September Cleantech Roundup

Clean Energy Trust’s monthly cleantech roundup recaps the most relevant information on the cleantech sector, from policy changes to technology updates and investment news.

Click here to get this Roundup in your Inbox

September saw an increased focus being placed on new technology and innovation. These included a new bio-jet fuel from steel mill emissions and innovative financial tracking for distributed networks of transactions amongst others. Below we provide important context for these developments to keep track of the growing clean energy sector.

New Technology

As it starts getting colder, aging windows are one area to look to improve your home’s insulation. However, upgrading windows has often been very expensive and rarely cost effective. To make window upgrades more effective and financially feasible, Mackinac Technology Co., a startup from Michigan, is making windows more efficient by applying a custom-fit polymer pane to the inside of the window. Their success comes after a $2.5 million grant through ARPA-E and have now secured a $1.1 million contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

With the Block Island Wind Farm coming online (see more below) off-shore wind has been in the news recently, but it is not the only renewable energy out at sea. In early September, the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm launched in Scotland. Currently, the project has four 1.5-megawatt turbines but Atlantis Resources, the developer, hopes that this is just the beginning of a massive build-out. The goal is to eventually install 269 turbines off the north coast of Scotland. It highlights the importance of fitting different renewable energy solutions to different locations. Locally tailored solutions, like tidal energy, provide an alternative to solar or wind sources where they are less viable without the need to transport energy over long distances. Diversification of

New forms of renewable energy are not the only technological innovations revolutionizing cleantech. Following the financial world, blockchain technology is being harnessed for renewables. The technology allows for automatic and secure filing of hundreds of thousands of transactions. This is particularly useful for distributed generation schemes where the utility is no longer the sole provider of energy. As more and more entities are involved with the integration of renewable power into a smarter grid, systems need to be developed that can handle all of the transactions associated with the new actors.

The airline industry has also been looking for innovation to become more sustainable. Along with other innovators, LanzaTech’s partnership with Virgin Atlantic is leading to fruitful results for innovative bio-jet fuels. LanzaTech is creating low carbon ethanol using waste gases from steel mills. Initial tests suggest that the new fuel could result in 65% reduction in carbon emissions, compared to conventional jet fuel.

Investment and Entrepreneurship Innovation

Remember the SunEdison Bankruptcy? Well now NRG has acquired 2,100 MW of SunEdison’s renewable portfolio with a $144 million bid. It will be interesting to see whether this indicates a shift in NRG’s strategy towards more renewable energy. This news is particularly interesting in light of former NRG CEO David Crane’s ouster in December of 2015. It has been reported that Crane was removed in part due to Wall St.’s trepidation with his aggressive focus on renewables. This move seems to suggest that NRG still sees financial gain in the clean energy sector.

We’ve previously  broken down how a PPA works and why they are so effective on our blog. Recently, Greentech Media featured an article by Wunder Capital’s CEO on The Death of the PPA for residential and commercial solar systems. Cleantech finance wonks, we’ve got you covered.

Policy Developments


With the Block Island Wind Farm completed earlier in August, the Obama administration unveiled its vision for the future of US offshore wind. This Nation Offshore Wind Strategy calls for 86 gigawatts of offshore generating capacity by 2050. In the near term, the administration is focused on collecting data to facilitate development, improving the design of turbines, and implementing more demonstration projects. In November, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) will be hosting its Offshore WINDPOWER 2016 conference in Rhode Island to discuss the future of off-shore wind. The conference will include a tour of the Block Island Wind Farm.

As New York State continues to lead the country with innovative renewable energy policies, New York City sets the first citywide Energy Storage Target. This would be part of the city’s goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Due to a city’s greater flexibility in designing building codes this could provide an interesting model for other large cities. But it is unclear whether other cities will adopt this target approach or whether it will be successful

Some Other Recommended Reading

The crash of a promising VC firm provides a cautionary tale.

Midwest Energy News released a great Q&A with Nancy Pfund, a managing partner at DBL Ventures. She gives a great perspective of the challenges and potentially huge upside to investing in cleantech.

In light of the beginning of oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, this piece from the Washington Post provides incredible background to the CPP and the legal battle around it. If you want a recap of the current state of arguments, definitely read this.

By Alex Foucault | October 6, 2016