Sunday, March 11, 2007

Continued Growth in Clean Tech

A few more recent articles from various sources continue to indicate the growing interest in clean technologies and "saving the planet". The Ideas section of the Boston Sunday Globe last week included a large article on zero waste manufacturing, A World without Waste. The UMass-Lowell Center for Green Chemistry makes the article and McDonough-Braungart's book Cradle to Cradle makes it as well.

The NYTimes created an entire Special Section, Business of Green, a few weeks ago. Topics cover dining, farming, consumer products, renewable energy, and one of the coolest phrases I've heard in a while "Corporate Hippies". Could corporate hippies be the next yuppies?

Only yesterday, the NYTimes related the growing clean tech wave in Silicon Valley, as the next round of eager entrepreneurs and world-changers look for the next big thing. Start-Up Fervor Shifts to Energy in Silicon Valley While the money flowing into the clean tech space is nowhere near the billions that flowed into the Internet bubble, it is on the way. The upside, more people spending more time and more money working on clean technology. The downside, there will certainly be pie in the sky business ideas that will crash and burn and could conceivably tarnish the clean tech space. I'll be optimistic here and think more about the intellectual and financial capital flowing into the sector and what good that will do for the future of clean tech efforts.

Even the Motley Fool chimed in with thoughts on the coming opportunity for technologies that remove carbon dioxide from coal fired power plants. Their site was acting a bit odd at the time of this post, so I do not have a link to the article. Here's an excerpt from the e-mail entitled "One Amazing Stock Is About to Clean Up On a Dirty Little Secret" the Fools sent me, an oh-so-tantalizing teaser on what the next big thing in clean tech will be.
The Profit Champion of the Green Coal Revolution!
This stock is my favorite to capitalize on this huge tidal wave trend. In fact, the switch to high-sulfur coal is so huge that this company is eyeing a mammoth 72% increase in coal production over the next four years!
The parent company of this New Energy Superstar is one of the largest coal producers in the eastern U.S. It has a stable of new mines coming online, which will help it meet its goal of nearly doubling production by 2010. It is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the trend toward high-sulfur coal. Here are a few of the qualities that make this stock a superb value:
As usual, The Economist's Technology Quarterly had a few articles on alternative energy, touching upon the potential for making ethanol from trees and the continuing growth in the solar energy sector. I copied some of the solar energy article here, since it is one of the articles that requires a paid subscription, I apologize for only including a snippet.
Energy: Solar power is in the ascendant. But despite its rapid growth it will not provide a significant share of the world's electricity for decades

LAST year Microsoft outfitted its campus in Silicon Valley with a solar system from SunPower, a local company that makes high-efficiency (and, some say, the world's best-looking) solar panels. A few months later Microsoft's arch-rival, Google, began building something on an even grander scale—one of the largest corporate solar installations to date. But all of this may yet be topped by Wal-Mart. In December the retail giant solicited bids for placing solar systems on the roofs of many of its supermarkets. Besides producing favourable publicity, the appeal of using solar power is obvious. Unlike fossil fuels, which produce significant amounts of pollution and enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, the sun's energy is clean and its supply virtually limitless. In just one hour the Earth receives more energy from the sun than human beings consume during an entire year. According to America's Department of Energy, solar panels could, if placed on about 0.5% of the country's mainland landmass, provide for all of its current electricity needs.

Yet since they were first invented more than five decades ago, photovoltaic solar cells—devices made of semiconductor materials that convert light into electricity—have generated much publicity but little energy. In 2006 photovoltaic systems produced 0.04% of the world's electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. The thing that has held back the widespread deployment of solar panels is their price. Sunshine is free, but converting it into electricity is not. At present, solar power is at least two to three times as expensive as the typical electricity generated in America for retail customers. (Because homeowners and businesses generally use solar power in place of electricity bought from utilities, the relevant comparison is with the price of retail electricity, not the lower wholesale prices from power plants.)

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