From Smart Grid to Smart Investment – A Snapshot of Clean Tech in Los Angeles

Posted on 27. May, 2011 by in Business & Policy, Events

Opportunity Green was a proud co-host of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Environmental Sustainability Council meeting on May 20th. It was a two-part affair featuring a roundtable of distinguished panelists, followed by a presentation from the Mayor’s Office on Los Angeles Clean Tech projects.

The Environmental Sustainability Council focuses on ways businesses can promote clean technologies, ensure cost-effective water and energy delivery, and promote economic growth through sustainable environmental policies. The Council is co-chaired by Opportunity Green’s Co-Founder and CEO, Karen Solomon.

Part 1: Roundtable Panel Discussion

The panel consisted of Los Angeles area based leaders in the clean technology industry. The panelists addressed questions regarding the clean technology industry, such as implementation and investment of clean technology, barriers to entry, and public policy.

1) Where Can Clean Technology Have The Most Immediate Impact?

Itkoff: “The best investments are those that will earn money for implementers right away.”

Dr. Michaels: “[Look] for dysfunction to find opportunities to save energy.”

Itkoff cited battery technology, distributed energy, and transportation as areas that could return an immediate profit for investors. Longer lasting, more efficient batteries will allow electric vehicles to run longer and solar systems to store more energy.

Woolas Hsieh’s Solamer Energy is marketing a thin-film solar receptor that could provide solar power to iPads and e-readers, and could be attached to windows to provide energy to homes and structures. Hsieh believes his thin-film can be brought to market within two years. According to Iskoff, investment in these types of immediate technologies will yield the best return to investors and implementers.

Dr. Michaels cited fish farms—users of large quantities of water and energy—as an opportunity to implement clean technologies. For Dr. Michaels, identifying dysfunction in a system can yield opportunities for clean technology. “After all,” he says, “if it’s obvious, it’s already being done. We need to look for the non-obvious opportunities.”

2) What Do We Need in Los Angeles to Advance Clean Technology?

Woolas: “Government, don’t do stupid things!”

Hsieh is recognized worldwide for his advancements in solar technology, and though he’s proud that his company is based in Los Angeles, he feels his company is anonymous to local government, which he says is not doing enough to take advantage of some of the best research universities in the world.

Woolas’ viewpoint could be summed up succinctly when he says, “Government, don’t do stupid things!” He feels that government needs to be supportive of clean technology by keeping barriers to entry low. He suggests lowering taxes so businesses can hire more workers and maintaining a clean tech environment that supports market-based solutions.

3) Are Big Facilities in the Desert the Answer [to energy generation]?

Davis: “All we knew was delivering electricity through wires from a single source.”

Robert Davis, with years of electricity generation experience, says that electricity experts used to believe that electricity was solely generated from a single source and distributed through wires. As technology has evolved, however, he says that distributed (local) energies should be encouraged over large, single-source generation.

Davis provided two big-picture principles to guide energy generation going forward:

1) Don’t use energy if you don’t need it, and

2) Look for distributed energy solutions

Dr. Michaels noted that distributed energy is not a panacea for meeting our energy needs, and says that what’s important to new technologies is sizing. He says that if it’s marketable to fill a 40-foot container with algae biofuel, then our goal shouldn’t be to have a single, massive source for all algae because that’s expensive and resource intensive, rather, we should look to create systems that take advantage of the 40-foot container model—a model that can be utilized locally.

4) Name One Technology That Can Be a Game-Changer in Two Years.


Short-term: battery technology and electric vehicles

Long-term: carbon sequestration

Dr. Michaels: Google light bulb (operated remotely via wireless networks and portable devices)

Woolas: Solarmer thin-film (“Your window will one day generate electricity.”)

Davis: “There are lots of technologies, and most are sound investments”

Part 2: CleanTech Presentation

Alex Fay, Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy

Alex Fay presented several key initiatives the City of Los Angeles is undertaking to promote clean technology manufacturing and implementation in the city.

1) Business Incubator and Clean Tech Corridor

In an effort to create the ecosystem necessary for clean technology companies to thrive, LA is looking to centralize the location of clean tech companies and the city’s clean tech services. Businesses are being encouraged to locate to the city’s new Clean Tech Corridor, located east of Downtown along the banks of the LA River. The city is also working on a Business Incubator that will provide space and services for high potential clean tech startups.

2) Smart Grid Demonstration Project

Using a combination of U.S. Department of Energy and local funding sources,

Los Angeles will develop and implement a smart grid. Through the smart grid, the city will provide incentives to people that curb peak energy use and take advantage of off-peak electricity. Also, the city will be able to remotely switch off certain uses to control energy consumption and divert energy to where it’s needed most.

3) CleanTech Los Angeles

CleanTech Los Angeles is a collaborative effort between businesses, government, and academia to: 1) create jobs, 2) stimulate demand, and 3) facilitate environmental solutions. LA is home to some of the nation’s most advanced clean technology research and innovative businesses. CleanTech LA is looking to be the spark that ignites LA’s clean tech economy.

Source List/Related Links:

1) CleanTech LA

2) Clean Tech Projects

3) Smart Grid Demonstration

4) Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce



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