In March, the Times Online ran a piece on the top 100 eco-barons and where they were investing their money. The most popular places to invest include wind power, renewable fuels, electric cars and solar.
Some less likely investments include toys, open spaces, conservation and green sports.
So let’s take a closer look at where in the green economy the billionaires we know and love are putting their cash and see if we can take any tips.
We already know that Warren Buffet is big on wind and electric batteries, and that Michael Bloomberg wants to green New York City. But did you know that Paul Allen has a quarter of a million in Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel company, and significant holdings in AltaRock Energy, a geothermal company?
Sir Richard Branson is a busy man. He set up a Virgin Green Fund to focus on middle market growth and expansion investment opportunities in the renewable energy and resource efficiency sectors. The portfolio includes Gevo Biofuels, Solyndra Solar, Germany’s Odersun thin-film solar company, Metrolight energy efficient lighting, Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a company focused on the discovery of advanced materials for clean energy technology applications, Duratherm resource recovery, Seven Seas Water desalination and waste water treatment, and Greenroad, a company that focuses on fleet driver safety and fuel consumption reduction. The Fund is currently seeking opportunities in biomass, fuel cells, geothermal, hydro, wind, emissions reduction technology, monitoring systems so if you’re looking for expansion or growth capital for a business in those areas, check out the site and submit a proposal.
Ted Turner, the man who built CNN, is the largest individual landowner in North America. He focuses on economically and ecologically sustainable land management. He also had an investment in DT Solar, which was later bought out by First Solar turning his several million dollar investment into $34.3 million in cash and stock.
Venture capitalist John Doerr’s firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which started by funding tech firms like Sun Microsystems, Amazon and Netscape now has $200 million in renewable energy and technology. Their investment portfolio includes AltaRock Energy, Altrabiofuels, Amyris Biotech, a renewable diesel company, Ausra, a designer of solar thermal energy systems, Bloom Energy fuel cells, Fisker Automotive, GreatPoint Energy which is developing a technology for converting coal and other carbon-based feedstocks into natural gas, Hara Software, Lehigh Technologies rubber recycling, Lilliputian Systems miniature fuel cells, Mascoma Corporation ethanol production, Miasole thin film solar, RecycleBank, RPX Corporation patent aggregation, Silver Spring Networks, Inc. smart grid technology, and Verdiem energy management software.
Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems launched Khosla Ventures in 2004, a leading investor in wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal energy, clean battery technology and building materials. Their renewables portfolio has 38 companies including Stion photovoltaics, Ausra, Infinia Solar, PVT Solar, AltaRock Energy, Great Point Energy, Nano H2O water purification, Nanostellar diesel emissions control, and many others. They are also betting on at least 10 companies in energy efficiency like Seeo, Kaai and Soraa, and Sakti3 which recently signed a deal with GM. Khosla is on record saying that he expects at least half of his portfolio to be successful..
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are big on the electric car company Tesla Motors and are among its top investors. They are also putting some serious cash into the development of solar and wind power, plug-in hybrid cars and other green ideas. A partnership with GE aims to make renewable energy cheaper than coal.
Like his compatriot T. Boone Pickens, former oilman Philip Anschutz is really into wind. His company is developing the TransWest Express Transmission Project, which will help carry wind-generated energy from Wyoming to California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as a 2000 MW wind farm.
Billionaire Dennis Washington has extended his fortune over the last 20 years through a company that specializes in environmental remediation, Envirocon. Real estate magnate Theodore Lerner, bought the Washington Nationals baseball team and moved them into a state-of-the-art green stadium.
David Rockefeller, grandson of John D., has donated family land and money to sustainable food movement by supporting Stone Barns. He has also been a thorn in the side of Exxon Mobil, publicly accusing the leadership of mismanaging the company by relying on a depleting resource and not moving toward investment in renewable energy sources and technology.
Jeff Skoll of eBay fame is following the electric car trend by putting some of his fortune into Tesla Motors. He is also putting money into the production of environmentally conscious films, like An Inconvenient Truth, through his stake in Participant Media. Their latest picture, on which Skoll has an Executive Producer credit. is Food, Inc, all about the corporatization of the U.S. food supply.
Edward Bass, another beneficiary of previous generations participation in the oil industry, put $200 million of his family’s fortune into Biosphere 2 and another $20 million into Yale University’s research and teaching centre to study the global environment.
And a personal favorite, Wendy McCaw, who took half her ex-husbands AT&T money and put it into environmental causes like reducing stream pollution, returning grey wolves to the West, preservation of whale breeding habitats, sustainable agriculture in Mexico’s Yaqui Valley and organic produce raised and sold by inner-city youth. She also founded Ampersand Holdings, which does not list their portfolio, but is said to have investments in invests in environmental technology.
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