Today in Cleantech

Sunday’s New York Times featured a lengthy article detailing the somewhat bumpy relationship Microsoft has had with the people and the utility of Quincy, Washington. Like Yahoo and others, Microsoft went to Washington for cheap electricity from the Columbia River. The major points of conflict have surrounded Microsoft’s willingness to burn off excess electricity rather than face fines for using too little power (towns instate these provisions for minimum power use because they have to build out the networks to provide a minimum of power), and the pollution related to Microsoft’s reliance on diesel generators, which has been a problem in Silicon Valley as well. The diesel generator issue reminds me of the problems that plague the developing world with diesel or worse, bunker fuel, being used for power generation, creating awful pollution. It’s getting to the point where grid level batteries should be considered for data center backup power generation or more likely, fuel cells, which run on natural gas and which Apple and eBay are now implementing. And which, as it turns out, Microsoft is considering.

Smashwords gets more self-published ebooks into libraries

Digital self-publishing site Smashwords is making it easier for self-published authors to get their ebooks into libraries. The site is allowing certain libraries to buy Smashwords titles in bulk, and is also adding custom library pricing options for its authors.

Today in Cleantech

There are two interesting trends that are emerging in the developing world with regard to off the grid solar, which are highlighted by Bloomberg’s India based renewable energy reporter, Natalie Obiko Pearson. First is that solar power is becoming cheaper than diesel, a common energy source for generators. Second is that the constant blackouts are becoming a major problem for wireless carriers in places like India and Nigeria, and many are opting for off the grid solar to power their cell towers. Many carriers report that the number one reason for wireless downtime is intermittency of power. Commercial uses like these could breathe new life into off the grid solar.

Achates Power Raises $19.2M for Efficient Engines

Achates Power has raised $19.2 million in a second round of financing and brought in a new investor, Triangle Peak Partners, the company announced in recent days. The San Diego, Calif.-based startup, whose investors include Sequoia Capital, Rockport Capital Partners and other venture firms, is working on two-stroke diesel engine tech that it says will deliver higher efficiency and lower emissions at lower cost and higher power density (more power, less weight) than options currently on the market.

Founded in 2004, Achates said in a release that it’s now testing a 4.2 liter, 4-cylinder engine “that rivals conventional engines nearly twice its size.” This new funding comes a bit later and at a slightly smaller scale than once hoped: In June, CEO David Johnson told Cleantech Group that it was looking to raise $25 million by the third quarter of 2009. Read More about Achates Power Raises $19.2M for Efficient Engines

Amyris Closes in on $60M Round for Synthetic Diesel

Amyris_About_PICAmyris Biotechnologies, which is developing synthetic organisms to make chemicals and biofuels, is closing in on its third round of funding. The Emeryville, Calif., company announced Thursday it has raised $41.75 million of a targeted Series C round of approximately $60 million. The announcement represents an additional $17 million raised in less than two months.

The news that Amyris was working on the round came out in August, after the company reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had raised $24.7 million toward an anticipated $62 million round. A few days later, the company said it raised $2.4 million more.
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Crossing Diesels with Plug-In Hybrids: Good or Bad Idea?

Volvo V70_PHEV_dieselDiesels and hybrid-electric cars have often been posed as competitors racing to capture the green-automotive market. Diesels are more popular in Europe, while hybrids are more popular in the United States. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: diesels can get impressive fuel economy without complicated drivetrains (providing a cost advantage over hybrids today), while plug-in hybrids bundled with a renewable energy-powered grid can be even cleaner.

But now, it looks like these competitors are coming together. Volvo Car Corp. announced Friday that it plans to bring a diesel plug-in hybrid to the market by 2012. The news comes after Peugeot earlier this month unveiled a diesel PHEV minicar that it plans to bring to the market next year, and BMW also showed off a sporty diesel PHEV concept car at the Frankfurt auto show. While companies have been tinkering with the concept for some time, it looks like diesel PHEVs are finally starting to gain some traction.
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Biofuel Company LS9 Closes $25M With Chevron Backing

LS9_graphicLS9, a company which is using a genetically modified version of e.coli bacteria to make diesel from biomass, on Thursday announced it has raised $25 million in its third round of funding. Chevron Technology Ventures’ venture capital arm, CTTV Investments, participated in the round, making this the latest biofuel project from the big oil company. In 2008, Chevron announced a development deal with algae-based fuel company Solazyme, and has been working on a cellulosic ethanol joint venture, called Catchlight Energy, with forest-product company Weyerhaeuser.

While having a big oil backer is a good sign for a young startup, LS9’s round was markedly smaller than the $65 million the company was seeking back in February and well below the $75-$100 million it had hoped to raise last October.
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Have Verizon Data Plan, Will Travel With AD3700 Global Modem

verizon-ad3700The Verizon MiFi may be handling all my mobile data connections, but that’s because I’m not roaming globally. I’m stuck in North America with my MiFi and business travelers need more than that. That’s why Verizon (s vz) is releasing the ZTE AD3700 global modem, which works on both Verizon’s domestic EVDO network and also on HSPA networks abroad. The USB modem launches today for $80 with a rebate.
(via engadget)