Innovators ‘Home’ in on Energy

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Fortunately for the rest of us, some people missed the message, the one that says we’re in an economic slide so slippery there is no climbing back up.

I had a chance to speak to several of these optimists recently. No, they are not members of the Pollyanna Club; they are green energy entrepreneurs, those who are innovating and growing companies as the rest of the world downsizes. (See Energy Entrepreneurs Flock to Renewables Bonanza in Renewable Energy World magazine.)

These are folks that can’t stop creating no matter how mucky our outlook. In fact, problems seem to incite their inventiveness.

Their inventions are diverse; as are they, but their activities are converging into some trends.

* Silicon Valley and the energy industry are teaming up more and more. “You can’t throw a softball around here without hitting another solar company,” said Dan Shugar, Solaria’s chief operating officer, from Silicon Valley.

* Energy is producing its own crop of rising Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs, who I suspect will be the next generation of business legends.

* Perhaps most significant, a lot of today’s innovation focuses on bringing consumers and businesses greater efficiency and control over energy in their homes and businesses, whether through cell phone apps that let you adjust your thermostat while miles away, financing mechanism that make solar affordable to the rest of us, or windows that generate electricity on two sides, using a form of artificial photosynthesis that takes advantage of both the sun outside and the electric lights indoors.

These are just a few of the new energy innovations that focus on what’s right here in my home or even in the palm of my hand. Getty Images, which studies how energy companies speak to consumers through pictures, calls this new trend “Homing in on Green.”

“While pictures of wind turbines and oil rigs remain popular, Getty Images has seen a marked 40 percent increase in images that showcase efforts to ‘go green’ on a smaller scale – for example, images of people swapping old light bulbs for energy efficient counterparts, neighborhoods with solar paneled roofs, families drying laundry outside, rather than relying on technology,” said Getty Images in announcing the third edition of its research report, The Curve.

Are these images actually getting through to people? Do consumers have any sense of the magnitude of change occurring in energy and how it will affect their day-to-day lives? It seems not. Most people are not even aware of federal and state financial incentives they can receive if they integrate new energy technologies into their lives, according to a survey sponsored manufacturer Emerson. Among the 1,007 US adults who participated in the September 2011 poll, 61% were unaware of the financial assistance available.

So, while big things are happening in energy; consumers by-in-large don’t know it yet. But the changes are coming, this time right to our doorsteps – and even if we’re not at home, we’ll be able to let them in, using probably just our cell phones.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry’s top magazines and newsletters. She is publisher of the Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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