The demise of yet another thin film solar maker

Another thin film solar company stumbles. Global Solar appears to be a casualty of an imbalance of supply and demand that has persisted for two years and knocked out dozens of solar manufacturers worldwide.

IBM’s Building Blocks for Greener Plastic

There are ways to make greener plastic besides making it from corn. On Tuesday, IBM’s (s IBM) Almaden Research Center and Stanford University announced a new line of organic catalysts that they say could revolutionize the green plastics industry by giving it a set of tools to build up — and break down — plastics in a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient way. While these new organic catalysts are limited to the lab right now, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) wants to try a pilot plastics recycling plant with IBM and Stanford’s catalysts that could break down polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — the plastic found in milk bottles, polyester and many other consumer and industrial goods — into its starting components, and rebuild it as a whole new range of plastics. (Oh, and it could work for bio-based plastics, too.)
“We can apply this and rip polymers, which otherwise would have gone into a landfill, back into polymer-grade monomers,” is how Jim Hedrick, IBM’s lead scientist on the effort, described it to us. Monomers are the starting components of plastics, mostly petrochemical-based, though the share that is coming from plant-based materials is increasingly growing. Polymers are the PET, PVC, polystyrene and other forms of plastic we all know and (gulp) love.
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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.

Vid-Biz: Dow Chemical, Turner, MediaFLO

Dow Chemical Creates Web Video Series; the three-year old “Human Element” campaign, aimed at showing how the chemical company is working on global problems, expands to the web. (AdWeek)

Turner’s Contextual TV Ads Launch; media buyers Starcom and Magna Global sign up for the service that better targets ads to content within shows. (Broadcasting & Cable) (previous coverage)

MediaFLO Bulks Up Mobile TV Offerings; My Own Worst Enemy, The Ex-List, and CSI among the new shows being offered by the service. (MediaPost)

Stream Live Video from Your Blackberry; Next2Friends announces support for the Blackberry Curve and Pearl. (jkOnTheRun)

Olympics Were a Loss for NBC; despite generating $1 billion in revenue, the network recorded a loss for the event, the size of which it hasn’t undisclosed. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Parallels Poker: double-up with two additional licenses at $20 each

ParallelslogoJust got an e-mail that’s too good to keep to myself. And if you like this one, I’ve got a few thousand more in my Junk Mail I can send your way. 😉 I’m kidding, this one is worth it if you’ve been holding back on another Parallels license for your Mac. Or Macs (plural), as the case may be.

You can grab a two-pack of Parallels Desktop 3.0 licenses for $39.99, which is a huge savings. A single client license normally retails for $79.99 direct, although you’re sure to find better deals than that if you shop online. Still: $20 a pop? I don’t think that can be beat. July 6th is the last day for this deal. I should point out that I never upgraded my Parallels license from the 2.x version and the e-mail says that the deal is for folks who previously purchased Parallels Desktop 3.0. I’m not one of them, but I was able to add the deal to my cart, so who knows? And what’s with all of the multiple Apple deals today… this deal is optimal for a three Mac household, while JVC’s new product works for homes with two iPods.

And the latest OS install on my UMPC is…

VistainstallationcompleteI think I’ve had my new Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC for around six weeks now. In that time, I’ve run Windows XP Tablet Edition (which came pre-installed), Windows Vista and even Mac OS X. It’s time to settle down now and that means I need an operating system for the long haul. Yes, I might do more experimenting, perhaps with a Linux distro or two, but I need my UMPC to be usable and rock-solid for everyday mobile use. So I’ve just wiped the drive and made a choice. Many of you would choose otherwise, but I went with Microsoft Windows Vista.
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GreatPoint Energy: Going Commercial, Grabs FutureGen Exec

greatpointpilotplant.jpgOne of the most well-funded cleantech startups in 2007, GreatPoint Energy, is using its more than $115 million in funding to tread a path toward commercializing its clean-coal technology.

This week the company, which converts coal and other fossil fuels into pipeline-quality natural gas and then captures and stores the associated carbon, said it has gotten successful results from tests at its pilot facility in Des Plaines, Ill., and is now working on the “immediate development” of a commercial-scale facility. O.K. good, so that 9-digit investment from high-profile investors Dow Chemical, Advanced Technology Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and coal company Peabody Energy isn’t all for naught.

The company is still figuring out where to build the plant, but the location choice will be made based on close proximity to a source of feedstock that can be converted to natural gas (coal or petcoke), a natural gas pipeline, and an aquifier that can store the carbon that will be sequestered, GreatPoint Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Avi Goldberg told us.
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Peabody Buys Into Clean Coal Startup GreatPoint Energy

greatpoint.jpg“Clean coal” startup GreatPoint Energy, which had one of the largest venture investments in 2007 with $115 million, is getting funding from massive coal company Peabody Energy. A nod from the coal company that fuels about 10 percent of all U.S. electricity, and more than 2 percent of electricity worldwide, is a significant validation of Cambridge, Mass.-based GreatPoint’s technology.

Peabody Energy (BTU) says it has agreed to become a minority investor in GreatPoint Energy, though the companies did not disclose the size of the investment. Peabody joins a long list of GreatPoint investors, including Dow Chemical (DOW), Citi Sustainable Investments, AES Corp. (AES), Suncor Energy (SU), Advanced Technology Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Beyond the investment Peabody Energy and GreatPoint Energy also say they will work on coal gasification projects using Peabody reserves and land.

GreatPoint Energy converts coal, and other fossil fuels, into “pipeline-quality” natural gas, which it can sell, and then captures and stores the carbon. The company says it can produce its natural gas product “bluegas” for about $4 per million BTUs (British thermal units), lower than the current market price of nearly $7 per million BTUs. In the latest press release the company says it has finished testing a pilot facility in Des Plaines, Ill., and has started engineering on its first commercial project.

Dirty-burning coal is a massive problem. About half of U.S. electrical generation comes from cheap-but-dirty coal power, according to the Energy Information Administration, and more coal plants are in the works, particularly in rapidly developing countries like China. While there has been more backlash against coal plants recently, (check out our coal deathwatch) many say that clean coal technologies like GreatPoint’s are at least a decade away.

Sandy Remembers So You Don’t Have To

Sandy thumbnailWho’s Sandy? The persona behind I Want Sandy, the latest application from Values of n, the folks who created Stikkit (which we’re written about before). Sandy functions as your personal email assistant, monitoring any email that you send to her or cc her on, and tracking reminders, contacts, and appointments for you. If you’re the sort of web worker who lives in email, the result is a very low friction way to offload a lot of the details of life until you’re ready for them.

After the signup process (right now, you’ll have to wait in the beta queue for a bit before you get your account), you’ll be assigned your own personal email address for Sandy (which you can customize). You’ll want to spend a few minutes on the web site customizing things like your timezone and your mobile phone number. Then you can put Sandy to work by sending her some email. Read More about Sandy Remembers So You Don’t Have To

NewTeeVee Events

Community Next has a disease, and the only cure is more viral! Get tips on promoting your work, or your business, online at this marketing conference in Sunnyvale running all day Saturday.


If you’re in Denver and looking to learn about creating and uploading videos to the web, 360 Media is offering a primer at the Stapleton Visitor Center Saturday morning.

Teens are invited to the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool Saturday afternoon to use video and photos to create some mock hype around the hottest faux-band to come out of the North England town since the Beatles.

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