Choo, choo… The little hybrid train that could

Here’s an insightful little profile of Railpower Technologies Corp. at It gives the uninitiated reader a good sense of how and why Railpower got its start, why the company’s Green Goat concept is so attractive, and where the Canadian company is going as rail operators look for ways to lower fuel and maintenance costs. For an update on how the company is doing financially and with its growth strategy, click here. (Sorry, free sign-in required for both)

U.S. to gain market lead in solar race: Sharp

Here’s a Reuters story citing comments from Ron Kenedi, vice-president for Sharp’s solar energy solutions group, which is the world’s largest maker of solar panels. He talks about how the conditions are right for the United States to jump ahead of Germany and Japan as the market leader in solar, thanks largely to supportive federal and state policies and programs. His most interesting comment was that the most attractive and highest growth opportunity for Sharp is the use of solar in new home construction.

“We’re in touch with all the major home builders and a lot of them have (solar) projects in the works,” he told Reuters, pointing out that Sharp is working on a 400-home project in Naples, Florida, with home builder Centex Corp., which wants to equip all those homes with solar PV systems. Another interesting tidbit: he says homes rigged with systems sell faster and have higher resale value than those without.

That’s why relationships like the one ATS Automation (Spheral Solar and Photowatt) has with Elk Roofing is so important, because down the road it could lead to huge sales directly to new home projects looking for building intregrated PV technologies. Fact is, whether it’s solar PV or geothermal/solar heating, the key to widespread use of these renewable technologies is to get the home builders on board in a big way.

FYI: On a related solar note, ARISE Technologies must have pitched itself well at the Cleantech Venture Forum. The company — which has its fair share of critics — announced this week it has raised $3.84 million in a brokered private placement, which will no doubt help the struggling solar company get its balance sheet in order. Not sure if the funding is a direct result of the Cleantech conference participation or whether this bun was already in the oven, but whatever the case it puts ARISE past the first of several hurdles towards its goal of tranforming from a solar distributor to a lower-cost producer of high-efficiency solar cells and PV-grade silicon. On the silicon front, the company also announced it has signed a non-binding letter of intent to establish its PV-silicon “research pilot” plant at a University of Waterloo technology park. So far we’ve seen lots of “intent” and “memorandums of understanding,” but investors can’t live on promises alone. This company will have to move fast to show it’s more than just words.