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Category: Alternative Fuels

Mascoma Receives $49.5 Million from the U.S Department of Energy and the State of Michigan


Mascoma Corporation, a Boston, Massachusetts-based company involved in the development and deployment of cellulosic ethanol technologies, announced ealier this week that it received a $49.5 million — $26 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and $23.5 million from the State of Michigan.  The funds will be used for the development of a cellulosic fuel production facility in Kinross in Chippewa County, Michigan that uses non-food biomass to convert woodchips into fuel. Mascoma investors General Motors Corporation and Marathon Oil Corporation are also providing support for this project.

Mascoma will be working on this project with Marquette, Michigan-based JM Longyear.  This partnership will involve the creation of a new company, Frontier Renewable Resources, which will own the project. Mascoma will also be working with Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University to adapt Mascoma’s technology and supply chain options for the Michigan feedstocks used in production.  The Kinross facility will use sustainably harvested mixed hardwood chips and other non-food biomass materials as the raw material for the production of cellulosic fuel.  The facility is expected to eventually produce 40 million gallons of ethanol and other fuel products annually.

"Michigan is proud to partner with Mascoma as a part of our commitment to lead the nation in alternative energy production," said Governor Granholm. "This company, and their partners, will create jobs in Michigan as they develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make fuel more affordable for our families."

"We’ve targeted industries like alternative energy to diversify Michigan’s economy and create new jobs," Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James C. Epolito said. "Innovative tools combined with effective partnerships are enabling us to attract high-tech companies like Mascoma and accelerate Michigan’s transformation."

"Mascoma is pleased and honored to receive this important funding from the DOE and the State of Michigan," said Bruce A. Jamerson, Chairman and CEO of Mascoma Corporation. "This funding will allow us to accelerate commercial production of low cost, low carbon fuel that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy independence," Jamerson continued.

"I applaud the decision by the Department of Energy and the state of Michigan to provide the incentives Mascoma needed to scale up the technology and accelerate construction of this facility here in Michigan," said Senator Carl Levin. "This investment in cutting-edge biofuel technology will create jobs in Michigan, and the incredible natural resources of the Upper Peninsula will help Mascoma to efficiently produce the next generation of fuels."

"Mascoma Corporation’s cellulosic fuel facility is a prime example of how Michigan continues to lead the way in solving our nation’s energy crisis while creating new jobs in a green economy," said Senator Debbie Stabenow. "I am pleased to work with the rest of the delegation and the State of Michigan to support Mascoma in their mission to develop low-carbon biofuels and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

"Mascoma and the Department of Energy recognize the potential northern Michigan and our workforce hold for developing alternative energy sources," Congressman Bart Stupak said. "Mascoma’s proposed cellulosic fuels facility will be the first of its kind in the nation to produce ethanol from timber. This important federal-state-private partnership will put northern Michigan on the forefront of this developing technology, create hundreds of jobs in our community and the potential for many more. I am pleased to have played a role in helping to bring this significant investment to Chippewa County."

Masoma was founded in 2005 and has received approximately $100 million in equity investments thusfar.  Investors include Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Atlas Venture, General Catalyst Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Pinnacle Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, General Motors, and Marathon Oil.

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:

Progressive Automotive X PRIZE to Award $10 Million

Progressive Automotive X PRIZE

At the recent New York International Auto Show, the X PRIZE Foundation and Progressive announced that Progressive will serve as the Title Sponsor of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition and provide funding for the $10 million prize.

The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is an international competition with a $10 million prize purse that is designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles. The competition is open to teams from around the world that can design, build and bring to market 100 MPGe (miles per gallon energy equivalent) vehicles that people want to buy, and that meet market needs for price, size, capability, safety and performance.

The window for applications is open until mid-2008, when a qualification process will take place. Qualifying applicants will then race their vehicles in cross-country stage races in 2009 and 2010. The winners will be the vehicles that exceed 100 MPGe, meet strict emissions standards and finish in the fastest time.  To date, more than 60 teams from nine countries have signed a Letter of Intent to compete for a share of the prize purse.  Information for potential applicants is available in the Prize Details section of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE website.

Video of the recent announcement in New York (in three segments) is provided below:

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:

WIREC 2008 (Washington International Renewable Energy Conference) To Take Place from March 3 – 7

During the first week of March, a major domestic and international renewable energy event — the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008) — will take place in Washington, DC.  WIREC 2008 consists of three inter-related events, which are described below:

Event #1 – WIREC 2008: Global ministerial-level meeting (March 4 – 6)
Summary: WIREC 2008 is hosted by the United States Government in cooperation with the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and will bring together government, civil society and private business leaders to address the benefits and costs of a major and rapid scale-up in the global deployment of renewable energy technology.   WIREC 2008 is the third global ministerial-level conference on renewable energy – previous events were held in Beijing (2005) and Bonn (2004).

For more information:

Event #2 – The Trade Show at WIREC 2008 (March 4 – 6)
Summary: The Trade Show at WIREC 2008, hosted by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the leading U.S. renewable energy trade associations, is expected to be the largest business-to-business and business-to-government conference and exposition ever held on renewable energy in the U.S. It will also be a global event, with representatives from more than 70 countries attending. It consists of two parts – a business conference and expo.  These are described below.

Business Conference: This will feature two days of more than 40 panel presentations that will cover renewable energy technologies including wind, solar, hydro, ocean, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and waste-to energy.  Speakers at the business conference will include:

Expo: The expo will feature over 300 renewable energy technology suppliers, systems integrators, financiers, professional services firms, end users, utility companies, energy companies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, associations, government agencies, foreign governments and economic missions, and other exhibitors.

For more information:

Event #3 – WIREC 2008 Official Side Events (March 3 – 7)
Summary:  The WIREC 2008 Official Side Events are a series of more than 75 panel sessions that provide an opportunity for the participants at the WIREC 2008 events to learn and share their expertise in areas such as energy security, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.  According to Michael Eckhart, President of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), "These events offer a less formal setting that all WIREC and Trade Show registrants may actively participate in, and we encourage them to speak up and be heard in more than one Official Side Event."

For more information:

Clean Energy Venture Investments Highlighted by The Wall Street Journal

Betting on Green is an article in the February 11, 2008 issue of The Wall Street Journal that provides a summary of the current state of venture capital investing in clean-energy enterprises. Overall, the article discusses that while there has been increasing venture capital investment in this sector it may take time before investors see returns as a number of these companies are involved in areas that require significant capital expenditures and time to successfully commercialize.  Nevertheless, venture capitalists are continuing to invest in this sector, as illustrated by the following article excerpt:

Clean energy represents "the biggest set of new market opportunities to come along in a long time," says Ken Lawler, a partner at Battery Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif., which is devoting 20% of its investments to clean-tech companies. "It’s something you have to be a part of."

The article also highlights some successes and setbacks faced by companies and investors in three clean-energy sectors – demand-response, solar, and biofuels.  For more information:

EcoCAR Teleconference to Take Place on January 22 at 11:00 am

EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

For those interested in the EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge competition (for background, please see this post) please note that there will be an EcoCAR phone conference to discuss the RFP and answer other questions.  This phone conference will take place on Tuesday, January 22nd at 11:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you would like the dial-in information you can send an e-mail to news <at>

U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Announce “EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge”

EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge

EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge is a new competition from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Motors (GM), Natural Resources Canada and other sponsoring organizations in which university teams will re-engineer a production GM vehicle to meet the requirements for earning Zero Emissions Vehicle credits from the California Air Resources Board.  This competition will be managed by DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and is a successor event to Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, a three-year university competition ending in May 2008 that focused on re-engineering a Chevrolet Equinox to minimize its fuel consumption and emissions.

EcoCAR is open to all accredited engineering schools in North America and DOE and GM expect to select 16 teams for the competition in April, 2008.  Each team will receive a GM production vehicle, $10,000 in seed money, a wide range of powertrain components, and technical and mentoring support from the competition sponsors. Responses to the EcoCAR RFP are due by March 3rd, 2008.

"This is one competition where everyone is a winner," said Ed Wall, manager of the Vehicle Technologies Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. "EcoCAR demonstrates how government, industry and academia are working together to develop creative approaches and solutions to decreasing total emissions and energy consumption in some of America’s most popular vehicles."

For more information:

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