Cleantech stocks robust in 2007, so far

The Cleantech Index, which tracks 47 publicly traded companies in the cleantech sector, is doing quite well these days. If you managed to invest in the PowerShares Cleantech Portfolio (ticker: PZD on the AMEX) in early March, you’ve enjoyed a 24 per cent return on your shares — not bad. Cleantech Indices LLC, part of the Cleantech Group, announced today that it was adding EnerNOC, Comverge and LDK Solar to the index. EnerNOC and Comverge both have products for energy demand-management on the grid, an area that’s expected to receive more attention over the coming years as utilities look for ways to smooth out peak electricity demand and ease pressure on the electricity system.

Since the beginning of the year, the Cleantech Index has seen an 18 per cent increase, compared to 8 per cent from the Nasdaq Composite Index, 7 per cent from the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index and 7 per cent from the S&P 500 Index. It’s a positive reflection on the sector and the opportunity.

Cleanfield Energy goes commercial with small wind

Cleanfield Alternative Energy, maker of a new vertical-axis small wind turbine, unveiled its new 3.5 kilowatt product recently after collaborative study with the Ontario Centres of Excellence and McMaster University’s mechanical engineering department in Hamilton. The Ancaster, Ont.-based company, founded in 2002, also announced it was raising up to $1.5 million through a private-equity offering.

(OCE has a profile of the company here).

Cleanfield has been testing the VAWT prototype with McMaster since 2005 and completed the tests last spring. Originally, it was rated as a 2.5 kw system, but tests were so successful the company was able to re-rate the product at 3.5 kw.

What will be interesting is how the City of Hamilton decides to proceed with a proposal from Cleanfield to install 150 of its turbines on up to 50 municipal buildings as part of a project partially funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the Green Municipal Fund. It will be a great test of the technology, and one of the only small-wind projects I’m aware of that could participate in the province’s standard offer program.

Cleanfield’s timing is also good, given the government is launching a pilot financing program that will provide zero-interest loans to homeowners and small businesses that want to install solar thermal/PV, geothermal and small wind systems. The program is limited initially to Peel Region, including Mississauga and Brampton, but could expand across Ontario if it proves effective in sparking take-up of small-scale renewable energy systems.

Solar thermal finally get respect in Ontario

My Clean Break column yesterday took a snapshot of Ontario’s policies for supporting solar technologies and found that the province has made impressive inroads, particularly and most recently in the area of solar thermal technologies — solar PV’s poor cousin. Now, let’s be clear: More can be done, lots more. But relative to other jurisdictions in Canada, and even the United States, Ontario is doing a respectable job of promoting and financially supporting early stage adoption of these technologies. I won’t go into detail — you can read the column. Suffice to say I’m currently investigating putting a solar thermal hot water system on my new home. I was considering geothermal, but the incentives and the ease of installation for solar thermal are too hard to resist.

BTW: My Clean Break podcast also sticks with the solar thermal theme. I interviewed Alex Winch, founder and president of Mondial Energy in Toronto. He gives his impression of Ontario as a solar thermal market, and says the province is currently the North American sweet spot for commercial-scale solar thermal installations. It’s a good interview — give it a listen if you can.

Looking for green work?

I’m not sure how exhaustive this Web site is, but if you’re based in Canada and looking for a “green” job, check out, which attempts to “help green employers and organizations connect with individuals who want to work or volunteer for green businesses, government departments and environmental organizations.” A bonus is that you can subscribe to an e-mail alert that lets you know when the latest jobs are posted. This site began operation in April, so is fairly fresh, but it would be nice to see it gather momentum with employers and job seekers alike.

Lowering cost, carbon footprint of ethanol production

GreenField Ethanol, the largest ethanol producer in Canada, said today it has finished the trial of a new membrane technology that allowed the company to more efficiently separate water from alcohol during ethanol production. Membrane technology isn’t the sexiest in the cleantech sector, but this particular membrane, developed by Quebec-based Vaperma, can dramatically reduce ethanol production costs associated with traditional distillation processes and the use of molecular sieve units. These require the use of natural gas to produce steam, but when the Vaperma membrane process was used instead to dewater the ethanol, GreenField was able to reduce energy costs by 40 per cent. “Vaperma’s process is unique to the industry and has the potential to revolutionize the alcohol production process,” GreenField said in a statement. The company added that its project with Vaperma, which it considered highly successful, “proved to be the first large-scale demonstration in North America of membrane technology for dewatering ethanol.”

A technology to watch, as it could have farther reaching impact throughout the ethanol and biofuels markets.