Next-gen battery startup Seeo raises $15M

A next-gen, lithium-ion battery startup — backed by Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures — called Seeo has raised another $15 million from investors, according to a filing. Khosla Partner Pierre Lamond is listed on this latest filing, and Seeo previously raised at least $10.6 million.

New Federal Windfall for ‘Community Wind’ Farms

It’s no secret that large wind farm developers have been the happy winners of policies spawned by the federal stimulus package passed last February. Heck, the wind companies have gobbled up so much money from some of these limited-time programs so far that the solar energy industry is worried it will get very little at the end. But a new report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says one of the biggest beneficiaries of the stimulus package will be the so-called community wind farms, which are typically smaller wind projects, many of which have had trouble in the past competing for both investments and turbine supplies against their large commercial counterparts.

For the first time in several years, community wind farm developers — which are defined by the report as local owners and operators (not utilities) instead of national or international developers — can rely on more federal aid and circumvent some pesky regulations that made it difficult to complete their projects before. The stimulus package now allows wind companies to opt for a 30 percent investment tax credit or the cash equivalent of that amount, instead of the production tax credit, the report said. The investment tax credit or the cash, which is based on the amount of money spent on building a project, is more valuable for these smaller project developers than the production tax credit because community wind power plants generally are more costly to build install per kilowatt of generation capacity and generate less power than the utility-size farms.
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Solar Costs Dropped 30% Over Last Decade

solar image 1A new report published this week by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab offers valuable insight culled from a decade’s worth of data into perhaps the most important metric in the PV industry: installed system costs before financial incentives. Because these incentives, like government tax rebates, can’t be counted on forever, installed costs — or the total cost of a PV system including panels, inverters, labor and more — will have to fall over time if the industry hopes to be a significant, long-term player in the U.S. energy mix.

The study, summarized in a 50-page document titled “Tracking the Sun II,” found that that the average installed cost in the U.S. has declined in the last decade (no surprise there), but the pace of that decline and other findings, such as the impact of economies of scale, might be surprising to some readers. Average U.S. installed system costs declined to $7.50 per watt in 2008 from $10.80 per watt in 1998, a 30 percent drop over the 10-year period, according to the report. That translates into a 3.6 percent, or 30 cents per watt, per year decline, on average, during that time.
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Philips and Berkeley Lab Take on Smart Energy at Home

While electronics maker Philips (s PHG) is working on getting its LEDs into homes, the company is also starting to focus on the bigger picture of energy-efficient homes. The Amsterdam-based company announced a new partnership this week with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to jointly research energy-efficiency solutions for buildings. Improving lighting efficiency using integrated smart wireless devices will be the partnership’s first objective, and consumers could see a commercial product as soon as next year, Philips says.

This is a great partnership that could help deliver the next generation smart home. Philips is one of the world’s largest producers of lighting and has been pushing hard to bring LEDs to the mass market. Meanwhile, Berkeley National Lab has been researching smart energy for homes and buildings at its Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

Nothing they are proposing is that groundbreaking — there have been motion sensors to control lights for years — but this news shows that device makers like Philips are starting to “get it.” Philips is starting with lighting and building systems, but hopefully it won’t take long for them to smarten up their whole line of electronics, everything from the giant flat-screen TVs down to the Sonicare toothbrushes.

This could prove to be both competition and a strong new partner for the startups developing energy efficiency devices for the home. The Dutch electronics giant has been buying up LED companies — perhaps smart energy startups are next.

If you found this post interesting you might also be interested in Earth2Tech’s first Briefing, The Smart Energy Home.

Supercomputers Get Eco-Aware

Twice a year, the computing world waits to hear whose processors and which vendors will claim the equivalent of a gold medal for building one of the world’s fastest supercomputers as measured by the Top 500 nonprofit. This year it was IBM’s $100 million Roadrunner machine, which can reach speeds of 1 petaflop (about 1,000 trillion calculations per second). It also consumes a whopping 3 megawatts of power.

But today’s is the first Top 500 list to ever track power consumption of these machines and the results are only semi-encouraging. The fastest computers, surprisingly, do not consume the most power. The average power consumption of a Top 10 system is 1.32 megawatt and the average power efficiency is 248 megaflops per watt.

Older machines on the list are using more less power, but are just not as efficient. The average supercomputer on the Top 500 list has a power efficiency of 122 megaflops per watt. (The press release also says the average consumption of a Top 500 supercomputer is 257 megawatts — we’re pretty sure they mean 2.57 megawatts, but we’re waiting to hear back on that.) Update: They got back to us to tell us that the average Top 500 power consumption is actually 257 kilowatts. That actually gives me hope that all the energy-efficient chips coming out recently can help this problem.
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GMail Labs Apps: 3 We Find Fun & 3 We Find Useful

To the envy of developers everywhere, Google Software Engineers are granted what they call their “20% time.”  As a result, Google coders get 20% of their working time to work on projects that the developers select away from management approval.  Many well-known Google projects have resulted from 20% time, showing that the effort benefits the company as well.

Gmail, one of WWD’s favorite web based utilities, has been put into the spotlight as Google opened the door on Gmail Labs.  This section of Gmail’s website will house new “beta” add-ins and features in an effort to gather feedback from users.  To get to Gmail Labs, inside your Gmail settings pane, click on the Labs tab.  Note: GMail is still rolling Labs out to users.  If your Gmail doesn’t have it yet, check back a little later. It appears that this is only available to @gmail.com email addresses and not Google Apps addresses.

Gmail Labs

Anything web worker useful here? Let’s take a look.

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Blue Mars: Second Life With Pro-Level Content

avatar-reality-office.jpgWhen you’re building a virtual world paradise, does it help to do so from an actual one? That was my first thought after reading about Avatar Reality, a startup based in Oahu, Hawaii (the pic is Honolulu’s Aloha Tower as seen from the founder’s office.) Tomorrow the company will sneak preview Blue Mars, its upcoming “3D casual game” MMO, at GDC in San Francisco. I’m from Hawaii, so during a January stay, I caught an advance demo.

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TV Guide Canceling Online Video Awards Ceremony

TV Guide is canceling its December online video awards ceremony and television special, NewTeeVee has confirmed with a company spokesperson. The decision was made due to a feeling that celebrating online video would be insensitive at a time when television writers are on strike, according to a source involved with the awards show.
In an emailed statement, TV Guide (GMST) acknowledged the ceremony was being suspended “in light of the current labor dispute,” but said it would continue with the awards online, with the winners to be announced Nov. 26. We had previously commented that the list of nominees was skewed towards traditional media networks and stars, like Steve Carell and Will Ferrell.
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The Devil Inside

Google says, don’t be evil. Since it censorsit really doesn’t mean it. Maybe we should all have a Google free day to send a clear message to the company, practice what you preach or else….Co-founder Brin thinks it was an oversight in the indexing process.