EGEB: Bill Gates-led fund invests in sustainable palm-oil alternative startup

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Breakthrough Energy Ventures invests in a startup that makes sustainable palm-oil alternatives.
  • Russia’s largest wind farm begins to supply electricity and power.
  • Looks like solar will get a boost in West Virginia, but state legislators still debated it.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Sustainable palm oil substitute

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is headed by Bill Gates and includes Jack Ma, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Michael Bloomberg as investors, is leading an investment round of $20 million for C16 Biosciences. The startup is working on making sustainable palm oil alternatives. C16 Biosciences uses microbes to ferment food waste into synthetic palm oil.

In C16 Biosciences’ own words:

Palm oil is everywhere. It’s in our food, clothes, shampoo, and even the fuel that powers our cars. But this $61 billion industry has drastic environmental and societal costs: Rainforests from Costa Rica to Indonesia are destroyed to make way for oil palm tree plantations, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroying habitats for people and endangered wildlife along the way.

But palm oil doesn’t have to be a problem. There remains an urgent need for consumers and companies alike to switch to environmentally conscious, sustainable palm oil products. We’re building that solution.

Palm Oil Investigations reports that palm oil is in more than 50% of consumer products, and that the slashing and burning to make way for palm oil plantations (pictured) is causing terrible pollution. “It’s estimated that deforestation contributes up to 20% of global warming,” they report. More than 90% of palm oil is used to produce food, cosmetics, detergents, and candles, says Rainforest Rescue. It’s also used as fuel.

As Bloomberg Green reports, “Breakthrough Energy Ventures wants to invest in companies that have the potential to cut emissions by as much as 500 million metric tons each year.”

Russia’s largest wind farm goes online

The Adygea wind farm, Russia’s largest, has begun to supply electric power to the wholesale electricity and capacity market. The Adygea is NovaWind JSC’s first completed project. NovaWind JSC is a Rosatom division who runs wind energy projects. Rosatom is a Russian state nuclear energy corporation.

The Adygea Wind Farm’s 60 wind turbines have a total capacity of 150MW.

Rosatom will build four more wind farms in the Stavropol Kray and the Rostov region. The next-largest wind farm with an installed capacity of 210MW will appear in the Kochubeyevsky district of the Stavropol Kray.

Overall, by 2023, Rosatom will install 1GW of wind farms.

According to a 2017 report (the most recent report available) from the US Energy Information Administration, only 13% of Russia’s primary energy consumption consists of “nuclear, renewables and other.”

West Virginia solar (cont’d)

On February 28, Electrek reported on West Virginia’s solar bill SB583, which was unanimously passed. The bill passed the Senate, but the House amended it, so it goes back to the Senate to accept or reject the changes.

SB583 aims to create “a program to further the development of renewable energy resources and renewable energy facilities for solar energy by modifying the powers and duties of the Public Service Commission.”

West Virginia ranked 48th in the US in solar, with 8.372MW installed. In 2018, 90% of the state’s energy came from coal, and 8% is natural gas. Only 2% comes from green energy.

You can read more about some of the strange logic put forward by the house delegates on why this solar bill would be good for… coal… here.

Photo: Rainforest Rescue

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.