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Thursday, November 30, 2006

NJCEP November 2006 CORE Queue Updates

November 2006 updates are available on New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program™ (NJCEP, website.

CORE Queue > 10kw Nov 22, 2006 update was released Wednesday or Thursday. The CORE Queue <= 10kw Nov 22, 2006 was released but incorrectly points to the same file as CORE Queue > 10kw at the time of this post. I alerted NJCEP about this error early Thursday afternoon, but there was no correction or response by the end of the business day.

A quick glance at the CORE Queue > 10kw indicates a number of backlog applications have been approved using the $48.5 million budget allotment on September 14, 2006. This queue deserves detailed market analysis.

The CORE Activity Update shows cumulative solar installations in New Jersey to date through October 15, 2006. Since the last update through August 23, 2006, there have been 175 new installations for 4669.5 kWp of system capacity and $18,324,417 in solar rebates.

An ACP Request For Public Comment is available for review and comment by December 11, 2006. I suggest reading the proposal for alternative compliance payments (ACPs) and solar alternative compliance payments (SAPCs) in Energy Years 2008 and 2009-2010.

DEAL! Solarvalue AG purchase receives final approval

Slovenian Authorities approve purchase of TDR – Metalurgija

Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( announced the completion of the deal today. The TDR facility is now owned by WP Profil Solarvalue Holding d.o.o., a joint venture between W&P Profil d.o.o with 51% and Solarvalue AG with 49%. The contract deed of sale had been signed by Holding Slovenske elektrarne (HSE) back on October 27, 2006.

At a Press Conference on November 17, 2006, Solarvalue discussed their near term plans, solar grade silicon production process, and strategy. Please see Solarvalue discusses plans and process. Solarvalue expects the first solar grade silicon (SGS) to be available in the spring 2007 and plans to produce 850 metric tons of solar grade silicon by year end 2007. Expected production capacity by year end 2008 is 4,400 metric tons of solar grade silicon.

If you want to learn more about Solarvalue AG from other sources, I suggest reading the independent research report, Polysilicon: Supply, Demand & Implications for the PV Industry (free registration required for download), from The Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development or this pay to play independent research report from Performaxx Research GmbH.

Solarvalue AG will have a shareholder conference call tomorrow, December 1, 2006, from 11 AM to 12 Noon CET (Central European Time). You can read the details in the Solarvalue Press release on their website (English, Deutsch).

This completes another open issue I hoped would be addressed at the Berlin Press Conference on November, 17, 2006. I’ll have to consider dialing in to see if Solarvalue discloses their strategic investors.

TDR stands for Tovarna dušika Ruše and refers to the entire factory complex where the TDR facility is located. Taxi drivers in Maribor, Slovenia, know TDR by this longer name behind the acronym.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Photovoltaic Market Situation - Must Read RE INSIDER Column

Price Decrease and Consolidation: The Solar PV Supply Chain

In this week’s RE INSIDER Column on,
Edwin Koot, Founder and CEO of, has written a pragmatic article about the current state of the PV Industry, Price Decrease and Consolidation: The Solar PV Supply Chain.

Mr. Koot has more original PV market articles on the SolarPlaza site well worth reading:
Spanish market in need of permits
PV in Italy: sunny future but slow and chaotic start (also on REA)

I am pleased to see some confirmation of my own observations in the following posts:
7. Forum Solarpraxis
German Market for Solar Modules soft
3rd PV Industry Forum at the EU PVSEC: Cost, Cost, Cost and Price / Politics (pro version on REA)

I heard Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP) talked about lowering solar module prices by 5% in their Third Quarter 2006 Conference Call (I haven’t listened to it myself yet). This confirms my intuition that Suntech Power was lowering solar module prices in the US while other solar module manufacturers were raising prices in October 2006. I think Suntech Power is looking to gain market share and maintain lean inventories in a market with increasing solar module supply and tempered demand growth.

I was surprised to read how optimistic Jesse W. Pichel, Sr. Research Analyst, PiperJaffray (Piper Jaffray Companies, NYSE:PJC), was about the PV industry in his November 22, 2006 Industry Note, German Update From Solarpraxis; Solar Demand Stronger Than Anticipated.

GP Note: I could not find a link to Suntech Power’s Third Quarter 2006 Conference Call webcast in the Investor Relations section of their website, and I sent a request to their Investor Relations Team.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Solaria Keeps Solar Technology Secret

While I was in the hall outside the standing room only Concentrating PV: Ready for Market? session (download the repeat teleconference) at Solar Power 2006, I bumped into Marc van Gerven, Vice President Marketing, with Solaria Corporation. Shutout from the session, we agreed to accelerate an afternoon interview.

Establishing the ground rules, Solaria will not disclose details about their low concentration solar technology before they are ready for mass production. Solaria has developed an IP (Intellectual Property) portfolio of their technology, and Solaria will only disclose their technology under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with customers, investors, and partners. Even then, I heard from sources that Solaria will only disclose their technology on a need to know basis.

The Solaria team is now setting up an automated pilot production line in Fremont, and the experience gained will quicken mass production. Products based on their technology have proven performance but need extensive validation for reliability and endurance before commercialization. Customers expect solar modules to last a minimum of 25 years with or without Solaria’s low concentration technology.

Per Mr. van Gerven, Solaria has a product centric business model; they are not an IP licensing company. Solaria will operate with a low capital investment, contract manufacturing model using manufacturing partners to produce their products. Solaria anticipates product launch in the first half of 2007.

Here is a succinct and vague description from the September 19, 2006, Solaria press release with my bold emphasis:

Solaria, based in Fremont, CA, has developed a breakthrough technology to deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar PV solutions. The company’s unique low-concentration (2-3X) technology platform enables solar companies to produce two to three times the number of modules from the same amount of silicon material used in today’s conventional cells and modules. The company’s technology fits seamlessly into the existing PV supply chain; has the same form, fit, and function of traditional solar PV offerings; and can be deployed in a range of commercial, industrial and residential rooftop and ground-mounted applications.

More facts on Solaria’s low-concentration PV technology are revealed in this UPI article, Solar World: Concentrators in PV clothing (by Leah Krauss):

"Solaria's technology, unlike most other solar concentration technologies, does not require mirrors, moving parts, or tracking systems" to follow the sun's movement across the sky, wrote Suvi Sharma, Solaria’s CEO.

"At a systems level, the goal is to have systems where the cost of the energy produced will be 20 percent to 30 percent below that of a standard solar PV system," Mr. Sharma said.

"Additionally, we have a 5-megawatt production line in the (San Francisco) Bay Area, and will be completing our reliability test program with our partners in the field," he said.

Solaria was co-founded by Leslie A. Danziger in 1998 as a spinout company from LightPath Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:LPTH) which originally held a 15% stake in Solaria. Ms. Danziger was the co-founder, CEO, and Chairwoman of LightPath. Investor Relations at LightPath confirmed that Solaria’s exclusive license to proprietary GRADIUM® optics in the field of solar energy has expired.

So what low concentration technology has Solaria developed? First, it seems clear Solaria has developed an imaging or non-imaging optical solution using one half or one third as many solar cells as a standard solar module to produce the same number of Watts. A holographic optical solution is possible but would be a radical departure from Solaria’s technology roots. I suspect the Solaria solution may share principles with GRADIUM, but materials and manufacturing processes diverge. The following excerpt from a job description on the Solaria website indicates the importance of polymers:

Solaria requires a senior polymer engineer as a key member of the product development team. Solaria’s photovoltaic technology is designed for outdoor exposure in solar modules. Our photovoltaic technology contains a number of different polymers designed to provide structure, encapsulation, optics, and adhesion.

While Moser Baer’s investment in Solaria does not guarantee their selection as a manufacturing partner, I suspect Moser Baer India Limited (BOM:517140) core competencies in polycarbonate molding and thin film deposition from disc-making are significant factors behind their investment in Solaria.

Beyond speculative punditry, key questions arise about Solaria’s technology and compatible solar cell and module design.

  • Are standard sized silicon solar cells compatible with Solaria’s technology or must the cells be made to specific, smaller dimensions?
  • Given Q-Cells investment, do off the shelf Q-Cells solar cells work with the Solaria solution or are custom sized string ribbon cells from EverQ GmbH, a joint venture between Q-Cells AG (FRA:QCE), Evergreen Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:ESLR), and Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (OSL:REC) better suited?
  • Do back contact or low resistance solar cells perform better with the Solaria low concentration solution?
  • Which layer(s) of the standard solar module will Solaria’s product offering(s) replace?
  • Do Solaria’s optics attach directly to the solar cells, perhaps to minimize the critical angle of total internal reflection?

By the way, Solaria was the sixth unnamed company in the Q-Cells presentation, Driving the PV industry towards competitiveness, at the 3rd PV Industry Forum in Dresden, Germany, on September 6, 2006.

Despite my best efforts to court informed sources, I have been unable to pierce Solaria’s Cone of Silence. It appears I will also have to wait for Solaria’s product launch next year, but I will keep trying.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Solarvalue discusses plans and process

The Next Steps - Press Conference

Last week on November 17, 2006, Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( held a coming out press conference coincident with the 7. Forum Solarpraxis in Berlin, Germany.

Of the three open areas I wanted to learn more about (see previous post), Solarvalue addressed one in detail disclosing their near term plans, solar grade silicon production process, and strategy.

Solarvalue CEO Claudia Boehringer said, “We are expecting the authorities to approve our purchase of the TDR plant before the end of November. As soon as we have that approval, we will immediately begin converting the existing metallurgical factory to produce silicon. Keeping the current, experienced staff and management will enable us to begin producing solar grade silicon in just six months.”

Solarvalue elaborated on their relationship with joint venture partner W&P Profil d.o.o. Although W&P Profil will own 51% and Solarvalue Production d.d. 49% of TDR – Metalurgija, Solarvalue Production d.d. will be a separate legal entity with dedicated management and independent decision control regarding solar grade silicon production.

“We will begin by setting up the 12 MW M5 arc furnace for silicon production. At temperatures of 2,200 °C, the furnace is used for the reduction of high-purity quartz with high-purity carbon to produce metallurgical silicon of 99.9+% purity.” said John Mott, Chief Operating Officer of Solarvalue Production d.d. This will be Process I of the enhanced Solarvalue Method. In Process II, several refining steps involve re-melting silicon in induction furnaces, and directional solidification to remove heavy metals and most of the phosphorus. Special slags are added to bind other impurities including boron, carbon, and oxygen. Process III uses a special temperature profile during directional solidification to further reduce the impurity levels of boron and phosphorus to achieve high-quality solar grade silicon.

Solarvalue expects the first solar grade silicon (SGS) to be available in the spring 2007 and plans to produce 850 metric tons of solar grade silicon by year end 2007. Expected production capacity in 2008 is 4,400 metric tons of solar grade silicon. In terms of material, 12.5 metric tons of quartz will be needed to yield one (1) metric ton of solar grade silicon. Solarvalue claims the Solarvalue Method will enable solar grade silicon to be produced at half the cost of polysilicon from the industry standard Siemens process. Here is a video bite (on YouTube) with John Mott answering a question about why the Solarvalue Method is cheaper than the Siemens process.

“In the first six months, strategic investors will provide 20 million for setting up the production of solar grade silicon,” said Strategy Advisor Joerg Duske. One strategic investor from India has a technology expertise focus, while the second strategic investor from Europe is obtaining a stake in the TDR Ruse plant to secure silicon for solar cell production. An additional 10 million investment will be required in 2008 to complete the 4,400 metric ton capacity ramp. Later, Solarvalue may forward integrate ingot and wafer production from solar grade silicon at the TDR facility in Ruse, Slovenia.

You can read the Solarvalue Press Conference release on the DGAP ad hoc service (English, Deutsch).

Although there are other possibilities, could the strategic investor from India be Moser Baer India Limited (BOM:517140)?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

7. Forum Solarpraxis

German solar photovoltaic market growing only 10% in 2006

I just got back from the 7. Forum Solarpraxis in Berlin, Germany, held November 16-17, 2006.

Organized by Solarpraxis AG (FRA:SPA), the Forum Solarpraxis is a solar conference focused on non-technical topics including policy, market development, finance, marketing, and sales. The 7. Forum event agenda can be viewed here. While Solarpraxis is best known for their technical publications, Solarpraxis also offers integrated communications, technical services, and conference forums regarding Solar, Thermal, and Bio energy.

At the Forum press conference, Solarpraxis CEO Karl-Heinz Remmers, aka "Dr. Sonne" (The Sun Doctor), discussed Solar Forum improvements for 2006 such as Analyst Conferences for nine significant German solar companies and real time English translation. The official language of the Forum Solarpraxis is German, but the real time translation service was robust, and questions could also be asked in English. Mr. Remmers has ambitions to create the largest Analyst Conference dedicated to Renewable Energy complementing the Forum Solarpraxis agenda. In addition, Mr. Remmers discussed near term plans to extend the Solarpraxis platform to Spain with United States expansion also possible.

Carsten Körnig, Managing Director, with the German Solar Industry Association (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft, BSW), expected the German market to grow by about 10% from 600 MWp to 660 MWp in 2006. I asked Mr. Körnig about international market growth, and he said he wasn’t sure but thought it was double digit anywhere between 10-15% and 30+%.

Outside the forum, it wasn’t difficult to engage new business acquaintances on the status of the German solar market. At dinner, I spoke with a module manufacturer and an entrepreneur. The module manufacturer expected a price correction of 10-15% by the first quarter of 2007. However, the entrepreneur believed there might be as much as 400 MWp (perhaps the October 2006 PHOTON International editorial by Michael Schmela was his source?) of solar photovoltaic modules in inventory and predicted a drastic correction across the value chain by March 2007 impacting wafer and cell manufacturers as well.

In the Analyst conferences, Sunways AG (FRA:SWW), a vertically integrated manufacturer from cell and modules to inverters and systems, provided insights into the tribulations facing a medium sized, forward integrated system solution company during the German market slowdown. Solar cell material costs have surged from 65% to 87% driven by higher wafer and polysilicon prices reducing solar module margins. Higher module prices have contributed to solar module inventory build in Sunways' warehouses, but Sunways CEO Roland Burkhardt predicted module inventories would be reduced in the fourth quarter 2006 as the solar market transitioned from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market.

Since German market growth has slowed and growth markets in Spain, Italy, California, and Asia have not compensated, the solar module inventory build must impact solar wafer and cell manufacturers at some point. Right now, solar module manufacturers, distributors, and system integrators are left holding the inventory. Is this the result of take or pay contracts propagating from silicon suppliers through to the solar module channel?

One thing I didn’t expect from the 7. Forum Solarpraxis was to eat so well. Besides a continental breakfast, coffee breaks, and lunch, there was also a dinner the first evening. My top suggestion to the Solarpraxis team is to make the event a no smoking affair; this will help prevent annoying carcinogenic greenhouse gas emissions and promote healthy lungs!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

SOLON AG CEO Kicks PV Blogger Out of Analyst Conference

[Berlin, Germany]

I am in Berlin today attending the 7. Forum Solarpraxis. After reviewing the program, I decided to attend the Analyst Conferences of Q-Cells AG, ErSol Solar Energy AG, and SolarWorld AG. Since the presentations and questions were interesting as I expected, I decided to remain for the SOLON AG fuer Solartechnik (FRA:SOO1) presentation. Before the presentation began, someone from SOLON AG went around the room checking if you were an invited analyst. Anyone not invited was shown the door. As I was leaving, I asked for the gentleman’s business card so I could cite him by name in the Blog. Although I expected he was from Investor or Public Relations, the bouncer was SOLON AG CEO Thomas Krupke!

I complained to the Solarpraxis AG (FRA:SPA) folks about this, but the analyst sessions are open or closed at the discretion of each company. By the way, I am thankful to the Solarpraxis team for the quick approval of my accreditation.

But I did get a copy of the SOLON handout before being ejected. So here are estimated numbers from the handout without table formatting. I have no idea if these are new or reiterations of previous guidance.

Development of SOLON’s Product Portfolio (e means estimated)
Solar modules 2006e 70% 2007e 60%
SOLON Mover 2006e 30% 2007e 40%
Total output 2006e 84MWp 2007e >100MWp (108-110?)
Export ratio 2006e 35% 2007e 40%

Key Financials SOLON Group 2006e (in million Euro)
Revenue 300-350
EBITDA 27-31
EBIT 21-25
EBT 18-22
Net result 12-14
Earnings per share 1.30-1.50

What are you hiding Herr Krupke?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 2

In Part 2, I profile six (6) more early stage solar companies who pitched their business plans at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum.

Combined CPV and Heat

Ascendant Energy Company, Inc. is commercializing the Low Concentration Solar Cogenerator™ module to extract electricity and heat from sunlight. The Solar Cogenerator uses a faceted trough concentrator to focus sunlight onto silicon solar cells laminated to a heat sink with active cooling. CEO Chris Strata claims the Solar Cogenerator increases solar electric power 5.5 times and thermal power 25 times versus unconcentrated silicon solar cells. Ascendant worked with Spire Corporation (SPIR) to develop a prototype. Ascendant is targeting commercial and enterprise customers with large flat roofs and plans beta installations in 2007. Ascendant is seeking $2 Million Series A funding to begin pilot production.

HelioDynamics, Inc. has developed Combined Heat and Power solar concentration collectors with trough arranged reflectors that track and focus sunlight onto a receiver with silicon solar cells. Water is used to cool the receiver and deliver heat for hot water, heating, or cooling applications. HelioDynamics has two versions of the product. Harmony is a 1-axis solar collector delivering 1.5kW of electricity and 10kW of heat or 12kW of heat only. Concerto has 2-axis tracking and can drive a 125kW generator or turbine with heat only. CEO Anders Jepsen is targeting commercial and industrial customers and off-grid installations in sun rich locations. HelioDynamics is seeking $2 Million Series A funding to move from beta testing to pilot production.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).

Los Alamos Renewable Energy, LLC (LARE) has developed a solar power plant which generates electricity and fuel during sunny days and burns fuel at night or as required. The SOLAREC, Solar Reduction of Carbon Dioxide, process uses a mirror array dish to concentrate sunlight onto a football sized receiver to heat CO2 driving a gas turbine and producing CO (carbon monoxide). The CO is used to produce hydrogen fuel and byproduct CO2 is reprocessed so the SOLAREC process is carbon neutral. LARE claims the process is almost 48% efficient, and a 100 square meter mirror dish system should yield about 25 kW of electricity and the equivalent of 24 kW as fuel. LARE is targeting off-grid and on-grid power plant sized applications scaling from 4 dishes on up to leverage large centralized turbines.


Apollo Solar, Inc. CEO John Pfeifer is developing grid tied invertors with an integrated battery backup as a follow on product to Apollo’s existing line of charge controllers. Apollo plans a transformerless design to coincide with standard and regulatory changes under slow adoption in the US market. Apollo is seeking $2.5 Million in Series A funding to develop and launch a family of grid tied inverter products.

Thin Films

MWOE Solar, LLC is building a low cost and high speed 2MW pilot production line for flexible thin film silicon (tf-Si) PV modules (sheets). The tf-Si modules are triple junction structures: a-Si (amorphous silicon), a-Si:Ge (Germanium), and a-Si:Ge achieving 8-10% conversion efficiency (12% in the lab). The technology was developed by CEO Dr. Xunming Deng at the University of Toledo. Dr. Deng claims MWOE can build a 100MW plant for $40 million or one-seventh the capital equipment cost of amorphous silicon PV plants today achieving $1 per Watt fully loaded manufacturing cost. The tf-Si modules can be used in building integrated and traditional rooftop PV applications. MWOE Solar is seeking $2 Million in Series A funding to complete the 2MW pilot by March 2007 and will need $20 Million to build a 30MW plant once production scalability has been proven.

Solexant Corp. CEO Damoder Reddy is developing high efficiency, low cost solar cells utilizing the entire solar spectrum including IR (infrared) for rooftop applications. The first generation thin film module will have two layers: a-Si and a nano composite; the second generation will add a layer with IR harvesting nanostructures. Solexant plans to adapt turnkey systems from flat panel manufacturing to achieve $2 per Watt production cost including loaded capital equipment cost. Solexant is seeking $5 Million in Series A funding to complete product development and build a pilot production line.

And that completes the glimpse of solar related companies presenting at the 19th NREL Growth Forum. Overall, I found the forum panel members to be well informed about the technologies, ask relevant questions, and offer useful advice to the presenting companies. Except for one panel member’s suggestion to Apollo Solar CEO Mr. Pfeifer:

I suggest you implement that anti-islanding feature. That sounds like your key differentiator.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Solarvalue AG press event next week

A New Source of Solar Silicon

Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( has announced a major press conference on Friday, November 17, 2006, during the 7. Forum Solarpraxis in Berlin, Germany. The Solarvalue management team will be on hand to discuss their plan to ramp solar grade silicon production at the TDR – Metalurgija facility located in Ruše, Slovenia.

If you haven’t been following the Solarvalue story, I suggest you read the following posts:
Solarvalue signs deal with HSE to purchase TDR – Metalurgija
Solarvalue AG goes Open Market, Tender offer accepted, and Letter of Intent
Secretive solar start-up, Solarvalue AG, reveals solar grade silicon production plans through joint venture bid for TDR-Metalurgija in Ruse, Slovenia or Secretive Solar Start-up Aims for Silicon Production

PHOTON das Solarstrom-Magazin caught up with the Solarvalue story in this article, Mach’s noch einmal John (by Anne Kreutzmann), from the PHOTON November 2006 German issue with appended English translation. I don’t know who did this English translation, but I would translate this title to “Do it again, John”, but no one asked me!

I hope Solarvalue can announce the deal is closed, discuss a detailed implementation timetable, and disclose their strategic investors.

I have received a personal invitation to the event – stay tuned.

You can read the event details in the Solarvalue press release on the DGAP ad hoc service (English, Deutsch).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Splinter going PC not Solar?

This week, the EE Times Water cooler column mentioned a recent report from FBR Research that claims the Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) Board of Directors is searching for a replacement for President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director Michael R. Splinter. EE Times goes on to speculate Mr. Splinter may return to his alma mater, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC).

Given all the acquisitions this year, this seems like strange timing, but the AMAT stock price has been trapped in the $15 to $20 trading range for the past few years.

Come on Mike, stick with Solar or join AMD!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Proceedings ready from 21st EU PVSEC

The Proceedings from the 21st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference have been published. The Proceedings CD-ROM with about 3,500 pages of plenary, oral, and visual presentation content regarding photovoltaic research, market status, and the future of the PV Industry will be sent to full paying participants or can now be purchased for €150 plus shipping using this downloadable form.

Proposition 87 – I vote NO

I agree with the intent but not the implementation.

I promised to take a look at Proposition 87 (Prop 87) after seeing the end of Mr. Khosla’s keynote presentation at Solar Power 2006. California’s General Election is on Tuesday, November 7, 2006.

Prop 87 requires California oil producers to pay an extraction fee known as a severance tax on each barrel of oil pumped from the ground. The $4 Billion generated from the severance tax would finance a program to reduce petroleum consumption in California by 25 percent within ten years through incentives for alternative energy, education, and training and be governed by a new California Energy Alternatives Program Authority. Prop 87 spells out how the funds are allocated.

Impartial nonpartisan analysis of Prop 87 is available from the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund or read the text of the proposed law. Biased viewpoints can be found at YES on 87 and NO on 87.

In my opinion, Prop 87 will result in higher gas prices for Californians in the near term because the severance tax will be passed along to consumers despite sections in the proposition disallowing this practice. The progressive nature of the Prop 87 severance tax would create even higher gas prices when oil is over $60 per barrel. Also, Prop 87 will discourage domestic California oil production and encourage oil imports from the Middle East and Alaska. More imported oil from the Middle East will increase dependence on foreign oil, =not decrease it=. Prop 87 is slanted towards the development of “clean” alternative fuels and vehicles though it gives lip service to renewable energy and energy efficiency. The California Energy Alternatives Program Authority would create a new bureaucracy rife with conflicts of interest, exemption from government checks and balances, lacking accountability, and consisting of an eclectic board from government and business.

Editorials from the Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE have advised California voters to reject Proposition 87. And see the NO on 87 site here for a complete editorial roundup from almost every major newspaper in California lining up against Prop 87.

Besides siding with the NO on 87 side of this proposition, I have a better proposal to achieve the aims based on sound economics. I would impose a hefty $1.00 per gallon gas (diesel or fuel) tax. Since California uses about 16 billion gallons of gasoline per year, this would generate $16 Billion in revenue while discouraging gas consumption and flattening demand growth for oil. As a regressive tax, the $1.00 gas tax should be ramped by 25 cents per year over four (4) years to mitigate the shock to consumers. Furthermore, my gas consumption tax would be structured to encourage the use of alternative fuels as follows:

Alternative Fuel/Gas MixGas Tax
less than 25%$1.00
at least 25%$0.75
at least 50%$0.50
at least 75%$0.25

While revenues from the tax could be invested in research, development, and plant construction for alternative fuels and renewable energy technologies, the revenues could also fund deficit reduction, education, or reduce other taxes in California. This simple structure would bring powerful economic forces into play by creating and encouraging alternatives to oil and establishing a model for the rest of the country to follow.

See Raise the Gas Tax by N. Gregory Mankiw and Raise the Gasoline Tax? Funny, It Doesn’t Sound Republican (NYTimes registration required) for more information on the proponents and benefits of higher gas taxes.

GP Note: I am not a California resident, so I won’t be voting on Prop 87. But I have lived and voted there…

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 1

Eleven (11) early stage solar companies pitched their business plans at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum running the technology gamut from printable polymer inks and Concentrating PhotoVoltaic (CPV) to Combined CPV and Heat, Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), Invertors, and Thin Films.

Printable inks for polymer (organic) solar cells
Plextronics, Inc. is developing semi-conductive and conductive polymers and inks for polymer solar cells and solid state polymer-based white lighting applications. Plextronics envisions printing Plexcore(TM) PV, a p-type semiconductor, onto large area substrates enabling solar cells costing $1 per Watt. The polymer solar cell inks are still in the research and development phase backed by government funding. OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) and RFID tags are closer to commercialization; the challenge remains making the polymers and inks more durable. I congratulate Plextronics for winning the 2006 Clean Energy Entrepreneur of the Year Award, but I admonish them for not having a representative present to accept the prize at the Awards Luncheon.

Concentrating PhotoVoltaic (CPV)
GreenVolts, Inc. Founder and CEO Bob Cart plans to deliver the lowest cost utility scale photovoltaic electricity. GreenVolts has developed a High Concentration PhotoVoltaic (HCPV) system using an Off-Axis Microdish aluminum reflector mirror to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver with a III-V multijunction (MJC) terrestrial solar cell delivering up to 26Wp (Watt peak). The mirror optical coating technology is under exclusive license from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Thirty (30) quad Microdish modules will be arrayed on the CarouSOL, a two-axis sun tracker, for high power density installations. GreenVolts is seeking $4 to $5 Million in Series A funding and plans product development in 2007 and 2008 pilot production.

Enfocus Engineering Corporation CEO Dr. Jason Lu is developing a High Concentration PV system, Diamond Power(TM), with a stationary module form factor to address traditional PV rooftop installations. Inside the module, 2-axis tracking keeps the equivalent of 100-1000 suns concentrated on an interlinked array of III-V MJC solar cells. Diamond Power modules will deliver 40-100% more power at lower production and installation costs than equivalent area silicon solar modules. Enfocus is seeking $2.5 Million Series A funding to complete product development and begin pilot production.

Prism Solar Technologies Inc. has developed transparent holographic optical elements (HOE) to enable planar Low Concentration PV modules. Stacked holograms use angular multiplexing of incident sunlight for passive tracking with fixed solar modules, and the holograms select sunlight spectra to optimize solar electric conversion. President and CEO Rick Lewandowski claims their holographic technology can produce the same solar module power output with 50-85% less solar cells lowering cost per Watt. Prism’s hologram technology enables the effective utilization of bifacial solar cells which convert incident light on both sides of the solar cell into electricity. Prism is working with partner, Hitachi, Ltd. (NYSE:HIT), to design a module using their bifacial photovoltaic solar cells to deliver maximum power output, presumably with incident sunlight on one side of the module. Prism Solar is seeking $6.2 Million in funding for module production and to establish a European manufacturing joint venture for holographic film, glass, or film inlay production.

Stellaris Corporation has developed passive Low Concentration PV ClearPower(TM) technology to improve the appearance and performance of solar modules. While VP, Business Development, Lee Johnson would not discuss the technology in detail, he did say ClearPower concentrates at a 3:1 ratio using parabolic lenses and delivers over 20% more power while decreasing module cost by 40% with one third (or 67% less) of the PV material. Unlike high concentration CPV approaches, ClearPower utilizes both direct and diffuse light and can be deployed in insolation challenged locations like Germany or the Northeast US. The Energy Blog at the Fraser Domain had the scoop on the Stellaris technology before the Cone of Silence dropped. ClearPower has a “clear” advantage by appearing transparent outside the 60 degree acceptance angle of the parabolic lenses and can be used for rooftop, skylight, and vertical wall applications. Stellaris is seeking $5.8 Million in Series A funding to finalize development and complete a pilot production line.

The following alternate companies presented at the forum:
Avālence, LLC
Los Alamos Renewable Energy, LLC
Wilson Turbopower Industrial Heat Exchangers (from 2005).

Because these originally selected companies withdrew for unknown reasons:
Clean Energy Systems, Inc.
Green Flight
Ribbon Technology International Single-crystal Ribbon PV (from 2005).

In Part 2, I will provide an overview of the following solar start up companies at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum:

Combined CPV and Heat
Ascendant Energy Company, Inc.
HelioDynamics, Inc.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
Los Alamos Renewable Energy, LLC

Apollo Solar, Inc.

Thin Films
Solexant Corp.

Warning – shameless self promotion a la Andy Wibbels.
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