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Cleantech is Cool

Posted on Friday, May 18th

Governments Are Taking Action

Cleantech venture investment of $1 billion in 1Q09 is at its lowest levels in two years, according to a study published in April 2009 by The Cleantech Group and Deloitte. But government investment in cleantech is up – way up – as the US and other nations allocate money in the form of stimulus packages, tax credits and loan guarantees. And, as our coverage of the sector shows, even though private investment may be down due to the poor economy, there are cleantech companies that are thriving.

*What Cleantech Is and Why It Matters
*Global Warming and Phase Changes
*Forbes Column 2009: Green Jobs

Follow my coverage of cleantech with a changing selection of posts organized by energy source. 

Water

*Forbes Column 2008: Hydro-Alchemy

The blog has extensive coverage of Energy Recovery, Inc., which is a leader in seawater reverse osmosis. Major posts on ERI include an interview with its founder, HP Michelet and quarterly coverage of its development as a public company:

*Energy Recovery Shakes Up Dead IPO Market
*Buying Opportunity With ERI

But ERI is not the only player, as Dominique Trempont points out in his series on the many ways in which entrepreneurs are tackling the problem of water shortages. No less important is the need to use, treat and clean the water we do have in a way that does not harm the environment. One startup, Creative Water Solutions, has found a way to clean pools and spas with moss and is developing purification systems for all situations. With his company Hydro Green Energy, hydropower specialist Wayne Krouse uses wave- and current-based hydrokinetics to generate electricity.

Solar

Solar is a thriving industry in California, Germany and Spain. But other states and countries are catching up. Of course, much work remains, and Forbes Column 2008: How To Heat Up Solar discusses what must be done to encourage the widespread use of solar energy in all countries, especially India and China.

Coverage continues with companies such as SunRun, which is using new business models to make solar energy affordable for more people: in SunRun’s model, customers do not own the solar systems but pay the company a fixed price for the electricity they generate. Sungevity, led by Greenpeace veteran Danny Kennedy, uses the Internet to cut delivery and installation costs in San Francisco. But not all the action is in California: in Green Grants To Xunlight: CEO Xunming Deng, Xunming explains how he used government and other grants at the University of Ohio to build a business that has significantly lowered the cost of manufacturing solar equipment.

There is also coverage of more established players like Tom Werner and his company SunPower.

And even old dogs can learn new tricks. Forty-year-old Applied Materials Inc., the biggest supplier of tools for making microchips, added solar cell manufacturing to its repertoire in 2007, and is equipping its Sunnyvale research center in Silicon Valley with one of the largest sun-powered energy systems in the United States.

Smart Grids and Distribution Technology

Alternative energy may grab more public attention and media coverage, but making existing energy technologies and processes more efficient is an equally viable path for entrepreneurs to follow, and one that is as necessary as creating new ways to generate energy. In addition to finding better ways to distribute energy, entrepreneurs and others must challenge the often outdated policies that govern utilities, as discussed in Forbes Column 2009: The Smart-Grid Dilemma.

My interview with Cree Edwards, CEO of eMeter, sheds more light on the inefficiency built into the utilities industry and how to challenge it.

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