Flexible Solar Panels Are Here, Any Takers?

After years of talking about flexible, light-weight solar thin film material that can drape over roofs, manufacturers are finally starting to deliver. SoloPower is announcing on Tuesday that its first flexible solar panel has gotten UL certification, which is required for installation in many U.S. regions.

Global Solar Guns For Building-Integrated Solar & Solyndra’s Turf

Global Solar on Tuesday unveiled its new flexible solar panel that can be integrated into roofing membranes. The idea is that buildings and roofs can be built with the solar materials weaved right into them, lowering the cost and the time of the solar installation.

Algae Fuel Startup Solix Ups Funds to Start Production, Eyes Asia

solix-logoAlgenol Biofuels, with its just-announced plans to build an algae fuel demo plant in partnership with Dow Chemical (s DOW), isn’t the only startup taking the demise of a well-funded algae fuel company — GreenFuel Technologies — in stride.

Today 3-year-old Solix Biofuels, which has some similarities with GreenFuel (it uses closed photobioreactors to grow algae, then turns it into biofuels and feedstocks for the chemical industry), shows it, too, is bucking up in the downturn — adding another $1.3 million to its Series A financing round, and announcing plans to start a commercial-scale demonstration of its technology within two months (“late summer”) in southwestern Colorado.

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Algenol, Dow Chemical Team Up on Algae Fuel Plant

algenollogoThe demise of a well-funded algae fuel company earlier this year doesn’t seem to be deterring startups, or oil and plastics companies, from working on new algae fuel tech. This morning Algenol Biofuels, a Naples, Fla.-based company that uses carbon dioxide from power plants to grow algae in order to make ethanol, tells the New York Times that it is building a demonstration plant with Dow Chemical (s DOW) on a 24-acre site at Dow Chemical’s property in Freeport, Texas, which will house 3,100 bioreactors (clear troughs that grow algae) that will be able to produce up to 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year.

Dow Chemical will provide the plastic material for the bioreactors. It’s interested in Algenol’s algae tech in order to use the ethanol produced as an ingredient for plastics to replace the use of natural gas. While many companies are working on ways to create ethanol to power vehicles, the bioplastics space has been relatively neglected. For the demo project Algenol is also working with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Membrane Technology and Research, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to improve the process and study algae fuel.

Algenol was founded in 2006 and uses a slightly different approach to algae fuel than its competitors. While most algae-to-fuel startups (15 listed here) grow algae so they can process the algae directly into fuel, Algenol collects ethanol vapors from the algae, which involves neither killing the plants nor the use of an expensive refining process. The company has reportedly raised $70 million in private backing to build out its innovation and beyond the Dow Chemical partnership Algenol has said it has an agreement with Sonora Fields (a wholly owned subsidiary of Mexican-owned BioFields) to build an $850 million project that will deliver a billion gallons of fuel a year.

Dow Chemical: Can Alternatives to Oil Green the Bottom Line?

How does a company like Dow Chemical, with a reputation attached to chemicals like napalm and DBCP (which made workers sterile), find itself in the green biz? Well according to Neil Hawkins, the company’s VP of sustainability, it’s by no means an act of philanthropy.

Hawkins, who delivered his remarks to an audience at the Dow Jones Environmental Ventures conference in San Mateo on Tuesday, also offered up a basic outline of how Dow is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into more eco-friendly chemistry innovations that can provide cleaner drinking water technology, petroleum plastic alternatives, and alternative energy-generation technology.

But a quick look at its latest quarterly numbers paints a clearer picture of Dow’s motivation: According to the New York Times, the company saw the single largest increase in raw materials and energy costs in the company’s history. Dow uses crude oil and natural gas as feedstocks to produce chemicals and plastics, and the costs contributed to Dow reporting a 3 percent drop in quarterly profit over the comparable three-month period last year.

Hawkins admitted that the high price of oil is an incentive to Dow finding petroleum alternatives. In addition to investigating the use of bioplastics, last year Dow said it was teaming up with Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer Crystalslev to make polyethylene from sugarcane ethanol. Hawkins called this venture “the single largest renewable plastic plant in the world.”
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Gabtastik Offers Chat Convenience

ScreenshotIf you’re a web chat user on OS X, you might want to take a peek at the just-released Gabtastik. What you’ll find is a WebKit based application that functions as a site-specific browser across three different online chats: Facebook Chat, Google Talk, and meebo. The Gabtastic menu lets you switch quickly from one to another, and by using the application you don’t have to remember which browser tab you were chatting in.

You could build most of the same functionality yourself (everything except the switching) with a general-purpose site-specific browser such as Prism, Fluid, or Hana. But with this free download being just a click away, you might as well not bother to build your own.

Ultra-portable news roundup

Everex_cloudbookToday has already been a day for some significant news in the ultra-portable/ UMPC/ MID space so here goes.  The Everex Cloudbook is now being delayed until February 25 for release according to engadget.  The Cloudbook has already been delayed once and it seems Everex is having trouble getting it out the door once again.  Kevin and I saw the Cloudbook at the CES in Las Vegas early this month and it is anxiously awaited as another low cost notebook to compete with the Asus EEE PC.

Speaking of the EEE PC, earlier rumors of a model with a touch screen are being shot down by Asus according to DigiTimes.  Asus has determined that their customers do not want a touch screen on a notebook form factor and are not planning on introducing a model that includes touch.  I personally don’t see a need for a touch screen on a notebook device but that’s just me, a lot of people expressed excitement at the news that there would be a touch EEE PC.

In other news, Shen also pointed out the company’s market research hasdetermined that touch screen is not a highly demanded feature for EeePC customers, and therefore it will suspend plans to include the optionof a touch screen panel in the next generation of Eee PCs.

DigiTimes also snuck in something we haven’t heard before from HTC, the makers of the Shift and my beloved Advantage.  In a press event covering the launch of the HTC Shift this nugget slipped in about the Advantage:

HTC plans to launch a 5-inch mobile computing device designed to replace the HTC Advantage in 2008, said company sources at HTC.

No word on what changes HTC might be considering for the Advantage but it’s great to hear they are going to refresh what is already a dynamite mobile device.

When Volpi Speaks

Jeff Nolan blogs Q&A with Mike Volpi of Cisco. It was a chat that happened at Vortex. Only the highlights quoted here:

Q: what is Cisco’s strategy to Huawei?
A: whether it’s Huawei or anyone else, we do a better job of creating value on top of hardware. Innovation keeps us ahead of the pack, but it’s consulting that enables us to guide customers to achieving more value out of commodity hardware
Q: what value are you adding above the router?
A: we started with a network who’s sole job was to move data around, it’s a relatively dumb mechanism. Where we are today is building a network that enables customers and ISV’s to build applications (in essence this is what Moore was referring to earlier when he said that the internet is the new application bus).
Q: what happens when you cross networks
A: even with today’s technologies dual mode phones are available. WiMax is more universal.
Q: Is Microsoft a competitor
A: not in routers, but they do want to keep the network as a commodity with little value add. It’s like having a car with all kinds of fancy technology but still on crummy roads.

Cisco has joined the WiMAX FUD, and is really freaking scared of Microsoft. Microsoft wants to take directory services control out of Cisco’s hands, and also wants to take security mantle away from Cisco. Interesting fight brewing?