California May Spend $95 Million on Clean Technologies

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday announced that he will propose nearly US$95 million in the state budget to create the Governor’s Research and Innovation Initiative.

The initiative would provide funding for major projects aimed at growing California’s economic strength in key innovation sectors, including cleantech, biotech and nanotech.

“With some of the world’s finest universities and research institutions, the Golden State has more scientists, engineers and researchers and invests more on research and development than any other state,” Schwarzenegger said. “As a leader in developing new technologies, California will reap tremendous rewards for our economy and environment from this investment in our innovation infrastructure.”

Growing Interest

There is a growing interest in clean technology. North American and European cleantech investment totaled $1.081 billion in the third quarter of 2006.

More than $934 million was invested in North American cleantech companies, making cleantech the third largest venture capital category for the quarter.

The largest third-quarter cleantech deals in North America were brokered by Cilion, Altra, Ion America, Renewable Energy Group and Newmarket, totaling $572 million, or 61.2 percent of cleantech investment in the quarter.

Going Green

As a part of his proposed budget that will be unveiled in January, the major component of the Governor’s Research and Innovation Initiative is $30 million in lease revenue bonds for the Helios Project, a project by the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to create sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy.

The Helios Project’s four goals are to generate clean sustainable alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels, develop new energy sources, improve energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The $30 million will be used to build a new energy/nanotechnology research building for the Helios Project.

A Gliding Path

“Solar is now on a glide path to good parity, being led by the state of California,” according to Jigar Shah, CEO of SunEdison.

“The California Solar Initiative’s design is that, over the next 10 years, solar energy will be cost effective [even] without any state funding and research programs like the one proposed by the governor. [It is] critical to continue on a quick pace of innovation to lead to sufficient cost reductions to hit that target,” Shah told TechNewsWorld.

The Department of Energy offers a program for universities to participate in solar research. Solar companies such as SunEdison are hoping that DOE funding will be married with the governor’s proposed funding, so that innovation can occur across the country.

“You’ll find there will be increased support across the country for solar research now that solar has demonstrated that it’s viable. The question is with this research money how much faster can we make it,” he said. “A lot of solar companies will choose to keep operations in the states where the research is being done.”

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