Breakthrough Ideas in Clean Energy Are Very Rare

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At a rate of about a dozen a week, I’m approached with ideas in clean energy/transportation. Here’s an imprecise breakdown of my response to these concepts I’ve received over the last three years:

2%: Crackpots. An attempt to raise money to build a prototype of some that is theoretically impossible, where the principal (I think) actually believes it to be possible. I speak (briefly) with people fairly frequently who are trying to convince me that their idea is the very one that has successfully violated the First or Second Law of Thermodynamics.

3%: Fraud. An attempt to bilk investors out of money to build a prototype of some that the principal knows very well to be theoretically impossible. 3%, 1 out of 33, may sound like a big number given the magnitude of the accusation I’m making, but I think that’s about right. I’ve warned a few people: If you pursue this, you’re very likely to wind up in prison. I’ve found that this is a quick way to make friends. Just kidding; just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. It’s (obviously) the end of the conversation, but it’s something I feel I should say in certain obvious cases.

75%: Bad ideas. Not frauds or crackpots — just ideas that are theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely to succeed, given the idea itself, the market conditions, the environment for financing, the lack of a barrier to competitive entry, an unseasoned team, weak IP protection, etc. Here’s one: a high efficiency electric motor for EVs. The problem is that the efficiency of the motor is almost completely inconsequential to the success of electric transportation. You could show me a motor that was free, whose efficiency was 1.0, and I’d still yawn.

18%: Ideas that I can’t call “bad” but I can’t get excited about, either. Here’s an example: http://et3.com/; it’s a futuristic concept for transportation whose cost/adoption curve is impossible to evaluate.

2%: Really strong ideas.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. Hey….so, what becomes of the 2%? And the magnetic accelerator technology is being further developed for rail based weapons…..

    Our company has what appears to be one of the 2%ers, but even though it can be built because it’s so painfully obvious that it’s totally viable, and doesn’t violate any laws of physics….like you just sounded in the article, people are either getting pretty jaded, or can’t understand the fact that some people actually know more about certain aspects of physics than they do.

    To further prove to you what I’m getting at, here’s all you have to do:

    1. Carefully read and go thru this concept for an all new renewable energy technology

    2. Try to find a flaw in the design

    3. Help to promote it, and expect to be compensated if successful

    See? Chances are, that you won’t or can’t….it’s just not realistic human nature…….but you can write me at the ftp@aol.com address

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