...many smart entrepreneurs are chasing the sun. After all, the sun is a darn good energy source. It's free, clean, and plentiful. Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in a single hour to provide power for the world for a year. That's why Bill Gross, who founded Idealab, has launched Energy Innovations, a company that is using a panel of sun-following mirrors to capture solar energy. Nanosolar, another startup, is developing nanotechnology based materials to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Cypress Semiconductor recently announced plans to spin off its solar subsidiary, SunPower, and take it public. And the list goes on. Who's financing these solarpreneurs? It's not a band of granola-munching do-gooders, but some of the top venture capital firms in the country. Last year, VCs poured more than $500 million into alternative energy startups. According to one survey, 21 percent of venture firms now plan investments in this industry. And VCs, we all know, abide by another Gekkoism: "It's all about the bucks, kid. The rest is conversation."
But conversations around the kitchen table are also propelling this trend. Many consumers are responding to concerns about supply by changing the nature of their demand. Take a Toyota Prius. In fact, taking a Prius -- from your neighbor's driveway or co-worker's parking space -- might be the only way you'll get one. Toyota doesn't have enough of these fuel-efficient hybrid cars to meet the extraordinary demand. Other carmakers are racing to catch up. Honda, for instance, has staked much of its future on the newly redesigned Honda Civic hybrid.