ATS’s Photowatt temporarily shuts down solar manufacturing

Low demand for solar modules has hit yet another solar PV manufacturer. ATS’s Photowatt, which has manufacturing in France, announced today it will shut down its facilities for three weeks “in response to lower demand for solar modules and systems.” The company said it will take the down time to implement process improvements, which is a smart thing to do. Still, it’s just the latest sign of how the credit crisis is slowing down the market for renewable-energy projects. There’s no shortage of projects in the hopper, but they’re moving slowly as developers figure out ways to raise cash or simply hunker down and wait out the storm. Day4 Energy, Arise and Timminco are among the other publicly traded Canadian solar companies that have been hit hard by the downturn. And, of course, there are many more beyond Canadian borders.

Lockheed has not invested in EEStor

Just figured I’d stamp out a rumour circulating the blogosphere that Lockheed has some kind of investment in EEStor. A reliable source close to the company told me that Lockheed has not invested a single dime in EEStor and that the agreement between the two announced last January strictly relates to Lockheed’s role after EEStor has developed its product. In other words, Lockheed will be more than happy to market, sell, and integrate EEStor’s EESUs into military applications if it is handed a working product.

This isn’t to say EEStor’s relationship with Lockheed is no big deal. The fact that Lockheed would lend its brand to a press release that includes EEStor, and has even named EEStor in a patent, is significant. Also, because we’re dealing with military applications, who knows what kind of collaboration is going on behind the scenes? However, contrary to what’s floating around out there, Lockheed is not an investor. (ed. note: for clarification my source says Lockheed has “not given EEStor a dime,” which would indicate there is no investor or fee paid).

If you want a full story on EEStor’s latest “permittivity” milestone (updated version) and its impact on ZENN shares, check out my Toronto Star article here.

Electric scooters are nice, but a Zero Motorcycle fills the need for speed

I had the chance to take a new Zero S electric motorcycle for a spin yesterday. Zero Motorcycles was in Toronto and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. The California company launched its Zero S highway-capable motorcycle in the United States earlier this month and is now focusing its attention on its Canadian launch.

You can get the details from my Toronto Star article, but generally, I’ll say I was surprised at the power of this gearless machine. In fact, the torque was so strong it took some getting used to when starting from a stopped position. But seriously, acceleration? Holy crap Batman… this machine goes, like from zero to 100 km/h in less than four seconds (though I’d like to point out to my wife that I didn’t experience this first hand, given the limited space in the parking lot I was in). And very lightweight at just 102 kilograms.

EEStor announces permittivity certification… now what?

UPDATE: EEStor issues clarification on permittivity tests, includes temperature range. EEStor’s “hot pressed dielectric layers have met and/or exceeded a relative permittivity of 22,500 over a temperature range of -20 and 65 degrees centigrade.”


On April 16 ZENN Motor closed the trading day at $2.14 (Canadian) a share on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Four days later it had climbed to $3.50, a 64 per cent increase. Then today — an hour or so again, to be precise — this press release hits the wire:

EEStor Inc. Announces Relative Permittivity Certification of Their Composition Modified Barium-Titanate Powers

CEDAR PARK, Texas, April 22 /PRNewswire/ — EEStor, Inc. announces relative permittivity certification of their Composition Modified Barium-Titanate powders. The third party certification tests were performed by Texas Research International’s Dr. Edward G. Golla, PhD., Laboratory Director. He has certificated that EEStor’s patented and patent pending Composition Modified Barium-Titanate Powders have met and/or exceeded a relative permittivity of 22,500.



EEStor feels this is a huge milestone which opens the advancement of key products and services in the electrical energy storage markets of today. The automotive and renewable energy sectors are a few of the key markets that would benefit greatly with the technology.

Smells like blatant insider trading to me… but I digress. Let’s talk about the release (which was followed up immediately by a release from ZENN).

This is the “permittivity” certification that everyone has been waiting for, and this is the announcement that EEStor CEO and co-founder Dick Weir has talked about as the key milestone before the company can begin commercial production of its EESU systems. It also means ZENN must make its next payment to EEStor ($700,000). Finally, Weir has indicated to me that he will be more willing to open up and talk about EEStor’s plans once this milestone was reached and announced, so hopefully in the coming days more insight will be forthcoming. Stay tuned…

Fusion power on the cheap? Not so outlandish…

My feature in the Toronto Star today is about General Fusion, a Vancouver-area startup that believes it can build a prototype of a nuclear fusion reactor for $50 million within four years. While the multibillion-dollar ITER and U.S. fusion programs are using costly lasers and electromagnets to achieve “net gain” — that is, creating a fusion reaction that releases more energy than put it — the folks at General Fusion are cleverly pursuing a mechanical approach that uses concentrated sound waves to compress a deuterium-tritium plasma and trigger a fusion reaction. The key, as you’ll see, is the use of precision digital controls that simply didn’t exist back in the 1970s when the idea of magnetized target fusion was first explored.

You can read the article for more details and a deeper explanation of how it works. General Fusion recently secured $13.9 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada so it can pursue its prototype development, contingent on the company raising another $30 million or so from private investors. SDTC‘s average deal size is around $3 million so the fact it’s giving General Fusion nearly five times that amount speaks to the credibility of what it’s doing. Continue reading Fusion power on the cheap? Not so outlandish…