Today in Cleantech

Compared to wind and solar, geothermal has glided under the radar. However, this week’s news of Vulcan Power’s $100 million-plus round of financing is putting it in the spotlight. Earth2Tech had a Q&A with the firm’s CEO, Robert Warburton, in which he reveals that financing, not technology, is the main hurdle for geothermal projects. It’s not to say that technology doesn’t play a role, only that it’s marked by gradual improvements rather than “game-changing” leaps. Looks like some investors see opportunity in Vulcan Power’s orderly pace, particularly as renewables encroach on the grid.

Q&A: Vulcan Power’s CEO on the Potential of Geothermal

At times it’s seemed like geothermal power is the Rodney Dangerfield of clean energy – it’s gotten little respect compared with glitzier cousins like solar and wind. But that image is changing as more investment flows into the industry and new technologies make tapping the heat below the earth’s surface cheaper and more accessible. According to the Geothermal Energy Association there are 144 new U.S. geothermal plants under development, which could add seven gigawatts of new baseload power, and enhanced geothermal systems, a field of promising new technologies, could increase the U.S. geothermal generation capacity 40 fold, according to the Department of Energy.

We sat down with Robert Warburton, acting chief executive officer of Vulcan Power Company, to get his outlook for the industry. The Bend, Or.-based geothermal project developer, which announced earlier this week that it raised $108 million in private equity investment, has some 170,000 acres of geothermal properties in four Western states including California and Nevada. Vulcan is currently developing geothermal plants totaling 300 MW of power, and it has signed 180 MW of long-term power purchase agreements with utilities, with another 120 MW currently under negotiation.
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Vulcan Power Heats Up With $145M from Denham

Vulcan Power, a company with one of the larger geothermal project portfolios, says it has received an investment of $145 million from Boston-based private equity firm Denham Capital. The sizable funding has been planned for awhile, as last year Vulcan raised $45 million from Merrill Lynch Commodity Partners (a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch) in what the company said was part of a larger planned $150 million in financing.

Vulcan says in the release it will use the funds to build out geothermal sites it says could generate a whopping 900 MW to 2 GW of steam power. That could provide clean power for as much as 2 million people. Based in Bend, Ore., the 17-year-old company has geothermal projects on more than 160,000 acres of private and federal lands.

Compared to solar and wind, geothermal is a renewable energy source that gets a lot less attention and investment dollars. The process involves drilling down and tapping into heated water reserves and converting the steam into power. The drawback is that the technology can only be used on select geothermal sites, which are limited. But geothermal sites can provide a sizable amount of power, and Vulcan’s power plants can generate in the hundreds of megawatts.

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Lenovo X61 Tablet: first impressions from Warner

Lenovo_x61_tablet_pcWarner’s been playing with a new Lenovo X61 Tablet PC over the weekend and I can tell from his first impressions that this device is a real screamer in the performance department. That’s nice to see since in the early tablet years, one of the valid complaints revolved around marginal hardware specs for some tablets. If you want a solid performer in a tablet, you’ll want to read Warner’s thoughts and follow along for future benchmarks.

Ironically, I was surprised at both the boot and sleep times that Warner witnessed. Make no mistake, they’re much shorter times than the X60, which is the predecessor to the X61. While it all depends on what apps you have installed, have running or set to run at Start, my Q1P actually whoops the times Warner is seeing on the X61. He’s witnessed cold boot times of three minutes while going into or coming out of Sleep mode is 15 seconds. My Q1P is booting around 90 seconds, sleeping in three to five seconds and waking in under 2 seconds; I suspect after some optimization, Warner will see much better times. Regardless, the X61 sounds like a nice package for people wanting a convertible Tablet PC without sacrificing performance!

Consumer, Not God is a DJ

My column from Business 2.0 has generated a ton of debate, and emails. Rags Gupta over at Digital Music News, is taking me to task. In my defense I present this data from comScore, which helps make my point. Ten years, streaming radio has gained at best 6 million listeners. And that during a time when we could not slice and dice the music, or what I like to call, “my music my way!” Anyway back to Rags argument, which is something like this, “Om thinks that streaming radio is separate from podcasting, I consider them to be separate faces of the same “IP-enabled Radio” coin, if you will, and not mutually exclusive.” Well, the key difference is that some deejay is defining my list, but in podcasting and subscription music services, I am the deejay.