Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Government policy hampering renewable energy investment in Australia by Justin Blows
April 30, 2010, 9:24 am
Filed under: Feature

This movie, is about how a lack of policy clarity is cutting investment in the Australian renewable energy sector and associated technology development. It is a sobering watch.

Justin Blows


Australia to reveal ‘Biggest renewable energy plan’ by Justin Blows
April 28, 2010, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Feature

According to this report the Australian government may have effectively canceled the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, but “In the meantime you’ll see the government roll out the biggest renewable energy plan this country has ever seen”

Justin Blows

RACI 2010 – Chemistry for a Sustainable World by Griffith Hack
April 27, 2010, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Feature

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s 13th National Convention in Conjunction with
12th IUPAC International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry

Last Chance to register on the Early Bird Rate!

Click here to register now and benefit from discounted rates

USPTO too slow at fast tracking cleantech applications by Justin Blows
April 25, 2010, 9:50 am
Filed under: Feature

According to this report, the US patent and trade mark office (USPTO) has only accepted one third of requests to fast track the examination of ‘green’ patent applications under the “Green technology pilot program”.

The USPTO is too slow in examining green patent applications

Without knowing the details, this figure seems way to low and casts doubt on the sincerity of the USPTO’s willingness to progress clean and sustainable technologies.  The outcome matches the prediction made by a US associate to me, who thought that based on past experience these sort of programs had no real practicality.

In any case, the linked article does raise a very interesting idea – having a patent application that has been accepted under the fast track program is something that you can use to increase the interest in your technology.  After all, if the USPTO is rushing it through the system, it must be good, right?  It could make all the difference to those seeking investment.

Many countries now have fast track programs, including the US, UK, Australia and South Korea.

Justin Blows

Australian Solar Institute: Round 2 Funding opens April 23rd 2010 by Justin Blows
April 23, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: Feature

From the Australian Solar Institute website:

The Australian Solar Institute (ASI) invests in research and development to accelerate to market innovation in photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar thermal (CST) technologies which have the potential to significantly reduce the levelised cost of solar energy (LCOE) when compared to existing energy sources and the current global solar energy cost benchmarks.

The first Round of ASI funding closed in late September 2009 with initial results announced in December 2009. There are a number of Round 1 projects still under negotiation with further announcements anticipated during May 2010.

The ASI Management team is currently finalising the guidelines and application forms for Round 2 which will be made available via the ASI web site when the funding round is opened. Round 2 will be a two stage process with an initial call for expressions of interest (EOI) from interested parties.
The following are the target dates for the EOI phase of the ASI Round 2 funding:

23 April: Round 2 launched with invitation for submission of EOIs; proposal guide and application materials posted on ASI web site, advertising in national media.
21 May: closing date for submission of EOIs.

The EOIs will undergo a detailed review by the ASI Research Advisory Committee who will provide advice to the ASI Board, with a shortlist of proponents then being invited to submit detailed proposals. It is anticipated that proponents will be advised of outcomes from the EOI process by 30 June 2010. Proponents will then have 4-5 weeks to prepare and submit full proposals. The ASI Board aims to make final funding decisions before the end of September 2010 following advice from the Research Advisory Committee and ASI management.

Highly meritorious projects will be funded in Round 2,however the ASI is unlikely to commit all of its remaining funds. Some funding will be retained for future rounds, for leveraging new funding sources and for brokering of strategic projects. The amount of funding to be released in Round 2 will be at the discretion of the ASI Board.

The ASI will identify specific focus areas of interest for funding in Round 2. However, exceptional high quality proposals outside the focus areas will also be considered. In all areas, industry and state government partnerships that increase project funding leverage beyond the matched funding criteria and reduce commercialisation risk will be viewed favourably. The same minimum matched funding requirements as applied in Round 1 will also apply in Round 2. Note: This excludes state government contributions. Any State government contributions will however help increase the overall leverage of ASI funds.

In photovoltaics (PV) innovation the ASI has a particular focus in this round on R&D in technologies not yet commercialised in the market place that offer the opportunity to substantially lower the lifetime cost of solar electricity and therefore increase commercial deployment within the next decade. The path to cost reduction could be through challenging current efficiency thresholds, or alternative materials cost structures to the limited number of technologies that dominate today’s market. Note: the projects funded in the foundation round and Round 1 were dominated by support for advancing the position of single junction silicon technologies. While proposals in this area are not excluded, proponents should consider that the ASI Board has a desire to create a portfolio of R&D investments across a suite of PV technology areas with short, medium and long term potential. The ASI will focus on electricity generation technology that has the potential to compete with current stationary forms of electricity supplied to the Australian market.

In concentrating solar thermal (CST) innovation the ASI is seeking proposals in this round which will reduce the levelised cost of solar energy by increasing the efficiency of CST energy generation and reduce the cost of its capture and delivery. This includes research into increasing steam temperatures, dispatchability, hybrids (i.e. linking and integrating different thermal energy sources), reducing materials and solar field costs, reducing water dependency and reducing operating and maintenance costs. Technologies that seek to displace conventional electricity requirements with thermal energy need to demonstrate a clear path to market that will credibly result in commercial deployment.

In enabling research ASI is seeking proposals which advance the knowledge base and reduces barriers to deployment of solar energy in Australia. For examples projects which:

1. examine grid and transmission development needs to enable solar expansion
2. team with the fossil fuels industry to investigate options to increase solar field deployment and reduce emissions through solar / fossil hybrid applications
3. increase finance sector confidence to invest in solar by
identifying key investment risks and proposing global best practice mitigations
4. research generation forecasting techniques that build on best practice in solar deployment in Europe and wind in Australia.

Clarification can be requested be contacting the ASI team at

Justin Blows

Money pours into AMONIX; Concentrated solar photovoltaics by Justin Blows
April 22, 2010, 10:18 am
Filed under: Feature

The blogosphere is abuzz (see here, and here for example) with the news that venture capitalists Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and others have poured a massive US$129.4 into AMONIX, a US company that specialises in concentrated solar photovoltaics (CPV).

The venture capitalists are quoted as stating that:

Amonix CPV systems have emerged as the lowest cost solar technology for sunny and dry environments

press release from the company states:

Amonix designs and manufactures concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar power systems that require less water, use land better, and produce more energy per acre than any other solar technology.

Did I miss something?  Isn’t this is a considerable change in direction?  It is often argued that solar thermal is the lowest cost solar technology.  Here is a quote from a press release announcing the sale of AUSRA, a concentrated solar thermal company, to AREVA:

Combining Ausra’s proven technology and AREVA’s world leading Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) skills, the group is committed to building the most cost-effective CSP plants for utilities, independent power producers and industrial customers around the world. [emphasis added]

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also a shareholder in AUSRA.

 So what is the technology?  This is from the AMONIX web site:

The patented Amonix MegaModule® design incorporates Fresnel lenses, the mounting structure, and multijunction solar cells into a single factory-fabricated assembly. The lenses are affixed to the top of a rectangular steel frame, with 30 corresponding solar cells mounted onto each receiver plate, affixed below. At 10’ x 49’, each MegaModule contains 36 paired receiver plates and lens sets, producing ~10 kW (DC). The integration of the lenses, mounting structure, and multijunction cells into a single unit eliminates more than 75% of the parts and associated costs compared to other concentrator designs.

It is good to see a solar company that appreciates good patents and good trade marks!  I found these patents assigned to AMONIX.  Interestingly, there does not appear to be any filed patents outside of the US.   Many cleantech companies fail to realise the importance of their brand and the importance of protecting that brand.  How much more valuable would AMONIX become if it secured registered trade marks?

Justin Blows

Solar growing strongly in US by Justin Blows
April 20, 2010, 10:15 am
Filed under: Feature

According to this report, U.S. solar electric capacity grew by a 37 percent margin in 2009, with total industry revenue reaching $4 billion – which was a 36 percent increase over 2008 figures. The increases were reported in both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies.

Justin Blows