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New Energy Energizes EcoFactor’s Series B Round

October 15, 2013

Home energy monitoring continues to be a growing market as Redwood City’s EcoFactor announced today that it has closed a $10 million Series B round with major energy producer NRG Energy (NRG :NYSE) joining the list of investors.

Previous inevestors Claremont Creek Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, and Aster Capital also joined the round.

EcoFactor has developed cloud-based software that enables homeowners to program their thermostats via the Internet. But instead of just providing homeowners with an Internet accessible dial, EcoFactor’s software looks at a homeowner’s energy usage patterns, weather conditions, and demographics to automatically provide the correct thermostat settings.

Adding NRG Energy to its investor list is an interesting move considering EcoFactor is already working NV Energy (NVE :NYSE) and Comcast (CMCSA :NASDAQ) to offer its service.  Bringing in NRG Energy should provide EcoFactor with access to the company’s 2 million homes it services through Reliant, Green Mountain Energy Company and Energy Plus.

It will be interesting to see if NRG Energy, NV Energy, or Comcast eventually acquires EcoFactor as we would be awfully surprised if they were even allowed to sniff at an IPO.

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Watch Out Solar City? Canadian Solar Launches Financing Program In U.S.

October 7, 2013

The U.S. residential solar market still looks an attractive revenue stream to China’s solar companies as Canadian Solar (CSIQ :NASDQ) will be offering a residential financing program for potential customers.

Working with Admirals Bank in Boston, Canadian Solar’s residential customers will be able to borrow up to $40,000 for a solar installation, subject to credit approval.

Chinese solar manufacturers trying to a capture a share of the lucrative residential solar market in the U.S. is nothing new. Suntech Power Corporation (STP :NYSE) gave it a run, even building a production plant a few miles from local competitor First Solar’s (FSLR :NASDAQ) headquarters. But that hasn’t worked out well for Suntech as they shut the doors to the Goodyear, Arizona plant earlier this year.

But offering financing isn’t the only key to cracking the U.S. market. Solar City (SCTY :NASDAQ) success can be attributed in part to a strategic marketing program that demystifies the solar investment while making it look attractive to the average homeowner. Until Canadian Solar displays the marketing chops to compete with current competitors while offering competitive prices despite the high tariffs, Solar City investors will probably continue to sleep well at night.

Shares of Canadian Solar were down 2.35 percent today while shares of Solar City were up 2.02 percent.

JinkoSolar Awarded 20 MW Contract

September 30, 2013

They may not have been awarded the entire project, but at least JinkoSolar (JKS :NYSE) was awarded one third of it. JinkoSolar will be supplying 20 megawatts (MW) of solar modules to State Grid Corporation of China.

JinkoSolar’s 20 MW is part of a 60 MW phase of a much larger project. The overall project will feature 500 MW of wind power, 100 MW of solar power, and a 110 MW power storage system. The overall project is supposed to serve as a platform for scientific research and a model for renewable energy projects.

JinkoSolar has to feel pretty good about being selected by the State Grid Corporation of China. They must believe the solar manufacturer, unlike some of its domestic competition, will be around to deliver the solar modules in Q4 2013.

Shares of the high flying JinkoSolar were down .22 percent in afternoon trading.

First Solar Acquires 250 MW Project In Nevada

September 26, 2013

If you can’t develop them, buy them. At least that’s what’s happening with this large-scale solar utility project as First Solar (FSLR :NASDAQ) has purchased the 250 megawatt (MW) Moapa Solar Project in Nevada from K Road Power Holdings LLC.

The Moapa project is unique as it is the first large-scale solar project to be built on tribal land in North America. The 2,000-acre project is expected to start construction in Q4 2013 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The solar project will be located on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Clark County, Northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Acquiring the project is a solid victory for First Solar and not just because of its size. By developing the first large-scale solar project on tribal land in North America, this deal potentially opens the door for similar ones in the United States.

As of the April 2000 census, the Moapa River Indian Reservation didn’t crack the top 50 largest Indian reservations by land holdings. The Navajo Reservation topped the list with over 24,000 square miles of land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah followed by the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation with almost 7,000 square miles in Utah and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation with almost 4,500 square miles in Arizona. All of these Indian reservations have the location, and potential, to develop large-scale solar projects.

Despite the large project acquisition, shares of First Solar were only up .42 percent in afternoon trading.

More Trouble For Suntech: Italian Courts Seize Solar Plants

September 23, 2013

Just when it appeared that Suntech Power Holdings (STP :NYSE) had developed a plan to satisfy its creditors and help it rise from its financial difficulties, the company suffered another blow today. Suntech announced that Italian courts have seized 37 solar parks constructed by Global Solar Fund (GSF), an investment fund of which the China-based solar manufacturer is an 88 percent owner.

The 30 megawatts of power seized accounts for 21 percent of the fund company’s power generation capabilities.

The Court of Brindisi seized the plants due to improper operation of the solar plants related to authorization issues for the solar parks and matters related to the improper collection of feed-in tariffs.

Suntech said they will try to work with GSF to continue operating the solar plants.

With Suntech hoping a newly appointed CEO and a credit restructuring plan will help the resuscitate the solar manufacturer from its previous investment missteps, another setback like this will not help renew investor confidence in the company.

Shares of Suntech were surprisingly unchanged in afternoon trading.

FuzeBox Lands $26M Series B, Appoints New CEO

September 17, 2013

Seeking to expand globally, San Francisco’s FuzeBox has raised $26 million in its Series B round led by Hermes Growth Partners. Series A investors Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Insight Venture Partners also joined the round. Previously FuzeBox raised $20 million in its Series A last year.

FuzeBox is seeking to distinguish itself in the increasingly crowded field of communication and collaboration solutions. To help FuzeBox compete with the likes of Cisco (CSCO :NASDAQ) and Citrix (CTXS :NASDAQ), the company also announced they have hired Yammer’s former Chief Customer Officer and Salesforce.com (CRM :NYSE) executive, David Obrand as CEO.

Mr. Obrand is bringing a team with him as former Yammer executives Mary Pecka, Greg Ell, and Jonathan Grant will join the team. Ms. Pecka will assume the role as Chief Customer Officer, Mr. Ell will be the Vice President and General Manager, EMEA, and Mr. Grant will be the Vice President of Finance.

While Mr. Ell will be busy growing the company’s presence in Europe, Ms. Pecka will be active domestically as the company announced they will be offering a freemium service to expand its customer base. Both Yammer and Saleforce.com have successfully implemented the freemium strategy.

FuzeBox may not have the robust platform to compete with Citrix or Cisco’s varied product offering, but they do have the ability to be used on multiple devices including the iPhone, Android phones, and the latest iPad.

Over the next year it will be interesting to see if Mr. Obrand has more to offer from his background besides his experience with freemium services or is he truly a one-trick CEO. Can he position FuzeBox to successfully compete with the heavyweights or will the company be acquired like Yammer?

Investors in Cisco and Citrix weren’t phased by today’s announcement as shares of both companies were up .27 percent and .55 percent, respectively, in afternoon trading.

Wind Turbines Hurt Home Values According To Massachusetts Organization

September 16, 2013

In an attempt to discredit a study released in August saying that home values are not affected by wind turbines being built near them, grassroots organization group Wind Wise Massachusetts (WWMA) released a statement today saying that home values are crushed when wind turbines are built nearby.

This statement refutes the report’s main idea that there is no statistical evidence that home values are negatively impacted by the construction of wind turbines. The authors looked at preannouncement and post construction valuations.

But according to WWMA, homes within two miles of land-based wind turbines can plummet 15 to 40 percent according to Virginia Irvine, president of the WWMA.

Miss Irvine also brings in Michael McCann of McCann Appraisal Services in Chicago who believes wind turbines are devastating to home values. Mr. McCann wrote a letter to the town of Brewster, Massachusetts in September 2011 stating that when wind turbines affect vista views, home values are negatively impacted.

Anti wind turbine activity has increased ever since the Cape Wind project was approved, potentially affecting the views of homeowners who look out onto the Nantucket Sound.

But do wind turbines really affect property values? Even the original report admits that homes within two miles of land-based wind turbines drop in value, but most wind turbines are not built near homes, especially the Cape Wind project. Barnstable, the nearest town in Cape Cod to Cape Wind, will be approximately 5.6 miles away. Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard will be approximately 9 miles away while Nantucket will be almost 14 miles away.

While beautiful vistas and more clean energy for a state that is leading the country in renewables are at stake, neither side seems to boast overwhelming public support. 250 people attended a recent rally and concert on the Hyannis Green supporting Cape Wind while the WWMA blog has 55 followers (one of those can be attributed to The Alarm:Clock staff) and a friend in the Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind is also supported by Better Future Project.

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