Panasonic Forecasts Zero-Emission Homes with Energy Storage Solution

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday January 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment

By now, you’ve probably had your fill of 2010 prediction lists about cleantech and renewable energy, but no such list was worth its bytes if it didn’t mention energy storage. The absence of scalable energy storage solutions is the Achilles’ heel of renewable energy generated from intermittent sources, such as sun and wind. But when it said late last month that it hopes to start selling a lithium-ion storage cell for home use around fiscal 2011, electronics giant Panasonic signaled that it could be filling that energy storage void.

Details about the battery are sketchy, at best. Panasonic’s president Fumio Otsubo told the Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun about the planned product but didn’t mention how large the energy storage system would be, or how much it would cost. He did say the device would be able to store a week’s worth of power for a single home—which sounds impressive but is a poor metric, since the amount of energy a single family home consumes in one week can vary drastically from block to block and from city to city. Still, storing a week’s worth of energy for even a small home with relatively low energy needs would be a major accomplishment.

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2010: Following The Cleantech Money Trail

Bill Roth | Monday January 4th, 2010 | 0 Comments

According to Eric Straser, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures and a pioneer in cleantech investing, “In 2009… cleantech…is now garnering nearly 20 percent of all dollars invested by VCs. In 2010, we’ll see public investors get into the action with several IPOs…”

So what VC trends should be influencing the development of your investment strategy?

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How “Design Thinking” Impacts Developing Economies

CCA LiveE | Sunday January 3rd, 2010 | 8 Comments

As a first generation American, I have always been influenced by my parents, who continue to be a powerful example for me. Having faced cultural discrimination, they were forced to flee to the United States with practically nothing. They arrived here, to the land of opportunity, with an entrepreneurial spirit and made a success of their lives. Having learned from my parents’ difficulties in their native land before they came to the U.S., I empathize with people in developing countries. Given my family’s background, my fundamental desire in life is to help other people who are struggling to survive in underdeveloped nations.

As a future entrepreneur, one of my ambitions is to improve living standards in developing countries. I am learning one of the tools that can be used to achieve this in the MBA in Design Strategy (DMBA). It is called Design Thinking.

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An Enlightening Experience: Creating Successful Experiences for People.

CCA LiveE | Saturday January 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

As a Lighting Designer I have dedicated my career to the art and science of incorporating light into the dark spaces of the built environment. I design for the needs of the people that inhabit these spaces. My goal is to be truly innovative and to bring forth a design that enhances each space by balancing function and aesthetics. Within my field of design, like many others, there has been the introduction of regulations and frameworks of do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts) that, in my estimation, limit the essence of design – better known as ‘the experience’.

Throughout the myriad of phases that encompass design, there is a common binding thread known as ‘the experience’. It is within ‘the experience’ that creativity flourishes, innovation is expansive, and playful methodologies flourish. Maintaining the experience in design is necessary to evoke playful notions of grandeur that innocently m otivate every designer. Fresh eyes and new approaches to design live in ‘the experience’.

The rules and guidelines of conservation and the like are indeed warranted. They encourage us to be responsible conscious designers and place the design industry in a position to contribute to greener and safer global efforts.  As I too, move closer to environmental awareness I begin to wonder if I am able to find a balance between strategy and creativity. I fear losing the capabilities of play and evoking lasting emotion throughout my designs, while the rule makers and creative types sit at either end of the table not speaking to each other. What is happening to ‘the experience’ in design? Can strategy and ‘the experience’ coexist in design?

Strategy has been defined as an adaptation or set of adaptations that serve or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success. It is in this discipline of strategy that engaging imagination ceases to exist and begins to dictate ‘the experience’.  At any given moment in the design process I find myself abandoning one idea for another solely based on “the numbers”. In relation to a variety of professions, “the numbers” could encompass politics, paperwork, constructability, availability, price points, subjective peer reviews, efficiency standards, etc. The more a designer gets caught up in “the numbers”, the designs potentially become more mundane.

My participation in California College of the Arts’ MBA in Design Strategy program has further enabled me to identify these risks and develop a more cognitive approach to the role of ‘the experience’ in my work; not just in the lighting solutions I create, but also in all things design. It is here that I discovered the need to look beyond design tangibles like paper and pencil; and to concentrate on a more sensory level. For example, simply understanding the role of lighting and lighting equipment, particularly in architecture, is insufficient to determine what design to create, why it is being created, for whom, and how to innovate both presently and over the long term. By incorporating ‘the experience’ in design it becomes a discipline that helps a Lighting Designer reach purpose. On a cursory level, ‘the experience’ in design can be understood as the approach to creating successful experiences for people. This approach includes consideration and design in the senses, personal meaning (of the designer and/or the end-user) and emotional context.

In this age of necessity of sustainable practices and habits it is with great hope that my designs forge an identifiable relationship that creates “socially responsive, culturally relevant, and technologically appropriate lasting value.”

Throughout the design process and its outcome I need a sensational experience, deliberate or not, to occur – an experience that makes my design worthy to be apart of a conversation. In the end, design should enable us to communicate. Only then will I have succeeded as a designer. I am still on the road to discovering a means to balance strategy and ‘the experience’ into my designs. Yet, I present this as a challenge to the design community as it remains a task for those of us in the industry to tackle. If I am to strike a balance between ‘the experience and strategy in design I will be able to embed the communal aspects of my designs into the folds of the architecture around me.

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Where are my directions?

CCA LiveE | Friday January 1st, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Samantha Wong

We are all made up of many different fascinating components.  Each piece is an important and integral part to who we are today. We must call on certain strengths to accomplish certain decisions, tasks or questions.  And when we only utilize one or two of our strengths, we lose the greatest aspect of ourselves, that the sum of who we are is greater than our individual pieces.  It is a balancing act to manage and express each part of who we are together as one.

There are certain strengths that I have relied on to get me where I am today.  I received a digital arts degree from UCSD because I had a creative passion for arts and programming.  However, I hid behind a screen of visuals without emerging to communicate out loud what I had to say.

Professionally, I worked in different marketing roles from analysis to media research to project management.  I pursued marketing because I enjoyed the puzzle of numbers and the story that research presented.  While this suited a certain niche, I felt empty at the lack of creative thinking and the inability to express my ideas and thoughts.  Since I was eight, I swam recreationally and competitively.  My love of swimming opened the doors to coaching and competing at nationals during my collegiate career.  The pool has always been inviting to me and is the one place that I know I am always me.

I have been able to rely on my passions and strengths to reach amazing feats in my life.  Despite these successes, I realized that I was ignoring another aspect of me.  My story was not in balance.

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Roundup: 2010 Predictions for Cleantech

3p Contributor | Friday January 1st, 2010 | 6 Comments

Based on the rash of predictions for cleantech in 2010 from investors, consultants and media (see the full list at the end of this post), I’ve pulled together a “trend of trends” list below that attempts to synthesis the broader, over-arching themes. As always, I’m amazed that water isn’t on the top of every list, every year, although there are some positive signs on that front. So here are the 12 things that filtered to the top:

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EV Charging Infrastructure: the New VHS vs. BetaMax?

Steve Puma | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 17 Comments

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While Tesla Motors and other EV manufacturers have had recent successes and grabbed quite a few headlines, they still face a major hurdle: charging infrastructure. Without a fast and reliable way to re-fuel their vehicles, EV customers will be limited to those who drive less than 200 miles per day or those who can afford to keep the vehicle as a novelty. According to investment website the Motley Fool, 220-volt charging times are the Achilles heel of EVs, with the Tesla Roadsters’ current 200-volt unit taking approximately 4 hours to fully charge.

Automotive industry analyst Jim Motavalli (bnet.com) writes about Tesla’s dilemma in the context of the company’s rumored IPO, first reported by Reuters but denied by Tesla management. Motavalli points to one solution to the charging infrastructure, proposed by The Car Charging Group, Inc. (CCGI):

According to CEO Andy Kinard, Florida-based CCGI will not build its own charging technology, but will distribute chargers built by established player Coulomb. Its business model…is to sign contracts with businesses…that operate parking lots. The contract spells out revenue sharing between the parties, so parking slots will gain free EV infrastructure and lot managers will get cash from charging.

The article also goes on to say that CCGI will standardize on “J1772 charging hardware” and will go from 0 to 1,000 units by the end of 2010. While this would certainly be good news for Tesla, it is not entirely clear just how reliable CCGI’s predictions are.

However, what the article does not mention is that this is not the whole story for electric vehicle infrastructure. Some startups are focusing on an entirely different strategy. One such company is the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Network (EVIN), and its business model circumvents the “chicken-and-egg” problem altogether.

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2010 Transportation Predictions: What is the Reality?

Steve Puma | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Earth2Tech has posted an interesting article which takes a look at some of the predictions made for green transportation at the beginning of the decade, and how close those predictions were to reality. While the decade started out with a lot of promise, corporate interests and politics slowed that down, only to see green vehicles come back strong as the economy weakened, it notes:

We entered the 2000’s with rules in California requiring automakers to offer EVs, but by 2003, state regulators changed the rules and many automakers dropped EV initiatives and focused on gas guzzlers. But here we are nearing the end of 2009, and automakers are now investing heavily in electric vehicles, natural gas cars are gaining traction in high places, and hydrogen cars are about as far off as ever.

The verdict? Despite some movement, Natural Gas Vehicle adoption and High-Speed Rail are still a long way off, while the Hydrogen Economy is nowhere to be seen. Electric Vehicle adoption also has many more obstacles to overcome than originally predicted. Just about the only thing that the pundits got right was that Hybrid Vehicle technology would be a bridge to EV adoption.

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La Lune Collection: World’s Most Sustainable Furniture Company?

| Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 7 Comments

In this time of abundant greenwashing, it’s refreshing to find a company that’s far more sustainable than it claims to be in its advertisements.  La Lune Collection, a Milwaukee furniture maker, impressed me last week not only by its strong grasp of sustainable principles, but by the matter of fact attitude with which it approaches sustainability. In business for more than 30 years, La Lune makes high end, rustic styled furniture for hotels, restaurants, and interior design firms that are made primarily from nearby poplar and willow trees – all in a rehabbed old factory in an urban neighborhood it helped revive.

The sustainability catch? For starters, fast-growing poplar and willow are as common as weeds in Wisconsin and need to be regularly pruned – a costly annual project. La Lune happily collects an assortment of trunks and branches from property owners who are thrilled to see them go. From a business perspective, this means an essentially free source of materials, and from a sustainability perspective, the company is harvesting a very renewable resource that might even go to waste otherwise.

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Do We Need Green Authoritarianism?

| Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 8 Comments

On Saturday the Chinese legislature passed an amendment to a 2006 renewable energy law that requires utilities to buy power from renewable sources, if it is available. The amendment should provide a major boost to renewable energy development for the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The new legislation is also an example of how centralized, non-democratic government can move quickly to exert its will on a pressing issue.

Power enterprises refusing to buy power produced by renewable energy generators will be fined up to an amount double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company, according to Xinhua. The law also “requires the government to set up a special fund to renewable energy scientific research, finance rural clean energy projects, build independent power systems in remote areas and islands, and build information networks to exploit renewable energy,” the state news agency said.

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Riding the Rails With the World’s Fastest Train

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Train

Even Superman himself would have a hard time keeping up with what is being described as the world’s fastest train.

While trial runs took place earlier in the month, the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway officially began service in China on December 26, 2009. 

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Climate Change Like You’ve Never Seen

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 2 Comments

A riveting photo essay of images depicting climate change was recently published online. The essay, produced by Magnum in Motion and commissioned by the United Nations Development Program, is based on information found in the latest UNDP report.

What I like the most about this photo essay is the emphasis placed on promoting assistance to developing countries. It is now almost a mantra that poor countries contribute the least to climate change, but are also the most vulnerable to its impacts. It is one thing to hear such statements, but quite another to see such stark, visual representations of what this looks like.

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Top 10 New Green Ideas to Watch in 2010

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 33 Comments

As part of their end-of-year Trend Report, JWT recently published “100 Things to Watch in 2010,” an intriguing list of predictions based on the observations of the company’s Trend Scouts stationed throughout the world.

Of these 100 things, one-quarter are decidedly green –a healthy percentage which, according to Ann Mack, Director of Trend Spotting at JWT, indicates that sustainability as a business concept is “here to stay.”

“We didn’t go in looking for a quota of things for any particular category,” Mack explains, adding that the final list of 100 was culled from more than 200 original submissions. “The fact that so many on the list are green shows that the environmental movement is not a flash in the pan. Instead, it has real weight and momentum, and both consumers and retailers realize that. Companies have to get up to speed fast, if they are not already, to make themselves more environmentally-friendly and attractive to the consumer.”

Of the 25 green items on JWT’s list, we whittled it even further, creating this short list (in alphabetical order) of the Top 10 New Green Ideas to Watch in 2010:

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A New Era for Sustainability Begins January 1

Bill Roth | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Imagine walking into a Walmart to buy a bag of potato chips and seeing not only how two competing bags of chips compare on price but also how they compare in terms of green house gas (GHG) emissions. Then, imagine the ramifications if both bags of chips cost the same, but one bag had twice the GHG emissions clearly identified next to its price! Get ready, this path toward price/emission competitive comparison officially begins on January 1, 2010.

The EPA’s Final Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule took effect on December 29, 2009. As stated by the EPA, “Under the rule, suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions are required to submit annual reports to EPA.” The gases covered include not just CO2 but also methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and other fluorinated gases including nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFE). The monitoring period begins January 1, 2010.

It will be interesting to watch how this information will shape consumer buying behavior in the years that follow.

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Cruisin in the Fusion: Does Ford’s Latest Hybrid Earn its Green Cred?

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

After six days and more than 400 miles of real-world road testing of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, I am happy to report that the car has earned its green cred. It travels more than 600 miles on a single tank of gas and provides instantaneous MPG performance, based on current driving patterns. I took it all across Southern California during the holiday season, from the San Clemente shoreline to the San Bernardino mountains. All without stopping once at a gas station.

As I’ve written elsewhere, what I have found most appealing about the Fusion Hybrid is its unique Eco-Gauge digital dashboard. The display acts as an efficiency driving coach. Driving green is almost a game, as I aimed to maximize the number of digital green leaves I could earn by moderately accelerating and decelerating.

In terms of overall fuel economy, I averaged 36.6 MPG (that is combined city and highway driving). On the highway, I averaged 44.4 MPG (a higher rating than the 41 MPG that the EPA reported). While driving up the mountains, my fuel economy dipped significantly due to the increased power needed to climb 3000 feet of elevation, over 11 miles. On the way down, however, I hardly used the gas pedal at all – just regenerative braking and cruise mode – and I averaged 99.9 MPG. Not bad, eh?

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