Green IT Q3: Solar stumbles while car sharing zooms ahead

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Solyndra and the fate of the solar power industry
  3. The car-sharing sector rolls along
  4. Green data centers: Google opens up
  5. The venture capital environment for cleantech
  6. Near-term outlook
  7. Key takeaways
  8. Further reading

1. Summary

The trials and tribulations of the solar industry dominated the third quarter as warnings about a storm of dangerous market forces in the industry finally reached an outcome. The sheer magnitude of Solyndra’s bankruptcy, which included 1,100 layoffs, will cause a lengthy period of soul searching among both venture capitalists and government loan officers.

A recent GigaOM Pro Flash Analysis asked 240 respondents for their takeaways from the Solyndra news. Forty percent blamed the company’s demise on management, while 32 percent pointed to struggles of the macro solar market. A greater consensus lay in how the fallout would impact financing. More than 80 percent felt that the bankruptcy would have a moderate to big impact on government incentive programs and the greentech investing market.

The quarter also saw further movements to create incubators for cleantech with the launch of Surge, the Cleanweb Hackathon, and announcements of funding at Greenstart. Not surprisingly, two of the three incubators are focused on developing software to increase efficiency in various existing infrastructure systems, such as analytics for the oil industry or energy management programs for data centers. The trend makes complete sense right now, given that there’s less patience when it comes to cleantech returns and more faith in the tried-and-true software startup model.

Car sharing continues to roar on as one of the most tangible ways in which we’re seeing an ideal of the cleantech movement—reducing resource consumption—finding market appeal. Capital flowed to peer-to-peer car sharing startup Getaround, Zipcarhit college campuses and strengthened its ties with Ford, and Hertz got further into the game.

Finally, on the data center side, industry leader Google provided insight into exactly how much energy the tech giant uses, as well as the carbon footprint of its data centers. Transparency in energy consumption reporting is here, and given that energy use is a  large part of Google’s operating costs, it’s information that investors, not just environmentalists, will want access to.

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