Sunday, March 7, 2010

The "Second Wave" of renewable energy development

     The years have taught us all a great deal about renewable energy.  One of the things I noticed is if you follow the investments and the press releases you begin to see that a good portion of the investment money follows the best promoters.  I will not name any company in specific since there are more than a handful of companies who fall into this category.  Some of which I believe will be gone in the near future because they have not developed viable technologies.  In the end deep pockets do not make a technology viable.
    I think we should brace ourselves for the renewable energy fall out we are going to see in the next several years.  There are many companies which have hyped their way to large high profile investments.  They have secured large government grants, loan guarantees and still not met their milestones for technology development.  In the end viable processes and technology is necessary for success.
     In the background far removed from the press and high profile investments are companies that are beyond announced milestones and working hard to refine their technologies and scale up their processes.  I believe that some of these companies will lead what I call the "second wave" of renewable energy development.  These are the companies which have developed frugal ways to utilize capital, feedstock, and existing infrastructure to develop truly viable options for our future.  These companies have quietly developed economically viable processes and are ready to scale.
     What does this mean for advanced fuels development?  I think it means we will not see significant production for at least 5 more years.  The key word in this is "significant".  This is because the remaining high profile and second wave companies need to get their technologies into commercial scale and this is not going to be an easy process.  Some high profile companies are going to fall flat on their face.  Investors are going to be wary of putting good money after bad.  The normal technology challenges of scale will also be encountered.  There will be success stories.
     In 2 years there will several companies producing advanced renewable fuels at prices competitive to the market.  There will be demonstration and commercial scale operations.  There won't be significant amounts in overall terms but these companies will have scale facilities which can develop into significant production over time
     We will be at a significant point in advanced fuels development.  We could be entering into a build out phase which could provide the investment, employment, and environmental opportunities we have envisioned for many years.

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