Should tinkering with the planet be profitable? Some schemes seem worthwhile

A new study published in the journal Science has poured cold water on a proposed scheme to alter the planet’s climate by injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere. The unorthodox strategy, boosted by several prominent scientists, including Nobel laureate Paul J. Crutzen, was meant to simulate the effects of a volcanic eruption: Sulfur particles released from aircraft or large balloons high in the stratosphere — like the soot and sulfur dioxide ejected by volcanoes — would scatter incoming sunlight, reducing its absorption by the planet and producing a global cooling effect.

Amyris joins forces with Crystalsev to produce sugary fuels

A combination of rising food prices and environmental concerns has helped spark a backlash against biofuels. Once viewed as a key component of any successful climate mitigation strategy, biofuels — particularly those derived from food crops, such as corn ethanol — have seen their popularity wane in recent months as scientists and policymakers alike have come to realize that their costs may far outstrip their perceived benefits.

What's life without a car? Google, HopStop are helping figure it out

Happy Earth Day, environmental sinners. Today is the day for feeling guilty about all the things your life revolve around, if you’re a typical American business person — your cross-country flights, your expanding collection of electronics, your wasteful habits, your car. Some of the changes you should make come down to self restraint — but for others, there’s a dire need for alternative options. After all, you need your car, right?

Norwegian electric vehicle headed to the US

It looks like Tesla Motors will finally have some competition for headlines in the United States: Think, a Norwegian maker of electric cars, has announced a partnership with Kleiner Perkins and Rockport Capital Partners to export its vehicles stateside through Th!nk North America, a new subsidiary.

Sungevity brings web 2.0 grit to the solar installation market

Set to be officially unveiled on Tuesday to coincide with Earth Day, Sungevity, a Berkeley, Calif., based solar installer, aims to make the experience of configuring and ordering solar panels as easy as the click of a mouse — quite literally. Enter your home address on its website, and Sungevity’s satellite-imaging software (from Microsoft’s Visual Earth) takes you to a zoomed-in map of your house. It then helps you calculate your roof’s dimensions (its pitch, azimuth and available area) and pick the appropriately-sized arrays. It uses its own proprietary algorithm to do so.

Real Goods Solar, a residential solar installer, sets terms for IPO

Real Goods Solar, the Broomfield, Colorado-based solar installer and a subsidiary of Gaiam (NASDAQ: GAIA), a green lifestyle company, expects to sell 5 million shares at $10 – 12 when it files for an IPO on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “RSOL”. The offering’s lead underwriter is ThinkPanmure, with Canaccord Adams and Broadpoint Capital as co-managers.

Miox reaps the benefits of a global focus on clean water

The convergence of several global trends — rising populations, increased food production and declining water stocks — has helped turn the once dull water sector into a cleantech darling. Startups that specialize in filtration, purification and treatment technologies have popped up in recent years, with more likely to come as worldwide demand for for clean water grows.

Solar outlook stays bright even as economy dims

While the market for silicon solar panels appears to be growing at a healthy clip, several factors could either retard or speed its development. A worldwide silicon shortage, government investment credits, energy prices and the existing financing and installation models for solar panels are all in flux. But recent developments in all of those sectors suggest a positive outlook for the sector.

Segway Social: Another niche, another social network

The Segway, a personal stand-up scooter with gyroscopic sensors, was once hyped as the future of transportation. However, when it launched in late 2001 it quickly became clear that it was actually the future of scooters that very few people could afford. It created a niche market. And what do niche markets do these days? Create social networks.

Tuesday Roundup: Intel reports good quarter, Codexis files for IPO, cell phone companies rally around LTE

World’s biggest chip maker qualms tech market fears: Intel reported solid first-quarter results in the face of a weak U.S. economy. The company reported revenue was up 9 percent to $9.7 billion in the quarter ended March 31 while net income was $1.4 billion, down 12 percent due to a write-down but in line with expectations. Some growth is coming from strong server-chip sales as Google and others build massive data centers for cloud computing, said Paul Otellini, Intel’s CEO. Second-quarter guidance exceeded analysts’ expectations. About 80 percent of the chip company’s sales are overseas, which explains the strong growth despite a U.S. recession. Intel is pounding its rival Advanced Micro Devices, which is laying off 10 percent of its work force. AMD reports earnings on Thursday. Flash memory prices were down again, hurting Intel’s margins. The chip giant is selling its NOR flash memory business to a joint venture, dubbed Numonyx, with ST Microelectronics. Intel’s stock rose 8 percent in after-hours trading.

Ontario government backs Verdant Power tidal energy project

Hoping to capitalize on the tremendous amount of free, tidal energy offered by the St. Lawrence River, the government of Ontario has committed $2.2m for a 15 MW underwater turbine project to be handled by New York-based Verdant Power. The turbines will be installed on the floor of the river and used to generate enough electricity to power up to 11,000 homes.

Why the California High-Speed Rail plan is fundamentally flawed

[Note from Eric Eldon: I wrote a rather positive article this week on the proposed $10 billion California High-Speed Rail bond measure. If approved by the state's voters this November, the bond will lead to high-speed trains stretching from Sacramento and the Bay Area all the way down to San Diego. Martin Engel, a transportation commissioner for the City of Menlo Park, Calif. (a city that the train would run through), thinks its a terrible idea because it's so expensive and because it's solving the wrong problems. Here's his response.]

Aquaflow successfully harvests wild algae

Forget cellulosic ethanol: If you’ve been following the biofuel sector lately, you probably already know that algae is the hot new game in town. New Zealand-based Aquaflow Bionomic may be getting close to achieving its goal of becoming the world’s first company to viably produce large amounts of biofuel from wild algae.