’s developed countries have invested in or plan to invest huge sums to implement smart energy infrastructures within the next two decades. The smart grid will revolutionize the way utilities and consumers measure and monitor electricity usage. This effort is expected to save money and aid energy conservation.

But the grid will also result in the creation of massive amounts of new data, data that can reveal intimate details about households and the people who live in them. The risk of exposure or misuse of such data creates a new set of concerns for consumers and privacy professionals. The smart grid will rely on smart meters, which will record household energy consumption and communicate it back to power providers. These new smart meters will replace the electromechanical meters that are attached to most households across the world today.

Smart appliances, which are being developed and sold by some of the world’s largest manufacturers, will enhance the intelligent grid, feeding smart meters with real-time information about electrical use down to the appliance level — smoothie at seven, treadmill at eight, for example. (According to a recent Zpryme report, the global market for household smart appliances is projected to reach $15.12 billion in 2015.) This precision will allow utility companies to analyze peak power usage times and set electric rates accordingly. In turn, households will gain a tool for more efficient management of their energy consumption, which they could use to lower costs and conserve energy.

For example, customers will have the ability to time their laundry chores for off-peak energy hours. When the grid, the meter, and the appliances are implemented and integrated, consumers will be able to fine-tune their energy consumption to get the best rates and utilities will be able to more effectively manage power distribution and identify and resolve problems remotely. The savings potential is expected to be massive.

The grid is also expected to help power suppliers prevent blackouts and brownouts by allowing for power distribution to be delivered more evenly and on a need-based schedule. Nations and utilities are investing in the development of the smart grid, and many companies have already deployed smart meters. But while those involved throw millions, even billions, toward the grid, cautioning voices are calling for privacy protections. “We are talking about implementing a very new type of network…a network that people are always attached to,” says Rebecca Herold, CIPP, founder of Rebecca Herold and Associates, LLC. Herold has led the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid privacy subgroup since June 2009 and co-authored the NIST report on smart grid privacy, which is under review by NIST and expected to be published soon. The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy,” said Christopher Wolf, co-author with Jules Polonetsky of a whitepaper published by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.” Utilities are aware of the privacy concerns, according to Rick Thompson, the president of Greentech Media. “It’s absolutely on their radar,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they have a full understanding or solution to solve that problem, but I think it’s an area that they are investigating heavily.” It’s an area worthy of investigation, according to many. Some say the smart grid will be “bigger than the internet,” which will result in an exponential increase of coveted, valuable and potentially identifiable data. “You come into new types of privacy issues because you are now revealing personal activities in ways that are not historically, or have not been considered to date as being personally identifiable information,” Herold says.

Beyond knowing how often the refrigerator opens or what time the garage door activates each morning, grid data may be a way of discerning when a household is empty or full, when family members go to bed at night or what time the kids come home from school. Marketers might want to tap into the data to find out when a household might be due for a new refrigerator or washing machine. Law enforcement might be interested in corroborating a story. An insurance company might want to know if a homeowner’s alarm was turned on when a burglary occurred. A divorce attorney might want to subpoena energy-use records to aid a case. Who owns the data? In a recent newspaper article, Simon McKenzie, the chief executive of a New Zealand electricity supplier, said in that country, where hundreds of thousands of smart meters are currently being installed, “We’re starting to see the retailers and network companies say: ‘Hey, there are a number of different ways that we haven’t even considered that we could utilize this data…to provide better service or solutions to customers.

” The full potential of smart grids has yet to be realized, McKenzie told The New Zealand Herald. But should retailers and other entities have access to the data? That is a question being examined on a global scale. In response to the McKenzie’s comments, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said that companies need to be transparent about what information is being tracked and collected. “People need to be able to make fully informed decisions before agreeing to the new technology,” Shroff said. Others call for limited use of the data gleaned from smart grids. “The risk with a rich new data source is the temptation to use the information for more than originally intended,” Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis told those attending a smart infrastructure conference earlier this year. That’s why it will be crucial to answer the question of who owns and has access to consumers’ energy usage data, which could reveal existing and emerging types of personally identifiable information, Herold says. It’s a familiar question for privacy pros, who have grappled with it in other areas of practice, but perhaps less familiar for utilities. In a recent study, GTM asked utility companies who owns the granular data collected by smart meters — the utility company, the consumer, or a third party. The results showed a decided lack of consensus. “The interesting thing is that it was pretty well split evenly between those three options,” said GTM’s Rick Thompson. Of the companies surveyed, 39 percent said the data belonged to the consumer, 29 percent said the utility itself owned it, and 32 percent were unsure. [Chart from Greentech Media’s 2010 North American Utility Smart Grid Deployment Survey] The president of an advocacy group for the smart grid industry is more decided on the topic. “The consumer should always have access to that data,” says Kathleen Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which counts more than 100 companies and organizations as members. “I think the consumer is going to be the owner of that data,” Hamilton said. “But I think what consumers don’t understand is that when they give their data to others, if there aren’t privacy provisions in place, they can use the data in ways that either the consumer may not agree with or think appropriate.” That’s a worry many can relate to and a debate that must play itself out soon, as 70 percent of North American utility companies polled for the aforementioned GTM survey indicated that smart grid projects were either a “strong” or “highest” business priority between now and 2015. Governments keen to the potential have invested heavily in smart grid infrastructures.

 In the U.S., President Obama allocated $3.4 billion in national stimulus monies to utility companies last year to encourage development of smart grid technologies. The European Parliament’s passage of the 3rd Energy Package last year will outfit 80 percent of EU electricity customers with smart meters by 2020. In Sweden, smart meters are now mandated by the government. The U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reported plans to build intelligent grids. And the Chinese government has allocated $7.3 billion to grid projects in 2010. It is clear that the potential privacy pitfalls loom large. Less clear is the best solution to prevent them. “I think there are still a lot of questions out there about what the correct solution might be,” says GTM’s Thompson, predicting that solutions will vary based on the regulations of various regions. Like other areas of data privacy, regulation is a word that could divide the debate in the months and years to come. Some predict smart grid privacy issues to be bigger in Europe than other places due to the strength of the bloc’s Data Protection Directive. So far in the U.S., regulation has focused primarily on securing the grid infrastructure from cyber-attack. For example, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, introduced in April, charges the FERC with safeguarding the transmission grid from cyber-threats. The bill also tasks FERC with enforcing privacy measures, stating: “the Commission shall protect from disclosure only the minimum amount of information necessary to protect the reliability of the bulk power system and defense critical electric infrastructure.” The House passed the bill in June, but the Senate has yet to vote. Other bills have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to the data their homes’ meters produce. In March, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, introduced The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (e-KNOW), legislation to ensure consumers have access to free, timely and secure data about their energy usage. It also calls for the FERC to develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility, to help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies, according to Markey’s website. State lawmakers have begun drafting their own legislation. In Colorado, a state where smart meter implementation is already widespread, Senate Bill 10-180 calls for the creation of a task force to recommend measures to “encourage the orderly implementation of smart grid technology” in that state. The bill says that one of the issues the task force must determine is the potential impacts on consumer protection and privacy. A call for standards Privacy experts say the lack of legal protection surrounding the smart grid is concerning. They are calling for standards. “In the absence of clear rules, this potentially beneficial smart grid technology could mean yet another intrusion on private life,” Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a March filing to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which held a three-day hearing that month to explore smart grid policies. “The PUC should act now, before our privacy is eroded,” Dempsey wrote. The CDT teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the filing, urging the CPUC to adopt “comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of the data” gleaned from the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology smart grid privacy subgroup, which Herold leads, has released two drafts of the privacy chapter “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.” The document includes a privacy impact assessment and addresses possible risks the smart grid presents — including cyber attacks, data breaches and the vulnerability of interconnected networks’ increased exposure to potential hackers. The draft says that while most states have laws in place regarding privacy protection, those laws do not necessarily relate to the types of data that will be within the smart grid, and many existing laws are specific to industries other than utilities. The group recommends that provisions be included within privacy laws to protect the consumer data held by utility companies. The final NISTIR 7628 Version 1 is expected soon, after which it will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Minimize, destroy, build privacy in As with other privacy debates, those pushing for smart infrastructure privacy protections espouse mantras often heard in data protection circles-data minimization, data destruction and privacy by design. Utilities should minimize the amount of household data collected and should keep it for the shortest amount of time possible, advocates say, in order to minimize the risk associated with storing such data. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian agrees. In her whitepaper, she also cautions that privacy concerns must be considered early in the planning stages in order to mitigate the risks surrounding the revealing data meters collect. By designing privacy into the grid, “we can have both privacy and a fully functioning smart grid,” Cavoukian wrote in a Toronto Star Op-Ed. The government of Ontario has committed to the installation of smart meters in every home and business by the end of 2010 and Cavoukian has partnered with major utilities to develop “gold standards” for building privacy into grid projects. Some privacy advocates point to Ontario’s Hydro One as a utility company setting the standard for baking privacy provisions into its policy before deploying smart meters. Rick Stevens, director of distribution development at Hydro One says the protection of consumer’s information was built into smart meters’ designs based on Ontario’s privacy regulations.

“The regulations certainly set the context for the project,” Stevens said. “We’re just really ensuring that we bake those protections into the product that we put out there. Given that this is new technology, we’re going to be very careful to protect consumer interest as we roll these out. I know we, as an industry, take it very seriously.” Hydro One has 1.1 million meters already deployed, and at least 700,000 of them are currently reporting data back to the utility on an hourly basis. Stevens says that, as a rule, the utility does not sell customers’ data to third parties and would only share data after obtaining written authorization customers.

The president of LinkGard Systems, an Armenian software maker, says his company’s Energy Management System, which is currently being tested in the U.S., was built with privacy in mind. “It is our strong belief that the utility company has no need to control individual appliances in a residence or a commercial location,” said Hovanes Manucharyan. “The same effect can be achieved by using solutions that don’t require the customer to expose their private energy usage information….We feel that this model is friendlier towards privacy since the utility doesn’t need to acquire, store and manage potentially private data from a customer.” Hovanes said the stronger regulatory framework of the EU could result in slightly different implementations of smart grid technologies in that market. Beyond PII We haven’t yet heard a debate on whether our garage-door-opening habits qualify as personal data, but it’s a question that privacy experts say should be answered. “People have to realize it’s a new type of network,” says Herold. “It’s ‘always on,’ passively collecting information about people in their homes. It’s more than just PII, it’s personal activities,” she adds. This is what concerns a California man who staged a dramatic protest recently when Pacific Gas & Electric attempted to install a smart meter at his home. Calling it an “unconstitutional invasion of his privacy,” he locked his existing meter, saying, “PG&E needs to be stopped in their tracks here.” Education needed But smart meters are being rolled out in many places, and typically without protest.

Indeed, though smart grids are certainly on the radar of utilities and governments, most consumers are in the dark. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent have never heard of the smart grid and 63 percent “draw a blank” about smart meters. Experts say that will change. “You are going to see a lot more awareness over the next 24 months,” says Greentech Media’s Rick Thompson, “but in terms of becoming a true household name, I’d say that’s still three to five years out.” Thompson says utility companies are just starting to understand the importance of launching educational campaigns aimed at consumer awareness. A newly formed coalition of companies and organizations — the nonprofit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative — hopes to increase consumer awareness in the area. “The grid is not really smart unless the consumers are able to be active participants,” said Katherine Hamilton of the GridWise Alliance, one of the founding members of SGCC. Hydro One’s Stevens says building consumer awareness by communicating the cost-savings potential and environmental benefits is what helped make his company’s transition to smart meters successful in Ontario. “For the most part, it’s been positive,” Stevens said. “I think the reason for that is the type of information we’ve been able to provide to customers.” Stevens said, however, given his company’s success with smart meters, that the only reason to have increasing regulations in the future would be if issues arise that require them. When asked whether utility companies’ self-regulatory efforts will be sufficient to stave off regulations, Herold said it’s important to consider just how many different players will be involved in the smart grid, including non-energy sector companies creating applications and appliances. “Self-regulation is a good goal, but when you start looking realistically, how do you ensure entities consistently provide protections throughout the entire smart grid if you don’t establish requirements they must all follow?” Herold asks. She points to the health care and financial industries as evidence that regulations are often necessary. “It’s always important, in dealing with privacy, to not only take what we know from past experiences, but also have our minds open to possible impacts going forward.” Some say that having the right people on board will help companies avoid issues. “One of the key things utilities should be doing today is training and hiring privacy professionals,” says Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, CIPP. “Data enables the grid, but could also be its Achilles’ heel, if companies don’t have the experts in place to help shape decisions as the grid is being built.” Stevens agrees, saying that it’s in the utility industry’s best interest to maintain consumer privacy protections moving forward. “It’s a necessity,” he says. “Otherwise, it’ll backfire on us.”

This article was originally published in the July 2010 edition of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ member newsletter, The Privacy Advisor.

An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

1. You will have to compete not only with current parabolic troughs and Fresnel linear reflectors, but also with mini CSP on one hand, and on the other hand – mini towers central receivers and parabolic dish that employ high temperatures (~1000ºC) and much higher efficiencies than parabolic troughs.

2. You should not start with utility scale market, but segment the markets in a manner to allow a conservative (at least in the beginning) step-wise penetration, beginning with industrial or commercial customer demonstration, moving to utility demonstration and in parallel off-grid applications; next moving to distributed applications supplying grid support, and finally into the larger scale central peak power generation market. This approach will allow you to gain familiarity with the solar industry and bring costs down as annual production volume increase, and will allow utilities to gain confidence in your systems.

3. If you choose as target market the distributed generation and not necessarily large utility scale solar power plants, you could present a potential for more closely track demand and potential growth in loads; meet reliability requirements with fewer megawatts of installed power and spread construction costs over time after first module output has started, hence capital risks and amount of initial investment may be reduced.

A note regarding energy storage technologies

Thermal storage technologies are designed to improve the availability and dispatchability of a solar thermal power facility — thereby enhancing its overall value. In the long run, thermal storage will help integrate more solar power into the generation mix by enabling CSP facilities to shoulder a greater component of the daily power demand in many regions of the world.

 Some innovative ideas are under development lately; beside the integration of compressed air energy storage into a modular Brayton cycle based on dish + solar air receiver to heat air above 1000ْC, the ideas of using a solid medium for thermal storage is coming up again. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and others are executing significant work, investigating the cost and performance of utilizing concrete or ceramic materials for thermal energy storage. The DOE is encouraging companies to look at cost savings in terms of efficiency improvement, new technology and materials. Several companies are trying to solve the drawbacks of state-of-the art molten salt storage technology by using gas as heat transfer fluid that enters unique modular structures without mixing that may cause turbulences.   The existing ‘competitors’, beside the molten salt solution that is promoted also by Solar Reserve, are also low cost and widely available storage materials, like natural rocks or concrete composites, that seem to be more attractive for storage with parabolic trough based on oil (despite the issue of energy loss). It seems that ceramic storage materials, modular designs and charging and discharging concepts may have a potential for cost reduction, however, those concepts are not ready yet for scaling up to commercial pilots; it requires still more lab work, like verification of physical and dynamic numerical simulation to optimize the designs as well as the operating strategies.

 The market potential for storage is huge and the target price is < €20/kwh ~26USD/kwh, (for example in the DLR’s WESPE program, funded by the German government for developing efficient and cheap sensible storage material based on unique geometric arrangement of the heat exchanger tubes in the storage volume), while the current cost of storage based on molten salt is ~€40/kwh (Andasol).

Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

 Currently only 2.5% of the capacity of the U.S. grid is able to be stored, compared with 10% in Europe and 15% in Japan, which in the event of a grid failure could mean trouble for the U.S. This is why Professor Donald Sadoway at MIT received US $7 million from U.S. Energy Agency ARPA-E), $4 million from French oil company Total and support from the U.S. Defense Agency DARPA.

The goal of Sadoway’s research is to bring the cost of large scale energy storage facilities in line with the cost of natural gas plants. He said that in order to do this, incredibly large liquid metal batteries will need to be built and the facilities will need to be used in much the same way that flywheel storage plants are expected to be used, as frequency regulators that are capable of dispatching energy quickly in the event of an emergency. The basic principle behind the technology is to place three layers of liquid inside a container: Two different metal alloys, and one layer of a salt. The three materials are chosen so that they have different densities that allow them to separate naturally into three distinct layers, with the salt in the middle separating the two metal layers — like novelty drinks with different layers. The energy is stored in the liquid metals that want to react with one another but can do so only by transferring ions — electrically charged atoms of one of the metals — across the electrolyte, which results in the flow of electric current out of the battery. When the battery is being charged, some ions migrate through the insulating salt layer to collect at one of the terminals. Then, when the power is being drained from the battery, those ions migrate back through the salt and collect at the opposite terminal. The whole device is kept at a high temperature, around 700°C, so that the layers remain molten. While each of these technologies has a lot of lab work left before it’s ready for field testing on a large scale, chemistry professor Dr. Dan Nocera and the company he helped found Sun Catalytix are working to commercialize a catalyst that can be used to split water.

The basis of Sun Catalytix’s technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that Nocera said is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials. He said that the catalyst can work within normal ambient temperatures and with water sources as diverse as tap water and water straight out of the Charles River in Boston. While commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen already exist, Nocera said that they’re far too expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is in the process of testing an electroylzer that is built with its proprietary catalyst that can be manufactured using PVC plastic. A completed 100-watt system would work like this: solar PV panels would power an electrolyzer, which would then produce hydrogen that would be stored in tanks and then used as fuel for a fuel cell for electricity or to power a hydrogen vehicle. Nocera said that three liters of water a day could power a home. He said the ultimate goal of the Sun Catalytix system is use cheaper solar panels and fuel cells (still a stumbling block) to implement systems like this in the developing world where there is little-to-no electricity generating infrastructure in place and where three liters of even low-quality water per day could dramatically increase the quality of life of the people living there. Development of the technology is being financed by more than $1 million from Polaris Venture Partners. Nocera said that he expects a working prototype to be completed in the next 5-8 years and that the company has already been approached by solar companies interested in having their panels used in the system.

Source: Renewable Energy World

Top 50 VC-Funded Clean Energy Startups


Brightsource Energy: Big-name investors, a large war chest, a partnership with construction-giant Bechtel, more than a gigawatt in California utility PPAs and $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees make this power-tower solar thermal player an easy choice. Now the challenge is getting past further environmental objections to its first 396-megawatt power plant.

Chromasun: Air conditioning accounts for fifty percent of the demand for power during peak periods in California, according to Peter Le Lievre, founder of Chromasun. It’s an enormous problem and market awaiting a solution.  Chromasun uses solar thermal collectors to gather solar heat to run a double effect chiller which curbs peak power, broadens the market for solar thermal technology and fits well within the practices of the building trades.  

Enphase Energy: This well-funded microinverter innovator has shipped more than 120,000 units for residential and commercial deployments.  The contract manufacturing model is working and the company continues to grow.  There are a number of microinverter startups but Enphase is the only one to reach credibility and volume shipments in a high-growth $2 billion market.

eSolar:  Fifteen months ago, eSolar was on the ropes. It desperately sought funds to build solar thermal power plants. It then switched strategies and decided to license its technology and sell equipment, leaving the actual building of the power plants to others. Since then, it’s signed deals that will lead to gigawatts worth of its solar technology planted in China, India, Africa and the Middle East. A 5 megawatt demo plant went up last year and construction on the first 92 megawatts begins this year. The secret sauce: software that helps improve the efficiency of the overall plant. Funding from Google, India’s Acme Group, Oak Investment Partners and NRG Energy.

Innovalight: The silicon nano-ink developer recently pivoted its business plan and shifted from solar panel manufacturing to panel manufacturing along with liscensing and joint ventures.  Innovalight’s inks allow silicon wafer manufacturers to boost their cell efficiency by up to 2 percent with a low capital outlay. This could be one of the last novel, “new” type of solar cells to make it out for a while.

Nanosolar:  The CIGS thin film pioneer  got started in 2002, making it one of the earliest thin film companies supported by Silicon Valley.  Since then, Nanosolar has used every avenue of funding to fund their potentially disruptive solar firm, now at about $500 million in funding to date.  Nanosolar is shipping product in the 10 to 12 percent efficiency range and has panels in the lab topping 16 percent efficiency. Nanosolar faces the same challenge as every other solar panel manufacturer — keeping up with silicon and cadmium telluride prices and efficiency.

Petra Solar: Not so much a technology play as a channel play, Petra Solar and its more than $50 million in VC funds is exploiting an untapped sales channel – solar panels on utility and power poles. Petra has a large contract with Public Service Electric & Gas, New Jersey’s biggest power utility, to install solar panels on streetlights and power poles across the distribution network.  PSE&G looks to install 200,000 panels and about 5 percent are up so far, according to PSE&G.  Potential for high growth in a new application.

SolarCity: Fast growing SolarCity has emerged as one of the largest residential solar installers in California and has moved into other solar-friendly states.  The startup has innovated in the installation field as well as in the financial field by offering leasing options for homes and small businesses.  U.S. Bancorp has set up a $100M fund to finance SolarCity’s residential and commercial installations.  Entrepreneurs are needed in the downstream solar business as much as in the technological side.

Solyndra:  With almost a billion dollars in venture capital and half a billion in DOE loan guarantees, Solyndra is the clear winner in the money raising contest.  The CIGS thin film solar company’s S-1 is filed and the firm has customers and $58.8 million in revenue in the 9 months ending Sept, 30 2009.  The investors and the company claim immense savings in balance of system costs. But skeptics abound and many believe that the company’s solar panels are more expensive than the competition. CIGS solar cells aren’t easy to make and Solyndra’s cylindrical design adds to the complexity. The debate won’t be answered until the customers start taking their data public.

Suniva: Well-funded Suniva has made numerous technological advances to raise crystalline silicon solar wafer efficiency and lower manufacturing cost.  Investors NEA, Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus have invested more than $125 million.

SunRun: SunRun is a home solar service company located in San Francisco, California that offers residential PPAs: “home solar as a monthly service.”  The company has seen 8 to 10 times growth over last year.   Sunrun has received venture funding from Foundation Capital and Accel Partners, as well as a $105 million tax equity commitment from an affiliate of U.S. Bancorp.  Residential PPAs from SunRun might be the disruptive piece that allows solar to better penetrate the residential roof market.

Smart Grid and EV Infrastructure

What will the smart grid of the future look like? Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers speaks of a utility-managed system that orchestrates smart meters, solar panels, batteries, demand response systems and plug-in vehicle chargers to serve as “virtual power plants” scattered throughout a utility service territory.

Arcadian Networks: Arcadian Networks designs and delivers wireless communication networks to utilities based on the private (licensed), secured 700 MHz spectrum.  The 700MHz appears to be a better choice (than 900Mhz) is rural areas, since the signal can travel farther without relays and can penetrate physical obstacles (such as crops and hilly terrain) that higher frequencies may struggle with.  The other major advantage of the 700MHz spectrum is that because it is licensed there is not any interference from other sources.  While 900MHz mesh networking solutions have dominated the market due in part to their lower costs, as interference continues to create problems for utilities, and as “intelligent provisioning” becomes more common, expect Arcadian Networks to compliment 900MHz networks in situations were interference is just not acceptable.

Better Place: A $350 million dollar funding round in January ranks as one of the largest cleantech deals in history with a pre-money valuation of $900 million.  Commercial launch is targeted for 2011 for the bold electric-vehicle / charging-station / battery-swap / electricity-selling start-up with an inital focus on Israel and Denmark.  Investors include HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management, VantagePoint Venture Partners, et al.  Better Place is looking to install between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations in both Israel and Denmark in the near-term.  There is the suggestion that this firm could be a Google or Netscape-type market disruptor.  But even a dominant role as an urban vehicle, as a fleet vehicle, as a delivery vehicle lets Better Place win big in a niche market.

CPower: With 800 megawatts of demand response curtailment under management, CPower is the third largest player in this emerging demand response/energy management market.  Why do we offer you #3, and not the #1 or #2?  Good question.  Those competitors, EnerNOC and Comverge have already gone public, that’s why.  Like their more-public-piers, CPower is looking to quickly move into other energy services, including reserves & frequency regulation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency for consumers.  Last year the company doubled their curtailment load, became the largest aggregator on the Texas (ERCOT) grid, and now claims to provide demand response services to over 1,600 different retail sites.  SCE, PG&E and Ontario Power Authority are all utility clients.  The company’s investors include Bessemer Ventures, Schneider Electric Ventures and Intel Capital.

Coulomb Technologies: Coulomb builds a vital piece of the EV infrastructure — charging stations connected to the grid with power and data.  Coulomb was founded on two premises — that every charge station should be networked and that Coulomb needed to be a self-sustaining business model — they win revenue from the sale of the charge station and from fee-based charge services.  Investors include Voyager Capital, Rho Ventures, Siemens Venutre Capital and Hartford Ventures.

EcoLogic Analytics: EcoLogic Analytics provides meter data management (MDM) software solutions and decision management technologies for utilities. They offer a suite of software solutions that include gateway engines, meter data warehouse, meter read manager, meter reading analytic, navigator graphical user interface, automated validation engine, network performance monitor and reporting engine, real time outage validation engine, data synchronization engine, calculation engine and residential rate analysis API, and virtual metering aggregation components. Their MDM solutions also integrate with other systems, such as CIS/billing, to deliver data to business users in the enterprise.  EcoLogic Analytics was chosen as the vendor to provide MDM for PG&E, the biggest AMI deployment in North America – a huge win for the company. In February 2009, the company landed its second major contract with Texas utility Oncor and will serve as the MDM provider for more than three million electric meters in Oncor’s service territory. 

eMeter: eMeter makes software that manages the enormous volume of data coming from smart meters, providing both MDM and AMI integration for utility information systems. eMeter’s solutions also allow for demand response and real-time monitoring of resource usage, yielding greater energy efficiency and more reliable service, while minimizing the costs of AMI deployment, data management, and operations. The company competes with AMI companies that can provide their own software AMI and MDM software such as Itron and Sensus, as well as other software companies such as Oracle.  In early 2009, eMeter announced a deal with CenterPoint Energy to support the Texas utility’s plan to install two million smart meters in its territory. That follows deals with Alliant Energy, Jacksonville Electric Authority, the Canadian province of Ontario, and European energy comapny, Vattenfall. The company claims to have more than 24 million meters under contract.  That number gets it a spot on the list.  eMeter has transitioned from just providing MDM solutions for utilities into consumer services, such as demand response and consumer portals, following a strategy that seems to be working among smart grid players: get your foot in the door with one solution, then seek to expand.

Proximetry: Proximetry provides network and performance management solutions for wireless networks to enable network operators to visualize, provision, and actively manage their networks, especially to support mission-critical communications.  The company’s software solution, AirSync, enables real-time, network-wide visualization, management, and active network control from a single system and location for multivendor, multifrequency, multiprotocol wireless networks.  This so-called “intelligent provisioning” which provides “dynamic bandwidth” matching network resource priorities to users and devices needs seems like a logical extension of smart grid networking, and we expect this to be a major new trend going forward. Proximetry is currently working San Diego Gas & Electric, widely considered to be one of the most innovative utilities in North America.

Silver Spring Networks: Silver Spring Networks has been plugging away at standards-based networking for smart meters for close to a decade — building routers and hubs that connect via a wireless mesh protocol. The firm has made annnouncements of utility contracts with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, AEP and Florida Power & Light and closed a $100 million investment from blue-chip VCs including Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital, bringing its VC total to north of $250 million.  This month Silver Spring declared it’s intention to go public with an IPO underwriter bake-off — the S-1 filing should follow soon.  Revenues are estimated in the $100 million range.  Easily the leading VC-funded smart grid startup.

SmartSynch:  SmartSynch’s GridRouter is a modular, standards-based, upgradeable networking device that can handle almost any communications protocol that a utility uses.  Four networking card slots allow a single box to handle ZigBee, WiFi, WiMax or other proprietary communications standards simultaneously. The cards can be removed so utilities can swap out and/or upgrade their networks without replacing the basic piece of installed equipment. It provides communication to any device on the grid over any wireless network, according to the CEO, Stephen Johnston.  Potentially, that could eliminate some of the fear and uncertainty surrounding smart grid deployments.  The Tennessee Valley Authority selected SmartSynch to serve as the communications backbone in its renewable program.

Tendril Networks: Tendril makes a varied suite of hardware and software solutions for applications such as demand response, energy monitoring, energy management and load control. It offers an energy management system for consumers (based on the ZigBee HAN standard) and utilities, smart devices (such as smart thermostats, smart plugs, and in-home displays,) as well as web based and iPhone enabled displays and energy controls. The company also develops applications for utilities such as network management, direct load control, customer load control. The startup has deals in place with more than 30 utilities and had a large commercial rollout in 2009, along with a number of field trials. In June 2009, the company raised a $30 million third round, bringing its total to more than $50 million and making it one of the better funded private companies competing in the Home Area Network space.  General Electric’s Consumer and Industrial division has teamed up with Tendril to develop algorithms and other technology that will  allow utilities employing Tendril’s TREE platform to turn GE dryers, refrigerators, washing machines and other energy-gobbling appliances off or on to curb power consumption.  The GE deal gets the company on the list. Runner-up: EcoFactor.

Trilliant: Trilliant provides utilities with wireless equipment and management software for smart grid communication networks. In 2009, Trilliant acquired SkyPilot Networks, a manufacturer of long-range, high-capacity wireless mesh networks. The acquisition allows them to offer complementary networks, both the neighborhood network and the wide-area network. Trilliant’s largest deployment is 1.4 million device network spread over 640,000 square kilometers at Hydro One’s deployment in Ontario, Canada. The company has been around for years so defining it as a start-up is tough, but it has been on this tack for only the last few years.


Green Buildings, Lighting

Adura Technologies: Approximately 85 percent of commercial office buildings in the U.S. are illuminated inside with fluorescent tube lights. In the vast majority of cases, these bulbs can’t be dimmed or turned off remotely. Only around 1 percent of lights in California office buildings are networked. Adura has created a wireless mesh system that effectively flips the lights off when you’re not around and dims them when the sun is out. In a recent test conducted by PG&E, Adura managed to cut the power delivered to lights by 72 percent. Next, the company plans to connect its software to other devices in buildings. VantagePoint is a lead investor. Runner up for networking: Lumenergi.

Bridgelux: Bridgelux is focused on lowering the cost of LED-based solid-state lighting to a penny per lumen — a disruptive price acheived through clever packaging and innovating in the expitaxial processes of building the phosphor-coated film.  Early this year, new CEO and ex-Seagate CEO, Bill Watkins took over the reins and announced a $50 million funding to finance a new fab, bringing its substantial fund-raising totals to over $150 million from investors including DCM, El Dorado Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Chrysalix Energy and Harris & Harris Group.  Our sources indicate that the firm is generating significant revenue. The big question is whether they can outrun the big guys like Philips and Osram.

Optimum Energy: Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. and 76 percent of the electricity.  HVAC is the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency in commercial buildings and where we can make an enormous impact in energy usage.  Optimum Energy develops networked building control application and products to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings — reducing energy consumption and GHGs while increasing operating efficiencies in HVAC plants.  Optimum makes software that dynamically controls the chillers – the enormous machines that cool water for air conditioning systems in skyscrapers. According to the company, there are more than 150,000 buildings that can use their product and if the software was used in each one, 75 gigawatts could be taken off the grid. Adobe has installed it.

Recurve: Formerly Sustainable Spaces. They do energy efficiency retrofits. Recurve is assembling a dynamic software package that will allow contractors large and small around the world cut down the time, cost and errors in conducting retrofits. A lot of the employees come from Google—you can’t say that about other construction companies. In fact, a number of large contractors are testing it out now. Co-founder Matt Golden is also one of the driving forces behind the $6 billion Cash for Caulkers program recently introduced by Obama. Recurve’s next policy initiative: funding retrofits by getting them classified as carbon credits.

Redwood Systems: The company, which has received money from Battery Ventures and others, will soon disclose their technological angle, but the gist of it is this: Redwood replaces lighting wires and regular light bulbs with Ethernet cables and LEDs. Suddently, you have a network in your ceiling that every light, smoke detector and other device can link into. Founders hail from Grand Junction Networks, the Fast Ethernet pioneer turned gold mine for Cisco when acquired in 1995.

Serious Materials:  A bit heavy on hype, but Serious has the beginnnings of revenue and has just won the Empire State Building retrofit project for their triple pane windows.  The company appears to have hit some speedbumps with its drywall product, both financially and technologically. But high-end investors like Foundation Capital and high-voltage staff like CEO, Kevin Surace have kept green building materials in the news, in the public imagination and in the tax credit checkbooks of the U.S. government.  Sources indicate revenue between $25 million and $50 million in 2009.


Biofuels and Biochemicals

Amyris:  Rumors abound that Amryis, a synthetic biology startup spun out of UC Berkeley with more than $150 million in funding, could soon file its S-1. Amyris develops microbes that feed on sugars and secrete custom hydrocarbons for conversion into jet fuel, industrial chemicals or biodiesel.  Amyris claims to eventually produce biodiesel that can wholesale for $2 a gallon.  In late 2009 the firm paid $82 million to Brazil’s São Martinho Group for a 40-percent stake in an ethanol mill project and entered into agreements with three other Brazilian companies to produce ethanol and high-value chemicals.

LS9: The company’s scientists have engineered a strain of e coli with a genome that can convert sugars into a fatty acid methyl ester which is chemically equivalent to California Clean diesel. It’s a completely unnatural act but could lead to $45 a barrel biodiesel. LS9 hopes to show that the process is feasible next year. Added bonus: LS9 does not have to kill its microbes to get the oil. They secrete it naturally and then can live to feed, digest and excrete more dollops of oil. It’s not out of guilt: re-using a microbe instead of cultivating a new generation cuts time and costs. Another added bonus: it is working with Procter and Gamble on green chemicals and Chevron on fuel.

Sapphire Energy: Sapphire eventually hopes to produce hydrocarbons from genetically modified algae grown in open ponds. Conceivably, it could be the cheapest and fastest technique for producing algae fuel. But it’s also fraught with complications. Growing algae in open ponds for fuel oil at the moment is expensive and complex, and keeping GMO strains from being out-competed by natural strains in the open is even more daunting. The company has raised $100 million plus from top flight VCs, including the firm that invests on behalf of Bill Gates. So stay tuned.

Solazyme: One of the oldest algae companies and the one that’s also the furthest along. Solazyme eschews growing algae in ponds or bioreactors through photosynthesis. Instead, it puts algae in beer brewing kettles, feeds them sugar and grows them that way. The sugar adds to the raw material costs, but Solazyme makes up that cost because it doesn’t have to extract the algae from water, one of the most vexing problems facing algae companies. Solazyme says it will be able to show that its processes can be exploited to produce competitively priced fuel from algae in about two years. It has produced thousands of gallons already and has a contract to produce 20,000 gallons of fuel to the Navy. And it is already selling algae for revenue to the food industry. Chevron is an investor.

Synthetic Genomics:  In July of last year, Synthetic Genomics announced a $300 million agreement with Exxon to research and develop next generation biofuels using photosynthetic algae. Synthetic Genomics’ dynamic founder, J. Craig Venter, was quoted as saying, “I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more lipids out.”  Venter is a man of action and vision and if anyone can make algae produce hydrocarbons directly — its him.  In addition to the $300 million from Exxon, Synthetic Genomics has received funding from Draper Fisher Juvetson, Meteor Group, Biotechonomy, BP, et al.


Batteries, Fuel Cells, Energy Storage

Bloom Energy: Ten years in the making — $400 million from Kleiner Perkins for this solid oxide fuel cell developer garnered them a stellar list of customers, a high-powered board and a hypetastic coming-out party on 60 Minutes.  Now they have to make the economics of fuel cells work. The Bloom Energy Server costs $700,000 now.

Deeya Energy: A few years ago, flow batteries were barely understood exotic pieces of equipment. Now at least five start-ups have received funding. Deeya was first. It has created a battery in which electrolyte flows in and out of the battery so it always stays charged. Utilities and cell phone carriers that need remote power will be the primary customers. Last year, it started shipping its first commercial products. The products cost around $4,000 a kilowatt (or about half what Bloom currently sells its products for) and hopes to bring down the price to $1,000.

EEStor:  This ultracapacitor aspirant makes the list by virtue of the hype and craziness that surrounds it.  Kleiner Perkins was an original investor but appears to have backed away from EEStor as corporate milestones and technological claims became less credible.  The firm is attempting to make material advances in ceramic powders used in high energy ultracapacitors. No revenue, no prototype, no customers but an obsessed cadre of fan-boy supporters.

General Compression. The cheapest form of energy storage remains compressed air, according to EPRI. To date, however, compressed air has relied upon finding geological formations where you can stuff thousands of cubic meters of air. General Compression, along with SustainX and Isentropic Energy, want to change that with mechanical systems. Both General, which recently raised $17 million, and Isentropic employ pressure and temperature differentials to store and generate heat. Duke is building a 2 megawatt trial facility for General.



Coda Automotive: Later this year, Coda will attempt to market an all-electric, mid-priced sedan to American drivers. Car start-ups like Tesla and Fisker have initially aimed at the top end of the market, where price and volume are less important factors. Can Coda, and similarly situated BYD, do it? All the auto market will watch it closely. Coda and BYD also will represent China’s first major foray into the U.S. auto market. Coda’s car—which is based around a Chinese gas-burning car that’s been retrofitted by U.S. engineers– will be assembled in China and come with a battery made through a joint venture between Coda and Lishen. A Chinese bank has agreed to lend $450 million to the battery venture. Investors include Hank “Give me $800 billion, no questions asked” Paulson. BYD counts Warren Buffet as an investor.

Fisker Automotive: A luxury EV, but unlike the Tesla, the Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid, combining a battery and an ICE.  This firm is another Kleiner Perkins portfolio company and uses batteries from A123.  A123 was also an investor in their most recent $115 million funding round.  The car sells for $87,900 and already has more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Hendrik Fisker is a noted car designer who has worked with, among others, Aston Martin.

Tesla Motors: The little EV company that might. Teslas has shipped about 1,000 units of their speedy Roadster model, opened up retail outlets in the U.S. and Europe, and just filed their S-1 which showed them raising $442 million in VC and reaching revenues of $93.3 million in the 9 months ending Sept 30, 2009.  The next step is building the all-electric sedan, with far more ambitious volume sales goals.


Other Energy — Wind, Nuclear, Cleaner Coal, Geothermal

Laurus Energy: Funded by MDV in an $8.5 million round and helmed by energy exec, Rebecca McDonald, Laurus extracts energy from coal in the form of syngas while it is still in the ground using UCG – underground coal gasification. Laurus then fractionalizes the syngas: carbon dioxide is separated and sent via a pipe to oil fields, where it is injected into other wells to help pull crude out of the ground. The rest of the gases — a combination of hydogen, methane and hydrocarbons — are then burnt in a gas-fueled power plant.  Power from coal is not going away — any disruptive technology that lowers the carbon footprint of coal and eliminates mountain top removal can be a new untapped piece of the energy mix.  It is currently working with a Native American tribe in Alaska to build a UCG vein with a power plant.

Nuscale:  NuScale’s modular nuclear reactor design could disruptively shift development away from the “cathedral model” of large-scale, over-budget, ten-year power nuclear power plant projects. Investor in NuScale and partner at CMEA, Maurice Gunderson suggests that small modular reactors are the “game-changer” in energy technology.  NuScale can manufacture modular reactors on a factory assembly line – and cut the time to develop a nuclear plant in half.   “Nuclear is necessary, doable, and the markets are gargantuan,” adds Gunderson.  Whether nuclear belongs on a greentech list always results in vigorous debate.

Nordic Wind Power: With funding from Khosla Ventures, NEA and Novus Energy Partners, they are the only wind turbine company in the U.S. to get a DOE loan guarantee — $16 million under the innovative renewable energy program.  Nordic also received “significant” funding from Goldman Sachs in 2007.  Their innovative 1-megawatt 2-blade turbine design challenges the traditional wind turbine design paradigm.

Potter Drilling: Geothermal provided 4.5 percent of California’s power in 2007 and advocates say that more power could be extracted, even in non-geothermal hot spots, from underneath the ground. The problem has been getting to it economically and safely. Potter, founded by oil industry alums, has come up with a way to drill that’s five times as fast and less costly. is one of its investors.

Ze-Gen: Ze-Gen dips organic landfill waste into molten iron and turns it into biogas. The architecture of the system eliminates many of the inefficiencies associated with biomass. It has a pilot plant and raised $20 million in a second round last year. The big challenge is in getting a production plant off the ground.



Oasys: This water startup is built around research from Yale with $10 million in venture funds to see if its novel desalination technique, which exploits fundamental chemistry and waste heat, can go commercial.  The company claims its “forward osmosis” process can desalinate water for about half the cost of standard reverse osmosis desalination.

Miox:  The disruptive aspect of Miox’ business plan is distributed water purification instead of the current centralized model.  The company makes onsite water purification systems for gray water remediation and water recycling. Distributed water purification could, potentially, open up a flood of investment into water.  Miox’s trick is in making the process cost-effective. The company’s system can purify a given amount of liquid with a volume of salt that is one-fourth the amount of liquid chlorine that would be required.  Investors include Sierra Venutres, DCM, and Flywheel Ventures.

Purfresh: If you drink bottled water or eat bagged organic lettuce, you’ve encountered Purfresh. The company, backed by Foundation Capital, kills microbes with ozinated water. Growers use it to keep food fresh on the way to store shelves and bottlers use it to sterilize plastic. Orders go up every time an e coli outbreak occurs. Like Serious Materials, Purfresh is expanding from its base to become a full-service water and food company.


Green IT

Hara: Originally funded in 2008 by Silicon Valley heavyweight VC, Kleiner Perkins, Hara has been making good headway attacking the nascent carbon accounting and management software space. It’s still early days for this market but a very large base of enterprise companies are actively looking for software solutions that provide actionable information, metrics, recommendations and reporting regarding their carbon footprints. Hara has amassed an impressive list of customers to date, including Coca Cola, News Corp., Akamai, Intuit, Brocade and Safeway.

Sandforce: The company has created a chip that makes it possible for search companies, banks and other companies with large datacenters to swap out storage systems made out of hard drives with drives made of flash memory, which only use about 5 percent of the power. In real terms, that means dropping the power budget for storage systems from $50,000 for five years to $250. Storage giant EMC has invested.

 Source: GreenTech Media



Rational and risks involved in incorporating thermal storage with current CSP plants

Much effort is invested worldwide for developing storage for trough technology. The more advanced approach is based on phaze changes materials (which is called: PCM), since it enables higher density in the storage and minimal temperature losses between charge and discharge. The main problem is the low heat transfer (due to low thermal conductivity of the salts), and this affects directly the amount of power that could be extracted from the storage. Several research is being executed (mainly in Germany) for developing enhanced solutions, usually by enhancing the heat transfer between the salt and the heat transfer fluid (in the molten salt receiver/hot storage tank), reducing transient effects, optimization of the storage materials (for example, by using metal with graphite that has very high thermal conductivity – which can result up to 15% increase in conductivity, modifications in geometry, boundary conditions (e.g., addition of inflow and outflow, adding radiating surfaces or media) are being tested.  Parts of those solutions are technically feasible, although too expensive yet, e.g. the additional costs overweigh the benefits. One of the advanced approaches, that might have a chance to be cost effective, is based on adding metal surfaces into the salt zone, which may significantly improve the heat transfer to the salt by adding both radiative and convective areas, and also induce more mixing by producing faster flow and higher turbulence. Another alternative to these effects is to add particles that participate in radiation and supply convection area. The goal is to achieve an energy storage system with thermal efficiency of 90%, life time of 30 years and specific costs of: 30 USD/KWthermal capacity, and 1.5 US cent per KWHelectric. But, as far as I know, no system can achieve it yet. 

 Various storage systems incorporated with solar tower electricity generation systems were developed and the most advanced of them was installed and tested in California. This system, Solar Two, generated 10MW electricity using an eutectic molten nitrate salts mixture pumped and piped from a ground-based cold tank to a receiver mounted on the top of a tower. The hot salt from the receiver is then piped to a second, hot tank on the ground. In a secondary loop, the hot salt flows through a heat exchanger to generate steam and returns to the cold tank. The third loop includes the steam generator, which supplies steam to a steam turbine electricity generator. This plant was closed on 1999. Now Sener is trying to do something similar in Spain.

The most common storage technology in use (following the inefficient oil storage tanks solution that is being used at the SEGS plants in California) is the molten salt two-tank system, which provides a feasible storage capacity and is considered to have low to moderate associated risks. Molten salt that will be used for storage as such is bankable (as molten salt is being used for a long time in the chemical industry), but the integration of this kind of storage system to the solar system – is risky.  Concentrated solar thermal power plants have specific requirements for storage that are not well known in the chemical industry. For example: working under thermal cycling conditions; heating and cooling; temperature changing periodically; even design the hot and cold tanks is a challenge; Not to speak about the pipes and the heat exchangers. Another problem is freezing at night. But the main risk is that it is a big step from the existing technology in the chemical industry to that is required by the solar plants, especially in size – going up in scale, since in the chemical industry relatively small amounts of molten salts are being used.   On the other hand, storage contributes not only by increasing operation hours, but also enhancing the overall efficiency, as the plant is working more hours close to the design point. 

At Acciona’s Nevada parabolic trough plant there is no storage (only for about 30 minutes, which is achieved by the fluid that is in the pipes). On the other hand, at the parabolic trough plants of Andasol One & Two – FlagSol (Solar Millennium’s subsidiary) together with ACS/Cobra developed thermal storage based on molten salt. This system is being working for almost two years, probably with a lot of obstacles to deal with, like freezing issues (the freezing point of the chosen nitrates is probably 220ºC), corrosion, blocking, purity of the salt, problems with materials that are in contact with the salt, and a lot of integration and control issues. However, the operators (ACS/Cobra) are gaining much experience and claim to be able to overcome most obstacles. 

 Another risk related to incorporating storage is how much downtime (forced outage) will the plant experience. As a worth case scenario one has to assume up to 10 percent (36.5 days) down, although some plants have almost no downtime due to troubles with storage systems. Thermal storage allows project developers to maximize the value of the solar thermal facility’s output for time of use pricing verses the cost of producing that electricity. Designing a facility to sell the largest amount of output does not necessarily make that design the one with the best return on capital. Sometimes it is preferred, for example, to store all of the thermal energy produced in the morning instead of directing only part to the storage and part to produce electricity for immediate sale. The design point as well as operation strategies are of utmost importance especially when thermal storage is incorporated with the solar thermal plant. However, reducing drastically the capital cost of thermal storage is key to the commercial deployment of the technology.



Evaluating whether clean energy technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity & how can we make it happen?

Key addressing on policy & implementation matters at the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy conference Feb 2010 (*) as presented by Amnon Samid, Executive Chairman, the AGS group:

• Addressing the challenges of grid integration for renewables from the transmission perspective.

• Distributed energy generation as key to deploying advanced clean energy technologies.

• Adopting the grid to be able to integrate different unstable sources of energy, incorporate energy storage, distribution automation and distribution management systems and improving frequency stability of grids that incorporate remote clean energy sources.

• Applying smart grid vision globally – a global link which uses AC and DC transmissions.

• Is not it a shame wasting hundreds of millions during the last decade on subsidizing PV integrators, instead of investing these money in developing new technologies that will not require governmental incentives and replace all use of fossil fuel for electricity production and transportation?

• Presenting the ‘big picture’ beyond subsidies and feed-in tariffs – insight into the future of developing new technologies and evaluating whether technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity and how we can make it happen (Manhattan-like clean energy projects).

Samid also encouraged Lenders to take the risks in financing renewable energy projects that are based on new technologies, which are not defined yet as “bankable”, while presenting the main risk factors and mitigation required:

 • Technology, which should be mitigated by proven design or tested Equipment (especially when it’s not a proven technology). • Suppliers, which should be mitigated by their references, track record, experience and financial strength and warrantees.

• EPC, which could be mitigated by performance guarantee and ongoing measurements of performance & degradation.

• Developers, especially their credibility, track record and risk profile.

• O&M, which should be mitigated by track record of the contractor, warranties for availability, performance guarantees & degradation, spare parts management and O&M budget.

• Operation strategy & Performance model for the lifetime of the project.

• Financial model, which should include exposure to risks involved in fluctuations in Interest rates, currencies rates, seasonal factors etc., while especially it’s important to make sure that low probability scenarios will still result in sufficient revenues to repay the loan.

 • Solar resources, especially the basis and accuracy of historic irradiation data and assessment of future irradiation data.

• Infrastructure, Permits and Licenses, including space constrains, access roads, availability of fossil fuels, water availability, flood protection, transmission facilities, geotechnical & environmental assessments.

• Revenue which is controlled by all the above and the Power Purchase Agreement [PPA].


(*) The conference brought together major leaders on clean & renewable energy — technology experts, academic researchers, regulators, policy makers, consumers, financial experts, industry leaders, utilities, start-up companies along with influences from the US, Europe & Africa.

• Amnon Samid was moderating a panel with key decision makers analyzing the current situation of clean & renewable energy industry in Israel

Will SolarReserve defeat its competition?

“The brainchild of rocket scientists and a private equity group specialized in renewable energies, SolarReserve, the solar energy development company, is primed to be a winner in the concentrated solar power sector.

United Technology subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has combined its liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise to develop a unique tower receiver technology with thermal storage capabilities – for which SolarReserve is the exclusive license holder.

Another key ingredient is SolarReserve’s founding partner – the US Renewables Group, a US$575 million private equity firm exclusively focused on renewable power and clean fuel projects.

And finally: the team.  SolarReserve’s blend of professionals from the energy, technology and finance industries are proving to be a knockout combination.” [Source: CSP TODAY].


 Parabolic troughs, which have been in operation since the mid-1980′s, are currently the most commercial technology and hence the main competitor for any solar thermal technology. Parabolic trough plants have proven a maximum efficiency of 21% (with an average of 12% to 15%) for the conversion of direct solar radiation into grid electricity. While the plants in California uses synthetic oil as heat transfer fluid in the collectors, efforts to achieve direct steam generation within the absorber tubes in order to reduce costs further did not achieve a viable system so far.

 Another option is the approximation of the parabolic trough by segmented mirrors according to the principle of Fresnel. Although this will reduce efficiency, it shows a considerable potential for cost reduction. The close arrangement of the mirrors requires less land and provides a partially shaded, useful space below.

 Despite improvements in performance of the parabolic troughs new generations, the cost of electricity with solar only is relatively high.  Hence lower limit of costs (through Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) or competition) will not enable this technology to be competitive for the long run. For larger scale power generation, Central receivers, which utilize a collection of heliostats – mirrors which track the sun and concentrate the radiation onto a central receiver located at the top of a tower – hold out a huge potential for lower costs. Concentrating the sunlight enables heating a heat transfer fluid up to 1200ºC and higher. Today, molten salt or air or water is used to absorb the heat in the receiver. The heat may be used for steam generation or making use of the full potential of this high-temperature technology – to drive gas turbines. For gas turbine operation, the air to be heated must pass through a pressurized solar receiver with a solar window. Combined cycle power plants (like Aora’s) require about 30% less collector area than equivalent steam cycle.

 Another option is based on Parabolic Dish, which are relatively small concentrators that have a motor-generator or a turbo-generator in the focal point of the reflector. This generator may be based on Stirling engine or a gas turbine. Because of their size, they are particularly suited for decentralized electricity supply and remote stand alone systems. Dishes up to 400m² have been built and other even larger are being currently designed. Although significant progress has been made on most major components including the high performance dish, it is too early to determine whether the promises of developing a simple, low cost and very reliable engine will be realized by new designs. Moreover, this technology is inherently nondispatchable without storage or fuel backup, so can not reach utility’s dispatch requirements. 



“Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the 2009 President’s Conference Jerusalem, 20 October 2009

 Translation from Hebrew

This Conference is an opportunity to think about how to make the impossible possible. How do we transform a dream into reality, a crisis into an opportunity? ……Therefore, tonight I would like to talk to you about one of the more significant matters on the global agenda: eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. We all know the simple truth: dependence on oil endangers the world. It is a threat to our security, our economy and the environment. Our security, because dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars. Our economy, because if we don’t develop alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuels will increase and the supply will decrease. This will lead to an increase in prices, which in turn will adversely affect global economic development in countries that import fossil fuels – which is the majority of countries. This will cause serious economic harm. Environmentally, because the pollution from fossil fuels poisons the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Our dependence on oil harms us and the earth every day, and has done so for decades. To counteract all this, we must set a goal: we must free ourselves from our dependence on oil. I know it seems impossible, but believe me – it is possible. Sometimes all it takes is one or two inventions to make a breakthrough and change the world. Look at salt during the 19th century. Until the beginning of the 20th century, salt was a luxury item used to preserve food. Caravans of camels carried salt through the Sahara Desert, and the salt was traded for gold. Entire empires became rich trading salt, because of the world’s dependence on salt. But two inventions were made. The first was the canning process and the second was refrigeration, and all at once the world’s huge dependence on salt was eliminated. As a result, the salt empires crashed almost overnight. Is Israel the country that will discover the breakthrough that will free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels? I believe so because Israel has two significant resources that provide us with a good chance of doing so. • We have the minds and the hearts. • The capability, the will. Israel is very advanced in the technological fields – agro-tech, hi-tech, nanotechnology, solar energy, battery technologies and renewable energies. Naturally, we are leading candidates to create a global revolution in the clean energy field because of this capacity. Here is the essence of what I’m saying. It’s possible to change the world. The greatest changes in man’s history occurred when there was not only a technological change, but a conceptual change. For many generations, hundreds of thousands of years, man was a hunter-gather. He went to seek out food. He had to go great distances, chase animals to get the protein he needed, or to look for berries or fruit to gather so he’d have the nutrients that were needed for life. These nomadic hunter-gatherer patterns changed one day, because man realized that the food was right underneath his feet. And that was the day that agriculture was born. We are hunter-gatherers for energy. We go to the depths of the oceans. We seek energy from the bowels of the Earth and distant lands. But the energy is right under our noses. It’s all around us. It’s bountiful. It’s in the sun. It’s in the wind. It’s in the water. We just have to tap it.

I think we have the capacity to develop this. Our Nobel Prize winners were mentioned – yes, we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other country, than any other people. We have the second largest concentration of technological capacity; in terms of venture capital, the highest per capita by far. We have scientific publications and we have patents in abundance. So we have the capacity, including in these areas – the development of energy from hydrogen, from water, the development of solar energy and other energies. We have the brains, but we also have the will. Because think what this will mean for our national security. Think of what it would mean for our future if the world ended its dependence on fossil fuels, and especially on oil. By changing this dependence, we can change the world. I don’t know which technology will triumph. Yesterday, Ray Kurzweil, who hasn’t changed a bit in 35 years – I remember you from MIT, Ray – you gave us a course on entrepreneurship and you proceeded to be an entrepreneur, like Shimon Peres, in your own great scientific capacities. Yesterday you said that the efficiency of solar energy doubles every two years. You said that we live in a very brief generation that will develop the energy of the proximate future. If that’s the case, then we’re in good shape. But I say let’s make it happen faster. If we have placed a man on the moon, surely we can harness the energy of the sun.

 What I propose to do today is to establish a nation commission of scientists, engineers, business and government people to set a goal that within ten years, we’ll have a practical, clean, efficient substitute for oil. I think it’s possible. I think we can make the impossible possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been accused of being a disciple of government intervention. However, sometimes the private market simply cannot create the critical mass of activities needed to make such a big change. Sometimes it needs a push and support from the government. Finding an alternative to oil is a critical matter for the State of Israel must deal with – with regard to geopolitics, security concerns, environmental concerns, to secure the future and to change the world’s order of priorities. Therefore, I repeat my announcement that I am going to establish a national commission comprised of scientists, manufacturers, engineers, businesspeople and government officials, with the goal of formulating a practical plan for efficient development in technologies and engineering in order to replace fossil fuels within the decade. I ask the minds and talents who are here, and around the world, to help.

It is not in our interest alone. The resources need not be exclusively Israel’s. Most of the world shares this interest. But Israel has a strong and clear interest in achieving this. “For out of Zion will come Torah”: We are commanded to bring a new light to the world. God willing, with your help and the help of many others around the world, we will make the impossible possible. Thank you.