Posts Tagged ‘john Doerr’

Article from GigaOm.

“Two Silicon Valley-backed Bay Area companies appear to be the tech vendors behind Apple’s new sizable and pioneering clean power push at its massive data center in North Carolina. Last week it was revealed that solar panel maker SunPower will provide Apple with panels for a 20 MW solar farm, while I reported earlier this month that fuel cell maker Bloom Energy looks to be the vendor behind Apple’s 5 MW fuel cell farm. The significance of Apple opting to partner with two Valley-born clean power firms illustrates that the greentech venture ecosystem can work — it just takes quite a long time.

San Jose, Calif.-based solar panel maker SunPower was founded way back in the mid-80′s by Stanford electrical engineering professor Richard Swanson, and received early funds from the Department of Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute, two venture capital firms and chip firm Cypress Semiconductor. The company went public in the Spring of 2005, bought venture-backed Berkeley, Calif.-based solar installer Powerlight in late 2006, and more recently was bought by oil giant Total.

Sunnyvale, Calif-based fuel cell maker Bloom Energy was founded a decade ago, though only came out of stealth two years ago, and was venture capital firm Kleiner Perkin’s first foray into greentech. Bloom also counts venture firm NEA as an investor, and Bloom raised its latest $150 million round of funding in late 2011.

Both companies have taken years to develop into firms that can mass produce their respective clean power technologies at scale and at a low enough cost to meet the needs of a large customer like Apple. And both companies have likely taken longer to mature than their investors had originally hoped. Kleiner Partner John Doerr said a couple years ago that he thought Bloom Energy would take nine years to go public (which, if true, would mean Bloom would have gone public last year). SunPower’s execs reportedly said back in the early(ish) days of the company that developing SunPower into a solar manufacturer took a lot longer than they anticipated.

But Apple apparently chose these two Bay Area clean power leaders for its first-of-its-kind, huge solar and clean power farms, suggesting these firms are delivering industry-leading products at the right economics for Apple. Apple is spending $1 billion on the data center, and likely between $70 million to $100 million on the solar farm. Each 100 kW Bloom fuel cell costs between $700,000 to $800,000 (before subsidies), so Apple’s fuel cell farm could cost around $35 million.

Yes, both SunPower and Bloom Energy, have had their fare share of struggles in recent years. 2011 was a particularly difficult year for SunPower, with a glut of solar panels causing prices to fall around 50 percent globally and Total’s CEO said recently that SunPower would have gone bankrupt last year without Total’s backing. Bloom Energy is a private company and doesn’t disclose its financials, but likely if Bloom was in shape to go public in 2011, it would have done so.

However, it’s no secret that greentech has been a particularly hard area for venture capitalists to invest in. The long time tables, the large capital needed, the hardcore science for the innovations, and the low cost focused energy markets, have created a difficult ecosystem for the traditional VC to make money off of. But after a long slog — which is still ongoing for SunPower and Bloom Energy in 2012 — these clean power technologies have actually broken into the mainstream. Valley, backed cleantech firms can make it — you’ve just got to sit back and wait.”

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Here is a Cleantech article from Mercury News.

“In other tech revolutions of recent decades, Silicon Valley became the uncontested global leader. The region’s ability to innovate its way to the top in cleantech, though, is far from guaranteed. Competition is fierce and global, with trillions of dollars at stake.

One of the valley’s greatest challenges comes from here. China’s drive to be a dominant power in the emerging global cleantech industry was on display one recent morning on the campus of the nation’s third-largest solar-panel maker, Trina Solar. New assembly-line employees, in an exercise designed to instill discipline, marched military-style around the grid-like campus, chanting responses to a drill leader dressed in army fatigues.

But China’s ambitions in cleantech reach far beyond piecing together solar panels. The central government has committed more than $100 billion a year to green technology research. It also has put in place incentives to create markets for everything from electric cars to rooftop solar water heaters to jump-start homegrown cleantech companies.

Provincial and local governments also are investing heavily in cleantech. Leaders in Jiangsu Province, where Trina Solar is located, are placing big bets on the solar industry, inspired by the municipal government of Wuxi. That Jiangsu Province city financially backed Suntech Power, now a global solar leader.

“China is moving very aggressively,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during a visit to Google’s Mountain View headquarters last fall. “They want to be a leader in this new industrial revolution.”

A group of valley tech executives, including former Intel CEO Andy Grove, recently sent a letter to Chu urging the energy secretary to “sound the alarm bell to make America aware — clearly and unequivocally — of how rapidly other nations, particularly China, are moving on clean energy.

“Unless we move quickly and commit substantial resources on a sustained basis, we risk becoming an energy also-ran, and risk developing a new dependency,” said the letter, also signed by Michael Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials, and John Doerr, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.

They urge the government to provide financial assistance to clean energy industries, including incentives for replacing polluting power plants with renewable sources of energy.

U.S. is lagging

Currently, only five of the world’s top 30 companies in the solar, wind and next-generation battery markets are based in the United States, according to John Denniston, also a partner with Kleiner.

U.S. government incentives — such as tax breaks and a regulation requiring utilities to buy power from solar and wind energy companies — were slowly eliminated in the 1980s after helping California become a global cleantech leader, said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Around the same time, Denmark, Germany and Spain — whose governments adopted policies and incentives to jump-start cleantech enterprises — were emerging as global leaders.”

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