Newsletter: Like a solar roof, but it actually exists

Plus: Carbon spotting in space, geothermal heating up, and big bets on batteries.
By Julian Spector

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Welcome to May! When the air warms up, the Canaries start to sing, and we have a full-throated journalistic chorus for you today.

Read on for:

  • A solar roof that’s giving Tesla a run for its money.
  • A space-age strategy for spotting planet-warming methane leaks.
  • A roundup of geothermal breakthroughs that has Eric Wesoff hot and bothered.
  • The latest bet in the search for the electric car battery of our dreams.

A solar roof from people who actually know roofing

The people love a good disruptor, but sometimes knowledge and experience have some, like, value.

That may be the case for GAF, one of the largest U.S. roofing companies, which has also apparently leaped ahead of Tesla in solar roof installations, as Eric Wesoff reports.

The pitch is this: Your GAF roofers can easily add a prepackaged solar kit that fits with their roofing materials. It streamlines installation, protects the waterproof properties of the roof, and comes with markedly lower customer-acquisition costs compared to mainstream solar sales.

GAF’s parent company is one of the 100 largest private companies in America, so this operation could give solar companies a run for their money. Definitely one to watch. 

Orbital methane spotters, assemble!

If your naked eye missed that methane plume, it's probably because it's odorless and colorless. (Image credit: European Space Agency)

Problem: Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over the near term, and it escapes largely undetected from oil and gas infrastructure.

Solution: Two new satellite programs, MethaneSat and Carbon Mapper, will soon put eyes in the sky to track methane plumes back to their sources with greater granularity than is currently possible.

These two systems can make emissions from the oil and gas industries, and emissions in general, transparent, at a scale and with a level of resolution that we’ve never had anything close to before,” said Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

To learn the latest on methane tracking, set your flight path to Jeff St. John’s feature on the subject.

If your naked eye missed that methane plume, it's probably because it's odorless and colorless. (Image credit: European Space Agency)

Geothermal is hotter than you think

We’ve got your solar news, your battery news, your hydrogen news — but geothermal has been hiding in plain sight.

Did you know that the U.S. leads the world in geothermal resources deployed? Or that, even then, this renewable power only accounts for 0.4 percent of U.S. electricity production?

That clearly leaves room for improvement, and that work is well underway as a new generation of entrepreneurs ports over cutting-edge tech from the oil and gas industry and applies it to carbon-free, 24/7 geothermal power. No more dry holes here!

Canary Media has you covered with Eric Wesoff’s roundup of the latest moves in that sector.

BMW and Ford up the ante on next-gen car batteries

You may have seen a horse race in the news lately. The only horse race we care about at Canary Media is the advanced battery manufacturing horse race.

The big automakers are somewhere along the spectrum of acceptance that electric vehicles are coming, but they all would like to see better batteries. The jockeying has begun to get ahead in commercializing next-generation designs like solid-state lithium metal, which could pack more power with better safety than is possible today.

BMW and Ford doubled down on Colorado-based startup Solid Power yesterday, investing in a $130 million Series B to get its batteries out of the pilot-scale factory and into commercial vehicle production by mid-decade.

Jeff Chamberlain, a longtime DOE battery wonk now investing at Volta Energy Technologies, told me where he sees Solid Power relative to the competition:

Solid Power is not a science experiment. To Volta’s knowledge, this is the only all-solid-state battery company that is not a science experiment.”


And if you missed our live conversation on Clubhouse last week on the state of clean energy investing in this tumultuous time, Eric Wesoff took extremely detailed notes, which you can peruse at your leisure here.

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Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.