Posts

Matthew J. Schiltz Named Group CEO; Powerit Receives $5 Million in Funding from Investors

Media Contact:
Sarah Grolnic-McClurg
Thinkshift Communications/Pounce PR
sarah@pounce-pr.com
510-898-1837

(SEATTLE, March 1, 2011) Powerit Solutions, an international cleantech company that plugs energy-intensive businesses into the smart grid, today announced two actions that will fuel the firm’s continued growth and development. 

Effective March 7, 2011, Matthew J. Schiltz, a seasoned chief executive, will serve as group CEO of Powerit Solutions. He will lead Powerit’s international operations and take a seat on the company’s board. Concurrent with his arrival, the firm has secured an additional $5 million round of investor funding.

“Sometimes the stars really do align,” says Claes Olsson, chairman of the Powerit Solutions board of directors. “This fresh infusion of capital, coupled with Matt’s hiring, will launch a new era. We have ambitious plans under way on several fronts, and now we have bolstered our resources and leadership expertise, better preparing us to enter into new partnerships and channels and move even more deeply into the industrial and commercial energy management sectors.”

Matthew “Matt” Schiltz to Serve as Group CEO

Schiltz has served as president and CEO or COO for five highly successful technology companies since 1989. His track record in building high-growth technology companies encompasses all aspects of leading, building, growing, funding, and managing. His leadership helped each of his past five companies earn a spot on the Inc. 500 and/or Fast 50 lists due to their explosive growth. At Powerit Solutions, Schiltz will take the company’s proven technology and traction to scale.

Says Schiltz about his new position, “I’m excited to be leading Powerit Solutions—a dynamic, growing cleantech firm that is well out of the gate. Powerit’s proven energy management technology is producing terrific results for customers and the company has clear momentum. Armed with a leading solution in the growing smart grid sector, Powerit is very well positioned and we see great potential for accelerating growth even further.”

Most recently, Schiltz was president and CEO of DocuSign. Recruited by the board in 2007, he transformed the start-up into a market leader in electronic signatures. He closed three rounds of financing that totaled over $25 million, ran strategic business development relationships with leading corporations like Microsoft and Salesforce.com, and grew shareholder value by more than 900 percent.

New Round of Financing Brings Fresh Capital

Powerit Solutions has also just completed a new round of financing with a $5 million investment from five funds. Black Coral Capital, a fund focused on the cleantech sector, led the round as a new investor; the other four were existing investors from prior rounds.

The investment will finance Powerit’s plans to scale these initiatives:

•Extend the company’s reach in key vertical manufacturing sectors with its Spara energy management technology.
•Develop partnerships with OEMs and energy services firms that want to use Spara technology to connect their customers to the smart grid.
•Add channel partners in North America and internationally.
 

“Powerit Solutions’ Spara technology is a valuable tool for smart grid connectivity, as we see in their work with Auto-DR, for example,” says Rob Day of Black Coral Capital. “Unlike a lot of smart grid companies that just have good ideas, Powerit’s ideas have become products that are already producing real benefits from the smart grid—customers are reducing their electricity bills and increasing operational efficiency.”

“Powerit is an established leader in energy management, with active installations operating around the world,” Day continues. “And we think Spara’s flexible technology will integrate well with partner services and products. That will help build Powerit’s value.”

About Black Coral Capital
Black Coral Capital is a fund investing in the alternative energy/cleantech space. It invests in a wide variety of cleantech arenas, both directly and through funds. Black Coral was formed in late 2008 and is building its presence in North America, with offices in New York, Boston, and Montreal. For more information, visit the Black Coral Capital website.

About Powerit Solutions
Powerit Solutions is a Seattle-based international cleantech company that plugs energy-intensive businesses into the smart grid. Powerit’s Spara technology enables users to automatically increase energy efficiency, cut peak-rate usage, participate in demand response programs, and respond to dynamic pricing advantageously—without compromising quality, production, or comfort. For more information, visit the Powerit Solutions website.

$100,000 Cleantech Shipping Grant Competition

WWL is one of the cleanest shipping companies and each year, offers a grant to the best new clean-tech innovation.

We are hoping to raise as much awareness of this scheme as possible to attract some really high quality entries – the grant has been upped this year to $100,000 and last year’s winner has seen his idea (a concept to rival SkySails) being trialled on ships at the moment.

With just over a month to go until its 2011 Orcelle Grants application period closes, global shipping and logistics provider Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics asked naval architects Per Brinchman and Per Tunell to share their insights into what makes a winning clean-tech idea.

This year, WWL has expanded the eligibility criteria for the Orcelle Grants to include alternative energy sources and energy-efficient technologies with applications for 1) commercial shipping and 2) terminal operations, reflecting WWL’s research and development into the E/SOrcelle, a zero emissions concept vessel, and the Castor Green Terminal, a zero-emissions terminal and cargo processing centre.

Applications are being welcomed from across the world from individual inventors, entrepreneurs and technology developers and are available at www.2wglobal.com/www/environment/OrcelleGrants. All applications must be submitted by Monday March 21, 2011. Winners will be announced in April 2011.

WWL head of environment, Melanie Moore, speaks to Per Brinchman and Per Tunell:

More about Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (www.2wglobal.com) delivers innovative and sustainable global shipping and logistics solutions for manufacturers of cars, trucks, heavy equipment and specialized cargo. WWL has approximately 3,300 employees worldwide, and deploys around 60 modern eco-adapted vessels. The company has a strong environmental focus and is an industry leader in developing innovative solutions to reduce its operational impacts on the environment.

Green AND Sustainable; not Green OR Sustainable

Guest blog by Stan Seelig, Seelig and Associates

To Be or Not To Be; To Be Green OR Sustainable or To Be Green AND Sustainable; which ever be cheaper or more profitable!

I am an Industrial Chemist. Over the last 30 years, I have seen relatively green chemicals come and go. Chemicals safe for you and me that destroyed the ozone layer were replaced by others that were more toxic to you and me. Chemicals that contribute to global warming are being reduced or eliminated for safer processes. The safest chemical of all kills more people than any other. More people drown, slip, crash and die from the various forms of water. The time has come to know the life cycle of all chemicals from cradle to grave.

But today we have become a global environment. Where every family in the USA could own a car, not every family in the world could afford one, whether financially or environmentally. Green Chemistry has been the buzz word for many in the Cleantech environments but green does not always imply sustainable. Green Chemistry in the USA means we can dump millions of gallons of drinking water down the drain. Hey, we can flush our human waste down the drain with drinking water. Imagine how those in the other parts of the world feel who have trouble getting clean, drinkable water!

And we complain about our wastewater streams overflowing. Laundry, dishwasher and toilets use over 50% of a home owner’s usage of clean, fresh water. What was possible in the past will not be possible in the future. Closed-looped processes must be incorporated into our way of life. This means either we recover the water from our wastes personally or we change the process. No more should we take the water from the river, treat it, use it, treat it and dump it back in for someone downstream to follow the same procedure.

We, as a people, must take advantage of rain/sleet/snow from the sky even if its just to wash our cars or water our lawns. Prices are going up. Water will be the next oil. We need to learn to be Green AND Sustainable for future generations. We pat ourselves on the back sometimes but on a global basis, we are losing the war to protect the environment. This is a nation of great ideas…we need to implement those ideas to save the world…even from itself!

In Defense of the Venture Capital Herd Mentality

Every few conversations about venture capital, someone laments the “herd mentality” of the venture capital sector.  That is, the tendency of venture capital investors to invest in similar areas.  It’s a favorite topic of cleantech afficianados as well, both before cleantech got hot, and since then.  I’d like to ask though, are we sure the herd is a bad thing?

I’ve personally invested in and raised money for companies in hot areas, in passe sectors fallen well out of favor, and in sectors way before their time.  And while part of me would love if all investors always liked my deal, and all companies wanted to sell to me cheaply because no one else was interested, the other part respects that the herd mentality probably exists for very good reasons.  Maybe it’s just a form of better managing risk and creating value.

A couple of reasons why a herd of venture capitalists may not be bad:

  1. Supply chain / ecosystem development – It’s always rough for a new technology company to have to develop everything itself.  The herd or trend investing typically means if you are investing in or building a company in a hot area, there are more resources available to help.  More suppliers.  More partners.  More customers.  (Even more bankers and lawyers and accountants that don’t look at you funny when you use jargon.)  More innovation.  More collaboration.  More of all of them investing in parallel.  Better predictability in planning.  Better predictability in exits.
  2. Capital accumulation – The whole concept of the joint stock company helped advance the entire idea of capitalism, and the industrial revolution, buy creating a way to accumulate capital of an appropriate level at an appropriate pace for the next ventures.  Venture capital syndicates provide the same type of value, enabling pooling of resources, sharing of risk, and staging of capital and risk, in a predictable, long run, sustainable way.  Let’s give them credit.  The herd might be just a symptom of a sophisticated capital accumulation system working well, as opposed to a cause of a malaise.
  3. Scale matters / changing the world matters – Let’s assume part of the point here is for innovation to change the world and make it a better place (I’d like to believe that).  In cleantech for example, the underlying sectors are so massive that a few investors and a few companies are unlikely to make a dent before I retire.  They’re going to need billions, and build things that make skyscapers look small.  Maybe it takes a herd.  In this view, once an area of game changing innovation is identified, don’t we want to see it fly and scale? Like, now?  If we think we’ve got the next big thing in our sights, how about making sure the whole world focuses on it?  Oh wait, that would be the herd.
  4. De-risk future fund raisings / recruiting – One of the big risks for both investors and startups is recruiting top talent and raising the next round, ie not running out of money just when you’ve figured out what to do.  When was the last time you tried to do either of those in a sector that didn’t have dozens of funds hot after it?  That really sucks.  The herd mentality has a hugely positive impact on derisking a startup launch and derisking the staging of capital needs for both founders, investors, and customers.  Think of the valley of death concept- the other favorite complaint of all startups.  Good herd management means a bridge over the valley of death (albeit often a creaky one!)

In the cattle business, cows by themselves away from the herd are a double edged sword they mean 1) you’re about to have a calf, or 2) you’re about to have a problem.  I think we should remember herds aren’t all bad, they generally exist to protect and nurture.  That’s why lion prides out compete cheetahs, and why wildebeests survive the Serengetti migration, right?  Yes, that creates trade-offs, and there are plenty of approaches where the herd is the enemy of the innovation.  But don’t ding the herd out of hand.  Respect the power of the herd.

1,500 Reader Comments on Renewable Energy that will Really Work

Our Cleantech Linkedin Group, over 20,000 members strong, has had a seven month running discussion started by Robert Drummond entitled “Renewable Energy that will Really work”, asking for readers views on what’s practical in renewable energy.  Kind of crowd sourcing opinion and facts on the subject of renewable energy.  Robert’s discussion reached a staggering 1,500 comments this month.   It’s a real “cleantech democracy”, and a testament to the passion we all have for this sector, so I wanted to share it with you.  Throw your own comments in here or back on LinkedIn, but definitely participate!

Renewable Energy that will Really Work

By Robert Drummond

“I want to start a discussion about renewable and clean energy supply and distribution that will work in the forseeable future. I have read so much rubbish that I want to hear the views of people that know about each possibility and are not afraid to tell us all.

Since I have a lot of hang-ups and opinions that need to be checked I will fire-off first.

Renewable energy sources

Hydro. One of the best but not many places left in the world where it will make much of a difference. Some people hate dams so it isn’t universally loved.

Nuclear Fusion. This is the holy grail but seems too far away and even when it comes (if ever) it will be full of dangers and risks both real and political. The thought that it is just doing what the sun does appeals but I am not holding my breath.

Nuclear Fission. This is not really renewable and whether it is green or clean is equally debatable. Most major economies are renewing their commitment to it and it will play a bigger part in energy production in the future. The fear of mis-use of the technology and the huge capital investment and decommissioning costs will ensure that it never gets to become the big success that some would like.

Solar – Photovoltaic. This is the flavour of the year since everyone understands it and it seems to be as clean as you can get. Of course it does “pollute” the countryside and the materials used are not as benign as we would like but it works and is getting cheaper as the technology improves. This may be the first major alternative to pass the fully commercial test. However it is not portable and only works in the daytime. So we have to capture the electricity for use at night (or have alternative sources to match). Also it will not answer our prayers for a replacement to fossil fuels for transport until we have a better way of storing electricity efficiently with light weight devices.

Wind. I am told that the big problem with wind is that the off-shore farms (which everyone likes since they don’t want one in their own back-yard) suffer from three problems. Firstly the very large generators that are most efficient are extremely heavy and constructing them off-shore is mighty expensive. Secondly they are prone to damage and wear (particularly due to UV and salt and the problems of transmitting the rotary power to an effective generator). Thirdly the electricity is likely to be some way from the consumer which means loss in transit.
We also have the same problems about intermittant power generation and lack of portability of electricity.

Wave. Most of the technology is highly suspect and my friends say it wont work except in a limited local way with simple up and down pstons for pumping for uses such as desalination.

Tidal/Current. These seem quite hopeful but there are only limited places in the world with sufficient water flow to achieve anything worthwhile. Even if they succeed and do not foul-up or kill all the fish they will like hydro-electric soon run out of available good locations. They have the advantage of being hidden from view. Again the problems of intermittancy in most places and also they generate electricity.”

Join our Cleantech Linkedin group and view the 1,500+ comments here, or post in the Cleantech Blog comments below.

7 Book Reviews in Cleantech and Energy

Sandor Schoichet s a longtime Cleantech Blog reader, and Director of Meridian Management Consultants.  Sandor has EE and SM degrees in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from MIT, where he studied artificial intelligence, office automation, and business process reengineering, and completed a joint program in Management of Innovation at the Sloan and Harvard business schools. He holds undergraduate degrees in Information Sciences and Philosophy from UC Santa Cruz.  He published these book reviews on our sister site Cleantech.org, and following our Cleantech Bookshelf,  we liked them so much we’re republishing them here as a Reader’s Choice Bookshelf.

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins

If there was one key to turning around the damaging business and environmental practices of modern culture, what would it be?  ‘Natural Capitalism,’ the seminal 1999 call for a broader focus on sustainability, presents an overwhelming case that the key is resource efficiency and effectiveness.  Just as conventional capitalism is all about using financial capital effectively, so ‘natural capitalism’ is about expanding that bottom line focus to include the  natural resources and ecosystem services underlying the ability of business and society to function in the first place.  The authors argue that with appropriate shifts in business perspective and government policy, our economy could be something like 90% more efficient in its use of irreplaceable natural resources, thereby mitigating ecosystem impacts, enabling global development, and staving off climate change.

Throughout history, until very recently, man has been a small actor in an overwhelmingly large world.  Most of the book explores how this has given rise to our ingrained cultural patterns of wasteful resource utilization, limited focus on capital efficiency, and drive for production volumes, while assuming unbounded access to subsidized natural resources and ‘free’ ecosystem services.  Shifting perspective to include natural capital on the business balance sheet, and to expand lean manufacturing principles beyond the factory walls is what’s required to address the ecology/climate change nexus.  This change in perspective is embodied in a range of sustainable business concepts, including the ‘triple bottom line’ (profits, people, and planet), and the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ model for recycling products and integrating industries to eliminate ‘waste’.

The basic principles of natural capitalism put forward can be summarized as: (1) focus on natural resource efficiency (2) using closed loop, biomemetic, nontoxic processes (3) to deliver more appropriate end-user services (4) while investing in restoring, sustaining, and expanding natural capital.  Following these principles leads not to constraints on business or lowered expectations, but an enormous range of new business opportunities to profit from improved efficiencies and environmentally beneficial activities.  One of the best expressions of this perspective comes in the discussion on climate change, providing a refreshing contrast to the recent spate of bad news on this front: “Together, the [available business] opportunities can turn climate change into an unnecessary artifact of [our] uneconomically wasteful use of resources.”

While the authors deliver an awesome, deeply researched articulation of their vision, showing with many examples why it’s important and how it can work within our current capitalistic economies, the book has two key flaws.  First, it falls prey to the syndrome first articulated by Paul Saffo, founder of the Institute for the Future, of confusing a clear vision of the future with a short path.  This combines with an  excessive reliance on sheer volume of examples to make their points, too many of them poorly explained, bristling with non-comparable numbers, and substituting hand-waving for real outcomes.  Deeper exploration of fewer examples might have illustrated the principles better, and have been much easier to read.  Also, 11 years after the original publication, many of the examples are seen to be hastily chosen and and used to support glib and overreaching conclusions that make the authors seem naive.  Examples include the advent hydrogen powered cars (“hypercars”), the potential for shutting down Ruhr Valley coal production in favor of direct social payments to coal workers, or the imminent triumph of the Kyoto Protocols for international carbon trading.  And, while much attention is paid to articulating the perverse incentives, misguided taxes and subsidies, and split responsibilities that impede more efficient system approaches, there’s short shrift given to new technology adoption rates, the scale of existing infrastructure investments, or the political complexities of changing incentives and subsidies.

However, if you are interested in understanding the genesis and foundations of the modern sustainability movement, this is a fundamental text.  Despite its flaws, after 11 years the fundamental argument and principles hold up well and are still inspiring.

Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future
by Robert Bryce

Bryce bills himself as a purveyor of “industrial strength journalism,” and ‘Power Hungry’ doesn’t disappoint. Starting with a clear statement of his own energy policy – “I’m in favor of air conditioning and cold beer.” – Bryce provides a muscular, data-driven analysis of our modern industrial civilization and the changing mix of energy sources that power it. This is an eye-opening discussion that does an unusually good job of conveying the scale of our existing energy infrastructure, and the challenge of providing adequate energy supplies for the future, not just for the US and Europe, but for the developing world and the third world as well, under the constraints of economics and decarbonization. Bryce articulate four energy imperatives – power density, energy density, cost, and scale – and uses them as a consistent framework for looking at what he calls the “Myths of Green Energy.” His “myths” run the gamut from the idea that wind power can really reduce overall CO2 emissions, to the idea that the US lags other countries in energy efficiency, to the idea that carbon capture and sequestration could work at scale, and intriguingly, even the idea that oil is a dirty fuel compared to the alternatives. While the debunking of green alternatives has flaws, especially in the lack of attention to advanced biofuels, smart grid technologies, and green building materials, it is refreshingly apolitical – focused on facts, practical alternatives, and the requirements of scale. In some ways Bryce ends up with conclusions similar to those of Bill McKibben in his recent book ‘Eaarth’: we will not be able to turn the tide on atmospheric CO2 quickly enough, the scale is too large, the transition times are too long, the pressure for global development is too great. We will have no choice but to mitigate some problems and adapt to the rest. However, instead of advocating acceptance of a “graceful decline” as McKibben does, Bryce lays out an energetic path forward, a “no regrets” policy he dubs N2N: shifting electrical generation aggressively towards natural gas in the near term, while investing in advanced nuclear technologies for the long run. The strongest element of the book is how he effectively links the future economic health of the US with rising prospects for the rest of the world … and that will take massive quantities of carbon-free power, not only for economic development, but for mitigating unavoidable climate change impacts as well. ‘Power Hungry’ is a challenging and valuable read for everyone interested in green energy and an effective response to the climate crisis.

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto
by Stewart Brand

Brand, as ever, is a clear and forceful writer, fearlessly putting himself on the line with specific recommendations and a call to action. This is the Plan missing from Al Gore’s otherwise excellent textbook, ‘Our Choice: A Plan to Solve to Climate Crisis’ –harder-edged, more urgent, more tech-savvy, willing to name names, kick butt, and provoke a reaction. This is the place to start if you’re ready to move beyond the conventional green perspective and really get a grip on what responding to the climate challenge entails. Frightening and exhilarating at the same time!

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
by Bill McKibben

I’m conflicted about this book, and McKibben’s style in general. First, this is a valuable contribution to the debate about how to think about climate change and appropriate goals for our planetary future. McKibben actually presents many good ideas (in the second half of the book), rooted in a realistic and compelling vision of how our world is changing and how we need to adapt. However, his writing style, especially when presenting bad news (the first half of the book) is just “one damn thing after another,” an endless listing of specifics without adequate context or meaningful analysis … he apparently does not understand that anecdotes are not evidence. While he makes his argument most energetically, and has lots of suggestive detail that appears to support it, in the cases with which I am directly familiar he is guilty of taking things out of context, then making gross simplifications and overreaching generalizations. And this is too bad, because, overall, I think he’s basically right, and that his suggestions for change are excellent. Probably the most important aspect of this book is simply his tough, clear-eyed situation assessment of the damage that’s already been done, the building momentum of environmental change, and the need to get on with a meaningful response. I worry, though, that by beating us over the head with a stream of bad news, and then framing his suggestions for a response in terms of achieving a “graceful decline”, too many people will be turned off and won’t hear the good ideas towards the end of the book. The grand project of changing our culture so that we can live in a durable and robust symbiosis with our environment on a global scale … that’s not a graceful decline, but a call to help create a new age as exciting as any that went before.

Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice
by Anne Korin, Gal Luft

This slim volume is the clearest and most direct analysis I’ve yet seen of oil’s position as a strategic commodity, and the potential for open fuel standards to enable a market-based pathway to transportation fuel choice. Especially notable for its independent perspective … we hear so much about the need for ‘drop in’ petroleum equivalents and the ‘ethanol blend wall’, but not nearly enough about other approaches that might emulate the open interface model that has driven the phenomenal growth of the internet. Absolutely required reading for anyone interested in clean energy, the potential contribution of biofuels to achieving energy security, and the practical steps that we need to take to move down the path.

Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate
by Stephen H. Schneider, Tim Flannery

If you care about the big picture of climate change that’s driving the urgency behind global environmental agreements and the commercialization of greentech, then Schneider’s ‘Science as a Contact Sport’ is must reading. The book achieves two objectives in an engaging and forceful manner. First it is a great introduction to the science of climate change, presented through Schneider’s personal experience as a key participant in its development. And second, it provides much-needed insight into how the issue has played out in the US legislature and the global media, again from an up-close and personal point of view. Democracy and government are both messy systems, but still are forums where the environmental and greentech communities must ultimately triumph, and Schneider’s personal experience should be of value to everyone engaged in the battle. Some elements of Schneider’s message echo Al Gore’s discussion in ‘The Assault on Reason,’ but are presented in a clearer, more direct, and better operationalized manner. Highly recommended!

Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider
by John Hofmeister

Hofmeister writes with refreshing directness and lack of pretense about two key ideas: the disconnect between “political time” and “energy time” that drives legislative dysfunction in energy and environmental planning; and his own proposal for an independent Federal Energy Resources Board to fix it. Most of the book is a walkthrough of the current US energy business and infrastructure … the “straight talk from an energy insider” part. He convincingly lays out an array of problems with the approaches advocated by just about everyone, from left-wing environmentalists, to right-wing “infotainers”, to the energy and utility power industry itself … with special scorn for the disastrous and long-running failure of our elected officials of all stripes to address our energy needs in a serious manner. The book provides a prescient and unnerving in-depth background to current newspaper reporting on the BP spill disaster in the Gulf (it went to press just before the explosion and blowout). Hofmeister is on less firm footing, however, when he switches to his proposal for an independent energy regulatory agency modeled on the Federal Reserve. While he surely gets an ‘A’ for boldness and for thinking outside the box, how this is supposed to work and how we are supposed to get there in advance of a national energy disaster akin to the Great Depression, are both left up to “grassroots pressure.” All I can say is that I hope his non-profit, Citizens for Affordable Energy.org, is successful at pushing his ideas onto the national stage, and helping to build a consensus focus on practical solutions. Highly recommended … wherever you stand on these complex issues, Hofmeister will push your buttons and make you think about what a real solution might look like.

New 12 MW Solar Installation by EDF in Ontario

Toronto-based EDF Energies Nouvelles Canada (EDF) announced on January 4 that its 12 MW St. Isidore A solar installation successfully joined Ontario’s alternative energy industry when it began operations in late December. St. Isidore is a community of fewer than 1,000 people located in Prescott and Russell County, east of Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The project created jobs for two hundred builders and career solar workers.

Ontario is home to the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA’s) feed-in tariff (FIT) program and its companion, the microFIT, which deals with projects smaller than 10 kW. The programs create clean air by paying owners of participating solar, wind, and biofuel projects high rates to feed renewable power into the grid. It also creates alternative energy career opportunities for graduates of solar installation training courses and other “green” educational programs in the province. St. Isidore A will participate in Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program – which the OPA has since replaced with the microFIT – as will its companion project, St. Isidore B, which the company expects to complete by the end of 2011. The projects are EDF’s fourth and fifth to take part in the region’s solar industry.

EDF has operated in Canada since 2007. Its parent company, EDF Energies Nouvelles, is headquartered in France and operates in thirteen European countries and “coast to coast in North America.” The companies offer an integrated approach that ranges from project development through to power generation. EDF Energies Nouvelles’ subsidiary, enXco Service Canada (enXco Canada), will operate and maintain St. Isidore A. EnXco Canada is the new Canadian wing of San Diego-based enXco, a solar, wind, and biogas developer with more than two decades of experience in the renewable energy industry.

“Today marks another notable achievement for EDF EN Canada,” says Tristan Grimbert, President and Chief Executive of EDF and EDF Energies Nouvelles’ other North American affiliates. “We are proud to extend the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy to the St. Isidore community and fulfill our ambition to build high-quality solar projects in Canada.” With its ongoing construction of St. Isidore B, EDF will continue to create clean air and alternative energy careers for graduates of Ontario’s photovoltaic courses.

Report from Grid Integration of Renewables Conference at Stanford

By Andrew Longenecker, guest contributor 

 The TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy’s “Grid Integration of Renewables” conference, which took place at Stanford University’s Jen-Hsun Engineering Center on January 13, 2011, brought together professionals and students to discuss various aspects of the integration of intermittent sources of power to the grid. The conference facilitated the discussion on technological, political, and international perspectives, bringing together a variety of views to create a comprehensive perspective on a very important problem.

Jeff Bingaman, US Senator from New Mexico, where he is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure, opened the conference with his keynote speech. He first noted the importance of taxes for support for renewable energy (estimating that 80% of renewable energy support comes in the form of taxes) and indicated concern that these were not permanent features of the industry, as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires in 2012 and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) expires in 2016. In discussing what to expect for the next two years, Bingaman was cautious, noting three separate “things to keep in mind”: there is a politically polarized environment (and upcoming election in 2012), there is strong ideological resistance to active government role in the transition of our economy to a clean economy, and there is an adverse budget situation, causing difficulties in finding the money to maintain spending on tax programs. He noted that there is an opportunity for a “clean energy standard” instead of a “renewable energy standard,” but cautioned against supporting “clean energy standards” that are simply veiled proposals designed to cut the current renewable energy programs.

Jeffrey Byron, appointed to the California Energy Commission by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in June 2006 who served as Presiding Member of the Energy Commission’s Research, Development, and Demonstration Committee and is a member of numerous other energy-related committees, gave the second keynote speech of the conference. He had an optimistic perspective of California’s accomplishments to date, particularly in regards to the prospect of reaching the target of 33% renewables by 2020. However, he acknowledged that there are challenges: lack of legally established renewable portfolio standards, no real-time pricing, lagging on renewables goals (e.g., California did not make its 20% renewables goal), and a lack of sophisticated thought about procurement of electricity in California. Further, he viewed the energy structure in California to be overly complicated, with too many stakeholders with overlapping jurisdictions and coordination issues. He emphasized the need to seek greater collaboration among constituents (e.g., electricity imports from neighbors), continue cost improvements, revise interconnection standards to pass costs accurately among stakeholders; create a path toward putting all generation on equal footing, and to improve the measurement of the grid. He closed his speech by emphasizing that people and policies really do matter and encouraging everyone to demand more from their government representatives. His view is that the United States and the world are looking to California’s leadership to develop the clean technologies and policies that the world will use.

The rest of the conference included speakers and panel discussions covering a broad range of topics. There sessions represented a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from utilities (e.g., PG&E), academia (e.g., Stanford University, University of Delaware), government and non-profit institutions (e.g., NREL, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies), international perspectives (including professors from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark), and startups like SunPower. One frequently mentioned topic was the need for flexibility in the grid in order for renewables to prosper. Speakers mentioned numerous potential sources for grid flexibility, such as automated demand response programs, dynamic pricing (which may come to California as early as 2013 for residential customers), renewable imports from neighboring areas (as well as intra-hour scheduling of renewable imports), smart charging of electric vehicles, and of course, storage. Debbie Lew from NREL shared two interesting examples of areas with large renewable shares (around ~30% renewables) that experienced significant difficulties in managing loads. Drastically increased volatility from wind intermittency, as well as significantly lowered minimum loads, caused massive problems for the system (e.g., cycling and ramping schedules for conventional plants, increased complication in load management). However, speakers were generally optimistic on the significant opportunities in solving these problems, particularly in California’s leadership on the issue.

Please note that presentations from the conference will be posted at http://tomkat.stanford.edu

Ford Focus Electric takes on Nissan LEAF

Ford Focus ELectricFord’s Newest EV is Official

Ford has officially announced the Ford Focus Electric, a new aerodynamic 5-door hatchback with an expected range of 100 miles per charge. This 5-seat car matches the specs that I published after my test drive of the Focus Electric in May 2010. First consumer deliveries of the all-new Focus Electric will start towards the end of this year. At that point Ford will have solid EV experience and probably have delivered thousands of Ford Transit Connect Electric Vans to delivery and service fleets.

The Ford Focus Electric has a Magna drive system and a 23 kWh Ford designed battery pack using LG Chem Compact Power lithium-ion tri-metal cells with over 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. The battery pack is actively liquid cooled and heated battery pack allowing for stable battery operation over a wide range of temperatures and lower temperature-related swings in driving range. The all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission provide immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration when the driver pushes down the accelerator, up to a top speed of 84 mph.

The first markets selected to receive the Ford Focus Electric are Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Ford is starting with these cities to insure that their will be charging stations at work and public spaces, as well as city and utility support for fast track approval of home chargers. This will also allow Ford to train dealers and service teams.

MyFord Mobile App

MyFord Mobile is an app for your web browser, iPhone, Droid, and other mobile devices, to monitor and schedule the chargingmyford mobile app Ford Focus Electric Car Review of your Focus Electric from anywhere, to help you maximize your range. It gives you remote charging status updates, so you can check existing charge levels and available range, while keeping track of your charge schedule. It also provides you with the location of your vehicle, where you can find the nearest charging stations and the most efficient route to get there. The app also estimates the amount of CO2 emissions and money you save based on your driving style – to help you manage costs and improve your efficiency.

  • Receive instant vehicle status information
  • Perform key functions remotely
  • Monitor the car’s state of charge and current range
  • Get alerts when it requires charging or has finished charging
  • Remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis
  • Get map routing to the nearest available charge stations

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in – called preconditioning. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged – and fully cooled to a particular temperature – by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Test Driving the Ford Focus Electric

focus ev screen Ford Focus Electric Car ReviewLast May, I made my second test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. It felt just like driving a regular gasoline Focus 4-door sedan, except it was more quiet and accelerated faster due to the torque of the electric motor. The Focus Electric accelerated faster than when I test drove the Nissan LEAF. Both allow me to accelerate on to a freeway with my power than I really need.

The handling was smooth while driving the Focus EV. Unlike some electric car prototypes, when I hit the brakes, it stopped evenly and quickly. The coordination between regeneration and disc braking was effective. The car felt ready for serious driving 8 months ago.

Charge Twice as Fast

Ford is making a big deal of the fact that the 2012 Ford Focus Electric charges twice as fast as the 2011 Nissan LEAF. Ford is 6.6 kW/h; Nissan is 3.3 kW/h. The comparison is unfair. The 2012 Nissan LEAF, available at the same time as the 2012 Focus Electric, will also charge at the faster 6.6 kW/h. Nissan, like most automakers, have been waiting for SAE to finalize certain charging standards. In 2012, both cars can be recharged after typical driving in less than 3 hours.

If you are a pioneer buyer of the 2011 LEAF, then you will either be content to charge at 3.3 kW/h, or you will pay to upgrade to 6.6 kW/h. Clean Fleet Report speculates that Nissan will charge $1,000 to $2,000 for the upgrade. Most chargers being installed are ready for 6.6 kW/h and are smart enough to charge at the vehicle’s rate, be it 3.3 or 6.6.

Ford and Microsoft are partnering to implement the Microsoft Hohm energy management application for Ford’s electric vehicles and Synch for entertainment. The Ford Focus EV will be the first electric car to use Hohm, an Internet app built on top of Azure, Microsoft’s new cloud-computing operating system. Four utilities are piloting this smart-grid application: Xcel Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy.

Competition with the Nissan LEAF and Other Electric Cars

Ford has yet to announce the price of the Ford Focus Electric. Ford could select a price less than the Nissan LEAF’s $32,780. We expect both the Honda Fit EV and the Mitsubishi I to be priced in the U.S. at $29,990 or less. Will Ford underprice Honda or focus on making the Focus Electric profitable?

Price depends on the cost of the lithium battery packs. Three years ago, prices were close to $1,000/kWh. By next year, they may be under $500/kWh. Cell makers keep refining battery chemistry. Pack makers look at design and volume manufacturing. Ford, Nissan, and GM are in a race to see who will be the first to sell 100,000 cars with lithium battery packs in one year. Ford is the likely winner, because next year all Ford hybrids and electric vehicles will use lithium battery packs. Ford will buy cells from competing battery giants, but Ford will make its own packs. Within 24 months Ford will be offering 3 battery-electric vehicles and 2 plug-in hybrids.

The battery pack for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric weighs 500 pounds. Ford has a roadmap that envisions the battery eventually being reduced to a size of the current Focus gas tank and a weight of only 125 pounds using new battery chemistry. Although some express concern about the long-term availability of lithium, Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, said that Ford’s analysis is that there will be no shortage through 2050. Battery makers expect to recycle 98 percent of the lithium in batteries.

Ford is also reducing car costs by giving customers a wide choice from one assembly line. This year we expect Ford to officially announce that customers will be able to order the new Focus with their preferred drive system including gasoline engine, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric. The Ford Focus Plug-in Hybrid is likely to price for less than the Chevrolet Volt.

The Focus Electric and the LEAF are beautiful compact cars. What do you do when you need to carry lots of stuff? Both include 60/40 reclining rear seats. In both cases, however, the placement of the battery pack precludes a completely flat cargo platform.

The Focus EV will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.

Announcing the new Ford Focus Electric is a proud moment for CEO Alan Mulally and the entire Ford team. Back when Ford refused to take part in the $70 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler, big investors were writing off Ford. If you had invested $100,000 in Ford at that crisis point less than 2.5 years ago, it would be worth $1,800,000 now.

Cleantech Blog Wants a Leaf, Dammit

I drove my first Nissan Leaf on Saturday. The ultimate cleantech car.  Not Cleantech Blog’s first EV drive, as our blogger John Addison has blogged on the Leaf and other EVs numerous times before. But only my second EV drive.  My Leaf test drive followed a previous conversation with Mark Perry, one of the senior product guys at Nissan, who gave me a bit of insight ahead of time into what all went into the Leaf. I must admit, I was rougher on him than almost any interview I’ve ever done, and was definitely a skeptic. I pushed him hard on why they didn’t push the cost to get just a bit more range and a bit faster charging, and he was unable to share too much on the record.  I’m also incredulous at the minute volumes (20,000 in the US this year) they are producing.  One version?  Every product decision middle of the road?  No real EV options?  Tiny production for the first year?  Scatter that production around the world?  I think at heart Nissan has been scared to death that this thing will flop.  They’ve treated the Leaf like a pilot, and marketed it like a real car.  I say why not bet on it?  They wouldn’t release any other car with such puny production capacity.   As it is, if it works, their 12 to 24 month advantage over the competition just evaporates into market share limbo.  And best yet, it’s a great looking car.  I think they did a damn good job for the first honest to goodness mass market EV on the planet.  And an amazing job marketing.  But have the courage of your convictions!  I want a Leaf, Dammit!

The Leaf Electric Drive Tour has to be one of the best sales pitches I’ve ever received. Think timeshare sales tour, except fun, no pressure, and not obnoxious. (oh and no donuts).  By the end of the group pre-ride tour – you could feel your adrenaline and the excitement just to get it one – it felt like a Disney World ride. And the best part was no salesmen ever showed up! You just leave thinking where do I sign?

Of course, there was the guy in front of me who commented he bought one without ever driving it, and was just coming for a test drive while waiting for it to arrive.  He was not the only excited person in a crowd of excited people.

To be honest, the Leaf looks good, feels good, handles well, and they’ve thought about almost everything I could come up with.

For instance:

  • The “fuel tank’ is measured in estimate miles left, not gallons of KWH – which makes sense I just never thought about it.
  • You can pre heat and pre cool it from your cell phone.
  • A lot of the car’s interior is made from recycled materials.
  • The 600 lb batteries can be swapped out cell by cell and component by component for repair. They have an 8 year warranty – but only 5 years on the EV components and 3 bumper to bumper (which I found odd – Nissan trusts its battery life more than the life of the rest of the car?)
  • The battery power level fades <1% per month when sitting unplugged.  Wish my blackberry did that well.
  • The Leaf can text you when it’s thirsty.
  • You can see component by component how much juice you draw.
  • You can get Leaf apps to help you plan out your route by juice level.
  • The Leaf knows where the fast chargers are around town, and knows if they are occupied.
  • The Leaf will shut down non essentials and ping you the closer it gets to out.
  • It has a back up capacitor to keep it from dying when you run out of juice.
  • There will be a hundred chargers in the first year in Houston where I live – most of them are expected to be free (like at grocery stores and malls and stuff that want your business, and a bunch arranged by Reliant, one one of the big Texas utilities).
  • Oh, and free roadside assistance for 3 years to pick you up if you run out of juice. (I swear I heard that right!)

Now for the general EV advantages:

  • You can hear your self think (and your passenger, too). It makes about as much noise as well, a leaf falling.
  • It turns in almost the space of the dining room table I’m writing this blog on.
  • It accelerates like demon hummingbird on meth.  The beauty about EVs is you can get lots of acceleration and torque at low RPMs.  Nissan quotes 100% of torque at 1,000 RPMs vs. a V8 that might have 40% at 1,000 RPMs.  I can believe it.
  • The maintenance is like, nil.  My kind of car.  No oil.  No transmission fluid.  No spark plugs.  Breakpads don’t wear as much because regenerative breaking uses your drive train to help break.  This one is passively cooled for the batteries, but does have coolant for the EV parts.  They have a cool flat cell design that dissipates heat and makes that possible.  Some guy in the audience asked it there were really only 5 moving parts in the whole Leaf.  (uhm no, but damn that marketing group must be something else to get THAT rumor going!)
  • Did I mention it’s cool and electric and has lots of gadgets and apps?

. . .

But I’m not going to buy one.  As a car, it’s just not there yet.  Almost – but not quite.  I’m a 15 year car guy.  I don’t believe in the throw away economy when it comes to cars.  I want my next car to last til the cows come home.  As I said, just not quiiiiiiite there yet.

  • Charging time – eh.  Can fast charge on 480V in 30 minutes.  But you’re not going to have a fast charger in your home.  Needs like 8 hours on 220V (you buy a 220V charging station installed at your house).  On a 110V wall plug, think more like most of  day.  These are good numbers, but from a guy who sometimes doesn’t always fill up the whole tank if I’m at a slow gas pump – uh, not very impressive.  Of note, Ford just announced its Focus will charge in 3 to 4 hours – bascially they just use a 6.6 KW charger instead of Nissan’s 3.3,  about a 7% cost saving move according to Mark Perry.  I kept asking the whyb we didn’t see a more expensive fast charge version if it’s the cheap – and better yet a fast charging version with just a tad more batteries, and no answer really forthcoming.  Back to my Nissan wasn’t ready to swing for the fences, and has treated the Leaf has a high profile pilot.
  • Saves money, sort of.  You fill up your car on $2-$3 per “tank”.  24 KWH battery pack, $0.10/kwh.  Nissan posted a target miles per $ for a number of cars as a comparison, about 37 for the Leaf, 18 for a Toyota Prius, 14 for a Ford Fusion Hybrid, and 5 for a Hummer.  Estimates using $0.10/kwh and $2.80 per gallon, I believe.  Great, saves money.  Um, not so much.  $2800 savings over 100,000 miles/8 years vs a Prius, and $4400 vs. a Ford Fusion Hybrid.  Does not pay for the cost difference.  Of course, after some really rich subsidies, you might say, yes it does!
  • 100 mile average range target.  Not bad.  But not quite good either.  Especially as I’m 30 miles from the airport.  Basically no running errands on trips to the airport day – especially since it’s all freeway and no way I’m going to the airport without AC in Houston most days.
  • Or put another way, I drove across town to test drive my Leaf.  When I got in for my 10.30 a.m. appointment, the car had been test driving intermittently for a couple of hours, kind of like running errands.  The range said 72 miles without AC, 63 miles with AC.  My house is 34.2 miles from the test drive location in Pearland.  If I’d owned a Leaf, the range would not have gotten me to the Leaf test drive.  That was very unsettling.  (Of course, if I lived in Pearland, then I’d have gotten to drive the Leaf with no problem, but now I’d be 40 miles from the airport).
  • Gets worse.  Remember I’m a 15 year car guy.  I asked them what happened at the end of my 8 year battery warranty.  They assume future battery packs will be backwards compatible and could be replaced if need be (my Corolla and Accord are both approaching 15 years and I have no intention of replacing the engine).  And they estimate the battery will be at about 80% capacity in year 8.  Not good, wouldn’t even be able to pick up friends from the airport under any circumstances.  Not sure I could get to Costco, HEB, and parents house and back at year 15.  And for those non 15 year care guys, who do you think is going to buy your 6 year old Leaf  with an 85 mile range when you’re tired of it?
  • Which brings us to the final reason I’m sadly not going to buy a Leaf.  Ford is launching an EV Focus later this year.  The Volt is out.  A dozen more are coming.  In 24 months, the Leaf will be the first, but likely not the best.  By year 3, EV battery life will have improved.   By year 6-10 when you’re trying to sell it, it’ll be the slow charging, short range, out of warranty really cool old obsolete car, and it probably won’t last 15 years.  🙁

So I will be buying an EV. Just not this one.  Just not now.  But kudos to Nissan for making a really cool car that almost got an electric vehicle skeptic over the line.

PS For the record, I’ve pinged Nissan PR a dozen times asking for one to drive around for a couple of weeks and see what it’s like in real world conditions.  Never gotten a call.

PPS  Despite all that, I want a Leaf, Dammit!

Billion Dollar Opportunities in Cleantech

by David Anthony

It’s true. Cleantech investment hasn’t worked out exactly how people dreamt it would back in the overly-optimistic days of the last decade. One of the main obstacles deterring venture capital investors from the sector is the frequently lengthy time lag between investment and commercialization. More importantly, the number of successful cleantech exits remains few — often because either the technology is not as disruptive as competing solutions or it is simply taking longer to adopt it.

The other fly in the ointment is the large-scale capital expenditures required to develop the technology in the first place. Clean technologies can be incredibly capital-intensive in the developmental and commercialization stages.  The level of investment required can and have discouraged further investors from committing to later and larger rounds of capital raises. When this problem is compounded with that of actually getting to commercialization it is not hard to see why many venture capital funds are decidedly more cautious about investment in cleantech than they were just a few years ago.

And these are not the only snags. The downturn in the world economy has drastically reduced the political appetite for renewable energy, especially in the US; the untimely death of President Obama’s cap-and-trade bill is testament to that. So although Feed-in-Tariffs continue to provide incentives for new developments, the fact that there is no price on carbon production and no penalties for over-producing it in the US mean that alternative energy remains a less attractive alternative than fossil-fuel.

But despite this doom and gloom, there are still very good reasons for investors to stay the course and persevere with the cleantech sector. The primary reason for this is the still-gigantic potential in a number of key markets which, when successfully exploited, are going to reap huge dividends for those who crack them and invested in the achievement.

Look, for example, at utility-scale energy storage. Lack of energy storage means that wind and solar energy is less viable at the moment than it could be.  Because energy from these sources is often produced at times which do not correlate with peak energy demand and because a viable utility scale storage solution has yet to emerge, renewable energy has been unable to achieve grid parity. In West Texas, some wind power generators have had to pay the state grid operator to take the energy off their hands in order to continue qualifying for federal tax credits. These costs are inevitably passed on to the consumer, so a breakthrough in large-scale energy storage will have an enormous impact on the profitability of renewables such as wind and solar. Whoever manages to solve this problem and develop an affordable method of energy storage is going to be able to sell it to every alternative energy generator in the world, and the returns on their investments will be huge.

Another massive potential market is the development of a viable system for carbon capture and sequestration. The two largest economies in the world, the U.S. and China, possess the world’s largest and third-largest coal reserves respectively, and it is highly unlikely that they will completely ignore such a cheap and abundant source of energy. But the environmental effects of burning coal have extremely heavy long-term costs, so the development of efficient, zero-emissions coal plants will revolutionize the energy market. It is a simply inescapable fact that the rewards for anyone who has the vision and staying power to invest in developing this technology will match the size of the gigantic market for clean coal-derived energy.

Low-cost desalination is going to be yet another definite winner in the near future. Climate change is creating new and unforeseen changes in global weather patterns. For example, there are fears that the south Asian monsoons will weaken and become less consistent. Given that the monsoon accounts for 80 percent of India’s total rainfall, a serious change in this weather pattern would without a shadow of a doubt need to be redressed with alternative sources of clean water. Benjamin Franklin was wrong; it’s not just death and taxes that are certain in this world, the market for clean water is too because we simply cannot live without it. Low cost desalination will be developed; the only question is who will have had the foresight to invest.

Vertical (or protected) farming could be another huge future market. The rising middle class in the two most populous nations on earth, China and India, is increasing global demand for food. If this new emerging middle class population’s shopping patterns mirror the US middle class’s grocery trends – where the number one grocery item is bagged leafy greens, for example – there is sure to be a sharp increase in demands for greater availability and variety of produce. To sustain the world’s ever increasing demand for food, new farming methods will have to be developed to feed today’s seven billion hungry mouths and the nine billion of 2050. Low-cost protected farming, using hydroponic and aeroponic farming methods within large urban structures, could provide one of the answers to the conundrum of feeding an ever-growing world population. It would also improve food freshness, cut down on carbon emissions caused by food refrigeration and transportation and halt soil degradation caused by pesticide and herbicide usage. Like the issue of fresh water, this is a riddle that will be solved because it has to be solved. And, once it is solved, everyone will be buying.

And the world’s most abundant energy source must not be forgotten either. The photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into electricity currently lack the efficiency to achieve grid parity, making solar energy and PV systems a viable, long-term prospect for replacing fossil fuels. But improved efficiency of 30 to 40 percent will make solar power a much more competitive energy source. The development of light-trapping photovoltaic cells, and the adaptation of manufacturing lines to accommodate the new technology, could deliver the required increase in efficiency. Once this is achieved, harnessing the output of the gargantuan energy factory we call the Sun will become competitive and another enormous market will have been created.

What is most needed at the present time, though, is an ability to look beyond the current obstacles to the rewards that renewed investment and perseverance will reap for those who commit and stay the course. The cut-and-run trend witnessed of late in the cleantech sector is exceedingly myopic as the development of clean and green technologies is a necessity the world cannot do without. Climate change, the growing unpredictability of global weather patterns, urbanization, a mushrooming middle class within the emerging economies and depletion of fossil fuels are all global problems that need to be rapidly addressed. Necessity is the mother of invention and these issues will be solved one way or another. The only question is, who will have the prescience and perspicacity to be part of the future?

David Anthony is the Managing Partner of 21Ventures, LLC, a VC management firm that has provided seed, growth, and bridge capital to over 40 technology ventures across the globe, mainly in the cleantech arena. David Anthony is also Adjunct Professor at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the NYU Stern School of Business where he began teaching technology entrepreneurship in 2009.

David received his MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 1989 and a BA in economics from George Washington University in 1982. He is an entrepreneurship mentor at the Land Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia University Graduate School of Business. In 2002, David was awarded the Distinguished Mentor of the Year Award from Columbia University.

David blogs at David Anthony VC

The Cleantech Blog Bookshelf

We’ve been meaning to publish a Cleantech Blog Bookshelf for a while. Cleantech Blog has always had a strong cadre of published and bestselling authors in our blogger roster, and I was recently included one of my essays on carbon credits alongside a star studded cast in an anthology called The Green Movement.

So enjoy, and we’d welcome reader book reviews on any of these, just submit to our blog submission form for us to review.

Books from our Bloggers

Joel Makower

Strategies for the Green Economy – Joel’s newest one.  Has gotten great reviews.

Beyond the Bottom Line – one of Joel’s originals.


Woodstock: The Oral History – and we’re not sure what possessed him, but years before we knew him, Joel did a history of Woodstock.

John Addison

Our long time blogger has written an excellent book on energy and cleantech topics, following his 1990s bestseller on channel marketing, Revenue Rocket.

Save Gas, Save the Planet

Revenue Rocket – John’s best selling book on channel marketing

David Niebauer – Our renewable energy law blogger took time off a few years ago to write the Rebirth of Arete: Reflections on the Evolution of Consciousness.

More on David.  It might make more sense if you knew that David’s non law graduate degree was in English. 

Peter Fusaro – Peter’s been a highly prolific author on finance and environmental markets.

What Went Wrong at Enron – His biggest hit was a New York Times bestseller on Enron’s fall.

As well as heavier tomes like his recently co-edited Energy and Environmental Project Finance Law and Taxation: New Investment Techniques

Books that have cited Cleantech Blog

Future Energy by Bill Paul is a former Wall Street Journal reporter writing on the the implications to our economy from new energy sources.

The Green Movement – Anthology of Green writers including Alex Steffen, Jeffrey Ball, George Will, and John Kerry, Robert Samuelson, as well as Cleantechblog.com chief blogger Neal Dikeman on carbon credits.

Books on Cleantech And Green You Should Read

Cleantech Revolution – by the Clean Edge guys, Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, who wrote the first thought paper on clean technologies in 2001.

World Changing: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century

Books we Have Featured on Cleantech Blog

Smart Power – Our interview with author Peter Fox-Penner here.

Twilight in the Desert – Matthew Simmon’s book that legitimized the Peak Oil argument.

Hot, Flat and Crowded – Tom Friedman’s bestselling book on the implications on the us, energy and environment from population growth, globalization, and climate change.

Must read books about energy and the environment

The Prize by Daniel Yergin – The Seminal history of the oil industry.  Don’t play in cleantech without reading this book.

Collapse by Jared Diamond – an excellent read by the author of Guns, Germs and Steel arguing man-made environmental changes as the main cause of the decline of the Mayans, Easter Island, and numerous other major civilizations.

The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger – no one should do anything in ag or green chemistry without reading up on Norman Borlaug

A Year of Change: Solar, Smart Power, and Carbon; Buying Greenhome.com; and Cleantech Blog Moves to Texas

Dear Friends,

We think it’s time cleantech grew up and learned to play with the big boys of energy and consumer goods.  That means learning cost down and scale like nobody’s business.  We think it can.  We think green is going mainstream – for good. We think LEDs are going to win.  We think wind and solar power will continue to grow, and bear the bruises to prove it.  We think EVs may have a shot, but have it to prove. We think climate change will be tackled, and beaten, but it will be a long hard road.  We think energy storage and cellulosic biofuels are not yet teething, and investors there will pay the price.  We think water tech may yet be a real sector on the back of shale gas.  We think smart grid is the sine qua non of cleantech’s future.  We think the future of cleantech means fewer venture capitalists, more globalization, and more energy companies at the table, and scale like you’ve never seen it before.

2010 has been a year of change and learning.

  • We learned about The Quantitative Easing, and we learned government stimulus does not fix economies, but stock markets can rise anyway. 
  • We learned to beware of Greeks (and anyone) who borrows too much, but we didn’t bother to take the lesson to heart (yet).
  • Cap and trade survived in California, and the international climate change community breathed a big sigh of relief from a successful Cancun, but healthcare and a moribund economy crowded out a comprehensive climate or energy bill in the US.
  • Arguably this was the year that China passed the US in energy consumption (barely two years after taking the carbon emissions crown), and Japan in GDP to become the second largest economy, and oil prices ended on a high note (yes we do think those have something in common).  It also reached 50% of global coal consumption.  China of course, officially disputed the first and the last, and accepted the second, but provides no data.)
  • Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) (Electric vehicles), GM, and Codexis (NASDAW:CDXS) (bioenergy) priced IPOs, as did Molycorp (NYSE:MCP) (rare earth mining), but once high flyer Solyndra (CIGS PV) did not.  We learned the Chinese like IPOing things just like the rest of us, and we saw the nascent launch of EVs with the first shipments of Leafs and Volts to an unsuspecting public. 2011 will (maybe) tell us how much change Nissan and GM will see from those launches.
  • And after 5 years, Cleantechblog.com moved off of Blogger and onto a new look on WordPress.  Finally!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jane Capital saw a year of change as well:

In summary, 2010 feels like one of those years we’ll look back on as a watershed year, for us, for our industry, and our planet. 

Here’s wishing you a productive beginning to 2011.

Regards,

Jane Lindner, Neal Dikeman, and the Jane Capital team.

P.S. Don’t forget to shop Greenhome.com, and yes, if you ask nicely we  might send you a friends and family discount.

Will the 21st Century be the Fossil Fuel Century?

Will the 21st century be the fossil fuel century?

Whether it’s peak oilers, climate scientists, renewable and sustainable gurus, or cleantech venture capitalists, we all talk like that’s not an option.  We’ve preordained that the 21st century is a green energy, renewable power, cleantech century.

And I’d like to believe that.  But it’s not a done deal yet.  There are 3 points all of us need to keep in mind before declaring victory.

  1. China, the second largest and fastest growing large economy in the world consumes half the global coal consumption, powered in part by North American and Australian coal supplies, and by a huge increase in Chinese domestic coal production.  This year’s EIA reference case 2035 projection has China’s coal consumption doubling by 2035, driving most of a 50% increase in world coal consumption – and virtually no change in coal’s proportion of the energy equation.  Powered of course with current recoverable coal reserves at some 900 billion tons, or 120+ years of current production.
  2. Brazil, the poster child of biofuels potential the last 10 years, is making a play with its deep water subsalt discoveries to be one of the oil exporting superpowers.  And check out the announcement of its $224 Billion 5 year oil investment program.  That’s like a couple of thousand ethanol plants ,or one major oil company.  The Brazilian offshore finds to date represent production something like 5-10x the current Brazilian ethanol production.  Some poster child.
  3. And then there’s shale gas, its potential exemplified by the Marcellus Shale.  By some estimates this resource is big enough to change the entire game in fuels for power. And most of it’s located right down the street from the heart of the US population centers, just like the coal beds were.  Hard to see how electricity prices keep rising to help renewables in the face of that, with natural gas prices being  moderate and all, (unless of course China eats all the coal and drives coal prices up –  a global fossil fuels century either way?).

Imagine a 21st energy century where the US growth is powered by cheap natural gas, and exports our coal to China to even out the balance of payments.  Where increases in ethanol production and offshore oil production and slightly higher gasoline prices and mpgs balance out most of the transport fuel equation. A world where renewables play an important part, but still stay at margin of the King Fossil.

It’s not a world unimaginable.  And it’s not much different that the imagination might have done seen in 2000, or 1990, or 2050.  This shouldn’t be doom and gloom, nor should it be time to declare a cleantech victory.   The 21st energy century will be a long century.  And it’s just business as usual.

Will Cleantech Open to Open Source?

by David Niebauer

Although it initially came as a shock, and was actually intended to subvert the accepted order of things, open source software has arrived at a place of respectability in the software industry.  The idea is bizarre on first blush and even today non-software oriented business people profess not to understand how it works – or how it could work. We are conditioned to expect intellectual property to be aggressively protected and that without such protection, no sane investor would ever support the development of a new technology.  In the world of non-software invention, entrepreneurs rush to file patents in order to secure for themselves a place at the financing table.  Patent(s) in hand, they enter the fund-raising process in the hopes of raising sufficient capital to develop prototypes and eventually sell products into the market.  The patent protection provides a mini-monopoly which gives everyone comfort that capital can be deployed without a competitor coming along and doing it better or cheaper.

The software world has turned this process on its head, at least with respect to certain types of fundamental technology.  Open source software has come to play a significant role in the infrastructure of the Internet and open source programs such as Linux, Apache and BIND are commonly used tools in the Internet and business systems. (for a good background article, see Kennedy, A Primer on Open Source Legal Issues.) Leading software companies with proprietary technology portfolios, such as IBM, Novell, and Oracle have learned to work with open source programs and even to profit from them.  See Koenig, Open Source Business Strategies. Not to mention the successful enterprises founded with the goal of supporting, integrating and maintaining open source platforms (Red Hat, Progeny, 10X Software).

Open source business strategies are based on innovative licensing models, and they are intended to make money for all involved.  The open nature is more a matter of access to technology and the intention to empower a community of users than it is about anarchy.  The open source movement is also motivated by the conviction that innovation is a fundamental human activity and that the fruits of innovation should be made available for the common good.  And it counters an intellectual property regime that at times stymies the very invention that it is supposed to foster.

The open source movement is making inroads in all types of industries.  In fact, it is starting to feel like a rising tide.  Open source hardware firms develop and sell electronics products using open source licenses. EDAG, a production design studio, has developed an open source concept car.  There are even proponents of what is being called open source biology that treats DNA as software source code for living systems, encouraging a community of scientists and genetic engineers to develop new drugs using open source licensing models.  See Open Source Biology by Andrew Hessel in Open Source 2.0, O’Reilly Media.

Is It Time For An Open Source Cleantech Movement?

There is no question that the world is hungering for technological advancement in this area.  The electric generation and transmission system has not changed substantially since its invention and deployment in the mid 19th Century.  These methods are gradually degrading our living environment and an increasing number of people, both scientists and non-scientists, are convinced that unless we learn to live sustainably on the planet, our time here will quickly run out. However, research and development in cleantech, especially in the renewable energy field, is significantly different than software development.  Rather than writing code, scientists in this field must work with mechanical systems, and when dealing with electricity these systems are complex and capital intensive.  Also, in software development, the source code is the product – a software company sells copies of its original product.  Most non-software cleantech businesses must express the invention in a patent and then build products based on that invention.  The capital required to build products is significantly greater than what is necessary to copy a set of code.  Perhaps a model is emerging that will allow the significant capital investments necessary to develop products in the cleantech area to be recouped.  The open source licensing model will not work with every cleantech invention, but there seem to be a few candidates for experimentation.

Two Possible Examples

I provide here two examples of possible open source business models, one employing open source development and one employing open source distribution.  The development model would appear to be ideal for genuine game-changing discoveries that might create an entire new platform for energy generation.  I am thinking here of things like zero-point energy, cold fusion, a storage breakthrough or a working magnetic engine.  My friend and colleague Ed Beardsworth, a physicist who investigates such things, urges me to imagine trying to conceive of nuclear energy in the year 1900 – genuine paradigm shifting inventions that are still over the horizon.

An open source model of development for such discoveries could harness the Internet for collaboration and information sharing in ways that would inspire a new community of investigators.  The filing of an open patent around fundamental technology might ignite a worldwide search for applications.  A licensing model that follows the GNU General Public License would encourage publication and sharing of improvements and derivatives to the technology.  An entirely new industry might grow up around real-world applications, maintenance, manufacturing and distribution of products.  The industry would borrow from software open source business models and would undoubtedly create many new ones unique to the particular technological advancement.

Another area that may overlap the world-changing discovery, but is distinct in many ways, is innovation in distributed generation (DG).  DG describes technologies and processes that allow energy to be generated at or near where it is used.  These technologies are generally small-scale, permitting direct application by businesses and homes.  The universe of present technologies is small (e.g., wind, solar PV, combined heat and power (CHP)) and the cost is still higher than subsidized central power, but this could change radically in the years ahead.

Here, an open source software distribution model is the best analogy.  I can conceive of DG technology developers, in particular, utilizing a modified dual licensing approach for patents, similar to what is presently employed by software developers employing copyright law. In the software model, the developer offers two separate licenses.  One is royalty-free, but contains limitations.  The other is a commercial license (including a royalty) with full functionality.  Free use carries certain conditions – typically, all modifications or derivatives must also be made public and open to all, and companies are prohibited from using the free version as a component of any product or solution they commercialize.  The commercial license generates traditional royalty fee revenue.  Supporting the open license generates more service-oriented revenue.

For a cleantech DG invention, a similar dual-licensing approach could be followed.  The basic foundational patent would be offered royalty free for anyone to make use of, test, explore and utilize for its own purposes.  Any modifications or derivatives would also be made available in an open manner and no commercialization or distribution would be permitted. Also, a licensee of the open version of the patent could deploy the technology for its own energy needs without having to pay a royalty to the patent holder.  This model might work well for all types of distributed applications: energy generation, efficiency, storage, monitoring, etc.

Why would anyone pay for a commercial license when access to the same technology could be had for free? One obvious reason is that the commercial license would permit manufacture and distribution, so that a complete turnkey solution could be developed and offered for sale to end-users.  Many commercial enterprises would likely choose this alternative. Even businesses that avail themselves of the royalty-free version might also wish to engage the licensor in a technical advisory capacity, for maintenance and support or for other reasons (e.g., warranty or IP protection).  The software world is replete with open source business models that generate significant revenue for the developers.

Conclusion

These are only a couple of ideas that emerge when thinking about open source cleantech.  A recent blog on this site by Jason Barkeloo has suggested that electrons are in some sense analogous to software source code and that the business of how we value electrons is perhaps poised for a complete re-thinking. The world awaits not only the technologies of tomorrow, but the business models and practices that will usher in this new world.

David Niebauer is a corporate and transaction attorney, located in San Francisco, whose practice is focused on clean energy and environmental technologies. www.davidniebauer.com


Renewable Energy Almost Equals Nuclear Energy in USA

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “nuclear electric power accounted for 11% of primary energy production and renewable energy accounted for 11% of primary energy production” during the first nine months of 2010 (the most recent period for which data have been released).

More specifically, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, and wind) accounted for 10.9% of domestic energy production and increased by 5.7% compared to the same period in 2009. Meanwhile, nuclear power accounted for 11.4% of domestic energy production but provided 0.5% less energy than a year earlier.

And according to EIA’s latest “Electric Power Monthly,” renewable energy sources accounted for 10.18% of U.S. electrical generation during the first three-quarters of 2010. Compared to the same period in 2009, renewables – including hydropower – grew by 2.2%. While conventional hydropower dropped by 5.2%, non-hydro renewable used in electrical generation expanded by 16.8% with geothermal growing by 4.9%, biomass by 5.5%, wind by 27.3%, and solar by 47.1%. Non-hydro renewables accounted for 3.9% of total electrical generation from January 1 – September 30, 2010 — up from 3.5% the year before.

Preliminary data also show that fossil fuels accounted for 78% of primary energy production. Overall, U.S. primary energy production rose by 2% compared with the first nine months of 2009. The report also showed that consumption of oil, including imported oil, has declined due to more fuel-efficient vehicles and because vehicle miles traveled peaked in the U.S. in 2005.

“Members of the incoming Congress are proposing to slash cost-effective funding for rapidly expanding renewable energy technologies while foolishly plowing ever-more federal dollars into the nuclear power black hole,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. The Southern Company was recently provided with $8.4 billion in federal loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors. The guarantees could cost taxpayers $8.4 billion should the project later be cancelled due to cost overruns. Congress is considering over $40 billion for new nuclear reactors.

5 Cleantech Wishes for 2011

Five things I’d like to see in cleantech 2011.

  1. A fuel cell in one of my blogger’s houses.  This one’s actually in progress, so hopefully it’s a gimme.  So come on Marc, we’re waiting for the pictures and the blog!
  2. More cleantech IPOs.  Come on guys, the market’s been rolling, we ought to be able to deliver ONE good IPO or two?  We did see RigNet (NASDAQ:RNET) get out in a $60 mm IPO.  RigNet’s a telecommunications for remote and offshore oil and gas markets but maybe no one outside of Texas counts it.  Of course, a nine year old c. $80 mm in revenues/$25 mm in EBITDA company backed by long time cleantech investor Altira, ought to to make the list.  And Chinese LED maker SemiLEDS (NASDAQ:LEDS) made it out in an $89 mm IPO.  So maybe the IPO market isn’t dead to cleantech, and after market performance is guaranteed to go badly, at least for profitable companies.
  3. And speaking of LEDs, I’d like to see lots more of them next year – in houses, on street lights, hanging from Christmas trees.  And I’d like to see them brighter and cheaper.  And I probably will!
  4. A major cleantech conference in Houston.  Perhaps someday rivaling the OTC – Offshore Technology Conference.  When that happens, perhaps we’ll know cleantech has arrived as a real sector.
  5. Lots of EVs!  I admit it, I don’t think much of venture backed EV startups, but I’m really excited to see some EVs.  I imagine them like the herd of tractors in the tractor tipping scene from the movie Cars (don’t ask why, that’s just the mental image I have).  And since I’m testing driving an Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle a couple of weeks, this wish is bound to come true.  I will definitely be blogging it.

Here’s thanking all our Cleantech Blog and readers and Cleantech.org members for your support. Happy holidays, and good luck in a new year!

UK’s New Incentives for Electric Cars and Charging Network

During the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, as visitors sail from Heathrow Airport in electric personal rapid transit (PRT), and look out the window at electric buses using hydrogen fuel cell to run 16 hours daily, they will see thousands of electric cars. It will be quite a contrast to the current winter of discontent, as snow storms close roads and airports. London is saving EV and PHEV buyers over $10,000 with new grants, exemptions from congestion fees, and over 1,000 charging stations with a low cost annual subscription.

Nine models of electric and ultra-low emission cars will be eligible for grants of up to £5,000, the government has announced. The grants will be available to motorists across the UK. The first nine cars to become eligible for eco-friendly car grants are:

  • Mitsubishi iMiEV
  • smart fortwo electric drive
  • Peugeot iON
  • Citroen CZero
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tata Vista EV
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
  • Vauxhall Ampera
  • Chevrolet Volt

More will follow next year. Program Details

The grant will cover the following types of cars:

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) – these run completely on batteries and are plugged into the mains to be recharged
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – these use a petrol or diesel engine combined with a battery that plugs into the mains
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and other technologies may be considered

The grant will be available to motorists across the UK from 1 January 2011, reducing the cost of eligible cars up to a quarter, up to a maximum of £5,000.

London’s citywide electric vehicle charging network, ‘’, will launch in Spring 2011, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson announced today.

, which will deliver 1,300 public charging points across London by 2013, is part of the Mayor’s plans for London to become the electric vehicle capital of Europe. The network will create a single visual identity for electric driving across the capital, and allow members to charge their vehicles at any one of these public charging points for no more than an £100 annual membership fee. Currently electric vehicle drivers have to register in each separate borough they want to use charge points in. In preparation for this new network a website, www.sourcelondon.net, has also been launched providing a ‘one stop shop’ of information on electric vehicles, including charge point locations across the city. Once has been launched in Spring 2011 drivers will be able to sign up for the scheme online.

The development of , has been led by Transport for London in close collaboration with the London boroughs and a wide range of private sector partners – who will play a key part in funding and providing locations for the network’s charge points. Discussions are now taking place with other UK cities developing charge point networks to ensure they can be used seamlessly by electric vehicle drivers and to ensure London’s work can contribute to a national network of charge points.

The Mayor has recently reaffirmed a 100 per cent discount from the congestion charge for electric drivers in the capital, as well as other low emission vehicles, which offers electric vehicle owners using the zone a potential saving of more than £2000 a year.

Beyond London, other areas are installing charging networks in streets, car parks and commercial retail and leisure facilities. These areas are the Midlands, Greater Manchester, East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Nissan’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, sited the congestion fee in London and other cities as a  reason to invest billions in early electric car leadership starting with the LEAF. The UK has given auto executives greater reason to accelerate EV plans. The UK encourages all of us to prepare for an electric Olympic Games in 2012.

Valuing the Electron

I am struggling to find a single function in our society that is not impacted by the electron. The electron is a negatively charged particle that fuels digital work. It makes software work on hardware. It powers motors and manufacturing. It lights our bulbs and amplifies our sound. In my opinion, the electron is the unsung hero of the Internet age.

If the generation, distribution, storage, potential work, and informatics of the electron were properly valued by the market beyond just metering it, a new market and industry could erupt.

Thus far, the electron is not valued for its ability to enable our society to function. Because electrons cost money to generate, distribute, and store, a commodity metering model developed at the founding of the industry. That model is due for a change. It is outdated and does not truly reflect the important role the electron now serves as a platform. As a necessary service, regulations overtook the industry. More on this later.

It might seem strange in the digital computer and Internet age that the value of the electron was not measured in it’s ability to do the digital work. Outside the some 150 utility companies in the USA, its genesis and work value was ignored. But what happens if you start valuing the electron for the work it can perform, just like software as a service might be valued?

I am not proposing that utilities be valued like Internet service providers (ISPs). Rather, I suggest the genesis, storage, and/or transmission of the electron be valued relative to the criticality of the digital work the electron performs. A distributed electricity producer or centralized utility are creating a platform. The market has not valued this. Or has it and the Genie just needs to be released?

The electron enables fascinating technologies. Generating and distributing electrons remains archaic, inefficient, and undervalued. Most do not know that nearly fifty percent of centrally generated energy is lost in vampire effects ranging from friction in power lines to voltage step-down to the appliance plug.

When the world is able to value the electron for the real value and future potential technologies, cleantech energy production will generate another Internet-like growth phenomenon. The value of the electron extends far beyond software and web pages. It is the platform that everything else in the modern technological world is built upon. Interject a solar flare, equipment failure, loss of fuel, or nuclear force, and the platform is disrupted and society stops. However, absent such events the electron moves on powering societies critical functions. The nice thing about the benevolent electron is anyone can build and monetize services upon it.

The highly regulated utility industry does not have the same unbridled freedom to monetize the platform it facilitates. Politically, it is realized the electron is critical to do work that maintains modern human life. It enables necessary functions from 911 telephone calls to heaters and air conditioners; from traffic lights to water purification. As a result, the production and distribution of the electron is classified as an essential service. This classification results in regulation. Highly regulated markets do not attract innovation because they can not attract capital. Capital investments are not made because the regulation prevents the proper monetization (such as valuing the electron as a platform). And so the circle continues. Meanwhile the infrastructure ages and begs for innovation.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have it right. In their article, “How to Change the Global Energy Conversation” they argue that stimulating innovation in the energy production market is more effective than regulations such as emission caps (The Wall Street Journal, 29 Nov 2010). I add the following caveat. Allowing business model innovation is as equally important as technological innovation. For example, you might imagine getting your electricity for free in exchange for providing usage data the producer can monetize.

The lack of competition gives the impetus to a highly regulated environment. One can envision policy-makers grappling with the idea that an unregulated market would result in an extra abundance of overhead power lines. But what would happen if competition and market forces were unshackled electron generation and distribution? Perhaps distributed energy production would push forward and make overhead power cables obsolete?

Policy is often a preemptive action, or reaction, to the absence of a solution. That is, instead of entrepreneurial innovation being the response brought against the problem, a policy is crafted instead. In the case of the overhead power lines, historically there was little incentive for entrepreneurs to develop distributed power generation to get rid of those unsightly and expensive power lines. Getting into the power generating business is haunted by the shadow of regulation – and that keeps capital from enabling innovation. Everybody loses when such a closed environment surrounds such an open platform.

If the generation and distribution of electricity were opened it would incentivize the growth of the industry. This explosive growth would create multiple new industries and millions of new jobs.

For cleantech energy production to realize its market potential, the value of generating the electron must reflect its ability to foster technological progress. It is time to open the generated of electrons (electricity) so as to match the openness the electron itself enables. It is time to let markets and entrepreneurs solve energy production and distribution problems. The resulting industry will be an open platform. It will enable new industries and explosive job growth. This may include creating jobs to remove and recycle those nasty overhead power lines.

Guest blog bu Jason Barkeloo of Pilus Energy.

Landfills and Buggy Whips

Progress is never without a price. What we gain on one hand we lose on another. The hope is that when the dust has settled the gains outweigh the losses. The manufacturers of buggy whips didn’t want to go out of business when the automobile arrived on the market. They fought to maintain their market share, and dismissed the automobile as a fad that would pass. It did not pass however, and transportation was revolutionized. The same holds true for manufacturers of vacuum tubes, 8-tracks, VHS tapes, floppy discs, and the list goes on and on. With each leap forward we leave the old way of doing something behind so that we may move onto the better way that technological advance allows us to enjoy.

Since humans have been walking the earth we have been digging holes and burying our trash in them. The basic technique has not changed for thousands of years. You would be challenged to find an industry that has been around longer than the landfill industry. The way we bury has changed a bit since ancient time. We use liners, we mine methane, and we try to mitigate ground water contamination. But the basics are still the same. Dig a hole, fill it with garbage, then cover the hole.

There are more than 3,000 landfills operating in the United States. These landfills are operating under current EPA standards that try to minimize ground water contamination. There are over 50,000 closed landfills that meet no such requirements and have been potentially contaminating ground water for decades. The California State Department of Health estimated that 67% of these old landfills are emitting toxic solvents and gases. The California State Water Resources Control Board found that 83% of these old landfills contaminate ground water supplies.

So, with all the nasty things that go along with landfills, why do we still continue to bury our trash? The answer is two-fold. Just as the buggy whip manufacturers didn’t want to go out of business, neither do the owners and operators of landfills. Cities and towns used to operate their own landfills. From the ‘law of unintended consequences’ bag came the result of the EPA constantly upgrading the requirements governing landfills. Towns and cities began to sell or contract their landfills to private companies. These companies are to quote a landfill manager I spoke with a few months ago, “In the business of burying trash. We’re not interested in anything that will divert that tonnage out of our landfill.” This is where technology meets the buggy whip. Recycling is diverting more tonnage from landfills each year. As a result landfills are fighting back to maintain their tonnage needs. The ability to divert over 90% of the current MSW and C&D going into a landfill into useful products exists today, yet the will is not there because, by and large, communities no longer control the operating landfills. They do control the closed landfills that have long been out of operation. Many of these are off the radar and local officials have no desire to put them ‘on’ the radar and be subject to current EPA standards. A city government official I spoke with a few months ago said, “The EPA doesn’t know about our old landfill so we wouldn’t be interested in emptying it. If they found out about it, it would cost us a fortune.”

We have the ability to not only stop using landfills, but to empty the landfills that dot this country. What we need is the will to do it. With approximately 50,000 closed, old landfills and assuming a typical landfill life span of 40 years, taking in a conservative 65,000 tons per year, valued on the low side at $90 per ton once processed, we have buried treasure of 11.7 trillion dollars beneath our feet. This does not include the trash located and being buried daily in operational landfills today. To process this trash in a 50 year time span would require 4,000 recycling plants employing 900,000 people operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally the health benefits gained by the people living near these old landfills once the landfills are emptied cannot be calculated. It’s time we moved forward. It’s time to lay down the buggy whip that is our antiquated landfill system. It’s time we put people to work. It’s time we really started to recycle our waste, instead of just enough to say we’re doing it.

Guest blog by Don Willis of GreenUSARecycling.com