The Cleantech Open – A Bridge over the Valley of Death?

3p Contributor | Friday February 26th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Ed Note: This is the second in a handful of guest posts we felt worth publishing on behalf of Chevron. Although we have mixed feelings about many aspects of the oil industry, Chevron’s sponsorship of today’s cleantech open speaks to their willingness to enter into a productive dialog with entrepreneurs building a new energy economy.

By Jim Davis, President, Chevron Energy Solution

The “Valley of Death” is a well known concept in the business startup and technology community. It’s the place where good ideas go to die. If small businesses are the lifeblood of economic growth and job creation, entrepreneurs and startup companies are the marrow. While the entrepreneurial path has never been easy, it has become even tougher in today’s economic climate.

Let me give you an example of the challenges for clean technology entrepreneurs that I see every day. In a business such as ours, which is “technology agnostic” in the sense that we aren’t tied to any one manufacturer or product, innovation and access to new technology are critical success factors.

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How To Cut Costs Through Energy Efficiency

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday February 26th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Is it possible to cut cost without cutting meaning? Robert Verganti of the Harvard Business Review thinks it is possible. Verganti, the author of the book, Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating what Things Mean, pointed out that people care about price, but they also “do not want to feel poor.” Verganti added, “So the challenge for companies is to cut costs without cutting meaning.”

Companies can cut costs by implementing energy saving measures. A report released last summer by McKinsey found that the U.S. could save $1.2 trillion through 2020 by investing $520 billion by making improvements such as replacing inefficient appliances with new, energy-saving ones. The industrial sector accounts for 40 percent of end-use efficiency and the commercial sector for 25 percent.

The website, Business.gov proclaims, “Good energy management is good business.” The website lists “simple, low-risk, high-return” energy efficiency improvements businesses can make in the following categories: lighting, water heating, refrigeration, equipment, heating and cooling systems (HVAC), and buildings. Some of the improvements businesses can make include:

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Three Big Companies Gave USCAP The Shaft

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday February 26th, 2010 | 6 Comments

This article has been updated since it was originally published.

ConoccoPhillips recently pulled out of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of businesses and environmental groups. Conocco is the third company to pull out, after the British oil giant, BP, and equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar. Conocco’s chairman and CEO, Jim Mulva said in a statement, “House climate legislation and Senate proposals to date have disadvantaged the transportation sector and its consumers, left domestic refineries unfairly penalized versus international competition, and ignored the critical role that natural gas can play in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Mulva continued, “We believe greater attention and resources need to be dedicated to reversing these missed opportunities, and our actions today are part of that effort. Addressing these issues will save thousands of American jobs, as well as create new ones.”

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Chevron Acts to Reclaim Contaminated Land with Sunshine

RP Siegel | Friday February 26th, 2010 | 0 Comments

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced today that Chevron’s mining subsidiary Chevron Mining, Inc. will build a one megawatt concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) solar facility on the tailing site of their molybdenum mine in Questa, New Mexico. This demonstration project will be the largest concentrating solar photovoltaic installation in the U.S.

Concentrating photovoltaic systems uses lenses to concentrate sunlight on high efficiency cells which results on a higher overall efficiency and a smaller footprint. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, efficiencies of up to 40% are possible. This compares favorably with the efficiencies of the more common crystalline silicon (around 20-25% ) or thin film cadmium telluride cells (around 15%).

This installation will be built by Chevron Technology Ventures.  CTV serves as one of Chevron’s technology “scouts,” always searching for emerging technologies that could enhance the company’s strategies. “CTV identifies, acquires, tests, validates, and – if appropriate – helps integrate those technologies into the company’s core businesses. Alternatively, technologies may be studied then “shelved” for future consideration.”
The 175 concentrating solar panels, which were developed by Concentrix Solar of Freiburg, Germany will occupy twenty acres of reclaimed land.

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Quantifying Progress: Whole Foods vs. Milton Friedman

| Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 5 Comments

five year anniversary

Spooner's Milton Friedman

Five years ago, 3p founder Nick Aster covered the exchange between Milton Friedman and John Mackey featured on Reason.com. On one side of the ring was Friedman, swinging away on behalf of profit at all social and environmental costs, echoing his infamous assertion that the only “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”  On the other side was Mackey counter-punching, explaining that by focusing on creating value for all of its stakeholders instead of just shareholders, Whole Foods built a lucrative empire of happy people and shareholders alike.

Aster asked, “[Profit] is certainly a lot easier to quantify than something like ‘happiness’, but the intangible benefits of good, honest business clearly go way beyond pure finance….Must the word ‘profit’ always refer to money in the strictest sense?”

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Why a National Renewable Energy Standard *Is* a Jobs Bill

| Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Last week, the American Wind Energy Association held a webinar that went through a study by Navigant Consulting, pointing to the many ways passing a national renewable electricity standard would lead to an economic boon across the U.S.

It seems that the FOXNews message that a climate change bill would hurt job growth is untrue. (Surprised?) Paired with rigorous renewable energy standards, Navigant Consulting suggests that 274,000 blue collar construction jobs could be added in areas of the country that need both jobs and renewable energy. While Navigant based its assumptions on the big “if” that climate change legislation passes both houses, however its study should increase the momentum toward such a result.

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Recycling Is the Winning Ticket at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 4 Comments

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is taking a different approach when it comes to recycling.   According to a recent company press release, two TOMRA UNO reverse vending machines (RVMs) have been installed in the food court at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.  The 31,000 square-foot facility serves as the premier events arena in the area, hosting sporting events, concerts and a variety of shows.

The machines, each about the size of a standard beverage vending machine, not only provide a clean and simple way to dispose of glass, plastic and aluminum beverage containers, they provide an extra incentive to recycle. Using high-tech, patented bottle recognition technology, each machine can sort, collect and store.  Each machine is capable of handling up to 20 containers per minute and can hold up to 500 beverage containers.  And both user-friendly machines, provided by Coca-Cola, display positive messages, like “give it back” and “live positively.”

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Why Dismantling California’s AB32 Is Bad for Small Business

3p Contributor | Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 11 Comments

By: Cynthia Verdugo-Peralta

When it comes to achieving sustained economic recovery in California, it seems that some individuals, who presently have the bully pulpit, are asking all the wrong questions—and not surprisingly, coming up with all the wrong answers.  They wonder–“What can we do to ‘protect’ California’s economy from AB32 (the state’s landmark energy security and climate law)?”  Their answer (ironically called the “California Jobs Initiative”): Dismantle AB32 through a ballot initiative that could end up costing California jobs, long-term economic stability, as well as improved air quality, which could result in the reduction of negative health effects from air pollution.

A better question we should be asking is: How do we sustain California’s long-term economic growth, job creation, energy security and prosperity?  The answer is not to throw away AB32 and all the potentially positive effects it will bring, both economically and environmentally.

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EPA’s GHG Reduction Scenarios for Transport Sector

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments


Environmental Protection Agency
says various reduction scenarios could result in vehicle emission reductions of up 27 percent through 2030, which explains their recent actions on greenhouse gas regulations in the transport sector and general GHG reporting requirements for all companies.

EPA also says that implementation of those scenarios could reduce the transportation sector’s cumulative oil consumption by as much 28 percent by that date.

The agency released a 56-page report, EPA Analysis of the Transportation Sector: Greenhouse Gas and Oil Reduction Scenarios, which looks at some possible pathways to achieve GHG reductions and oil savings in the context of current regulatory and pending legislative initiatives.The report was done at the request of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), a principle author of Senate climate change legislation. In September, he asked the EPA to follow up its previous work and look deeper into the “greenhouse gas emission reductions and oil savings that could be achieved from a variety of transportation policies, including more aggressive fuel economy standards and policies to address vehicle miles traveled.”

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Bloom Energy Finally Comes Clean in Packed Press Briefing

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 14 Comments

In a standing-room-only press conference today, held at eBay headquarters in San Jose, Bloom Energy publicly launched its Bloom Energy Server, following eight years of highly secret development, and almost $400m in investments, much of it from Silicon Valley’s top shelf VC, Kleiner Perkins.

The event kicked off with introductory remarks by Governor Schwarzenegger who described the state’s booming clean energy industry as the new California gold rush, and promised to create a new jobs bill focused on the clean energy sector.

“I love this guy,” the governor declared as he embraced Bloom Energy CEO KR Sridhar before turning over the podium to him. Mr. Sridhar covered much of the same ground as his recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl.

The briefing continued with a panel discussion, moderated by Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, who admitted, “this is definitely the most powerful panel I’ve ever moderated.” No kidding. The panel featured a who’s who of corporate VIPs whose companies are currently testing the Bloom Energy Server at their facilities. Larry Page from Google, John Donahoe from eBay and Bill Simon from Walmart were among the executives endorsing Bloom’s new fuel cell technology.

General Colin Powell made the concluding remarks asserting that energy would be our biggest challenge in the 21st century especially for developing countries. Bloom Energy’s long-term vision is to bring clean energy to the billions of people now living off the grid.

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Ben & Jerry’s Plans to go 100% Fair Trade

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 7 Comments

Fair labor conditions never tasted so good.

Ben & Jerry’s announced last week that they will be 100% fair trade by 2013.  That means that all of their “global flavor portfolio” will be composed of Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients, such as cocoa, vanilla, fruits, nuts, etc.

The successful ice cream company was the first to introduce fair trade ingredients to the market back in 2005, but co-founder Jerry Greenfield decided that only some wasn’t enough.

“Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie,” said company co-founder Jerry Greenfield. Always with the dessert metaphors, Jerry?

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Are Big Box Stores Advancing or Detracting Sustainability Efforts? Yes.

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 5 Comments

five year anniversary
Since TriplePundit.com launched in 2005, Walmart and other big box stores have gone through quite a metamorphosis in the eyes of many pundits of triple-bottom-line business. In fact, 2005 was the same year that Walmart launched the first of a growing list of initiatives aimed at simultaneously reducing its environmental impact and its operating expenses.

But the decision to do things such as boost the fuel efficiency of its trucking fleet and to aggressively reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste from its stores, wasn’t all driven by efforts to lower operating expenses and portray itself as a jolly green giant. Walmart was, and still is, working off the high environmental—not to mention societal—cost of its low prices. And while it’s taking many meaningful steps forward, in terms of sustainability, how can it erase the impact of millions of metric tons that the 100 million weekly Walmart shoppers emit as they drive to and fro the massive stores?

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5 Years Later: Amtrak Survives Bush, Expands

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments

five year anniversary

In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was complete. In the 50 years following 1870, rail transportation became a mainstay in the U.S., was critical to settling the West and served as a trademark of the industrial revolution. Train use peaked in 1920, when trains carried 1.2 billion passengers.

Then rail faced a series of setbacks, in order: 20% hikes in fares, Henry Ford and the advent of cars, the Great Depression, the diesel engine, trucks and trucking fleets, commercial air, nationalization of trains (including guaranteed net income despite performance), privatization of trains, and strong ridership throughout WWII followed by a massive peacetime decline. Amtrak was created in the 70s, when air travel had emerged as the most popular consumer long distance transportation choice.

Fast forward to 2005:  3p covered a variety of Amtrak angles. Some of Nick’s first posts were even concerned with what seemed like Amtrak’s impending doom under the Bush administration . That year, 3p covered the heavy budget cuts Amtrak sustained under Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s (the only Clinton holdover in the Bush administration) approval, its potential bankruptcy and its apparent savior: the business community that protested Amtrak cuts, probably fearing a comprehensive withdrawal of federal support for rail freight.

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Gainesville Sets Record Prices for Solar Power Sellers

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments

by: Tom Rooney

Gainesville city leaders became the first in the country to set a competitive price for people who create renewable energy with their solar panels or wind farms  and who sell it back to the local utility- a commendable 32 cents per kilowatt hour.

They call it a feed-in tariff, if you must know the technical term. But it is simply the price you receive for generating your own power then selling it to the utility. Many solar leaders regard it as the key to the next step of the growth of solar in America, because it allows consumers to make money off of their investments in solar panels. Of course the growth in solar  is also key to creating energy independence and reducing carbon.

On a recent trip to China, I visited several large factories where they make solar panels. I wish everyone who wishes America to be an energy super power could have seen what I saw. These factories are world-class models of efficiency and skill. Their managers, many of whom are trained in the United States are very good and getting better.

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How Concentrated Solar Power Can Meet India’s Future Power Needs

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 13 Comments

The Sun: Goldmine of green energy

By Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E.

Solar energy is an enormous resource that is readily available in all countries throughout the world, and all the space above the earth. Long ago, scientists calculated that an hour’s worth of sunlight bathing the planet held far more energy than humans worldwide could consume in a year. I firmly believe that India should accelerate the use of all forms of renewable energy (photovoltaic, thermal solar, solar lamps, solar pumps, wind power, biomass, biogas, and hydro), and more proactively promote energy efficiency. However, in this article, I will only focus on the use of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology to meet India’s future energy needs.

Concentrated solar power plants have been used in California since the 1980s. More recently, Pacific Gas & Electric has signed contracts to buy 500 megawatts of solar thermal power from two solar companies. First, NextEra Energy Resources will sell 250 megawatts of CSP generated power from the Genesis Solar Energy Project to be located in Riverside, Calif. Second, Abengoa’s Mojave Solar project will supply the remaining 250 megawatts from a plant located in San Bernardino County, Calif. Subject to California Public Utility Commission approval of the power purchase agreements, construction of these solar energy generating plants is expected to start in 2010 with operations planned to begin in 2013. Both these solar thermal power projects will contribute to meeting California’s aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for moving away from fossil fuels to solar and other renewable energy sources that avoid pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

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