Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Simple Solution for a Very Poor World

Imagine if you had no electricity. No lights. No radio. Don't even think about television or internet. When sun goes down, your world becomes dark and silent. Or worse. Using kerosene lamps, your world becomes dirty and dangerous.

This is what the world is like for 1.3 billion people. Including children who never have a chance to get the kind of education that could release them from a pernicious cycle of poverty.

Now imagine just one light. One light that gives children a chance to read. That gives a family the ability to stop wasting their money, health and safety on kerosene. Think about how just one light could improve the lives of a child and their family.

ToughStuff solar panels are providing desperately poor communities around the world with enough power to light their homes and charge batteries for radios and cell phones. The company does this with a tiny, inexpensive solar panel that costs about $15. Equivalent to the cost of about 12 weeks of kerosene.

The ToughStuff solar panel is designed to deliver high performance while being durable enough to survive in even the most extreme environments. The panel is very robust, UV-resistant, and water-proof. It works in even low light conditions

Here's the best part. ToughStuff is doing this without any government or aid agency grants. People pay for the solar panels. Distributors earn a commission selling the solar panels.

ToughStuff also has a "buy one/give one" program for those of us in more economically developed parts of the world. Half the purchase price of every ToughStuff solar kit bought in developed countries goes towards funding the company's Business in a Box programme. You will be supporting a Solar Village Entrepreneur (SVE) to set up a business selling or renting ToughStuff products, generating profit to improve his/her livelihood, and improving access to sustainable products in off-grid communities. The company provides vital training and assistance to run a profitable enterprise – the average ToughStuff SVE earns $500-1000 each year – ensuring a sustainable and lasting route out of poverty.

For more information, go to

John J.P. Howley
Woodbridge, New Jersey

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Venture Capital Cleantech Investments Flat in 2011

A new analysis by Ernst & Young concludes that US venture capital firms invested $4.9 billion in cleantech companies in 2011. That is 4.5% less than 2010. The good news is that the amount of capital invested in 2010 was up 29% from 2009.

Energy and electricity generation attracted $1.5 billion of venture capital investments, about 5% less than in 2010, with solar power accounting for 91% of the capital invested in the generation sector.

The energy storage sector saw a whopping 253% increase in venture capital investments, with $932.6 million invested in 28 deals. Much of this capital was invested in new battery technologies.

Although energy efficiency companies attracted $646.9 million of new venture capital investments in 2011, that represented a 29% decrease from 2010.

Corporate cleantech investments were concentrated in solar and wind power generation. Google Inc. and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) invested $189.0 million in four California solar farms totaling 88 MW of capacity. The projects will be built by Recurrent Energy Inc., a unit of Sharp Corp. NRG Energy Inc. acquired solar-power developer Solar Power Partners, deepening NRG's involvement in the solar power market.

MidAmerican Energy bought 49% of the $1.8 billion 290 MW Agua Caliente wind power project based in Yuma County, Arizona, which is being developed by NRG Energy. Duke Energy Corp. and American Transmission Co. bought a power line project to bring wind energy from Wyoming to the US Southwest.

John J.P. Howley
Woodbridge, New Jersey