Green technology

Innovation Pays Off, But Can We Afford It?

Another increase in college tuition in California. More courses cut. I wonder how that combination will affect our future down the road. Maybe that's why I've been thinking a lot about innovation, and whether we have the necessary infrastructure in place to encourage it.

Clean and renewable energy could be a growth sector in California and elsewhere. California recently passed the 33 percent renewables standard. More businesses, such as GM and Hyatt, are incorporating sustainability policies. The military is strongly promoting the virtues of going green. An increasing number of homeowners, property owners and agricultural entities are installing solar arrays, rooftop systems and wind turbines to help offset energy costs.

Lots of exciting research is going on in a variety of fields - from heat exchangers to solar to biofuel - but can it continue? As Devon Swezey says in Forbes , and as Martin LaMonica notes in a Green Tech piece that bounces off a Foreign Affairs article, there is a global austerity movement that threatens clean-energy subsidies.

The authors of the Foreign Affairs story say some niches, such as rooftop solar and biofuel from sugar cane, are likely to thrive, but they say investing in innovative technologies is the key to longtime viability. They call for the formation of a Clean Energy Deployment Administration, or something similar, with an initial capitalization of $10 billion.

Of course, coming up with $10 billion in this economic and political environment would be a challenge, but the importance of finding the money (could some come from NASA's budget?) can't be ignored.

Jane Long of Lawrence Livermore lab said the same thing in a presentation to the state EPA. Faced with a 33 percent renewable mandate and a governor's order for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, California needs to devote some major resources to innovation, she said in this report.

And why not? Going green is good for the environment and profit margins. Studies have shown that clean energy - and we include efficiency in that - can benefit the bottom line. As Swezey notes in this closing graph, "By repurposing existing clean energy policies and investing in clean energy innovation, the United States can be the first country to make clean energy cheap and reliable, a distinction that is sure to bring major economic benefits in a multi-trillion dollar energy market."

Annual Las Vegas Electronics Show Getting A Bit More Green

This year's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which runs Jan. 6-9, has a definite green tint.

Electric vehicles get their own space - about 3,500 square feet - and major car makers will be showcasing their latest EV products.

Eco friendly and energy-efficiency/storage innovations also will have a strong presence among the 2,500 companies attending, according to the show's Web site. In fact, this is a particularly smart show - as in Smart Grid, Smart appliances and Smart phones.

Here's a Green guide to the program from Earth2Tech, and a flip through the conference program finds workshops on everything from Smart Grid homes to Smart phones and laptops that remotely control thermostats and other systems in your house. Such programs allow homeowners to better control their energy use while away.

Of course, many of the cool gadgets on display at the show consume more electricity. Thus, this year's event will feature a workshop on green technology that helps measure and control power use.

The green advancements don't stop with the exhibits and workshops. The organizers of the annual event are taking steps to become more environmentally friendly. Among them:

  • Last year, 68% of the total solid waste generated by show attendees was recycled;

  • Diverts all light bulbs used by the show from landfills, as well as batteries and other electronics products;

  • New this year, all TechZone pods, hardwall and turnkey booth packages will include recyclable carpet and recyclable backwall and counter panels;

  • Printed all attendee flyers and literature on recycled paper using soy ink;

  • Last year at the 2010 International show, the California Electronics Association donated $50,000 to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department to purchase seven Vetrix electric motorcycles which are on the streets of the tourist corridor every day helping to keeping Las Vegas both safe and green.