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Todd Woody's Posts

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For Khosla, clean tech is all about scale

Getting an audience with Silicon Valley's guru of green investing isn't always easy. Vinod KhoslaJames Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media, Inc. (via Wikimedia Commons)If Vinod Khosla is not speaking at one of the innumerable, and apparently recession-proof, green business conferences that seem to happen every other week, he's giving lectures at Google headquarters, writing white papers, or, of course, inking checks to green tech startups with the potential to disrupt multi trillion-dollar global industries like energy, automobiles and building materials. He's something of a Valley legend: Co-founder of Sun Microsystems, then a longtime tech investor with marquee venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins …

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Wheego joins the ranks of electric car startups

Wheego is an Atlanta-based startup that plans to enter the electric car market with its Whip.Photo: Todd WoodyA traffic jam is developing on the electric highway. A decade after General Motors killed the electric car, big automakers and startups are revving up to put battery-powered vehicles on the road over the next couple of years. One of the latest entrants is Wheego, an Atlanta company that is about to launch the Whip -- a tiny low-speed "neighborhood electric vehicle" that will be upgraded in 2010 to a full-speed, highway-ready car. Wheego chief executive Mike McQuary brought a Whip to San …

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California students take Refract House to Solar Decathlon

The Refract team recycled used billboards to create waterproof walls for the home.Courtesy Santa Clara University Adjacent to a three-story parking garage on the Silicon Valley campus of Santa Clara University, workers are busy building a contemporary wood-clad home that wouldn't look out of place in the pages of Dwell or another shelter magazine for the po-mo, Tesla-driving, little-square-eyeglasses-wearing set. Which is exactly the idea. The home is California's entry into the U.S. Department of Energy's biannual Solar Decathlon and is a collaboration between undergraduates at Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Twenty …

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Take the environment out of sustainability, argues former Sierra Club chief

Adam WerbachAdam Werbach’s career is something of a lodestar for the trajectory of the 21st century American environmental movement. A student activist tutored at the knee of the Archdruid himself, the legendary David Brower, Werbach was elected the youngest president of the Sierra Club in 1996 at age 23.  Then business beckoned and he launched a startup, Act Now Productions, to advise companies like Wal-Mart on going green. Global advertising and marketing goliath Saatchi & Saatchi acquired Act Now last year, rebranding it as Saatchi & Saatchi S (for sustainability) and installing Werbach as the CEO. Now he has written …

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The defeat of Australia’s climate plan is not bad news for cap-and-trade

It may be tempting to view the Australian Senate's defeat Wednesday of climate change legislation as a portent of things to come as the U.S. Senate prepares to take up a cap-and-trade bill. Queensland is Australia's coal country. Its mines power the country and feed China's demand for energy.Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsBut the rejection of the Australian legislation reflects the peculiarities of Aussie politics rather than the viability of cap-and-trade. More importantly, it could trigger what might be the world's first national election fought over climate change -- an election that could give the ruling center-left Australian Labor Party a renewed …

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Mass. startup uses biotech smarts to take the corn out of ethanol

On Monday, the latest entrant in the biofuels sweepstakes takes the wraps off a solar-powered technology designed to transform C02 and sunlight into ethanol. "We capture the energy of the sun into a solar converter," says Bill Sims, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Joule Biotechnologies. "Inside exists a solution of brackish or gray water, nutrients and highly engineered photosynthetic organisms that directly secrete biofuels. There's no intermediary that has to be introduced or processed." So far, Joule's "helioculture" technology has only produced ethanol in the lab. But, says Sims, "We're moving the lab outside as we speak. We aren't expecting any …

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Silicon Valley VC sees bright future for green tech — and a need to engage policy makers

A BrightSource Energy solar thermal project.Photo: BrightSource EnergyDrive around the San Francisco Bay Area and you can see the emerging corporate infrastructure of the new green economy. In a downtown Oakland office tower, you'll find the headquarters of BrightSource Energy, a solar thermal power-plant developer that has scored contacts to build more than 2,600 megawatts' worth of solar farms. Off Highway 101 in the Silicon Valley suburb of San Carlos, Tesla Motors is developing its next electric car. Down the road in Palo Alto, Shai Agassi's Better Place is designing regional electric-car charging networks and battery-swapping stations for Australia, Canada, …

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“Smart” appliances that talk to the grid are coming your way soon

Sure, it's smart, but is it a good conversationalist?So the oven says to the refrigerator, "Don't be so cold." That line will soon be more than a bad joke. The Jetsons are coming to life as dishwashers, washing machines, and other home appliances begin to talk to each other and to the electricity grid in an effort to manage and reduce energy use. Last week, for instance, General Electric and Boulder, Colo.-based smart-grid startup Tendril unveiled a deal to collaborate on software to connect the industrial giant's "smart appliances" to the grid. Pilot projects with utilities are expected to begin …

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David de Rothschild: Saving the world, one adventure at a time

De Rothschild hopes his catamaran made of plastic bottles will draw attention to the need to develop solutions to increase the recycling and reuse of plastic.Courtesy Adventure EcologySan Francisco's waterfront is but a Disney-fied ghost of its former life as a maritime hub. But amid the chi-chi cafés along The Embarcadero and the tourist trap faux crab shacks on Fisherman's Wharf, some actual boat building is going on. Peer through the window of a battered green door at Pier 29 ½ and you'll see -- but not hear -- the form of a rather quirky catamaran quietly taking shape. That's …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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IBM places big bet on lithium-air batteries

Big Blue is rolling out a wide range of "green" services, including research into a new generation of batteries that could double the range of electric vehicles.Courtesy IBMBack in the day when I had to convince East Coast editors that green tech wasn't some crunchy California fad but Big Business, I often cited IBM as Exhibit A that Fortune 500 companies saw a lot of green to be made in green. Over the past several years, Big Blue has been recycling and repurposing a panoply of technologies to create a portfolio of environmental services -- everything from a traffic congestion …