Invests $10.25 Million in Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Technology

Google announced today that it is investing $10.25 million (via in an energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS).  The specific investments are:

AltaRock Energy, Inc.
$6.25 million investment to develop innovative technologies to achieve significant cost reductions and improved performance in EGS projects.

Potter Drilling, Inc.
$4 million investment in two tranches, to develop new approaches to lower the cost and expand the range of deep hard rock drilling, a critical element to large-scale deployment of EGS.

Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab
$489,521 grant to improve understanding of the size and distribution of geothermal energy resources and to update geothermal mapping of North America.

EGS expands the potential of geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water. The EGS process, replicates these conditions by fracturing hot rock, circulating water through the system, and using the resulting steam to produce electricity in a conventional turbine. 

"EGS could be the ‘killer app’ of the energy world. It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7 and be captured nearly anywhere on the planet. And it would be a perfect complement to intermittent sources like solar and wind," said Dan Reicher, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for

The following video provides an overview of EGS:

In its funding announcement, Google cited an MIT report on EGS (The Future of Geothermal Energy) that estimated that just 2% of the heat below the continental United States between 3 and 10 kilometers (depths within the range of current drilling technology) is more than 2,500 times the country’s total annual energy use.

"EGS is critical to the clean electricity revolution we need to solve the climate crisis, but EGS hasn’t received the attention it merits. That’s why we’re pressing for expanded support from government and increased investment from the private sector," said Reicher, "We’re big believers in EGS and we’re looking for more opportunities."

Today’s announcement is part of Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative.  This initiative, announced in November 2007, focuses on solar thermal power, advanced wind, EGS, and other potential breakthrough technologies.  An initial goal of this initiative (also known as "RE<C") is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, in years, not decades.

U.S. Department of Energy to Provide up to $40 Million for Small-Scale Biorefinery Projects in Wisconsin and Louisiana

U.S. Department of Energy

On Monday, July 14, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of two small-scale cellulosic biorefinery projects in Park Falls, Wisconsin and Jennings, Louisiana for federal funding of up to $40 million over five years.

Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of plant materials or non-food based feedstocks, including agricultural wastes such as corn stover; forest wastes such as saw dust and forest thinnings; and energy crops, such as switchgrass. In studies conducted by scientist at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, compared with conventional gasoline, ethanol produced from cellulosic materials requires as much as 90 percent less fossil energy to produce and has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 86 percent over the lifecycle.

Negotiations between the following companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels:

Flambeau River Biofuels (FRB), LLC (Park Falls, Wisconsin)
The proposed biorefinery will be installed in an existing pulp and paper mill in Park Falls, Wis., and will produce liquid fuels from abundant and renewable cellulosic (wood) biomass. The biorefinery will not be dependent on any food-based feedstock materials, but rather on by-product or residuals from forest and agricultural sources. When completed, the facility will produce at least 1 trillion BTUs of renewable energy for the host mill and 6 million gallons of transportation (sulfur-free diesel) fuels per year.

FRB participants/investors include: ANL Consultants, Auburn University, Brigham Young University, Citigroup Global Markets, CleanTech Partners, Emerging Fuels Technology, Flambeau River Papers, Johnson Timber, National Renewable Energy Lab, Michigan Technological University, NC State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ThermoChem Recovery International, University of Wisconsin, and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory.

Verenium Biofuels Corporation (Jennings, Louisiana)
Construction of Verenium’s 1.5 million gallon per year demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility is underway and is scheduled to be complete in late 2008.  The project is moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for the production of ethanol from a wide array of biomass feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, agricultural byproducts, waste wood products, and other non-food based energy crops. 

The Jennings, Louisiana demonstration plant is operated by Verenium Corporation, which was formed in 2007 through a merger of Celunol Corp, and Diversa Corporation.

These two projects are the final round of selections for DOE’s competitive small-scale biorefinery solicitation.  A total of nine projects have been selected by DOE to receive up to a total of $240 million in DOE funding over the next five fiscal years, subject to appropriations.  Including industry cost share, more than $735 million will be invested in these projects over the next four to five years.

This news is part of more than $1 billion in investments that DOE has announced for multi-year biofuels research and development projects; these other announcements include:

For more information on the July 14th announcement:

California Clean Tech Open To Hold Technology & Entrepreneur Matching Event on May 1

California Clean Tech Open

The California Clean Tech Open, a business plan competition offering more than $600,000 in prizes for early-stage clean technology startups who plan to locate their operations in California, will hold a technology and entrepreneur matching event on May 1.  The goals of the event are to:

  • build awareness of relevant research and emerging technologies
  • connect entrepreneurs with laboratory researchers and technologists
  • provide a forum for entrepreneurs to meet and assemble Clean Tech Open teams
  • examine and expedite the path to commercial viability and market entry

The event will include opportunities for networking and brief presentations from the following Innovation Partners, who will provide an overview of successful commercialization efforts and current technologies they are developing:

This event will take place from 4:30 pm – 8:00 pm at SRI’s International Building, 333 Ravenswood Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (directions and public transit, parking map).  The registration fee for this event is $20 for pre-registration and $30 at the door (cash only). This fee will be waved for competition entrants who have paid their entry fee. California Clean Tech Open sponsors and partners can attend for free, but should contact for special arrangements.

For more information:

eSolar Receives $130 Million in Funding


eSolar, an Idealab company based in Pasadena, CA that produces scalable solar thermal power plants, announced on Monday that it closed $130 million in funding from Idealab,, Oak Investment Partners, and other investors for the construction and deployment of its pre-fabricated power plants.  In January eSolar received $10 million from

"eSolar’s primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies," said Bill Gross, eSolar Chairman and Founder of Idealab. "This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world."

eSolar’s distributed solar thermal plants are designed to address the complex issues involved in large or utility-scale power projects and are able to achieve economies of scale at 33 MW.  The modular design of these plants have a number of benefits, including requiring minimal land and yielding a low environmental footprint.

"The eSolar™ power plant is based on mass manufactured components, and designed for rapid construction, uniform modularity, and unlimited scalability," said Asif Ansari, CEO of eSolar. "Rather than over-engineering the solution, eSolar’s smart scalable solar architecture targets what we see as the four key business obstacles facing the sector: price, scalability, rapid deployment, and grid impact."

eSolar has secured land rights in the southwest United States to support the production and transmission of over 1 GW of power. eSolar will have a fully operational power plant later this year in southern California.

For more information:

2008 California Clean Tech Open Launched; More than $600,000 in Prizes to be Awarded to Entrepreneurs

California Clean Tech Open

On April 2nd, the 3rd annual California Clean Tech Open was officially announced.  The California Clean Tech Open is a business plan competition for early-stage clean technology startups who plan to locate their operations in California. 

There are six categories in the competition:

The winning team in each category will receive a prize package valued at more than $100,000, consisting of:

  • Cash prize of $50,000
  • Office space for one year
  • Legal services
  • Recruiting services
  • Accounting services
  • Public relations services
  • Insurance services
  • Marketing services

In addition to prizes for the winning teams, up to 60 finalist teams will receive a variety of services including mentoring and training.  All competition entrants are able to attend a number of events including an Executive Summary workshop.

The California Clean Tech Open will also be holding a launch event on Wednesday, April 9th, from 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM, at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda.  The event will be hosted by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and guests will include previous competition winners and participants, venture capitalists, competition sponsors and partners, state and local government officials, and cleantech entrepreneurs. There is no cost to attend the launch event, but you need to RSVP.

Update: A technology and entrepreneur matching event will take place on May 1.

For more information:

Astia and SDForum to Present Panel “Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies – What’s Real?” on April 22 (2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series)

On Tuesday, April 22, Astia and  SDForum will present the second program in the 2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series.  This program is entitled "Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies – What’s Real?" and will feature a panel that will provide insights into the challenges and opportunities in cellulosic ethanol commercialization and development.  The panelists for this event are:

This program will be held from 8:00 am – 10:00 am at AMD Commons Auditorium, 991 Stewart Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94085.  The cost for SDForum members is $25 and $30 for non-members.  Further program information and registration can be found here

The schedule for future programs in the 2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series is:

For more information:

Astia and SDForum to Present Panel “Solar Technology – Will Thin Film Take Over?” (2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series)

On Tuesday, March 18, Astia and SDForum will present the first program in the 2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series.  This program is entitled "Solar Technology – Will Thin Film Take Over?" and will feature a panel that will provide insights into the challenges and opportunities in thin film, crystalline, and other solar technologies.  The panelists invited for this program are:

This program will be held from 8:00 am – 10:00 am at the office of Nixon Peabody, One Embarcadero Center, 18th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111.  The cost for SDForum members is $25 and $30 for non-members.

In addition, the schedule for future programs in the 2008 Clean Tech Breakfast Series is:

For more information:

U.S. Department of Energy to Invest up to $33.8 Million to Support Development of Biofuels

U.S. Department of Energy

Last week, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner announced that DOE will invest up to $33.8 million over four years for four projects (listed below) that will focus on addressing key technical hurdles associated with mass production of clean, renewable fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol.  Specifically, these projects will work on developing improved enzyme systems to convert cellulosic material into sugars suitable for production of biofuels.

Cellulosic ethanol is a renewable fuel made from a wide variety of non-food materials, including agricultural wastes such as corn stover and cereal straws, industrial plant waste like saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops such as switchgrass, specifically for fuel production.  By relying on a variety of feedstocks, cellulosic ethanol can be produced in nearly every region of the country, using material grown locally.  Though it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol contains more net energy and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.

In addition to the DOE funding for these projects (which is subject to Congressional appropriation) there will be also be a minimum 50% cost share from industry.  Including the industry cost share, the total funding for these projects will be up to $70 million.  The selected companies and projects are:

DSM Innovation Center Inc.
Development of a Commercial Enzymes System for Lignocellulosic Biomass Saccharification
This project will employ DSM’s internal, proprietary fungal systems to develop new approaches to improve enzymes for the conversion of pre-treated lignocellulosic biomass into sugars suitable for fermentation into cellulosic ethanol.  Team members — Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies (Nebraska); and DOE’s Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico).

Genencor – a Division of Danisco, USA, Inc.
Enhancing Cellulase Commercial Performance for the Lignocellulosic Biomass Industry
This project plans to reduce the enzyme-dose level required for biomass saccharification by improving the specific performance of the Trichoderma Reesei mix of fungal-based cellulases to facilitate production of cellulosic ethanol from sugars produced by the saccharification process. Team members – DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado)

Novozymes, Inc.
Project Decrease – Development of a Commercial-Ready Enzyme Application System for Ethanol
This project aims to improve performance of Novozymes’ most advanced enzyme system by decreasing the dosage of enzyme required to hydrolyze biomass into fermentable sugars suitable for cellulosic ethanol production.  Team Members: Novozymes North America (North Carolina); Novozymes A/S (Denmark); Novozymes (China) Investment Co. Ltd; DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Washington) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado); the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique University (France); and Cornell University (New York).

Verenium Corporation
Commercialization of Customized Cellulase Solutions for Biomass Saccharification
This project will leverage Verenium’s advanced enzyme development capabilities to commercialize a cellulase enzyme system to produce a more cost-effective enzyme solution for biomass saccharification processes that will also tolerate conditions that enable more efficient process economics in producing ethanol from cellulosics.

In commenting on this announcement, DOE Assistant Secretary Karsner said:

Success of these projects will play a pivotal role in the rapid development and deployment of renewable fuels to reduce emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and fundamentally change how we power our vehicles … In the interest of the environment, and energy, economic and national security, biofuels must continue to play a significant role as we work to diversify our nation’s energy sources and provide a balanced portfolio of science and technology solutions to help meet the rapidly growing demand for energy worldwide.

This news is part of over $1 billion that DOE has announced within the last year for multi-year biofuels research and development projects; these other announcements include:

For more information:

Three Venture Capital Firms Selected for U.S. Department of Energy “Entrepreneur in Residence” Program

U.S. Department of Energy

On February 27, 2008,  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner announced the selection of three venture capital firms to participate in the pilot of DOE’s new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program

The EIR pilot program will place three entrepreneurs (one selected and sponsored by each of the three participating venture capital firms) into three DOE National Laboratories to help bring promising new clean energy technologies developed by these laboratories to market.  Among their activities, the entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, and develop business cases.  The DOE is providing up to $100,000 for each entrepreneur to help defray salary and other expenses and each participating VC firm will match the DOE funding and may contribute additional funds to support its entrepreneur’s work.

Once a laboratory-developed technology is identified for commercialization, the entrepreneurs and their VC sponsors will negotiate with the DOE to license the technology.  It is intended that the VC sponsors will eventually form and finance a start-up company to commercialize the licensed clean energy technologies.

The three VC firms selected to participate in the EIR pilot program (and the associated DOE National Laboratory that their entreprenuer will work with) are as follows:

For more information:

Wind Power Growth Highlighted by The New York Times

Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind is an article in the February 23, 2008 issue of The New York Times that highlights the increasing investment in wind power in Texas and other parts of the United States. The article also includes a chart of state wind power generating capacity and there is a related slide show.

According to data from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the total wind power generating capacity in the U.S. increased by 45% in 2007, with the addition of 5,244 megawatts (MW).  This represented an investment of $9 billion.  At the end of 2007, the total wind power generating capacity in the U.S. was 16,818 MW, with the leading states as follows:

  • Texas – 4,356 MW
  • California – 2,439 MW
  • Minnesota – 1,299 MW
  • Iowa – 1,273 MW
  • Washington – 1,163 MW

According to AWEA, wind power is projected to produce approximately 48 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in 2008, representing slightly more than 1% of the U.S. electricity supply (this is equivalent to the electricity needed for more than 4.5 million homes).

For more information: