Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
While many cleantech companies require very large amounts of capital in order to get to market, there is a quiet group of cleantech companies bucking that trend.
Companies like Heartland Biocomposites (green building materials), RealTech (water testing) and TerraLUX (LED lighting) all built significant and growing businesses with compelling intellectual property and did so initially without multimillions in capital from venture funds (let alone tens or hundreds of millions). Because TerraLUX is one of our portfolio companies and I therefore know them best, their story is one I am able to share.
TerraLUX boasts customers like Cooper Lighting, Phillips, GE Healthcare, Snap-On Tools and many others. It has six awarded patents and eight more filed. Dr. Anthony Catalano founded the company in 2003 and, with exceptional technology smarts, creative boot-strapping and some of his own capital, he built a business with significant revenues, exciting gross margins and deep intellectual property — all without a penny of outside investment capital. And now, only after all those accomplishments, has TerraLUX closed a $5.6M financing from Emerald Technology Ventures and Access Venture Partners.
How did TerraLUX pull this off? (more…)
Monday, May 10th, 2010
Taking a cue from of America’s most popular television shows, “The Biggest Loser,” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring a national energy contest entitled “Working off the Waste with Energy Star” among 14 commercial buildings across the country.
The 14 contestants will compete to demonstrate the largest percentage-based energy use reduction over a 12-month period from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010. The winning building will be announced in October 2010 in a public ceremony featuring Bob Harper, one of the winners of “The Biggest Loser.” (more…)
Saturday, May 8th, 2010
In my inaugural post, I went over why solar makes sense from a financial perspective. It is a sound investment that will provide you at least a 10 percent return on your initial investment for the next 30 years. Now the question is, “Hey Chris, how do you make money on solar?”
The answer is that solar saves you money through a program called net metering.
To start off this explanation, it is good to review your utility bill. Your utility bill has in it many line items for supply and delivery broken out into many different costs per kilowatthour (kwh). Kilowatt-hours are measurements of power used by you over a period of time, usually the billing cycle. (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
This is the question I have been getting recently. It is usually asked of me by a potential customer after I’ve laid out the potential for the solar energy system to cut a good chunk of their electrical bill. My short answer is the same every time: “It always make sense.”
In New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania where I work, the incentives are very attractive. Not only is there the 30 percent federal tax credit, but New York also has a rebate and state tax credit and New Jersey and Pennsylvania have state rebates as well as the often coveted renewable energy credits. More on these specific incentives in future posts. What I want to focus on today is the long answer to the question: Does solar make sense? (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
While facility managers wrestle with ways to make their buildings more cost effective and energy efficient, they often overlook green options for retrofitting restrooms where small changes can have large impacts on water use, waste reduction and improved image.
Reducing water use is the main goal and that when it comes to getting people to use less water, the best way is to make physical changes – most of which will be unnoticed by everyday users. And the key is to control water use without sacrificing comfort and sanitation. That’s according to Cambria McLeod of Kohler Company, speaking at a “Green Commercial Bathrooms” workshop held at the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, Calif., in April.
The quickest and easiest way to reduce commercial restroom water use is to start at the sink. Many older faucets use more than three gallons per minute, but can be modified by simply attaching a low-flow aerator that reduces water at various flows down to half a gallon per minute. (more…)
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
While questions have arisen about the potential crushing effects of the current economic situation on the trend toward green commercial building and retrofitting, a team of economic researchers has concluded that the value of green building remains strong.
Among them is Nils Kok, a professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. Speaking at an April workshop hosted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, Calif., Kok presented an analysis of the financial performance of green office buildings in the United States. The study is based on actual market transactions and not simply engineering estimates.
Kok said that office buildings with energy efficiency certification can command higher rents, expect better occupancy rates and garner a greater sale value. The initial study was published in 2008, but follow-up analysis in October 2009 showed these values held even during the global economic crisis. (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
LEED, the building standard that has lightened the footprint of tens of thousands of structures, announced a new standard yesterday that amplifies the idea to neighborhood scale.
The standard has been in the works for years and more than 200 test sites are already built or underway, including the Olympic village that opened in Vancouver this winter. Now any neighborhood or large development is eligible to apply. (more…)
Thursday, April 29th, 2010
A Hong Kong architect performs a magic feat of “green” design by packing 24 “rooms” into a 330 square-foot apartment. The dwelling he dubs “Domestic Transformer” glows with natural light.
Growing up with a family of five, plus tenant, Gary Chang once slept in the former tenement flat’s corridor-like living room. This helped cultivate a genius for making the most out of limited elbow room.
Modular walls slide to divide the space to serve the usual daily purposes. A wall full of shelving pulls forward, revealing a panel housing a linen closet. Behind another divider there’s a bathtub, and a guest bed can flop down over it. Rather than walking from room to room, Chang makes the living spaces shift by gliding the walls from one point to another.
“The house transforms and I’m always here,” he says. “I don’t move. The house moves for me.” See how it works in the video below: (more…)
Monday, April 19th, 2010
Want to lower your utility bills or even get energy for free? Companies like Dow Chemical are developing solar shingles and other innovative technologies to turn your home into a personal power plant. Energy will be essentially free.
Three decades ago information was expensive and scarce. Data processing was autocratic, monolithic, and centralized. There were big mainframe computers ‘out there’ and ‘dumb’ users here. The personal computer, the internet, and mobile telephones changed all that.
Today information is essentially free.
Scarce data turned into the Internet torrent and now data is so abundant that the first company who helped us intelligently filter this onslaught of information became the most successful company of the last decade: Google. Today information technology is distributed, grid-independent, and scalable. Now billions of people with a mobile phone, personal computer, and internet connection can generate, store, process, and publish data. The basic architecture of information technology changed.
Energy is where data was three decades ago.
Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit Orlando to see first-hand some of the sustainability initiatives the city has underway through the Green Works Orlando program. Green Works Orlando is a citywide plan to promote environmental conservation and stewardship, energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and outdoor green spaces. Like Orlando, cities across the country are doing exciting and innovative things to make their communities greener and more sustainable.
My first stop was at one of Orlando’s six LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified fire stations. With a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability, the fire station has employed innovative techniques to save energy and conserve water. For example, the lighting and hot water are powered through rooftop solar panels, a cistern system collects rain water for use in the station’s toilets, and native plant species, which require less water, are planted around the fire station — including on the green roof.