Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why Did Global Warming Tip?

Chris Mooney writes a thoughtful, two-part piece that digs into just why and how global warming got its groove.

While Gore's passion on the topic certainly played a key role, Mooney notes that a variety of factors led to global warming's current position on everyone's hot list. (Forgive me.)

Mooney points to data compiled by Matthew Nisbet, a professor at the School of Communication at American University. Nisbet analyzed coverage in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and used the Lexis-Nexis database to examine how much attention these two outlets have paid to global warming over more than two decades. His analysis shows that political events (such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol) drove spikes. But 2005 saw a big jump in interest, which Nisbet attributes to a variety of factors: "the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, a record temperature year globally, and most of all, Hurricane Katrina." Katrina, along with Gore, turn out to be our global warming superstars.

Mooney's article is an interesting study in the multiple factors that can drive an issue to the tipping point and how the subtle shifts in framing an issue can influence media coverage, and hence the public.

Clean Tech Revolution

I remember working with Clint Wilder years ago, when he was writing for Computerworld and then later for Corporate Computing. Somewhere along the way, I lost track of him. Apparently (judging from his bio) he made the smart move to writing about clean technologies for a firm called Clean Edge, "a research and publishing firm helping companies, investors, and governments understand and profit from clean technologies."

He's recently authored a book (above) about the billions being invested in clean technologies, with the thesis that it's now solidly in the business mainstream. The book is getting some good buzz. Read the BusinessWeek review here and other reviews and background at the book's website.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Nuvera Relocates and Expands in Mass.

Nuvera is on the move. The company announced this week that it will move its headquarters, currently located in Cambridge, to Billerica, Mass., by the end of the week.

Nuvera has extensively renovated its new home on Concord Road, which features over 110,000 square feet - a mix of manufacturing space, R&D labs and offices.

The move comes in support of Nuvera's increase in production, training and customer service in anticipation of its commercial release of three products in 2008, according to the company.

"Nuvera is proud to be an alternative energy company based in Massachusetts. This move shows both the investment we have made in ensuring our progress towards commercialization, along with the support the Commonwealth has provided us, allowing us to expand here in the state. Our new facility makes it possible for us to substantially increase the focus on downstream activities to assure a quality introduction of our products in 2008" said Roberto Cordaro, President and CEO of Nuvera Fuel Cells, Inc.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Economics of Renewable Energy

Daniel Gross presents a thoughtful piece on alternative energy in yesterday's New York Times. The article explores the economics and complex relationship between (sometimes subsidized) renewable energy projects versus traditional energy production. Bush has called for the nation to replace 20% of gasoline with ethanol in 10 years.

The government talk is being backed by action and policy. The federal government offers a 51-cent-a-gallon tax credit to ethanol producers and maintains a 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on ethanol imported from Brazil. More than 20 states have so-called renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that utilities derive a fixed percentage of their power from renewable sources.

The Renewable Fuels Association says that the 85 ethanol projects now under construction would more than double the existing capacity of six billion gallons a year by the end of 2008.

The American Petroleum Institute feels it would be preferable to leave it all to market forces. Gross detail how government investment in new technologies has worked in the past, and can in the future.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MIT Energy Competition - Ignite Clean Energy!

RSI Silicon, a materials company that has developed a low-cost process for making solar-grade silicon, walked away the big winner at last night's Ignite Clean Energy Business Presentation Competition. RSI Silicon won the grand prize -- $25,000 in cash plus other goodies (rent, legal services) for a total prize value of $111,000. The company also won The Peoples' Choice award, which attendees at yesterday's event could vote on.

Other winners included:
  • Second place, student -- Bagazo, which aims to develop self-sustaining cooking fuel generation, using agricultural waste, for developing countries
  • Second place, professional -- Fox2 Technologies, which is developing new sensor technology for airplane and trucking operators that improves fuel efficiency by more than 5 percent, while also reducing carbon emissions.
  • Third place, student -- C3 BioEnergy, which is working on manufacturing renewable propane and a hydrogen byproduct from biomass feedstocks
  • Third place, professional -- GreenRay, which is developing a plug-and-play, solar-electric system for the simple installation of solar power to common residences.
(Thanks to Mass High Tech for the descriptions of these companies; many of them don't yet have websites.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Evergreen Solar to Build $150M Facility in Mass.

Last week, Evergreen Solar (Marboro, Mass.) announced that its Board of Directors has approved construction of a new $150 million facility. The new operation will increase the firm’s production capacity in Massachusetts by 70 MW and double its employee base in the state to more than 600 employees.

Evergreen Solar is known for its proprietary String Ribbon™ wafer technology for solar power. According to the company, annual sales have increased fourfold to approximately $100 million through a joint venture in Europe.

The company also announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2007. Total worldwide sales of String Ribbon product were $40.2 million in the first quarter, including $27.6 million of sales from EverQ, Evergreen Solar’s joint venture with Q-Cells A.G. and Renewable Energy Corporation ASA.

Just yesterday, the company announced a new corporate re-branding program, a new logo and a new tag line: “Think Beyond." The new logo seems to suggest a string ribbon look, playing on the company's trademarked technology descriptor. It replaced Evergreen's original identity, featuring an evergreen tree and the sun.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Toro Workman Powered by Nuvera Fuel Cells

Last week, Cambridge-based Nuvera announced that Toro (NYSE: TTC), the $1.8 billion vendor of "outdoor beautification products," has selected Nuvera's PowerFlow™ PFV-5 fuel cell system for integration into a Toro® Workman® utility vehicle. (Think golf courses, professional landscaping or consumers who are way too obsessed about their really big yards.)

The Nuvera-powered Workman is being developed under a contract between Toro and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create the next generation of turf maintenance equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The vehicle will be demonstrated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP) as part of their “Green Parks Program.” You might catch a glimpse of these vehicles if your vacation travels take you to Niagara Falls State Park or Beaver Island State Park and Golf Course -- two parks where they are slated for use.

An aside: Toro's "About Us" descriptor presents its products in a green light: "From water-conserving irrigation products and Earth-friendly tools to convenient ways to preserve and enhance your surroundings, we're committed to you and your environment."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Protonex Snaps Up Mesoscopic Devices

Protonex, a fuel cell system pioneer with a heavy focus on the military sector, has entered into an agreement to acquire Mesoscopic Devices, an industry leader in solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, fuel reforming and desulfurization systems for a total consideration of $12.4 million.

Protonex cites a number of synergies resulting from the deal. The SOFC technologies will enable Protonex fuel cell systems to take advantage of multiple fuels, including propane, gasoline, diesel and JP8.

Mesoscopic Devices' SOFC technology complements that of Protonex, which are based on high-performance proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology. Protonex believes that both technologies have advantages and applications.

This deal comes on the heels of Protonex $3.5 million contract (March 16) with the US Army Research Office to develop a 250-watt portable fuel cell power source that is significantly smaller, lighter, quieter and more efficient than alternative battery or generator systems. This brings the total value of the company's secured government development or joint development contracts to more than $11 million.