The modern-day snake oil pedaled by the less scrupulous among us sometimes consists of alternative energy and some little known emerging technology, and occasionally the potent mix of both of them together.
We need only look at the cautionary tale of Solyndra to see how desperate the US government was to give it money in the hope that they could make solar power just a little bit better than it is.
Combining precise amounts of desperation, greed and ignorance can really do people in as we can see from the latest bit of news coming out of India that follows along these lines.
The Kerala High Court in India has been investigating some outfit that calls itself Nano Excel Pvt Ltd after documents revealed that investors were promised high returns for a project that was touted as the “first nanotechnology-based hydroelectric power generation plant in the country”.
Reports estimate that the company “swindled” Rs350 crores ($71 million) from investors after claiming that they had a memorandum of understanding with the government to build a power plant with initial generation capacity of “100 MW, which would be scaled up to 10,000 MW by 2015.” Instead the only agreement Nano Excel had with the government was to build “a 14 MV small scale power plant.”
It seems Nano Excel was also claiming that they had deals in place with low-cost solar cell maker Nanosolar as well as Korea-based inorganic chemical component manufacturer Biocera Co.
It’s not clear whether there were in fact deals in place with those companies, or not, but when you fudge the facts on this scale it’s hard to believe anything the company might have said.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.