Selling solar on the conservative side of town

Republican “red” states hate environmentalism, right? And California is the place to be for cleantech startups, no? Not so, says cleantech installer Standard Renewable Energy, which does its business in middle America and just closed off a second round of venture funding.

What happens when nanotech begins to poison us?

Not to be a fear-monger, but nanomaterials might make you sick. Not just you, but your family, your neighbors, even pets and wild animals. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you actually use anything with nanomaterials yourself; they’ll come to you. Yes, we’re talking here about the scaled-down substances that are the next big thing — the wave (and fad) of the future, contained in everything from batteries to computer chips, food to fuel, sunscreen to solar cells.

Will lithium ion get replaced? Longer lasting, recyclable batteries due in laptops this summer

Lithium ion technology batteries have been on the market for over 16 years now, and like a human of the same age, the technology’s growth appears to be slowing. Improvements in the battery technology are lessening each year, and the power demand from electronics, fueled by chip advances, makes it feel as if time is standing still for lithium ions — phones and laptops don’t stay charged much longer than they ever did.

Brightsource lands the largest solar deal yet

When we talk about solar power projects, the cost is generally counted in the millions, not billions, of dollars. But a new deal between the California utility PG&E and a solar thermal company heralds the next age of renewable energy, when capital begins to flow in earnest.

Tendril, an energy efficiency startup, grabs $12M

Want to keep tabs on how much electricity your home is using? Tendril is one of a newer breed of energy-management startups that gives consumers a personal view of their consumption, but is still capable of tying in with and providing information to the utilities providing the power.

Electric cars go faster in small countries: Project Better Place moves into Denmark

Small countries really do make for faster drives, it seems — especially when it comes to the drive to adopt electric cars. Project Better Place has struck a deal in another tiny-but-rich country, Denmark, only two months after it announced a collaborative effort with two large car companies to install a network of charging stations for electric cars in Israel.

Solar to hit speedbumps: Falling prices, rising supply and red tape

Solar’s been booming, with hundreds of millions of dollars in venture investment flowing into the industry last year alone, and dozens of companies vying for a piece of the growing market. That’s had the wise old heads all nodding in agreement that the bubble will soon burst. Now Lux Research has put some numbers and reasoning to the pessimism, saying that solar will experience a shakeout in about two years’ time.

Roundup: Quattrone is back and banking, LiveJournal rebellion and more

Frank Quattrone is back as a banker — Quattrone and associates are starting a new boutique investment banking firm, called Qatalyst Group. During the (last) bubble in the ’90s, Quattrone was a top deal-maker, helping many promising (and unpromising) startups of the era go public. Some of his more illustrious clients included Amazon, Cisco Systems, and Netscape. After that bubble burst, he spent years fighting legal charges that he had somehow misled consumers about his clients’ viability in public markets. The charges ultimately didn’t stick. Now, Qatalyst is hoping to help modern-day startups to take advantage of their explosive success over the past few years. Rivals like Allen & Co., Montgomery & Co. as well as larger banks, have already been doing that — and now there’s a downturn in the economy, which will make both late-staging funding and liquidity events less likely. Then again, Quattrone has impressive connections and experience. Here’s what Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told Dow Jones about the news: “The launch of Qatalyst is an important development for the technology industry. Frank and his team bring unparalleled industry knowledge, a unique 25-year market perspective and candid, insightful judgment that CEOs greatly value on important strategic initiatives.” The New York Times has more (and was the source of Quattrone’s photo, to the left).

The next solar boom may prove to be solar hydrogen

Almost everyone knows that solar cells and solar thermal, both of which are used to convert the sun’s rays directly to energy, are hot areas for investment right now. A third, related branch I’m seeing increasingly of late is using sunlight to create hydrogen, an alternative fuel that many have proposed as a gasoline replacement.