[FoRK] ProjectFork

Aaron Burt <aaron at bavariati.org> on Sat Dec 22 15:10:23 PST 2007

[sorry, long-winded response ahead]
On Sat, Dec 22, 2007 at 08:18:49PM +0100, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> Most of us here have plans in the drawer, which only need 5-10 years and
> abovementioned megabuck budgets. Please don't yank our collective chains.

Megabucks are what venture capital and/or grants are for.  Alternative
energy's in a funny place, though.  At a clean-energy conference a
couple weeks ago, I chatted with a Canadian VC who specializes in
renewables.  I brought up solar-thermal generation and described how
mature the technology was, and his comment was, basically, "if it's
ready-to-go, you need a bank, not a VC."

Problem is, we figured out most of this tech 20-30 years ago and then we
threw it away.  For small scale applications (I.E. off-grid homesteads)
you can buy it off-the-shelf, but the large-scale stuff was all
abandoned years ago.  So it's proven and well-understood, yet needs to
be re-engineered from scratch.

OTOH, what I *did* see at the Clean-Energy conference was exploitation
of resources that weren't usable before.  The difference?  Power
electronics.  Frex: until recently, it wasn't practical to use 1-10 Hz
random-phase, random-voltage AC from an array of bouys.  Now you just
convert it into the correct voltage, frequency and phase, or even into
HVDC for undersea transmission.

> How about oil from single-cell algae. It's reasonably cheap as entry
> world-chaning does, a couple megabucks would bring you into break-even 
> country (or demonstrate a failure, which is much easier). I've actually
> looked into this to some detail, and can dump all that infor to any party
> which genuinely would attempt to do that. 

Lots of people working on that in their garages.  A lot of the effort
right now is selecting algae strains and optimizing inputs and processes
for them.  I'd imagine that the venture capital will go to the folks
working on engineered strains, because of IP-control issues.  

I bet that many potential players are waiting to see what Craig Venter
achieves before risking their own heinies.

"Engineers will wildly overestimate what they can do in one year and
wildly underestimate what can be accomplished in ten."
Gene Kranz, director of NASA Mission Control through the Apollo program 

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