Opower Takes on Big Data for Home Energy

“We had a huge, huge push on the back end — we basically rewrote our code base, to be able to scale with the AMI data from across tens of millions of homes,” Ogi Kavazovic, Opower’s VP of marketing and strategy We’re finally starting to see the move of SmartGrid providers into the Big Data…


Clean Energy for the ‘Base of the Pyramid’

When you’re commercializing a clean energy technology, the received wisdom is that you start by finding the largest viable market segment, the one that has both the need for your product and the ability to pay for it.  It’s a tried and true method that’s been followed by the biofuels, solar and electric vehicle industries…


5 Cool Real Assets Trends for 2012

Shamefully, it’s taken me an entire month to wade through 2012 predictions from assorted economists and commentators.  The consensus calls are much as one would expect; neither oil prices nor the US economy are going anywhere fast, nothing substantive will be achieved on federal policy in the teeth of a tough election year, investors aren’t…


Lamb at Amelia Trust Farm

Transforming Waste Wool to Green Building Gold

Priscilla Burgess has spent most of her career managing software and internet projects for mega-corps such as Cisco and GE.  Like many of us, she began to wonder if there was more to life, if there was some way that she could pay the bills and yet still create products that helped society.  On a…


A Thousand Ugly Thermostats

When the first generation of green building products were introduced, developers thought that business owners would rip out outmoded thermostats and meters and replace them with the new ones that not only saved energy but allowed users to see everything from the time that they turned on the lights to the weather.  It turned out…


Copyright Real Assets Junkie

What Happens to Formerly Hip Cleantech Cos?

At a time when we’re seeing a shakeout in the first wave of solar companies, it seemed appropriate to take a look at what happens to the formerly-hip in renewable energy.  Which sectors are no longer feeling the love? Each year, the Cleantech Group, an independent research company, conducts a survey to elect a Cleantech…


Which Technologies are Utilities Seeking?

Few things get most venture capitalists (VC) to snap closed a pitch book faster than announcing that you intend to court utilities as your customers; “you’ll burn through my cash long before you figure out their tiresome slothful bureaucracies” is a typical response.  The impression has been reinforced by occasional spats between regulators and demand…


How Frank Lloyd Wright Invented Green Building

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen numerous attempts – notably from GE and the Siebel Foundation – to create a “zero energy house” that could be used as a template for others.  Most acknowledge or draw from traditions of “organic architecture”, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright to describe homes which united…


Image courtesy of John Haslam

Who’s Missing the Green Building Revolution?

By most conventional measures, the green building market – construction that uses sustainable materials and processes  – is booming.  It’s grown in excess of 30% pa through the downturn, and was estimated at a whopping $71bn by the tail end of 2010. It even has the Presidential seal of approval; President Obama described insulation as…


Safety Info at China Factory

Is Onshoring the Next Big Cleantech Startup Trend?

This morning, I got to participate in a breakfast for the semi finalists of the Cleantech Open, the country’s largest and most prestigious cleantech business plan competition.  One of the startups that I’ve been working with – Clausius Technologies – is in the running this year. As ever, the best part of the event was…



How the World’s Changed for Renewables StartUps

Earlier this week, I spoke about how the world has changed for startups at a greentech conference.  The organizers wanted a “before and after” of the environment for renewables startups, which is tricky given that so much depends on whether the idea that you’ve spent years germinating is in an industry area that’s currently hip,…


Do Consumers Want SmartMeters?

At a private lunch last week, one venture capitalist bemoaned his inability to find decent investment options in the energy efficiency space.  He saw numerous Home Energy Network ideas, but was struggling to figure out which business models made sense.  The grand vision for the Home Energy Network has always been that it would integrate…


Image Courtesy of Enjoy Going Green

Is Solar Crowding Out Geothermal?

A couple of weeks’ ago, a cowboy (yes, a real one, he has 300 head of cattle) was telling me about his energy quandary.  He intends to pass the ranch down to his kids, as his parents did to him, and so, is worried about his increasingly high propane bills.  Propane prices are up nearly…


US Geological Survey Map

What’s Geothermal?

As one of my roles is in the industry, I’m regularly asked to explain geothermal energy.  Geothermal energy is simply heat from the earth.  By definition, as you drill further into the earth, you find heat, which in turn can be captured as an abundant and renewable power source.  You can read a good deal…


Image Courtesy of John Kejr

Do Earthship Prices Include a Green Premium?

Solar panels are set to become as big a house selling point as fancy kitchens or outdoor fire pits, according to newly released research from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL).  They found that – based on an average sized solar PV system – homes sold for a $17,000 premium when they had solar PV installed. …


Biosphere 2

The Ruins of a Grand Experiment

Scientists have a certain way of doing things. You start with a hypothesis, test it on a miniature scale and then expand gradually from there. Biosphere 2 ignored all of this and – after a couple of preliminary tests – built a huge mini-world complex 35 miles north east of Tucson in the Arizona desert…


Life in an Earthship

Taos, NM is one of those cities in which a regular cubicle-worker can never feel cool. Everyone, but everyone, is an artist, healer, or spiritual guide, so it’s fitting that it’s the home of one of the larger and better known off the grid communities. The Earthships project is 15 miles or so outside of town amidst spectacular scenery, just past a gorge bridge.


A Vision From Another Age

Long before a solar-paneled roof became de rigueur, there were communities experimenting with ways of living cleaner, greener lives. I’ve spent time at three of these of late; Arcosanti, the Biosphere project and the Earthships community in New Mexico.

Arcosanti was the most hard core, and hard to reach, of my trips. About 70 miles north of Phoenix near Cordes Junction, the last 20 minutes of the drive into the compound are on gnarly desert tracks.