Monday, March 31, 2008

1336 Technologies: $12M raised for a solar start-up

Solar technology startup 1336 Technologies, Inc. announced the close of its first round of institutional venture capital financing, receiving $12 million.

1336 Technologies is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinout company that has a new cell architecture that uses low-cost fabrication methods to increase the efficiency of multi-crystalline solar cells.

Plans include building industrial-scale, 100 megawatt plants around the world. Their architecture, developed at MIT, improves surface texture and metallization to enhance silicon solar cell efficiency by 25% (from 15 - 19%) while lowering costs. 1366 Technologies will partner with solar companies and government agencies, licensing its technology to accelerate the ongoing global transition to solar.

North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners co-led the funding round. The company said it would use the proceeds for further development and to acquire manufacturing space.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Renault-Nissan & Project Better Place announce strategy of Zero-Emission Vehicles in Denmark

The Renault-Nissan Alliance actively supports the initiative of Project Better Place, which announced today its second deployment in Denmark.

Renault will provide Danish customers with 100% electric vehicles at European standards in 2011, providing zero emission mobility while at the same time offering driving performance similar to a gasoline engine.

Nissan, through its joint venture with NEC, has created an advanced lithium-ion battery pack that both meets the requirements of this electric vehicle and can be mass-produced.

In Denmark, the conditions necessary for electric vehicles to be successfully mass-marketed are being brought together. The Danish government will provide tax incentives on 100% electric vehicles, Renault will supply the electric vehicles and, Better Place Denmark will construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country.

This announcement follows the January 21st 2008 signature of an MOU in Jerusalem by Renault and Project Better Place for the first mass-marketed electric vehicles. This second deployment illustrates the major role played by the Renault-Nissan Alliance to bring to mass market zero-emission cars.

Labels: , ,

European Commission authorises GM maize GA21

The European Commission today adopted a Decision authorising the GM maize GA21 for feed and food use and for import and processing. In fact, the placing on the market of food and feed produced from GA21 is already authorised in the EU.

Today's Decision extends the authorisation of products derived from GA21 to maize grains and thus allows imports from third countries where this GMO is cultivated. GA21 is not approved for cultivation in the EU. GA21 maize received a positive safety assessment from EFSA and underwent the full authorisation procedure set out under EU legislation. As Member States did not reach a qualified majority for or against this authorisation in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, and then in the Council. The proposal was therefore sent back to the Commission for decision.

The authorisation is valid for 10 years, and any products produced from this GMO will be subject to the EU's strict labelling and traceability rules.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Patagonia is First to Track Environmental and Social Impact of Its Products

'The Footprint Chronicles' Website Launches with Unprecedented Corporate Transparency

Patagonia is the first major apparel manufacturer to track and expose the social and environmental impact of specific garments through The Footprint Chronicles, an interactive website that reveals to consumers the good and the bad involved in manufacturing outdoor clothing such as Synchilla fleece vests and rain shells. In a bold move that might make most companies nervous, Patagonia is determined to be candid and forthright about its impact on the environment and created the site to encourage dialog with its customers who are concerned about the environment.

"We believe that to avoid complacency, we must constantly examine our internal processes to improve upon the positive and mitigate the negative," said Casey Sheahan, president and CEO of Patagonia. "The Footprint Chronicles allows us to do this publicly -- sort of learning out loud." He points out that the idea behind the website is to encourage thought and discussion. Each season the site will examine new products, so that the more that is exposed, the more harmful practices the company can change. Five new products will be added on Earth Day, 2008.

"Our customers are scientists, activists, professors, doctors and more -- they have the collective experience and knowledge we're looking for," said Sheahan. "We're highlighting exactly what happens in the manufacturing process and asking customers for their suggestions and help in efforts to find solutions to our less sustainable practices. It's a unique dialogue to engage in -- but one that will ultimately allow us to cause less harm to the planet."

According to Jill Dumain, Patagonia's director of environmental programs, the research involved in developing the Chronicles has proved to actually drive major business decisions at Patagonia.

"The Chronicles revealed that transportation makes up only about 1 percent of our overall energy use," said Dumain. "Had we listened to the current media buzz touting transportation as the largest factor in energy consumption, we might have greatly misplaced our efforts by making strides to geographically shorten our supply chain -- which would have massively impacted our business financially, logistically and perhaps even effected product quality -- and we would only have reduced our energy savings by 1 percent. Instead, we are focusing our energy on areas where we can truly make a difference -- right in the heart of the manufacturing process."

The launch of The Footprint Chronicles puts into practice a prototype that they hope will inspire other companies to increase their transparency, and at the very least, raise awareness.

"We've been in business long enough to know that if we can reduce or eliminate a harm, other businesses will be eager to follow suit," said Sheahan. "Many companies will be pleasantly surprised that when they delve into their manufacturing processes, they will be able to present a balanced expose of their practices. Customers will appreciate their honesty and reward them for it."

The Footprint Chronicles includes more than 35 filmed interviews and slideshows of factory workers, farmers, owners, designers and third-party auditors to provide an unprecedented level of transparency both internally and externally -- from the factories and manufacturing partners that create its products, to the end of the product's lifespan.

About Patagonia

Patagonia, with sales last year of over $280M, is noted internationally for its commitment to product quality and environmental activism. Incorporating environmental responsibility in to product development, the company has, since 1996, used only organically grown cotton in its clothing line. With its most recent launch of synthetic fiber-to-fiber recycling -- Patagonia is taking back worn-out polyester and nylon clothing and reincarnating it as new products, forever capturing the raw materials used in making virgin fiber.


Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thenergo to invest in a jatropha nuts power plant

Thenergo, a developer of combined heat and power (CHP) energy systems, said it will invest 11 million € to develop a CHP plant at Merksplas, Belgium, to be fuelled by jatropha nuts.

Thenergo claims the 'Greenpower' project will be operational for up to 8,000 hours per year, or approximately 11 months of the year, generating 6MWth of heat for two industrial partners, and 9MWe of electricity for the equivalent of 20,000 households.

The unit is expected to be operational in February 2009.

Greenpower is a joint venture between Thenergo, the majority shareholder and operator, and the Quirynen and the Dielis families.

Greenpower will run on bio-oil extracted from the nuts of the jatropha plant. The jatropha nut is a non-edible fruit grown on semi-arid or waste land in South East Asia.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Australia: UltraBattery sets new standard for hybrid electric vehicles

The odometer of a low emission hybrid electric test vehicle today reached 100,000 miles as the car circled a track in the UK using the power of an advanced CSIRO battery system.

The UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery in a single unit, creating a hybrid car battery that lasts longer, costs less and is more powerful than current technologies used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

“The UltraBattery is a leap forward for low emission transport and uptake of HEVs,” said David Lamb, who leads low emissions transport research with the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship.

“Previous tests show the UltraBattery has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50 per cent more power than conventional battery systems. It’s also about 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries currently used in HEVs,” he said.

By marrying a conventional fuel-powered engine with a battery to drive an electric motor, HEVs achieve the dual environmental benefit of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

The UltraBattery also has the ability to provide and absorb charge rapidly during vehicle acceleration and braking, making it particularly suitable for HEVs, which rely on the electric motor to meet peak power needs during acceleration and can recapture energy normally wasted through braking to recharge the battery.

Over the past 12 months, a team of drivers has put the UltraBattery to the test at the Millbrook Proving Ground in the United Kingdom, one of Europe’s leading locations for the development and demonstration of land vehicles.

“Passing the 100,000 miles mark is strong evidence of the UltraBattery's capabilities,” Mr Lamb said.

“CSIRO’s ongoing research will further improve the technology’s capabilities, making it lighter, more efficient and capable of setting new performance standards for HEVs.”

The UltraBattery test program for HEV applications is the result of an international collaboration. The battery system was developed by CSIRO in Australia, built by the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan and tested in the United Kingdom through the American-based Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.

UltraBattery technology also has applications for renewable energy storage from wind and solar. CSIRO is part of a technology start-up that will develop and commercialise battery-based storage solutions for these energy sources.

Labels: , , ,