Blog Post

10 things to be thankful for in greentech this year

As you sit down to your sustainably raised turkey (or Tofurky) dinner this year, it’s a good time to think about the things that have gone well for greentech in 2011. Yes, there have been a lot of clouds for the industry this year, with the Solyndra debacle and the overall recession, but there have been quite a few milestones this year. Here’s what I’m thankful about:

1. Cheap solar panels. The prices of solar panels and cells have dropped dramatically this year. That’s been difficult for solar makers trying to stay in business, but for solar consumers, that’s great news. According to a recent study from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, between 2009 to 2010 the price of residential rooftop solar panels fell 17 percent to $6.20 per watt, or a $1.30 decline, and in 2011 fell 70 cents per watt, or 11 percent in the first half of 2011.

2. Spotlight on data center energy. Internet giants are now starting to recognize that energy efficiency and clean power are important parts for the modern data center. While last year Google (s GOOG) was the main proponent of next-gen energy tech and data centers, in 2011 Facebook and Apple (s AAPL) also joined the fray in paying attention to clean power and energy efficiency. Facebook’s open compute project pays mind to energy efficiency for data center cooling and low power servers, and Apple is building a solar array near its data center in Maiden, N.C.

3. LED prices coming down. Prices of energy-efficient LEDs are starting to come down. Samsung recently started selling a $20 LED bulb that replaces a 40 watt incandescent. Earlier this year, Lighting Science Group and Dixon Technologies India promised to sell an LED light bulb that can fit into a standard socket, will cost less than $15, and will last eight years. Many more LEDs still cost about $35 per bulb, which is still pretty expensive. I bought two LED bulbs from Toshiba the other week and they cost me $70 together.

4. Home energy breakthroughs. Gadgets and services to help home owners manage and monitor their home energy use haven’t taken off yet. But in 2011, there were a few breakthroughs. Startup Nest launched a gorgeous learning thermostat that sold out of production for months ahead in just a couple of days. The company is led by iPod and iPhone designer Tony Fadell. At the same time, both Verizon (s VZ) and AT&T (s T) are planning home energy services bundled with other digital home devices. Verizon’s home energy service went live last month, and AT&T told me it’s developing its own, too. Best Buy (s bby) also decided to experiment with home energy this year, launching a dedicated website and sections at three of its stores.

5. The new U.S. fuel standard. The Obama administration launched a new fuel efficiency standard that will require passenger cars and light trucks to achieve a combined average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That could make a real difference in fuel reduction of U.S. cars.

6. Governments in developing countries. The U.S. might be struggling with how to fund greentech research in a post-Solyndra world, but that isn’t stopping the governments of China and India from investing heavily in clean power technology. Many people know about China’s huge investment, but India has a goal to have 20 GW of solar by 2022, and is supporting domestic Indian companies in a variety of ways to meet that goal.

7. Private investment in solar financing. In addition to solar prices dropping, investors are starting to realize that solar is a long-term, low-risk asset class. Google realized this year and made a variety of investments in solar farms, while new upstarts like Clean Power Finance have emerged to take advantage of this private funding market. A new company called Solar Mosaic even launched a sort of kickstarter for solar this year.

8. Smart meter installations. Despite some of the media attention on consumer push back, smart meters are actually being rolled out a fairly rapid clip. The penetration rate of smart meters in the U.S. has jumped from 6.5 percent in 2009 to 13-18 percent in 2011, according to a report from FERC.

9. The Internet is revolutionizing reuse. While companies like Airbnb aren’t really “green” companies, they are contributing to the trend of collaborative consumption, or using IT to help people share “stuff” from apartments to cars to tools. This is one of the biggest trends for the web this year, and it just happens to be a more sustainable use of resources.

10. Low-power ARM chips for servers. Startup Calxeda has been leading a shift of the idea to use low-power ARM chips for servers. Calxeda launched its EnergyCore ARM server-on-a-chip (SoC), which it says consumes as little as 1.5 watts (and idles at half a watt), and HP, (s hpq) the world’s largest server maker, committed to building EnergyCore-based servers that will consume as little as 5 watts when running all-out. Compare that to the lowest-power x86 server chips from Intel, (s intc) which consume about 20 watts but deliver higher performance. It might seem like a niche tech, but if data center servers turned to ARM, that could equal a lot more energy-efficient data centers.

Image courtesy of Aine D.

10 Responses to “10 things to be thankful for in greentech this year”

  1. RobertWilliams


    6. The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION May 31 2011 placed the Non-ionizing radiation coming from Wireless smart meters (& some other wireless devices) on the Class 2-B Carcinogen List.

    7. The NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH Feb 2011 found biological changes in the brain after only minutes of exposure to non-ionizing radiation.

    8. LABORATORY SCIENTISTS have observed
 (1) Human Cell Damage
 (2) DNA Chain Breaks 
(3) Breaches in the Blood-Brain Barrier
 from levels of non-ionizing radiation lower than emitted by WIRELESS Smart meters.

    9. INSURANCE COMPANIES Hired Independent Laboratory Scientists and they also observed Cell Damage and DNA Chain Breaks. Now the Insurance Companies will NOT Insure Liability damage from Wireless Smart meters and other wireless devices.
 TV Video (3 minutes)


    Cell Phone use and other devices are Voluntary and can be shut off at the user’s discretion, but Smart meters mounted on homes are emitting radiation 24/7 and can not be shut off.

 Video Interview: Nuclear Scientist, Daniel Hirsch, (5 minutes)


Video Interview: Dr. Carpenter, New York Public Health Department, Dean of Public Health, (2 minutes)

 2-page Press Release

    NOTE: many of the tests on non-ionizing radiation (the type of radiation emitted by smart meters) have been done using devices other than smart meters because smart meters have only been in people’s homes for a very short time.

    But as a Wireless smart meter emits 100 times more radiation than a cell phone, it is not difficult to project. If a machine gun (smart meter) fires 100 bullets in the same time that a pistol (cell phone) fires one bullet, it is not difficult to project the harm that the machine gun can do, even if the tests were done with the pistol.

  2. RobertWilliams

    1. Must-See 4-minute youtube video on Smart meters


    2. Skyrocketing Utility Bills after installation
    TV News Video (3 minutes)

    3. Systemic Smart Meter Billing Errors Over 200% Uncovered in Australia
    TV News Video (7 minutes) – video


    4. CIA Director James Woolsey calls Smart grid “Stupid” due to National Security problems caused by so-called smart meters.
    News Video (1 minute)


    5. RADIATION MEASURED FROM SMART METER MOUNTED ON A HOME (once active in the utility system) SHOWS RADIATION TRANSMISSION PULSES APPROXIMATELY ONCE EVERY FOUR SECONDS 24 HOURS PER DAY traveling through the bodies and brains of the inhabitants of that home. Youtube Video (6 minutes, 1st minute is sufficient)

    PG$E, California’s Utility Monopoly, recently admitted that each smart meter mounted on a home transmits radiation between 10,000 and 190,000 times each day.

    This admission corrected previous false statements repeated often by many utility companies across the country.

  3. RobertWilliams

    Smart Meters Are Only Good For Utility Company Executives.

    Concepts and theory sounds great, but upon closer inspection:

    A. Utility bills are increasing where smart meters are installed.

    B. Customer information from smart meters is NOT formatted for customers and does NOT change customer behavior towards conservation.

    C. Increased utility rates may decrease energy usage, but that can be done with inexpensive time-of-use meters, NOT requiring expensive smart meters.

    D. The cost – benefit of smart meters is horrendous and is being promoted to profit the utility companies and their suppliers, not customers or our society or our environment.

    E. The Smart Grid does NOT use or require a smart meter on each home. The necessary smart information can be gathered much more efficiently and timely and inexpensively at energy distribution points. (The smart grid does not care how much power any one home uses.)

    F. The vast amount of unnecessary and nearly useless information to be handled and stored may actually end up raising energy usage.

    G. This massive Billions-of-dollars smart meter program will leave NO funds for programs that would truly bring energy saving solutions and the public will not be receptive to real solutions after being burned by these Smart meters.

  4. Not So Thankful

    Might want to reconsider number five.

    According to a 2003 NHTSA study, when a vehicle is reduced by 100 pounds the estimated fatality rate increases as much as 5.63 percent for light cars weighing less than 2,950 pounds, 4.70 percent for heavier cars weighing over 2,950 pounds and 3.06 percent for light trucks. Between model years 1996 and 1999, these rates translated into additional traffic fatalities of 13,608 for light cars, 10,884 for heavier cars and 14,705 for light trucks.*

    *Charles J. Kahane, Ph.D., “Vehicle Weight, Fatality Risk and Crash Compatibility of Model Year 1991-99 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., October 2003, p. 11-13, available at as of June 23, 2006.

  5. 11) Transportation: Tesla actually ships, e-motorcycles starting to sell, e-bicycles huge in China, charging posts appear in public parking lots.
    12) Batteries: rechargeables growth outpaces disposable batteries, use of mobile electronics booms.
    13) Startups: Green as a startup category gets its own incubator – Greenstart
    14) Politics: need for public investments (jobs, climate change) improves. Crazy subsidy ideas disappear:corn ethanol, clean coal, CO2 sequestration
    15) KWH cost premium for clean electricity declines: nearly competitive with dirty energy without subsidies.

    • I agree with some of these. That Tesla is on time for Model S and sold close to 2K Roadster is awesome. The rest of the EV targets/goals, not so much. Battery companies are really struggling. The green incubators are really tiny for now and new – havent produced anything yet.