Tim Bradshaw

A cheeky Apple advertisement appeared in several newspapers on Tuesday. Above a vast array of solar panels, it read: “There are some ideas we want every company to copy.”

The ad ran not only during Apple’s latest bout of patent litigation against Samsung, which continues in a San Jose courtroom, but on Earth Day, an annual reminder of our environmental responsibilities.

Apple used Earth Day to launch a new video ad, ‘Better’, narrated by chief executive Tim Cook himself, and a new portion of its website dedicated to its green achievements. These include powering its data centres with 100 per cent renewable energy, as well as 120 of its retail stores.

But perhaps more remarkable is that Mr Cook let Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, give an open and sometimes unscripted talk at Stanford University on Tuesday night. Read more

You shoot me down but I won’t fall. I am titanium.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, must be humming that tune this morning after announcing a solution to the two car fires that dented the electric car maker’s reputation last year. Read more

Richard Waters

The Wall Street analysts waiting eagerly for details of Tesla Motors’ planned “Gigafactory” will have been disappointed by the cursory treatment the project got on Wednesday, as the company announced plans to raise $1.6bn.

After all, this is the massive battery-making plant that is meant to cement Tesla’s rise as the world’s first mass-market electric car maker. According to an expansive report by a Morgan Stanley analyst earlier in the week, it could also make it the dominant player in a $1,500bn market for selling energy storage devices to electric utilities. Read more

Chris Nuttall

It may be getting chilly for barbecuing sausages on BioLite’s new attachment to its twig-powered camp stove, but be warmed by the satisfaction of knowing you are helping its efforts to save lives in developing countries.

The US company is leveraging its success with outdoors types to help fund its longer-term project of providing safer stoves for the half of the world’s population that still cooks on open wood fires every day. Read more

Richard Waters

The Tesla Model S was Motor Trend car of the year last year and starts at a base price of $62,400. So how could you get one for an all-in cost of $500 a month?

Simple: start by valuing your own time at $100 an hour. That, at least, is according to the creative accounting that Tesla has just come up with for a new lease deal for the vehicle. Read more

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is a legend in the world of software, but the latest project of his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation deals with a very physical, real world problem, writes Vinjeru Mkandawire.

The “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” encourages the use of technology in a very different way from writing code for computer operating systems – Universities are asked to build toilets that operate without running water, electricity or a sewage system. Read more

Maija Palmer

Funding Circle, a UK-based online marketplace where individuals lend directly to small businesses raised $16m of Series B financing from joint investors Index Ventures and US-based Union Square Ventures. This brings the total amount raised by the company to $21m.  Launched in August 2010, the company now facilitates around £1m in loans each week. The company is planning to use the funds to double its staff over the next year.

Dragonplay, a Tel Aviv-based games developer raised $14m in a Series A funding from Accel Partners.  Dragonplay specializes in makes card, casino and board games for smartphones and social networks and is best known for Live Holdem Poker Pro, which has more than 2m monthly active players.  The company will use the investment to expand its portfolio of games. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Cheaper, brighter, leaner are the qualities driving light-emitting diode advances and no less than three companies have announced breakthroughs on Tuesday that further advance LEDs as our bright, lighting future.

Soraa, a Silicon Valley start-up, has emerged from stealth mode with a halogen-replacement product (pictured), North Carolina-based Cree says its new product delivers twice the lumens per dollar of previous-generation LEDs, while Britain’s Plessey says it has a new process that cuts costs by 80 per cent. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Despite the disaster of Solyndra, now is still the best time to invest in solar companies, the FT and Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Financing Innovation conference was told on Tuesday.

In a panel discussion, Steve Westly, a leading cleantech venture capitalist, said that, while the Californian solar cell maker’s bankruptcy had been a terrible thing, four or five global solar brands would emerge within five to 10 years. Read more

Richard Waters

The collapse in solar panel prices has not been bad news for everyone: installers are having a field day. But how do you create a large-scale business quickly in an industry that has always favoured local operators?

US solar installer Sungevity has one answer – it is about to venture into Europe, making it the first to make the move. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Better Place, the US company building battery-swapping stations for electric cars, has raised $200m in third-round funding and plans to use the money to expand its networks to other countries.

The Silicon Valley startup is due to launch a limited commercial service in Denmark and Israel in the first quarter of 2012.  Its Series C financing will allow it to expand further in Western Europe, it said on Friday, while it continues to advance deployment projects in Hawaii, Northern California, Canada, Southern China and Japan. Read more

Tech news from the web:

Barnes & Noble is to introduce the Nook Tablet, a lighter, faster, 7-inch color touchscreen e-reader, Engadget reports. The Nook Tablet is set to be released on November 16th for $249.

According to a study by Ernst & Young LLP, US venture capital investment in clean technology rose 73 percent from last year in the third quarter, Bloomberg reports. Read more

Richard Waters

An IPO of Silver Spring Networks has long been one of the most hotly anticipated deals from the world of “greentech”. On Thursday, the Silicon Valley-based company finally disclosed its intention to go public – though some of the shine has come off its story since the heady days of the 2009 US stimulus act, which was passed to reinvigorate the economy in the depths of the financial crisis. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Raising awareness about energy management was always going to be a slow burner of a project, no pun intended, for Google and Microsoft. But, within days of Google announcing the closure of its PowerMeter service, Microsoft has announced Hohm will be discontinued. Both were only two years old. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Google’s grand design to organise the world’s information crumbled at the edges on Friday as it announced the abandonment of services that stored users’ health and energy consumption data. The forthcoming closure of Google Health and PowerMeter represents a considerable narrowing of ambitions for a company that has reached for the stars and supported missions to the moon. Read more

Tech news from around the web:

Google has announced  its new solar energy fund for SolarCity, a residential solar power provider, ZDNet reports. Google’s $280 million dollar investment in the fund is the company’s largest in clean energy to date, the company said in a blog post.  Read more

Richard Waters

With all the brouhaha around social media, it’s easy to forget a sector that was meant to have had a few hot IPOs of its own by now. A company that is trying to make money by selling green slime hopes to change that. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Bill Watkins, the former Seagate Technology chief executive, has chosen the lighting industry for his return to the CEO’s role.

Mr Watkins will lead Silicon Valley startup Bridgelux, which is driving down the cost and increasing the luminescence of LEDs with its technology.

“It’s the best thing I’ve come across in decades, this is how we felt about storage back in 1980, this is a $100bn market for general lighting,” he told me. Read more

Richard Waters

One of Silicon Valley’s most ambitious “green” start-ups looks like it’s about to join the consolidation that’s sweeping through the solar industry.

Ausra, which was backed by more than $90m in equity from blue-blooded venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins and  Khosla Ventures, is in talks with three potential acquirers, according to a person familiar with the situation. Possibilities range from a full buy-out of the firm to a majority investment, this person says.

Originally from Australia (hence the name), Ausra’s founders were lured to California two years ago by the flood of VC money that was pouring into solar at the time. Their company is founded on concentrated solar thermal (CST) technology, which uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays in order to heat water and drive a turbine. Read more

Richard Waters

For a symbol of the new, diminished expectations of the once swaggering US “greentech” industry, look no further than Ausra.

With blue-chip backers like Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, Ausra was one of those Silicon Valley companies that thought on a grand scale. Using a variety of techniques that included low-cost ways of producing and installing vast arrays of mirrors, it dreamt of building and operating utility-scale solar thermal power plants.

As we reported early on in the financial crisis (and the company went on to confirm earlier this year), Ausra changed course and decided its future lay in selling its technology to established utilities rather than becoming a power producer itself. As the project finance markets seized up, only a company with the balance sheet of a utility could hope to fund such ambitious projects, though Ausra said its decision reflected over strategic priorities as well. Read more