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Book Review

For investors, a heads-up on clean tech

The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity,
by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder
Collins, $26.95

SAN FRANCISCO -- Clean technology is evolving from an environmental issue to big business, opening a world of opportunities for companies, entrepreneurs, and investors who see a chance to -- yes -- clean up, says a new book.

"Clean technology is everywhere," Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder write in "The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity" (Collins, $26.95).

They describe clean tech as "any product, service, or process that delivers value using limited or zero nonrenewable resources and/or creates significantly less waste than conventional offerings."

The main force pushing clean tech from "utopian dreams" to new Silicon Valleys and Wall Street is simple economics: "Clean-energy costs are falling as the costs of fossil fuel energy are going up," the authors write.

Alternative energy and building technologies are expanding, but in centers that haven't had the cachet of California's Silicon Valley, the launch pad for personal computers, the Internet, and biotech.

Emerging clean-tech cities include Copenhagen, where wind power generates 20 percent of Denmark's electricity, and Chicago, a leader in "green" buildings saving energy and heating and cooling costs, the authors say.

"Clean tech has roots in the Birkenstocks-back-to-the-earth alternatives in the 1970s," Pernick, cofounder of the Clean Edge research and publishing firm, said in an interview.

"But the alternatives are now becoming very mainstream," he said, "because corporations from General Electric to Toyota to Sharp to Wal-Mart are embedding new technologies into their current and future growth strategies."

Pernick and Wilder break down clean tech into four main sectors -- energy, transportation, water, and materials -- and examine business and investment opportunities.

Solar-energy companies, for example, are competing for a projected $69 billion in sales by 2016, up from $16 billion last year, while wind-power growth is put at $61 billion in 2016, compared with $17.9 billion in 2006.

Surging demand for energy in China and India also is driving clean-energy transportation, building, and water-delivery technologies.

Along with Copenhagen and Chicago, the top-10 roster of new Silicon Valleys includes Austin, Texas; Freiburg, Germany; New York; Vancouver, British Columbia; Hyderabad, India; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Shanghai.

Eight sectors with the strongest growth opportunities include solar energy, wind power, biofuels and biomaterials, green buildings, personal transportation, smart electric grid, mobile applications like portable fuel cells, and water filtration, the authors say.

But they don't tout specific stocks or securities. They prefer to lay out a blueprint of opportunities, technologies, companies, and trends that may build successful businesses and strengthen economies.

There are also "10-to-watch" lists of one-paragraph briefs on promising clean-tech companies, such as Southwest Windpower in Flagstaff, Ariz., which is targeting small single turbines for residences.