9 more startups charging the Super Grid

The super grid, the focus of this week’s GreenBeat 2010 conference, isn’t just the domain of huge companies like GE and Cisco. The opportunities to create a clean, self-healing energy network, dynamically integrate renewable energy and local power sources, and automatically lower electricity demand are so big that startups are finding numerous niches to exploit. Besides the 10 startups presenting at GreenBeat’s Innovation Competition, here are nine more worth watching.

As orders rise, First Solar to double capacity with two new plants

Industry heavyweight First Solar announced plans today to build two new manufacturing plants, raising the company’s annual capacity by almost 500 megawatts and nearly doubling the company’s production capacity from 1.4 gigawatts this year to 2.7 gigawatts in 2012.

Bring it on: GE and LG enter the solar game

Looks like the solar market is getting interesting. GE and LG Electronics are making big moves this week with announcements that they will enter the U.S. solar market. GE is making two pushes into thin-film solar, and LG is launching its photovoltaic solar panels and has plans for some heavy R&D spending.

Pimp my solar panel: Microinverter deals heat up

Solar panels are about to get more efficient, potentially boosting investment throughout the sector thanks to new technology that improves their ability to generate electricity from the sun.

On the GreenBeat: AlertMe raises $23 million, Tesla gearing up for Model S in 2012

Energy management firm AlertMe raised $23 million in a second round of funding ahead of planned expansion into the U.S. market. The company has picked up a strategic investor and commercial partner in British Gas, the U.K.’s largest utility, which invested about $9 million for a 15.96 percent stake in the company. The two companies have signed a commercial agreement worth over $32 million that will roll out AlertMe’s products to the utility’s customers – the products allow consumers to monitor and manage energy consumption over cell phones and the internet. Investors in this round include VantagePoint Venture, Index Ventures and SET Venture Partners.

On the GreenBeat: First solar projects on federal land, Frito-Lay yanks SunChip bag

The government has approved two solar projects to become the first ever to be built on federal land, both to be erected in the California desert as part of a government fast-track program. Tessera Solar will build a 709-megawatt concentrated solar power project on 6,360 acres in Imperial Valley, to cost $2.1 billion (hundreds of millions of which could be supplied or underwritten by the government). Chevron Energy Solutions’ 45-megawatt system also received approval for a 422-acre project in Lucerne Valley. Both projects could power more than half a million homes when complete. The government is expected to approve other solar projects by the end of the year proposed by BrightSource, NextEra, Tessera and Solar Millennium.

On the GreenBeat: Carbon startup C3 looks to raise $50 million, White House goes solar

Energy and carbon management startup C3 is looking to raise almost $50 million in funding. The company was founded by Thomas Siebel, who sold Siebel Systems to Oracle for $5.9 billion in 2005, and counts Condeleeza Rice among its directors. It’s still in stealth mode, so details on the company and its products are scarce. Earth2tech notes it is entering crowded space — there are already 20 companies, including Hara, in the energy and carbon management space.

On the GreenBeat: Siemens buys SureGrid, Fenix debuts portable electricity for developing countries

Siemens has purchased building management firm SureGrid, Green Tech Media reports. The acquisition is a sign of interest in building efficiency startups, which make software that integrates into building management systems created by big companies like Siemens and Honeywell. There’s also an overall trend of conglomeration within the smart grid sector, the article notes, and highlights a few startups as potential acquisition targets: Audra Technologies, Building IQ, Hara, Optimum Energy, Lumenergi and Redwood Systems.

On the GreenBeat: GE acquires Calnetix, Elster’s IPO shares hold steady

GE has acquired Calnetix, a company that takes waste heat from industrial processes and converts it into electricity. In a release, GE forecasted the waste-to-energy sector as future $1 billion industry, and said it had also acquired intellectual property from Calnetix to help it begin offerings in that space. Calnetix will be integrated with GE’s Jenbacher gas engine business based in Austria.

On the GreenBeat: Cleantech investment keeps falling, Crosslink Capital closes $200 million fund

Investors putting money into cleantech have declined every quarter since early 2009, according to a report from Kachan & Co. Early-stage cleantech investment has especially suffered – according to Reuters, 20 percent of all cleantech venture capital went to early-stage and seed funding in the first half of 2010, down from 35 percent in 2007. China’s cleantech IPOs and M&A activity continues to lead the rest of the world by nearly fourfold.

On the GreenBeat: Amyris weathers first day of trading, California to double solar capacity

Biofuels and biomaterials company Amyris’s stock held up in its first day of trading, closing last night at $16.50, up three percent from its opening price of $16. The stock peaked at $17.44, the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The report estimates about 2.4 million shares were traded yesterday. The stock was reportedly priced below range. Earth2Tech deemed the IPO a “decent exit” for investors, estimating the worth of investors stakes: $67 million for Kleiner Perkins, $62 million for Khosla Ventures. The company raised a total of $85 million.

On the GreenBeat: GE puts $28 million in China wind JV, Amyris shares start trading today

GE announced it has formed a joint venture with Chinese company Harbin Power Equipment to service the $13 billion wind industry in China. The country is the world’s biggest market for wind turbine sales, according to the release, and is expected to grow 500 percent from 2009 to 150 gigawatts of installed wind capacity by 2020. China’s electricity demands are growing at 12 percent a year, and the government’s encouraging renewable-energy policies convinced GE to invest in the venture, the company said. GE’s share of the venture is valued at $27.8 million, Bloomberg reports.

On the GreenBeat: SolarCity eyes 2013 IPO, Serious Materials makes building management push

SolarCity could be looking at an IPO in 2013, CEO Lyndon Rive told the Wall Street Journal. The solar installer is expanding — it hired 300 people in the past year and expects to add 100 more to its staff in the next six months. Key to its growth: the company’s energy savings for primarily residential customers has started to attract commercial customers. The company announced its biggest deal to date last week with Wal-Mart, which will install 15 megawatts of solar panels in 20 to 30 of its stores.

On the GreenBeat: Ener1 sells $20 million in stock, Hara’s success could attract buyers

Battery company Ener1 is selling $20 million in stock as part of efforts to expand capacity at its plants, Dow Jones Newswires reports. Ener1 batteries are geared towards electric vehicle use. The company announced a $65 million capital raise earlier this month. It has raised over $160 million in equity so far and also earned a government grant.

On the GreenBeat: Coda copies Apple’s sales strategy, DuPont beats forecast and hits $1 billion in solar sales

Coda will be selling its $45,000 all-electric sedan in malls, a sales strategy the startup likens to Apple’s. The company plans to put up storefronts within 10 to 12 miles of its target demographic (stores are planned for Los Angeles and California’s Bay Area) and plans to retain control of the stores, servicing cars, proffering a “no-pressure” sales environment and offering the cars for sale without markup. The company made waves when it announced the high price tag earlier this week because the relatively unknown vehicle is priced well above the cost of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, which, like Coda’s sedan, will be released in December.

On the GreenBeat: GE partners with Better Place, smart grid market poised to hit $9.6 billion by 2015

GE and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure startup Better Place announced a partnership this morning. The collaboration will build compatibility between the products of the two companies, finance battery purchases abroad and push for greater EV adoption. The companies will help finance the purchase of 10,000 EV batteries in Israel and Denmark and will make GE’s WattStation charging stations (pictured) compatible with Better Place’s network of EV infrastructure. [Update: Check out our in-depth look at how the partnership will work.]

On the GreenBeat: Wal-Mart turns to First Solar and MiaSolé, Yahoo creates green data center

Yahoo unveiled its new energy-efficient data center in Lockport, New York today. The company’s green data center design uses the cool air from outside the building to chill servers and was built in part with a government grant of $9.9 million. Its design takes inspiration from the long, narrow build of chicken coops that allows cool winds to enter the building. The company says this data center will use 40 percent less energy and 95 percent less water than conventional data centers.

On the GreenBeat: Elster files for IPO, NRG to buy Green Mountain for $350 million

Smart meter systems company Elster has filed for an IPO, offering 16.2 million initial shares that will be priced between $16 and $18. It is expected to net $152 million from the offering. As Green Tech Media notes, the company’s main business is in gas, and it hasn’t made significant headway into the advanced metering infrastructure business. The IPO would presumably to go pay off some of its debt.

On the GreenBeat: MiaSolé to raise $100 million ahead of IPO, Amyris shoots for $122 million

MiaSolé aims to raise $100 million in sixth-round funding in advance of a 2011 IPO, according to Green Tech Media. The article cites a report from Birchmere Ventures, which names Morgan Stanley as the underwriter for the thin-film solar panel maker’s planned IPO. Thin-film has lagged in producing efficiency rates equal to that of its crystalline silicon counterparts – and Applied Materials abandoned its thin-film efforts this year. Key is MiaSolé’s claim (and the confidence of its backers) that it can produce solar panels at a competitive efficiency (15.5 percent) and price (70 cents per watt) by the end of 2012.

On the GreenBeat: A123 opens battery plant, Siemens targets India

A123 opens largest lithium-ion battery plant in the U.S. The Livonia, Mich. plant will expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities by up to 600 megawatt-hours per year, with the goal of ramping up to a total 760M megawatt-hours by next year’s end. The announcement comes one year after A123 was awarded a $249 million grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As GigaOm notes, A123’s IPO last year opened at $17 per share but now trades at less than $10 per share. Another Michigan-based battery player, Sakti3, made news last week for winning a $3.2 million investment from the venture capital arm of GM.