Will Electric Carmaker Bring More than Jobs to Elkhart Indiana?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday January 6th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The recession hit Elkhart, Ind., especially hard.  In fact, the town became somewhat of a poster child of the recession, thanks to a news series produced by MSNBC. But a glimmer of hope emerged for Elkhart on Tuesday, when the Norwegian electric carmaker Think said it will open its first American assembly plant there.

The New York Times’ Green Inc blog reports that the Think assembly line should be up and running in early 2011, and its annual production could hit 20,000 cars by 2013. Most importantly for Elkhart, the plant should employ more than 400 workers when it’s fully online.

According to Elkhart Truth, the town’s local paper, Think plans to invest  more than $56 million in the new plant–some of which, will be in the form of a Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan. In the first phase of build up, 100 new jobs are expected and the Elkhart Truth reports that these will pay an average of $16/hour.

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The Emerging Sustainable Stock Market

Bill Roth | Wednesday January 6th, 2010 | 3 Comments

So where does a stock investor look for value in a landscape dominated by the Federal Reserve, Peak Everything, Unsustainable Debt and Unaffordable Health Care? The emerging answer is to invest in companies that are building “smart answers” that offer consumers “cost less, mean more” solutions. These companies will grow sustainable revenues as they succeed in aligning with customers’ search for goods and services that “align value with values.” A market segment I estimate could achieve $10 trillion in global annual revenue by 2017.

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Cape Wind Controversy Hits New Low, Illustrates Cost of NIMBYism

| Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 16 Comments

I have immense respect for Robert F Kennedy Jr, and have been frequently moved by his outstanding speeches on big-picture environmental topics. I’m not alone, however, in continuing to be surprised and baffled at the Kennedy tradition of steadfastly opposing the Cape Wind turbine project, the first major offshore wind energy project in the US, slated for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. But this post isn’t about the Kennedy family opposition, it’s about another surprising and confusing source of opposition to the project.

According to the New York Times, a Native American group has now raised its voice over the potential project on the grounds that the massive turbine farm “would thwart their spiritual ritual of greeting the sunrise, which requires unobstructed views across the sound, and disturb ancestral burial grounds”.

The political ball is play is as follows: The group has managed to get the National Park Service to declare that Nantucket Sound *might* be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Whether or not this actually happens (a huge swath of open ocean is an unusual place for historic designation), the bureaucratic delay this will cause could open the door to legal action and so on. Isn’t politics fun?

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Creativity + Sustainability: Top-down or Bottom-up?

| Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, WWF’s Living Planet Report, and countless other publications testify to the massive and urgent need for change. However, human society has great inertia: even getting people to recognize a problem, let alone agree on a course of action, can be an excruciating process (see the debate over climate change). Although some caution is warranted when it comes to major course corrections, exponential change, feedback loops, and tipping points mean that we have a limited window of time in which to react effectively.  As a simplification, we can imagine creative solutions being driven from the bottom-up or from the top-down; this paper discusses the potential of each path. I will argue that the major environmental crises we face require doing both simultaneously though I’m more optimistic for the bottom-up approach given the present political climate.

Several concepts of creativity will help frame this discussion. In arguing for systems theories of creativity, Hennessey and Amabile distinguish between “Big C” (eminent) creativity: relatively rare displays of creativity that have a major impact on others” and “Little c” (everyday) creativity: daily problem solving and the ability to adapt to change.”[1] Innovation then is the implementation of creative (i.e., novel and appropriate) ideas. They also discuss the idea that creative thinking often opposes, rather than advances, existing societal agendas and proposes new ones in their place. This argument echoes Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction: “that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”[2] Schumpeter considered this process of industrial “mutation” and integral feature of capitalism, of which entrepreneurs were the driving force. Extending the application of these frameworks to the challenge of sustainability is natural, logical and useful. I would also argue that imitation can be a form of creativity to the extent that it results in reinvention. For example, Biomimicry and Crade to Cradle are two design philosophies that re-imagine products and processes by looking to nature for inspiration. Principles like “waste = food” are self-evident in the natural system but have been ignored in human society.

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Three Reasons to Have Great Hope for the New Decade

| Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Yes, a new decade is upon us.  Happy New Year!

While there have been many “best of 2009″ stories posted recently, I think Joel Makower’s blog this week does a great job of summarizing the key green business trends, the good news and the bad news, over the past decade. It is the perfect warm up for the upcoming GreenBiz.com  State of Green Business Forums, to be held in San Francisco and Chicago.

Is the glass half full or half empty?  Makower is a bit indecisive, presenting three reasons why he is discouraged and three reasons he has great hope for the decade ahead. I’m going to skip the reasons he is discouraged and jump right to three reasons to see the glass half full.

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Check Please! Government Picks Up Tab, Starts Caring about Triple Bottom Line

| Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 5 Comments

There is a lot of controversy over the Health Care Bill. Although agreement on how to deal with the state of health care is lacking, many Americans agree that there are issues that need to be corrected. As Canadian conservative commentator David Frum argues, “The U.S. health care system costs too much, delivers too little and excludes too many.” He isn’t off the mark. In fact, Americans typically pay 60 percent more per person for health care than any other nation, yet we rank only 41st in life expectancy. Many people live with the fear that if they lose their job, they lose their health care coverage. The aim of this article is to shed some light on a couple pieces of the bill that are green and seemingly good.

In a December 2009 article, Treehugger writer Lloyd Alter mentioned that in places where universal health care coverage is available, like Canada, the benefit of the government paying the bills is that it gets really concerned about the health of its citizens. The result of this concern comes in the form of junk food bans in schools, smoking prohibited almost everywhere and the removal of taxes on bikes. There is certainly something to be said for a focus on health education and prevention given a recent report that nearly 1 of every 5 dollars spent on health care in the U.S. will be attributable to obesity-related conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

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Four 2010 Issues Investors Cannot Ignore

Bill Roth | Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Investing in the 21st Century stock market has not produced sustained equity valuation growth. The stock market has stuttered through three increasingly painful bubbles of high prices followed by collapses into valleys of even lower prices. Investors will not see sustained equity valuation increases in the stock market until our country fully embraces the principals of a sustainable economy. In this article I will outline the four sustainability challenges that investors ignore at their own peril. Tomorrow’s article proposes a new valuation analysis for identifying future stock values based upon a company’s ability to align value with values.

As of January 2010 here are four trends an investor cannot ignore:

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Toyota to Unveil “Baby Prius” Concept This Month

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday January 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment

There’s a big reason that Toyota Motor Company is the world’s largest carmaker: It responds nimbly to the demands of the marketplace.

The latest evidence of this is the company’s plan to launch a subcompact version of its hugely popular hybrid auto, the Prius.

A Detroit News report this month revealed that TMC is developing an all-new gas-electric car that will be smaller and more affordable than the Prius. It will also surpass the Prius’ 50 MPG average. The plan is to unveil a concept version of the new car at the Detroit auto show, which starts next week.

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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


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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