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12/19/2008 12:00 PM     print story email story  

Weekly Investor Round Up News

The big story in the cleantech industry this week came from Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), which halted construction on its new plant in Mississippi. The plant was to begin producing the popular Prius hybrid in late 2010. But as sales figures have plummeted across the board in the auto industry, the Japanese car maker decided to shelve plans for the new facility indefinitely.

Another big story comes from the other end of the mighty river and the City of Hastings, Minnesota. The town will soon have the first commercial hydrokinetic power project in the U.S. The Houston-based company Hydro Green Energy will design and install the system, which does not impound or divert the flow of the river in any way--as traditional hydropower plants do. The project received approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.

In solar industry news this week, California-based Signet Solar announced that it would build it's first North American production facility in New Mexico. The first phase of the plant will create 200 jobs and begin operations in 2010. Signet is know for producing very large thin-film silicon solar modules.

Another California-based solar company, SolFocus, anounced an agreement to jointly develop the first commercial concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) plant in Greece. The company will work with the Greek Samaras group on the 1.6-MW system. The system will employ reflective optics to concentrate sunlight 500 times onto small, highly efficient solar cells.

French oil company Total (NYSE:TOT) announced it is investing $45 million for a 20% stake in Massachusetts-based solar cell maker Konarka. Konarka is developing what it calls "third-generation" organic photovoltaic technology (OPV). The company makes plastic films that convert light to energy.

EverQ, the joint venture between Evergreen Solar (NasdaqGM: ESLR), Q-Cells (QCE.DE) and Renewable Energy Corporation (REC.OL), has changed its name and delayed plans for an initial public offering (IPO), according to reports. The company is now called Sovello AG.

Cereplast, Inc. (OTCBB: CERP), a manufacturer of bio-based plastics, announced a supply agreement through which Chipotle Restaurants (NYSE: CMG) will begin providing customers with cutlery manufactured exclusively using Cereplast Compostables® resin. A system-wide rollout of up to 800 Chipotle locations is expected in the near future, Cereplast said.

And finally, London-based CF Partners plans to launch a EUR 50 million (US$70.06 million) hedge fund in early 2009 to take advantage of volatility in the carbon markets. This marks a new stage in the development of relatively young carbon markets, which until now have been used primarily to address long-term compliance needs. The global carbon market is expected to be worth $100 billion this year, and recent volatility has created an environment that is ripe for short selling, the finance firm said.

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