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:

Solar Technology Innovation in Silicon Valley Highlighted by The New York Times

Silicon Valley Starts to Turn Its Face to the Sun is an article in the February 17, 2008 issue of The New York Times that highlights the increasing interest and activity in Silicon Valley in the solar technology sector.  In addition, the article describes both the positive belief held by some people in Silicon Valley that it can become a leader in a significant new global market (a so-called "Solar Valley") as well as cautionary perspectives expressed by others regarding the long-term sustainability of this sector.

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:

Infinia Closes $50 Million in Series B Financing

Infinia Corporation, a Kennewick, Washington-based company, today announced that it has closed a $50 million Series B round of financing.The funds will be used to support the commerical launch of the company’s Infinia Solar System product, which J.D. Sitton, Infinia’s President and CEO, states, "[W]ill change the game in the solar power generation market."  The Infinia Solar System combines Infinias free-piston Stirling engine with a dish-style solar concentrator to produce three kilowatts of grid-quality electric power. Infinia expects to start manufacturing and selling this product later in 2008.

The funding round announced today was led by GLG Partners.  Other participants in this round were  Wexford Capital LLC and previous investors Vulcan Capital, Khosla Ventures, EQUUS Total Return, Inc., Idealab and Power Play Energy, LLC.  In addition, Infinia announced that John Small of GLG Partners will become a member of the company’s Board of Directors.

Infinia previously announced investments of $3.5 million in February 2005 and $9.5 million in June 2007.  For more information:

Suniva Receives $50 Million in Series B Financing

Suniva Inc., an Atlanta-based company that manufactures and markets high-efficiency silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, recently announced the completion of a $50 million Series B round of financing.The funds will be used for Suniva’s new Atlanta-area manufacturing facility that is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2008.

This funding round was co–led by New Enterprise Associates (an existing investor) and Advanced Equities, Inc.  Other participants in this round were Goldman Sachs (through its subsidiary Cogentrix Energy), HIG Ventures (an existing investor), and Quercus Investments.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Suniva is projecting $10 million in revenue in 2008 and $100 million in 2009.

For more information:

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Launched

Earlier this week U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy.  This agreement created the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership that is intended to make Hawaii a clean energy model for the United States.

The overarching purpose and key goals of this partnership are outlined in Section II of the MOU:

The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to establish a long-term partnership between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that will result in a fundamental and sustained transformation in the way in which renewable energy efficiency resources are planned and used in the State. Successful development and execution of the objectives contemplated in this partnership will provide a replicable global model for achieving similar results.

The DOE-Hawaii Partnership will build upon the dynamic, ongoing work of public and private organizations at the State, county, and grassroots levels in order to achieve several key goals:

  • To define the structural transformation that will need to occur to transition the State to a clean energy dominated economy
  • To demonstrate and foster innovation in the use of clean energy technologies, financing methodologies, and enabling policies designed to accelerate social, economic and political acceptance of a clean energy dominated economy
  • To create opportunity at all levels of society that ensures wide-spread distribution of the benefits resulting from the transition to a clean, sustainable energy State
  • To establish an “open source” learning model for others seeking to achieve similar goals
  • To build the workforce with crosscutting skills to enable and support a clean energy economy.

Under the MOU, Hawaii will explore a variety of renewable energy technologies including solar, oceanic, geothermal, and wind. The state will also pioneer financial, policy, and business models that the DOE and the State of Hawaii hope can be replicated throughout the US.

Hawaii, which currently imports fossil fuels for 90% of its energy, is hoping to have renewable sources provide at least 70% of the state’s energy needs by 2030.

For more information:

Google.org Announces Philanthropy Focus Areas; Includes Climate Change

On Thursday, January 17 Google.org announced the five focus areas for its philanthrophic efforts for the next five to ten years.  These focus areas include ones that address the challenge of climate change.  This announcement also contained information on more than $25 million in new grants and investments that Google.org is making in these areas, including $10 million to eSolar, a company that specializes in solar thermal power.

Listed below are the five areas, along with a brief overview as described in the Google.org announcement, as well as selected overview videos:

Focus Area #1 – Accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT)
RechargeIT is a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. Google.org launched a $10 million request for investment proposals this Fall, and will invest amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2 million in selected for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologieseSolar will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions.

Focus Area #2 – Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C)
This cross-Google collaboration has set a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, within years not decades. The initiative, known as RE<C, was launched in November 2007 and will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies.

[Editor’s note: The initial RE<C announcement was covered by Green VC in the post Google Invests in Renewable Energy.]

Focus Area #3 – Predict and Prevent
Google.org supports efforts to empower communities to predict and prevent events before they become local, regional, or global crises, by identifying "hot spots" and enabling a rapid response. Rapid ecological and social changes are increasing the risk of emerging threats, from infectious diseases to drought and other environmental disasters. Google.org is initially focused on Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. In Southeast Asia, a hot spot for SARS and potentially bird flu, Google.org is working with partners to strengthen early warning systems and build local capacities to prevent the next pandemic.

Focus Area #4 – Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services
Google.org works with partners to improve the flow of vital information to improve basic services for the poor in India and East Africa. In many countries in the developing world, essential public services are failing, especially for the poorest members of society. Google.org supports efforts to provide information to empower citizens and communities, providers, and policy makers to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation.

Focus Area #5 – Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Google.org supports efforts to lower transaction costs to invest in SMEs, create opportunities to access larger financial markets and make investments in this sector. SMEs are critical for inclusive economic growth and job creation in the developing world, but lack the capital and tools necessary to succeed. Many micro-enterprises and most large businesses have access to capital through microfinance institutions, banks and capital markets, but SMEs remain extraordinarily underserved, creating a "missing middle." Google.org wants to help increase the flow of capital to "the missing middle" by tackling some of the root causes that prevent these firms from becoming profitable investment opportunities

A replay of a Google.org call discussing yesterday’s announcement is available through midnight Thursday, January 24th, 2008 by calling 888-203-1112 (US) or 719-457-0820 (outside the US). The confirmation code for the replay is 4699562.  For additional information on Google.org:

The Wall Street Journal Presents “ECO:nomics – Creating Environmental Capital” Conference on March 12-14

The Wall Street Journal will present an executive-level conference from March 12-14, 2008 in Santa Barbara, California entitled "ECO:nomics – Creating Environmental Capital" that focuses on the challenges and opportunities in the green business market.  Examples of some of the event’s sessions include:

  • Green Deals: The Environmental Factor in Corporate Investments
    Venture capitalists are pouring huge amounts of money into "greentech" companies. What’s the payoff likely to be?
    – John Doerr – Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
  • Green Giants: The Rapid Rise of Big Renewable-Energy Players
    The price of producing electricity from solar and wind power keeps declining. Here’s a look at some major global players and their successes to date.
    – Miles George – CEO, Babcock & Brown Wind Partners
    – Dr. Zhengrong Shi – Chairman of the Board and CEO, Suntech Power Holdings

In the press release announcing this event, Alan Murray, executive editor of Wall Street Journal Online, said, "In the last year, there has been a sea change in the way the environment is viewed in the C-suites of large corporations.  We created this conference to bring the Journal’s level of thinking and analysis to this issue, and help companies understand how to both maximize the economic opportunities created by this heightened environmental consciousness, and minimize any economic pain."

For more information on this conference, including registration details, please visit the ECO:nomics – Creating Environmental Capital event website.

Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures, Profiled by San Francisco Chronicle

Today’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Vinod Khosla (founder of Khosla Ventures) in one of its 2007 year-in-review "Faces of Business 2007" stories.  The profile describes Khosla’s background and his current approach to investing in clean tech / green tech, for example:

His willingness to buck conventional wisdom and finance big, game-changing ideas has placed Khosla at the forefront of green tech. Here, all the challenges are huge, and the technology is disruptive. If things go the way Khosla wants, our entire fossil fuel-dependent energy system will get turned on its head.

One of his startups, Range Fuels, is building a bio-refinery in Georgia that will make ethanol from wood scraps left over from timber harvests. Another, Ausra, plans to build large solar thermal power plants in Central and Southern California, generating power for far less money than rooftop solar panels can. Similar solar plants have been in use in California for decades, but Ausra uses a unique design that should be cheaper to mass produce.

For more information:

Google Invests in Renewable Energy

On Tuesday, November 27 Google announced a renewable energy initiative to which it will be allocating significant resources.  A key part of this initiative is the creation of a renewable energy research and development (R&D) group it is calling "RE<C".  This mission of this group is to "develop electricity from renewable sources cheaper than electricity produced from coal." 

The initial objective of RE<C is to build one gigawatt (enough electricity for a city the size of San Francisco) of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal.  The initial technologies RE<C will be focusing on are advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, and enhanced geothermal systems.  Google is currently hiring to staff this new initiative.

To complement these efforts, Google.org will make strategic grants and investments in organizations working to produce renewable energy at a cost below that of coal-fired power plants.  They are already working with two companies — eSolar (solar thermal power) and Makani Power Inc. (high-altitude wind energy extraction). 

Google can be contacted at renewables@google.com regarding renewable energy investment, R&D or project opportunities.  Please note that Google states "Because of the expected volume, we will not be able to sign NDAs at this stage. If there is confidential information that you cannot include without an NDA, do not include it in your email."

Google stated that in 2008 it plans to spend "tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy."  In addition, as part of its capital planning process, Google also intends to invest "hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns."

For more information on this announcements and Google’s other "green" initiatives:

Media coverage on Tuesday’s announcement includes: