The Secret Solar $auce

Bill Roth | Monday November 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

The Secret Green Sauce“The idea of building a business selling sustainability without having a clearly articulated price competitiveness strategy is a recipe for failure.” That sentence from The Secret Green Sauce is “best practices #1” being used by companies that are making money going green. And it is issue number one for the solar industry.

The good news is that today solar panels for rooftop systems cost half as much than a couple of years ago and are now averaging $2.50 per watt. These costs are projected to decline as the industry continues to reduce manufacturing costs. First Solar claims below $1 per watt manufacturing costs and several manufacturers claim near-term paths toward 60 cents per watt. A California roof top solar system costing $1 per watt panels with 20% panel efficiency and a $2 per watt balance of plant costs according to my estimates will generate approximately 13 cents per kWh electricity in California or about 1/3 the price charged by utilities through their newly installed smart meters during the pricey summer hours of the year. In addition the utility scale solar thermal developers claim the potential to be at grid price parity plus the ability to dispatch their energy to track demand. So solar appears to have a path toward price competitiveness without subsidies.

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End of the Beginning: Cleantech Group Offers Ten Predictions for 2010

| Monday November 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

CleantechGroupLogo-RGBlargeJPG320x320The Cleantech Group, the guys who literally invented the word “cleantech” (and own the trademark — so watch out) today released “Ten Predictions for 2010: Trends to Watch For in Global Cleantech in the Year Ahead,” the investment information hub’s annual list of predictions for the future of clean technology.

It’s actually a pretty juicy read.

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3p Bound for Helsinki: Five Fast Facts About Finland

| Sunday November 29th, 2009 | 11 Comments

xmas-finland-reindeer-40348Quick quiz: name five things about Finland.

I’ll go first: reindeer, vodka, snow, Nokia,  and … saunas.

Pretty sad, right? For a bunch of world travelers we should know better. Luckily there is a group who is setting out to change all that. Finnfacts, the country’s PR agency, has invited Triple Pundit and friends from:

Sustainablog, Clean Techies, Clean Tech Blog, Green Dig, Leo DiCaprio’s blog, Mother Nature Network and German blog Cleanthinking.de on a tour of some of the country’s hottest clean tech companies and coldest national parks. Finnfacts is kind enough to foot the bill because they know bloggers are not known for their deep pockets.  Sold!

We head off on Monday. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been doing my research. Yes, some of this time was spent doing experiential research in the sauna with a Finlandia on ice, but I also did some good old fashioned reading. Did you know:

If you have any fun facts to add, or questions for us to ask, leave them in the comments!

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Copenhagen: Why Bother?

| Friday November 27th, 2009 | 4 Comments


The world gets from COP15 what it puts into itWith little more than a week to go before the start of the COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen, the “Road to Copenhagen” starts to sound a little tired, even as participants prepare for actually heading to Copenhagen.

With the roller-coaster-like ride of pre-COP15 news, reeling from despair to faint glimmers of hope* that something positive and substantial will emerge from Copenhagen in mid-December, the question for many concerned about climate change, or who are considering going to COP15, is:

If Copenhagen is just another step in the long process from Kyoto to Bali to Copenhagen to… why bother?

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SolarClover: Simple and Affordable DIY Residential Rooftop Solar Energy System

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday November 27th, 2009 | 7 Comments

ban-startup-friday

solarcloverOne of the greatest barriers of entry for residential solar power systems has been the high cost of installation. And for some, another turn-off is the aesthetic of conventional rooftop panels.  The SolarClover residential rooftop solar energy system, from Armageddon Energy, has been designed to address both issues.  SolarClover is a uniquely-shaped solar panel system with a simple installation process that most homeowners will be able to manage largely on their own, thereby saving on installation fees.

The SolarClover system is expected to be released sometime in 2010.

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Buy Nothing Day: The High Cost of a Bargain

3p Contributor | Friday November 27th, 2009 | 2 Comments

gordon_laird_price_of_a_bargainThis excerpt from The Price of a Bargain by Canadian journalist Gordon Laird is presented in honor of Buy Nothing Day. Happy anti shopping!

For better and for worse, ours is the age of the bargaineers – the engineers of bargains – whose factories extend from rice paddies to suburban basements everywhere. Each year we are drawn to their doors by the millions. And if it’s not Wal-Mart that reels us in, then it’s its big-box brethren – Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy, Ikea, Tesco – or smaller fish like the local dollar store. There are never single, isolated bargains. Most of us stalk value on a serial basis, sometimes in full contravention of common sense. Row upon row, aisle upon aisle, this realm of affordability, selection, and discount is a dominant force in today’s world.

From family-owned discount stores to the world’s largest company, it’s all there: your next iPod, laptop, snack food, and the stuffed animal you take to a sick relative in hospital. This is you, even before you know it. And all of it is priced to sell. Nearly everything from clothing to electronics has miraculously decreased in price since the early 1990s. And if you’re not getting it cheaper, then you’ve probably gained on quantity or quality, the outcome of a global economy that’s been on rollback for the past two decades.

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The Monopoly Named Monsanto

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday November 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

roundup-monsantoMonsanto is the largest seed company in the world. It controls 95 percent of the market for insect and herbicide resistant cotton traits. In 2008, Monsanto had shares of up to 65 percent for traited corn and soybeans and about 45 percent for traited corn. During the late 1990s and through the 2000s, Monsanto acquired almost 40 companies “creating the horizontal and vertical integration that underlies the firm’s platforms in cotton, corn, and soybeans,” according to a whitepaper by American Antitrust Institute’s vice president and senior fellow, Diana Moss. Most of the acquisitions were seed companies.

The whitepaper cites a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), which noted that Monsanto’s U.S. patents for Roundup Ready soybean seeds give it power over the seed market. It also points out that during the years 2002 to 2009 there were almost 60 patent infringement and antitrust court cases in federal district and appeals court. Almost 55 percent involve Monsanto as the plaintiff, and 20 percent as the defendant. This amounts to three-quarters of all the cases. “The lack of competition and innovation in the marketplace has reduced farmers’ choices and enabled Monsanto to raise prices unencumbered,” said Keith Mudd from the Organization for Competitive Markets, after Monsanto decided to raise some GM maize seed prices by 35 percent.

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Whole Foods Invests in Mobile Slaughterhouses

Tori Okner | Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

rubber_chickenThis Thanksgiving, much attention has been paid to how your bird was raised, but how about the manner in which it was killed? The head meat buyer at Whole Foods, Theo Weening, made public the company’s effort to collaborate with both USDA and state regulatory agencies to develop certifiable mobile slaughterhouses for poultry. Before claiming a victory for the locavore movement, one has to ask, is this good news for family farmers?

First, understand that Whole Foods mobile units are a long way off. To begin with, the company must wade through USDA bureaucracy and has yet to identify an authority to approve a mobile poultry slaughter and processing facility. Whole Foods aims to overcome a barrier – the dearth of slaughterhouses – to a meet customer demand for local food products.

The number of USDA approved slaughterhouses has fallen dramatically over the last several years. The numbers vary; recent estimates cite a decline from 1,405 USDA approved slaughterhouses in 1992 to just 808 in 2008, with others as low as 550 in 2001 dropping to only 350 today. There is broad consensus in the sustainable food movement about improving the quality and quantity of slaughterhouses. Today, 99% of all animals raised for food are processed through the factory farm system. This consolidation of animal husbandry and continual agribusiness mergers has resulted in the channeling of the vast majority of meat through a few central slaughterhouses.

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Putting Deforestation into Focus at COP 15

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Rainforest degradation is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and robs one billion of the poorest people on Earth from their source of livelihood. These are just two of myriad reasons that the world leaders meeting next month at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen must achieve some type of progress toward binding a international treaty to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Most pundits agree that COP15 is unlikely to produce a finalized treaty, but the work of Daniel Beltrá, a Spanish photographer living in Seattle, just might push the process forward. At the very least, it will remind the leaders of what they are trying to protect.

Some of Beltrá’s photographs are shockingly beautiful, but many are just plain shocking: images of burning, drought-stricken and clear-cut rainforests of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. The Prince’s Rainforests Project, an effort that Prince Charles of Wales established in 2007 in order to raise awareness about rainforest destruction and raise funds to support rainforest preservation, appointed Beltrá (through the Sony World Photography Awards) to photograph the world’s largest and most important rainforests as part of the campaign.

Now, some of these images—which show not only wide-scale damage to the rainforests but also vignettes of pristine sections—are collected in a limited-edition book, Rainforest: Lifebelt for an Endangered Planet, which key world leaders at COP15 will receive.

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German PV Solar Industry Is Thriving

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

180px-SolarpanelBp

Germany will add up to three gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity this year due to a strong demand in the last part of this year, the head of Germany’s Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW-Solar) solar industry association announced. Germany is the world leader in photovoltaic (PV) solar panel power, with 5.3 GW installed. The world total of installed solar PV panels is 15 GW.

The German government promoted solar PV panels through feed-in tariffs and other incentives, but decreased them this year. The BSW-Solar cites the falling prices of PV systems surpassing the decrease in state-mandated feed-in tariffs as the main reason for the growth. A strong demand is expected to continue into next year. BSW-Solar expects solar power costs for consumers will decrease below the tariff level of conventional electricity providers by 2015.

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Black Friday? Buy Nothing Day? How About Buy Something Responsible Day?

| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 5 Comments

black-friday


The idea of waking up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping for trinkets among hordes of what seem like crazed zombies strikes me as a horrible kind of torture. Nonetheless, millions of Americans consider “Black Friday” a kind of celebratory tradition, with this year expected to be the biggest and craziest yet. Understandably, retailers and other merchants are delighted at the opportunity to cash in.

As an antidote to the madness, some folks stay home or actively participate in anti-shopping movements such as “buy nothing day” – a clever, mostly symbolic, attempt to reign some sense into the consumptive lifestyle.

But why can’t progressive-minded business people suggest a saner alternative? After all, folks who understand the appeal of shopping locally, buying organic, and taking the time to understand where products come from and who makes them, already recognize that we vote with our dollars. When consumers line up at 4am at a big box store to buy next year’s landfill discards, they are voting approval of an economy based on thoughtless consumption, materialism and waste. Only by casting competing votes can we, and responsible business owners, change that tide.

I propose “Buy Something Responsible Day”.

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Obama Announces He Will Attend COP15 Climate Conference

| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

President Obama will travel to Denmark to attend COP15The White House officially announced today that President Barack Obama will go to Copenhagen to attend the COP15 climate conference, a commitment Obama has thus far been reticent to make, saying that he would attend only if his presence would help secure a successful outcome in the climate negotiations.

It now appears as if he feels his attendance will do just that. President Obama plans on giving a speech at the conference on December 9th as he makes his way to Sweden to pick up his Noble Peace Prize on the 10th.

The White House also confirmed that the US will finally agree to put “numbers on the table” in negotiations, with a proposal to cut emissions “in the range” of 17 percent below 2005 levels, in line with the targets mandated in the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill passed in the House of Representative this summer.
The reference year for the target is 2005, instead of the more internationally accepted 1990. The targets are below other developed nations target and are significantly off the 40 percent cut below 1990 levels that developing nations say is necessary to begin effectively dealing with climate change.

Nonetheless, Obama’s commitment to lend his presence to the process, and the firm targets proposed by the US, represent progress and leadership that has heretofore been absent in the negotiating process. It isn’t enough, but it is a start.

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KLM Flies into Sustainable Air Transport

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 5 Comments

KLMMG_4909Is that the smell of bio-kerosene in the air? If you were one of the passengers on KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s first passenger flight powered by bio-kerosene this week, then you were also one of the first to get a whiff of this new sustainable fuel, if indeed it is whiff-able.

The Netherlands airline underscored its Boeing 747 biofuels test flight with an announcement that it has formed a joint venture to develop sustainable biofuels on a large scale. Called SkyEnergy, the consortium includes KLM, North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates. In addition, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium about the ecological aspects of the venture.

Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO, says the airline wants to ensure “clean, silent and sustainable air transport worldwide. We have demonstrated that it is possible. Government, industry and society at large must now join forces to ensure that we quickly gain access to continuous supply of biofuel.”

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Why Traditional MBA Programs Still Don’t Get It

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 6 Comments

see-no-evilBy Martin Melaver

Recently, I was invited to meet with the Dean of a prestigious MBA program. I didn’t haven’t the foggiest notion what he wanted from me. Still don’t for that matter. As I waited outside his office, I felt all of ten years old being called in to see the principal. His office reminded me of that line from The Great Gatsby: It smelled like money. As the Dean prattled with me over the ensuing hour in that sort of casual type of peripatetic chit-chat that told me I was being interviewed and somehow failing the test, I never did relax completely. He wanted to know things like my big-business experience (none) and the global scale of my company’s sustainable projects (not).

I knew, though, what I wanted: to convince the Dean that his school should grab first-mover advantage and become the first of the top ten MBA programs in the country to overhaul its curriculum so that sustainable principles suffused everything being taught. I was playing to a deaf audience.

The case seemed simple and obvious. For one thing, I had been a visiting lecturer at this school for the past three years (a business case study had been written about my company and one of our projects) and, in those three short years, you could see a sea-change in the students’ thoughts about sustainable business practices. Initially, sustainability was seen as a cross between something trendy and oddly curious. Now, the vast majority of students I spoke with and taught viewed sustainable principles as fundamental to running a business. In MBA jargon, the school’s customers were starting to demand a new product.

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How to Change Careers: “Job’s Aren’t Hot, People Are.”

Frank Marquardt | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hcicc1An increasing number of job seekers have been attending green jobs conferences and networking events and reading a burgeoning list of green career guides as part of an effort to transition into a job where they feel good about their work.

Too often they run into one of several common challenges that end up derailing their search and undermining their confidence: They’re rejected, find employers indifferent to their resume, or are totally ignored by headhunters or the companies to which they apply.

If this sounds familiar, Nick Corcodilos’s 36-page e-book, How Can I Change Careers? might help. Organized as a series of topical essays with a crib sheet at the end, it offers easy to read, harder-to-apply advice that goes beyond the simplified and watered-down ideas in many career guides to get to the truth of what makes a career switcher a good hire. Corcodilos, author of the excellent Ask the Headhunter career guide and curator of a rather busy website, also shows you how to get there.

While short, this “answer kit” is to the point and offers a smart strategy for career change—and should be very useful for those already passionate about working in some sector of the green economy. And while $12.95 may sound like a lot for such a short book, it offers narrowly focused, actionable advice from an expert in the process of career change that make it a worthwhile investment for the right buyer.

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