Thursday, March 11, 2010

Solar: "Pssst, D'ya want an Equity Play on New Energy Congress' #1 Ranked Technology?"

Sorry, that was the best race track tout impersonation that I could muster, now you know why I'm not an actor. [or a playwright -ed]
Long-time readers know that we are fans of New Energy Congress and their Top 100 list of clean energy technologies. I'll have the Top 20 list at the end of this post.
Number one on the list is Stirling Energy Systems, privately held with some serious backers.
There are two ways to gain exposure to Stirling.
Here's an April 2008 post:

$100 Million into Stirling Energy Systems (Concentrating Solar)
Firm buys $100 million interest in Stirling Energy Systems

An alternative-energy company in Ireland has agreed to pay $100 million for a controlling interest in Stirling Energy Systems Inc., a developing solar-energy company in Phoenix.

The deal could add 100 people to Stirling Energy's current staff of about 40 in Phoenix, said Ian Simington, group-development director for Dublin-based NTR plc....MORE
...From the Independent (IRE):

...NTR yesterday confirmed it is to take a 51pc stake in Stirling Energy, which is planning to spend $2bn over the next four years to develop two massive solar energy fields in California that will be among the world's biggest when completed.

..."If these two projects work, as we believe they will, the scale of opportunity could be enormous," said Mr Walsh, who added that land options have already been secured for the solar sites and that the "big challenge" will be to commercialise the technology. He said project financing discussions are at an early stage, but foresees no obstacles given NTR's track record in relation to Airtricity. Typical large-scale power projects are about 80pc debt financed.

At the end of March, NTR had €750m of cash on its balance sheet. It recently finalised the sale of its 51pc-owned Airtricity business for €1.8bn, net of debt. NTR, which also owns the Greenstar recycling business, received about €900m for its stake in Airtricity....MORE

Important note: NTR is a closely held Irish Company whose stock is traded OTC in a grey market.

Davy Stockbrokers were the sole market maker until a few years ago when they were joined by Goodbody Stockbrokers and NCB.
That's one. The other is Tower Automotive, currently owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Here's the Phoenix Business Journal in January:

Arizona solar industry lands parts supplier

The Arizona solar industry got another boost with the planned opening of a Tower Automotive facility in the Valley to help supply one of the local solar providers with parts.

The project will bring about 200 jobs to the Valley. The Livonia, Mich.-based manufacturer is still looking at potential sites.

Tower would be doing work for Stirling Energy Systems. That Scottsdale-based company uses a concentrated solar dish technology called SunCatcher, which leans heavily on the auto industry for its technology — including within the engine that produces the electricity....MORE

A week ago the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, among others, reported that Tower had filed for an Initial Public Offering. Here's the Journal's Private Equity Beat blog:

High Hopes For Cars, IPOs And Sunshine

Looking for signs of an automotive revival, we were one story shy of an Official Trend, but sitting at the news machine and hitting refresh for three days has paid off. Tower Automotive LLC has filed for an initial public offering of up to $100 million, under the Tower International Inc. name. Even casual fans of private equity car investments are familiar with Tower’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management LP.

The Livonia, Mich., auto parts company filed for Chapter 11 in February 2005. While in bankruptcy, the company closed plants, sold non-core operations and reached settlements with labor unions. Cerberus bought Tower for $1 billion in July 2007.

Tower, which produces body and chassis structures and assemblies, said revenue was $1.63 billion last year, down from $2.17 billion in 2008. Net loss for the year widened to $67.9 million from $52.3 million, and adjusted Ebitda fell to $125 million from $212.9 million....

...What if the auto renaissance in the post-Saturn era doesn’t catch on right away? Tower isn’t placing 100% of its bets on vehicles. It will produce mirror-facet panels and support structures to solar dish company Stirling Energy Systems under a five-year pact. Production is set to begin in late 2010 with related revenue coming in starting the next year. Tower plans to invest about $30 million to $35 million in 2010 to support the agreement (net of government and other incentives). Tower thinks “there may be similar opportunities in the future to apply and extend our core skills in other industries, such as defense, wind or appliances.”

Here's the S-1 filing, Goldman and Citi are the bookrunners.

I don't have much interest in IPO's, you can't get enough of the good ones and too much of the bad ones, plus the politics of dealing with the underwriter and, well you get the idea.

Because this is an indirect play it is not as interesting as Stirling itself but worth keeping an eye on.

Here are New Energy Congress' Top 20, with a link to the rest of the Top 100 at the end. NEC rates only 15 of the Top 100 as commercially ready, Stirling also tops that list.

Top 20

Since April, 2006, the New Energy Congress has been systematically voting on the following energy technologies, reviewing a new technology every few days, and weighing it against the criteria they established. Last update - Nov. 17, 2008.

  1. Validated | Available for Commercial Purchase | Directory:Solar >
    Stirling Energy Systems utility solar - 20-year purchase agreement between Southern California Edison and Stirling Energy Systems, Inc. will result in 20,000+ dish array covering 4,500 acres capable of generating 500 MW, at a cost competitive to grid power. (
  2. Engines >
    Cyclone Technologies Schoell Cycle Engine - The Cyclone Engine is designed around the principles of an external combustion engine, to efficiently use any liquid or gaseous fuel and create more power and significantly less emissions than current gasoline or diesel powered internal combustion engines. (
  3. Validated | Directory:Hydrogen from Water / Solar Hydrogen / Waste to Energy >
    Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation (SHEC) - Has developed a process that will convert landfill and other waste methane into clean hydrogen, using the power of the Sun for the reformation, at a price comparable to traditional hydrogen production methods. ( (NEC Specialist: Tai Robinson)
  4. Geothermal >
    Raser is Rapidly Deploying Cost-Effective Geothermal Power - Instead of using electricity to turn a heat pump to cool a liquid, Raser runs a warmed liquid through a heat pump to generate electricity. With their rapid, low-cost deployment capability, they could maximize the U.S. geothermal capacity within ten years. (
  5. Directory:Nuclear >
    Colliding Plasma Toroid Fusion - Electron Power Systems Ltd. is developing a process that remains stable without magnetic confinement, by using background gas pressure for confinement instead, could provide clean, non-polluting energy technology at one-tenth the cost of present energy generation. (
  6. Directory:Batteries >
    Nanotube Super Capacitor Battery - MIT researchers are developing a battery based on capacitors that utilize nanotubes for high surface area, enabling near instantaneous charging and no degradation. Estimating ~5 years to commercialization.
  7. Nanotech / Thin Film Solar >
    Nanosolar a leader in the drive to make solar affordable - Nanosolar has developed proprietary technology that makes it possible to simply roll-print solar cells with performance and durability similar to silicon-wafer cells, while cutting the costs, making solar affordable. The long-term limitation will be the growing scarcity of Indium. (
  8. Directory:Nuclear >
    Focus Fusion - Purports to be a far more feasible and profoundly less expensive approach to hot fusion, in contrast to ITER. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics' is developing the Plasma Focus Device for hydrogen-boron nuclear fusion. 4-7 years to commercial. 1 cent / kWh anticipated energy generation cost. ( (NEC Specialists: Thomas Valone)
  9. Validated | Directory:Solar >
    Enviromission Solar Tower - Enviromission Solar Towers are like an inverted funnel, with a wide skirt to collect air to then turn a turbine in the tower. ( (
  10. Engines >
    Quasiturbine Engine - This four-chamber Wankel-like engine is capable of burning fuel using photo-detonation, an optimal combustion type. The design can also be used as an air motor, steam engine, gas compressor, hot air engine, or pump. (
  11. Directory:Solar >
    International Automated Systems - Utility scale solar presently in process of being commercially installed for first time; alleged to produce electricity at 3-5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Highly-efficient bladeless turbine has wide range of waste-heat-harnessing applications. Methanol production technique will draw CO2 out of the environment, reversing global warming. (
  12. Thermal Electric / Solar >
    Johnson Electro Mechanical Systems - Thermal energy system invented by the person who came up with the Super Soaker can achieve a conversion efficiency rate that tops 60 percent with a new solid-state heat engine. It uses temperature differences to create pressure gradients that are used to force ions through a membrane, instead of moving an axle or wheel. Inventor has also come up with an ambient energy conversion system as well as an electric heat pump.
  13. Waste-to-Energy / Plasma >
    StarTech Environmental Corp Plasma Tech - Startech is a publicly traded waste-to-energy plasma arc technology company. They presently have three 5 ton/day installations in operation, with a number of other plants in various stages of implementation. A 200 ton/day plant being scheduled for Panama will be the largest such plant in the world.
  14. Solar > Silicon >
    RSI's Solar Silicon Solution Wins MIT Energy Plan Contest - RSI Silicon debuts a far more inexpensive method of producing solar grade Silicon, winning "People's Choice" award and first place in the Energy Business Plan contest held by MIT. (NEC Specialist: Jim Dunn)
  15. Concentrated Solar / Stirling Engines >
    Infinia Corp's Stirling Solar Technology - Infinia's solar technology entails a parabolic dish that focuses the sun's energy onto their stirling engine that uses helium in a hermetically sealed system, requiring no lubrication inside the machine, nor maintenance.
  16. Directory:Solar >
    Johanna Solar Technology thin film solar eclipses others - South African solar panels consist of a thin layer approximately five microns thick (a human hair is 20 microns thick) of a unique metal alloy that converts light into energy at a fraction of the cost. The photo-responsive alloy can operate on virtually all flexible surfaces. Expected in market in 2007. (
  17. Solar > Concentrated >
    Cool Earth Solar - Company has developed an inflatable solar concentrator technology that slashes materials costs, making solar farms competitive with commercial electricity generation systems within three years. ( (NEC Specialist: Jon Bonanno, investor, board member)
  18. Solar / Thermal Electric / Nanotech >
    Advanced Diamond Solutions' amorphous nanostructures - Semiconductor industry company serendipitously developed thermionic solar cells using amorphous diamond nanostructures that offer potential efficiencies of 50% at half the cost of silicon solar cells. Also has good promise as a thermal electric generator. (
  19. Directory:Storage > Directory:Batteries >
    EEStor Ceramic "Battery" - Texas company is working on an "energy storage" ultra-capacitor device made from ceramics. It's not technically a battery because it doesn't use chemicals. It can allegedly charge within 5 minutes (from a substation) with enough energy to move a car 500 miles on about $9 worth of electricity -- about 45 cents a gallon.
  20. Available for Purchase | Concentrated Solar Power| >
    SolarCube™ by Green and Gold Energy - Award-winning solar technology uses Fresnel lenses to focus sun's energy onto photovoltaic cells. 5.8 cents per kWh. ( (NEC Specialist: Richard P. George)

Here are the rest of the Top 100.