Solar in the Developing World: Potential and Pessimism

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

solarpanelsAfricaSPIAmongst the seminars with titles like “The Real Value of Distributed Generation,” and “Innovations in Inverters and System Controllers,” at Solar Power International, one stood out as perhaps having a little more interest to the general reader: “Solar Opportunities in the Developing World.” As anyone who has ever looked into buying a residential solar power system knows, solar panels are very expensive. So what could solar power possibly offer to the world’s poorest people?

Turns out, both a lot and, unfortunately, very little. As the seminar’s three panelists made clear, solar power could be a solution to the developing world’s patchy electric grid. Installed solar panels, coupled with batteries to store electricity for when the sun doesn’t shine, could — and do — provide steady power for corners of the globe that will likely never get it otherwise.

But as the panelists all also agreed, that solution is extremely difficult to implement on the ground.

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Jack Hidary On PACE To $400 Billion

Bill Roth | Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Jack Hidary Accelerating the pace and scale of roof top solar power’s market penetration is Jack Hidary’s mission. Hidary comes to this ambitious goal with a background of success as cofounder of start-ups Vista Research and Dice.com. His plan for putting solar on America’s roofs is based upon creating of an unprecedented amount of financing while also cutting costs out of the sales/installation process to enhance solar power’s cost competitiveness.

Hidary’s financing focus is on PACE which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE is a program where a city borrows money to lend to property owners for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Loaned funds are paid back over 20 years through property tax payments. The program started in California and through the efforts of Hidary and the PaceNOW coalition it is now allowed in 15 states. “PACE holds the potential of financing $400 billion of property improvements tied to energy efficiency and solar over the next 10 years compared to the $6.5 billion budgeted in the current Federal stimulus package,” Hidary proclaims. “That’s both the pace and scale required to produce a meaningful improvement in our country’s economy and our environment.”

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US Chamber Will See Yes Men In Court

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

yesmenIf you are a fan of the Yes Men, you probably ought to go see their newly released movie, The Yes Men Fix The World.  Multiple times.  With all of your friends and family.  The Yes Men will need all of the backing they can get, financial and otherwise, to fight a lawsuit filed by the US Chamber of Commerce against the group for copyright and trademark infringement.

Last week the Yes Men staged a fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce that the world’s largest business federation would reverse its previous denial of climate change.  Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonated a representative of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, addressing a number of reporters who attended the event under the false pretense that it was an official briefing.  The Yes Men also created a fake US Chamber of Commerce website.  The media was, by and large, unaware that this was staged- Fox News interrupted programming to broadcast the phony announcement, and Reuters ran the press release as an authentic news item.  It’s hard not to laugh.

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Let’s Talk About Failure: Lessons to Learn from FailCon

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

1FAILI find people most endearing when they speak with humility and honesty about things they’d rather not have you know.  FailCon was an amazing day of just that – successful people describing how they failed, rather than how great they are.  Here I’ll summarize my key learnings on running a successful start-up for all of you who weren’t able to attend. (Also check out #failcon on twitter for more).

  • Don’t build your resume.  You screwed your resume up when you became an entrepreneur, so you might as well just go for it. Who cares what the next person is going to think. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga (Love this one!)
  • We are living in a time and place where there is a high reward for success and high social acceptance of failure.  We call this Boom Town.  Take advantage of it. ~ Thor Muller and Lane Becker, Get Satisfaction
  • Don’t get funding too frequently, or too much.  This made the team very lazy.  The coolest things we’ve done have been when we’ve been close to running out of cash.  There’s something about being in a tight spot that you have to innovate out of.  ~Ali Moiz, Peanut Labs
  • Get empathy into your business.  Spend time with your target customers, learn about their behavior and motivations, connect these insights to your business objectives.  ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path
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Five Start-up Mistakes Not to Make, Courtesy of Meebo

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

meebo-logoI’m writing from FailCon today which is shaping up to be an excellent use of a Tuesday.  I have a lot of opinions about conferences and two of the things I look for in a conference are that speakers are forced to prepare relevant, thoughtful content beforehand.  And the dress is casual.  FailCon meets both of these needs. Kudos!

Seth Sternberg and Sandy Jan, co-founders of Meebo revealed five mistakes they made.

1) Don’t try to do it all on your own. You need co-founders.

2) Don’t team up only with people like you. People have a tendency to attract similar people with similar skill sets, which can greatly hurt a team.  Find people whose skills complement yours.

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GreenBeat Call for Submissions: Got a Smart Grid Killer App?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

greenbeat_innovationcompetition_125x125_2_iabRenovating the power grid requires big ideas from start-ups, major technology companies, manufacturers, and university labs. Innovations will range from technologies that increase the grid’s capabilities and efficiency, to new business models that will bring the Smart Grid into fruition.

The GreenBeat 2009 Innovation Competition is seeking the best ideas for making the Smart Grid a reality. Submissions are being accepted until this coming Friday, October 30 November 4 (it’s recently been extended). So if you’ve got an innovation to share, enter it here.

VentureBeat will name the top 10 entrants on November 19, 2009 at the GreenBeat 2009 conference, where Al Gore and John Doerr will provide keynote presentations.

Triple Pundit readers can save 20 percent on GreenBeat 2009 tickets by using the coupon code “TRIPLEGREEN”. Register here.

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Employee Engagement: AngelPoints and Saatchi S Launch New PSP Tool

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Slide3As part of a corporate sustainability strategy, there is a growing trend to engage employees on multiple levels, both at work and at home. More and more companies are providing their employees advice and tips on how to green their personal lives. But a key challenge is how to measure and track the benefits of these programs.

AngelPoints, a provider of enterprise software solutions for employee engagement, has recently partnered with Saatchi & Saatchi S, the sustainability strategy firm that helped Wal-Mart create their Personal Sustainability Project (PSP) program, to create a new web-based platform to help make it easier to engage employees in sustainability and to track their progress.

As reported on CSRwire, “The newly launched PSP platform enables employees to chart individual and collective progress on a secure and reliable site easily accessed through a company’s intranet.”

The theory is if you can get employees engaged and excited about being greener in their personal lives, they will bring this excitement and energy to their jobs as well.

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Smart Choice Label Fails Industry, Consumers, FDA

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

On Friday, the highly controversial Smart Choice food labeling program announced it will voluntarily “postpone active operations” three days after the FDA unveiled its plans to review any health claims displayed on the front of food packaging. While this means there will temporarily be no new processed junk food added to the list of “smart choices,” many existing products will continue to boast the deceptive label.

That’s weird. Why would a label that claims to be “coalition-based” run for the hills upon the FDA’s announcement that it will begin to vet nutritional claims found on the front of food packaging? If “scientists, academicians, nutrition educators, public health organizations, food manufacturers, retailers and government observers came together to create a robust system designed” for the consumer, if they were truly “transparent,” and if their standards were sufficiently “comprehensive” to apply to the “diet and health needs of the entire U.S. population,” then there should be no cause for concern.

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Solar Power International Draws Record Numbers, Reflecting Industry Momentum

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 3 Comments

mastheadDespite the the poor economy, Solar Power International, the planet’s largest solar industry conference, expects record attendance of about 25,000 this year, according to Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). That new record reflect solar power’s growing importance in this country, as the United States wakes up to the importance of renewable energy.

The conference, co-sponsored by SEIA and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), officially starts today at the Anaheim California Covention Center, running through this Thursday.

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Your Fantastic Sustainability Business Plan: Four Areas of Focus

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 4 Comments

fantastic_four_rebootToday, many companies acknowledge that they can play a significant role in addressing climate change and sustainability in general.  Some have even begun proactively beating a path to transform their businesses, reaching for lofty goals such as zero waste, carbon neutrality, or even restoration of degraded ecosystems.  Most, however, are only just starting to figure out what it means to be a sustainable business.  In a previous post, I discussed the 5 levels of sustainability management maturity, through which a company must progress in pursuit of a sustainability transformation.  So where should a company invest to successfully reach their sustainability goals?

In my opinion, there are four primary areas that you should consider when developing a sustainability investment plan: management infrastructure, eco-efficiency programs, strategic initiatives, and marketing programs.  Clearly, there is a need to address these areas somewhat sequentially; you cannot successfully market sustainability before making strategic changes, and you cannot develop strategic initiatives without already having an appropriate management infrastructure in place.  There is, however, room for overlap, and most mature companies manage to do all four in parallel.

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Mitsubishi Chemical Uses the Sun to Chill Out Trucks

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 2 Comments

mitsu-solarSomehow it’s a fitting juxtaposition: using solar power to cool down.

Mitsubishi Chemical has developed a solar technology system that enables solar cells to power air conditioning units in the cabin of trucks, according to reports from Kyodo News International and BusinessGreen.

The result: reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Japan’s biggest chemical manufacturer, based in Tokyo, last week demonstrated a 10-ton prototype tractor-trailer truck equipped with solar cells. They are installed on the tops of wings that can be lowered over the container compartment.

The solar cells are based on Mitsubishi Chemical’s thin-film solar technology. Two types of cells achieve a maximum output of 900W, and excess power can be stored in a battery for use on rainy or overcast days.

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Can Michelle Obama Help Reduce Soda Consumption?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

250px-Soft_drink_shelfAmericans love soda, or pop, as it is called in some parts of the country. The love affair is one that is helping produce overweight and obese children, as a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) points out. Perhaps there is a lady, one important lady, who can help Americans fall out of love with soda.

A recent Grist post called first lady Michelle Obama the “most influential voice on food policy in the country.” While speaking to 400 employees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week, she mentioned the importance of eating healthy. “Little changes make a big difference,” Obama said, including “switching from soda to water.”

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Can Ford Motors Deliver on its Sustainability Promises?

Steve Puma | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 7 Comments

Ford Motor Company may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about large corporations that are committed to sustainability. After all, the company is one of the oldest and largest industrial corporations around, and produces many of the large SUVs and trucks that are at the center of the current climate controversy. So it may be surprising for some to learn that the company actually has a very extensive sustainability strategy in the works.

Several pieces of this strategy were unveiled in San Francisco last Thursday, at an event entitled Inside Ford’s Electrification Strategy. Ford’s newly-titled Director of Global Electrification, Nancy Gioia, explained how the company is not only planning to build battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles, but is also working on strategies to build the infrastructure that will support those vehicles. Attendees at the event were also invited to test-drive two news Ford vehicles, the Escape PHEV and the Focus BEV. While my fellow 3P colleague, Mary Catherine O’Connor, will be posting an in-depth look at Ford’s electrification strategy itself, I would like to talk about the company’s overall strategy.

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A Conference on Failure: Tell Us Something You Don’t Want Us To Know

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

failconSilicon Valley is filled with swagger.  It is also one of the best places on the planet to fail.  Very  few start-ups succeed and failing seems to be encouraged.  Some investors will only invest in entrepreneurs who have failed at least twice.  The more failures under your belt, the better your chance of success at the next one. But what can we learn from failures?  Will a tale of failure prevent my start-up from sharing the same fate? I’ll find out.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending SNAP Summit’s FailCon, which is billed as the first conference to ask successful folks what went wrong and how they fixed it.  The conference is produced by Cassie Phillips who said the idea was a joke at first in response to the way “speakers love to rattle on about big successes, and brush over their mistakes.” The conference features CEOs and other leaders from companies including Meebo, Evernote, Fast Company, Slide, Zynga, Aardvark and more.

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Tips to Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners from BizTechDay

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

BTD

After two full days of panels, keynotes, and hallway conversations at BizTechDay, I collected the following tips and comments–mostly paraphrased–that I think will be most useful to entrepreneurs and small business owners.  (See also my post on Tim Ferriss’ tweeting style and Mark O’Leary’s lessons to small businesses).

On marketing

  • Claim your local business listing on Google for free at google.com/lbc. ~Ryan Hayward, Product Manager, Google Local Business Center
  • Unlock your business’ Yelp page at www.yelp.com/business (only takes 5-10 minutes).  And don’t abandon your social media. ~Michelle Broderick, Marketing Director, Yelp
  • Try using Facebook instead of a newsletter so you can deliver nuggets of information to your fans and create conversations around your brand.  Set up custom tabs on your page to speak to different audiences. More than anything, make your Facebook page fun.  ~Hazel Grace, Founder, Socialbees
  • Use a handful of social networking sites.  Kevin Rose, Founder of Digg.com watches a number of early-adopters to see what tools they use and then makes bets about which will become big by getting involved
  • Social media is here to stay. Be authentic and real.  ~Porter Gale, VP Marketing at Virgin America
  • A useful and attractive website is essential.  Yola has a number of resources to help you get started by building a free website
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