Tuesday, November 30, 2004

California Dreamin' ....

California seems to be riding the wave to renewable power. Several recent articles show the variety of ways that green business is blooming in California. The first article is particularly significant because the California Public Employees' Retirement System is now providing venture capital for green startups.

'Green' startups draw investors

Venture capitalists see green in the next generation rechargeable battery from PowerGenix Systems.

They are betting the young San Diego company's nontoxic, nickel-zinc battery will pay off big - both for their portfolios and for the environment.

In the past six months, VCs, including one funded by the giant California Public Employees' Retirement System, have put down $13.75 million on PowerGenix. ...

"There are new industries growing, and we ought to be on the leading edge of investment in these," said state Treasurer Phil Angelides, a CalPERS and CalSTRS trustee and the driving force behind the funds' "green wave" investment program. "It's a place where we can win."

Experts say the upstart industry could grow quickly and capture 10 to 20 percent of the venture capital dollars over the next decade.

While Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing hydrogen powered cars, biodiesel is making its appearance as well.

Whether visiting the new pump in Monterey or scavenging used frying oil from restaurants, the homegrown solution appeals to drivers even though vehicle manufacturers and state agencies are reluctant to approve its use.

"It seems like everyone has heard something about burning vegetable oil, but they don't know much more about it," said Logan Talbott, a customer at the new Monterey station. Alliance Mart switched its kerosene tank over to biodiesel in June. Drivers in pickups, new Volkswagens and old Mercedes sporting vegetable-oil bumper stickers are pulling in from as far as Santa Cruz and Big Sur. Sales are increasing every month, said owner John Baulman, and the Fremont Street station typically has two or three biodiesel customers a day. ...

Biodiesel can be made from vegetable oil, animal fat or recycled restaurant grease. It runs in diesel engines with little or no modifications and can be used interchangeably with diesel. But long-term effects on engines are not known, and most auto manufacturers will not warranty vehicles running on biodiesel.

It's promoted as an easy, clean-burning diesel alternative. Biodiesel reduces particulate matter (the black soot that gives diesel its bad name), carbon monoxide and ozone-forming emissions by about 50 percent, according to a 2002 study by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those are overall figures. Many of the most toxic components of diesel, including sulfur, are virtually absent in biodiesel.

And the city of Fresno is launching a pilot program to promote electric cars.

The idea for promoting neighborhood electric vehicles came out of a City Council meeting a little more than a year ago when Lew Solomon, who owns Central Valley Golf & Utility Vehicles, suggested that people could use the vehicles for short neighborhood trips to cut down on air pollution. "I told the city, 'I'm not trying to sell vehicles, but the situation is the housewives of America could use these things to go to the grocery store,'" Solomon said.

He said his business gets calls every week from older people who don't drive cars anymore but want an electric vehicle to drive to the store or the library or to run other errands.

Rudd and his staff explored the issue and brought their findings to the City Council this month.

Neighborhood electric vehicles can typically reach speeds of about 25 mph and can travel up to 30 miles per battery charge. The vehicles cost between $6,000 and $9,000.

To operate on city streets, the vehicles must have seat belts, turn signals and headlights.

The biggest hurdle Rudd and his staff found is that the vehicles cannot be used on most major streets because of speed limits. That means people can drive them around their neighborhood but can't drive them to the nearest grocery store. ...

Builder Gary McDonald will promote electric cars at the 2,837-home Copper River Ranch development, which will include outlets for the vehicles in the garages. He did the same — and offered discounts on neighborhood electric vehicles — at Country Club at the Fort, a 123-home development, also in north Fresno.

He said they were successful at that development. But he hopes the cars will be more successful at Copper River, because it's a larger development that will have commercial and shopping areas within the development.

Anything that gets people out of large cars, particularly sport utility vehicles, is going to help clean the air, said Dr. David Pepper of the Fresno-based Medical Alliance for Healthy Air, an advocacy group.


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At 11:47 AM, Blogger jkevallen said...

I'm very interested in getting a list of companies/employers developing or servicing green technologies in the Santa Cruz area. I've worked in hi-tech finance in the valley for the past 15 years and am currently a controller for a s/w startup in San Jose. I live in Santa Cruz and would like to work on "this" side of the hill for a great cause.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Valery said...

One more post about green business. Check it up!


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