2 alternative energy companies with exciting futures

If there’s one thing everybody can agree on, I think it is the fact that modern man isn’t good for the environment. Pollution, industrial, agricultural and mining waste products, as well as carbon output and radioactive waste all contribute to our ecological footprint. Add to this the indisputable fact that one day all natural resources will simply be gone and it seems logical that humanity needs to either recycle, find alternate ways to create energy, find other planets to inhabit, or most likely some combination of all three.

I’ll leave the space travel to Stephen Hawking, and instead bring you two of the most interesting alternative energy companies on the ASX at the moment — Dyesol (ASX: DYE), and Silex Energy (ASX: SLX).

Dyesol is a global pioneer in the development of dye solar cells which, in layman’s terms, use artificial photosynthesis to produce energy from sunlight. These solar cells are significantly more efficient than current technology and considerably more durable.

After a string of positive announcements last year, Dyesol’s share price rose from 10 cents to a high of 57 cents before settling on its current price of 31.5 cents. Dyesol also successfully completed a deal with a Saudi Arabian conglomerate to fund the remainder of its development through to completion and marketing. What is most exciting is the ability to lay dye solar cells over a variety of substrates including steel, ceramic, and glass, which paints the picture of a utopian future filled with energy-neutral homes and skyscrapers powered completely by dye solar cells.

Silex Energy is not a renewable energy company as such, however its ‘Separation of Isotopes by Laser EXcitation’ (SILEX) method for enriching uranium has the potential to be substantially cheaper, requiring less energy and space to achieve a higher percentage of uranium enrichment than other methods. This could make nuclear power considerably more viable, particularly in poorer countries such as China and India that will require nuclear plants to provide power to their populations.

Silex is in the process of testing the economic validity of its enrichment procedures and hopes to construct its first full scale commercial production facility in the next couple of years. It will receive a royalty of between 7-12% of revenue from facilities that use its enrichment technologies.

Foolish takeaway

Dyesol and Silex are very close to properly commercialising their technology — a development pipeline that has taken at least 20 years in both cases. This gives potential buyers the rare opportunity to buy into a technology share before it makes it big, however any profit depends on the company’s ability to market its technology and fend off competition.

Both of these shares are quite high risk, with Dyesol the riskiest and Silex less so as it is closer to licensing its tech and also closer to achieving positive earnings. With these shares, the biggest question now is not whether they can successfully develop their technology (though this still applies in a lesser sense to Dyesol), but whether they can sell it. Both technologies are revolutionary enough that they should sell, however whether they do or not is anybody’s guess.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O’Neill owns shares in Dyesol.

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