CLIMATE SPECTATOR: CleanTeq's clear waters

ASX-listed CleanTeq bags two new water treatment contracts, while Bill Gates spends big on an extreme climate solution.

CleanTeq's clear waters

ASX-listed air and wastewater purification junior CleanTeq has bagged $3 million worth of new work, with two contracts to design and construct air purification systems for New South Wales municipal water treatment plants. "Winning these two projects adds substantially to our current project work and reinforces our position as the leading supplier of biologically-based air pollution control systems in Australia,” CleanTeq chief executive Peter Voigt said earlier this week. The company maintains plans for entering the Asian market, where it hopes to branch out its supply.

Meanwhile, the NSW deals follows hot on the heels of CleanTeq’s announcement last week of an $8 million joint venture with Japan’s Nippon Gas Company, to provide water desalination services in the Aussie coal seam gas industry. The 50:50 venture, Associated Water Ltd, shores up CleanTeq’s position in the CSG water treatment market, which the company estimates to be worth $300 million to $500 million a year over the next six years.

Ceramic Fuel Cells' golden trial

Ceramic Fuel Cells has received some heartening news from the longest real-life trial of its flagship BlueGen electricity generator over an 18-month "Smart Home” experiment in Sydney. The 1.5 kilowatt generator, which converts natural gas into electricity and heat for hot water, produced an average of 28 kilowatt hours per day – enough to power two average Australian households – during the trial, which saw a family of three live full-time in the emissions-friendly household. All up, this saved an average 6,950kg of carbon dioxide per year, compared to emissions from the NSW electricity grid – a saving of 65 per cent, the company said. This was markedly better than the home’s solar PV system, which saved around 1,470 kg over 12 months.

The result is a marketing coup for the generator, which last month saw its first German order, for 100 units, following shipments to the UK, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan and the US. And it follows good news in the company’s UK market, where Darling Street last week announced a decision to increase feed-in tariffs for micro-combined heat and power units to boost uptake. As the "first and currently the only fuel cell micro CHP to receive certification under the country’s microgeneration certification scheme and be eligible for the tariff”, Ceramic Fuel Cells, which is dual-listed in the UK, is in a leading position to take advantage of the tariffs.

Bill Gates's extreme climate solution

Billionaire entrepreneur Bill Gates is continuing to pour millions of dollars into geo-engineering technology, despite widespread criticism of the technology’s viability and safety.

The funds, the total sum of which is not publicly known, will be used to back the research of a small group of leading climate scientists into extreme climate modifying techniques, such as spraying millions of tonnes of reflective sulphur dioxide particles high above the earth, according to The Guardian.

Many environmentalists argue that the technology could have more severe effects than current climate change patterns, or is likely to undermine global efforts to reduce emissions. But proponents, such as Gates, contend geo-engineering is likely to be a cheap and effective way to slow global warming.

Other rich listers who have backed geo-engineering include Sir Richard Branson, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrm and tar sands magnate Murray Edwards, The Guardian reports.

Vestas Wind Systems nightmare

Danish-based wind turbine major Vestas Wind Systems has waded into a trifecta of trouble, with a plummeting share price, the loss of its chairman and chief financial officer and the announcement of an annual loss four times larger than analyst estimates. Chief financial officer Henrik Norremark last night resigned hours before the company released its annual result of a 166 million euro loss – which followed two profit warnings in the last three months – citing the conditions which led to the downgrade, according to Bloomberg. Those conditions include production delays and higher than expected development costs as well as thinner profits as Chinese competitors squeeze revenue. In the US, there’s a likelihood that possible expiration of federal government subsidies could provide a further revenue hit this year for the company. Meanwhile, chairman Bent Carlsen and two other board members will not seek re-election at the company’s annual meeting in March. All of this combined to send shares on the X-listed company as low as 15 per cent lower in Copenhagen, before closing 13.9 per cent lower at 692 kroner.

In one brighter spot, Vestas expects a "very, very busy year” for 2012, with activity 40 per cent higher than the previous year, chief executive Ditlev Engel told Bloomberg. Still, that may not be enough to prevent an exodus of other senior management staff.

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