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Weekly Cleantech Investor Roundup

Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) plans to expand its Michigan-based manufacturing operations for wind, solar and advanced-batteries at a cost of more than $1 billion. Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm made the announcement, after her state put together tax incentives worth about $61 million over 15 years. Dow said it will contribute $952 million, and the federal government has already chipped $161 million. The new operations are expected to create nearly 7,000 jobs, primarily in the manufacturing of the company solar roofing shingles and lithium-ion battery packs for the automotive industry. Dow also will work with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop cost-effective carbon-fiber materials for the wind and transportation sectors.

Japan's Kyocera Corporation (NYSE:KYO) announced plans to begin manufacturing solar modules in the United States. The company said operations will begin at its San Diego facility during the first half of 2010. And the initial production target is 30 megawatts (MW) per year. Kyocera is one of the largest and oldest solar companies in the world with manufacturing facilities in Japan, China, the Czech Republic and Mexico. The company has set a goal of producing 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar panels a year by March 2013.

Cellulosic ethanol company Range Fuels, Inc. announced that it has received an $80 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds will be used to partially finance the construction of the company's first commercial plant near Soperton, Georgia. The first phase of the plant is expected to be completed this month, with production scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year. Range Fuels uses a proprietary two-step thermo-chemical process to convert biomass into ethanol. The Soperton plant will primarily use excess materials from the state's lumber industry.

Siemens (NYSE: SI) has acquired a 10% stake in Britain's Marine Current Turbines, a company that is developing tidal energy turbines. The move marks Siemen's first foray into the ocean power industry, which has the potential to provide up to 200 gigawatts of power worldwide by 2025 according to a recent report. Marine Current Turbines already has a commercial demonstration project called SeaGen in Northern Ireland and is working on projects in North Whales and Canada's Bay of Fundy. Siemens already has an extensive line of land-based turbine generation technology.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is investing $155 million in its Cleveland operations to build a new fuel-efficient V-6 engine for the 2011 Mustang. The company is aiming for 30 miles per gallon on the highway--a level of efficiency that would likely be at the top of the class for fuel-guzzling muscle cars. The automaker now has invested $1.8 billion in powertrain engineering and facility upgrades in North America, and Bill Russo, director of manufacturing for Ford’s powertrain operations, said the company is committed to delivering class-leading fuel efficiency for every new vehicle it introduces. Ford said the new V-6 will have a 305-horsepower rating and produce the same noise and driving experience that Mustang lovers expect. But if they're not satisfied--and they don't care about their personal carbon footprint--they can still opt for the "no compromises" version, which comes with a souped-up 8-cylinder engine.

Google Inc (Nasdaq: GOOG) said it has developed a prototype mirror technology that could cut by half the cost of building a concentrated solar power (NYSE:CSP) plant. Google's head of green energy, Bill Weihl, told Reuters the technology could be ready for deployment in as few as three years. Google has been working on new reflective materials and substrates for heliostats--those are the reflective devices used to focus sunlight. The path to market for the devices would like be with CSP companies eSolar and BrightSource. Google is an investor in both companies, and Weihl said if the technology works it is "absolutely" something they would use. 

Four Democratic Senators want the Obama administration to impose 'buy American' rules on stimulus spending for renewable energy projects. The New York Times reported that Charles Schumer, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey and Jon Tester introduced legislation to create such rules and called for a halt in stimulus spending until they were in place. They say projects that employ equipment made overseas are not an appropriate use of funds meant to stimulate the US economy. And as evidence they point to $2 billion spent on wind-energy projects--three-fourths of which they say went to foreign companies. A spokesperson for the Department of Energy responded that building up the wind industry has attracted more than $10 billion in foreign investment, and that the best way to stimulate clean energy manufacturing in the US is to stimulate US demand. 

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