cleantech insights

Water: Week in Review


Two interesting partnerships were announced this week – Oakmall & Doosan and Enzen & Ciel et Terre.  Both partnerships seek to explore the use of solar technologies in water treatment projects.  Read more on these stories and others below:

M&A/ Partnerships


Energy Storage: Week in Review

Alon Gavrielov

M&A/ Partnerships/Investments:


All of the Lights: Not LEDs, says Lumiette

Josh Gould

Even those with only cursory exposure to the lighting industry have heard about LEDs (light-emitting diodes).  Extremely energy efficient and manufactured in a process analogous to semi-conductors, LEDs have spawned a tremendous amount of corporate activity – from heavyweights like Philips making major LED pushes, to high profile startups like Bridgelux and Lemnis Lighting (all of which we cover in our lighting industry analysis here).

But despite all the LED hype – which is particularly strong here in an innovation hub like Silicon Valley – has anyone stopped to recognize that over 80% of the installed base of lights are still “old school” fluorescents and incandescents?  And have all those LED enthusiasts encountered some of the (admittedly debatable) complaints about LED light color and quality?  Further, does anyone realize that the biggest ESCOs like Johnson Controls are still almost entirely swapping old fluorescent fixtures for newer ones, instead of installing LEDs or fancy lighting controls systems?

Lumiette is a Silicon Valley based flourescent lighting startup playing to these contrarian facts.  Founded in 2007 by lighting and semiconductor industry veterans, the company has IP around an ultra-efficient, flat panel lamp with cathodes on the exterior; moving the electrode

Data & Cleantech: Fewer Adjectives, More Verbs

Josh Gould

As the many attendees of our recent Cleantech Forum know, the buzz around cleantech for quite some time has been about the convergence of cleantech and data.  All kinds of people – myself included – have described (using adjectives) all the ways in which this will be the next major cleantech wave.  But I wanted to use this post to drop some of the adjectives, and focus on the verbs (the doing).

At our forum, I hosted three panel discussions – each of which touched on specific actions in integrating data into cleantech:

1. Intelligent Buildings

“Version 1.0″ of the intelligent building was about swapping out old, inefficient light fixtures and HVAC systems for newer, more efficient ones.  Certainly 1.0 still has a long ways to go but lighting controls and software companies like Lumenergi, efficiency consulting and implementation firms like Ecos, and traditional HVAC companies like Trane are all increasingly shifting their focus to managing and optimizing data around energy building use, rather than just providing more efficient devices.  

2. Financing Energy Efficiency

Traditional energy efficiency financing is based on the ESCO model.  While certainly a profitable business for companies like Johnson Controls, this model has …

Powergetics and the rise of the business case

Josh Gould

One of the key trends we’ve seen in cleantech recently is what we call, colloquially, “the rise of the business case.”  When large companies and startups have been able to quantify the benefits of a given investment to customers – providing some sort of financial metric like an IRR, ROI or simple payback period – they have weathered the headwinds of a tough economy.  Examples include large energy services businesses like Johnson Controls, Honeywell, and Schneider Electric.  Startup examples include efficiency-related companies who can quantify their value propositions – names like Scientific Conservation and BuildingIQ in the building, and Lumenergi, Daintree, and Digital Lumens in lighting.

But in energy storage, making a business case can be very hard.  Not only is the data sometimes ambiguous/flawed/non-existent, building that data into a business case is difficult. Energy storage company Ice Energy, for instance, has a link to a 65 page guide for modeling the value proposition for distributed storage on their website.  Grid storage may be even more difficult; to make economic sense a deployment must (almost always) address multiple benefits.  But addressing certain benefits involves the opportunity cost of operating the device in a …

Another win for lighting controls as Redwood closes $15M round

Emma Ritch

Fremont, Calif.-based startup Redwood Systems revealed today it closed a $15 million Series B round for its LED lighting control system, coming on the heels of a $12.7 million Series B for Lumenergi, a lighting controls startup based in nearby Newark, California.

The two companies are illustrative of a fast-growing sub-sector within lighting that’s gaining investor support and market adoption. Lighting controls companies secured 16% of VC investment within lighting from 2005 to 2010, but that’s jumped to 21% in 2009 and 2010 to-date.

Source: Cleantech Group analysis

Why all the interest? Lighting is considered the low-hanging fruit for energy efficiency retrofits, as illumination accounts for  44% of electricity in U.S. office buildings and a quarter of the energy in residential buildings–roughly the same energy consumed by cooling. Lighting controls–including software, sensors, drivers, fixtures, and intelligent ballasts–can maximize energy efficiency of multiple lighting sources, with some vendors claiming up to 75% reduction in energy use due to controls technology.

Redwood offers a unique lighting control system that combines power and control of LEDs over the same low-voltage data cable for office buildings and data centers. While adoption of LEDs is projected to increase to about 80% of the …

Energy Efficiency and Elevator Etiquette

Emma Ritch

Much of the cleantech research I do focuses on innovative technologies, advances to existing appliances, and new software solutions that enable greater levels of control. But in nearly every conversation I have with ESCOs such as Johnson Controls or Schneider Electric, they emphasize the huge factor that human behavior plays.

This was driven home to me when our office building in downtown San Francisco announced an Energy Alert Day. In order to conserve energy, the facility manager was shutting down two of the 12 elevators that serve the 20-story building.

My first thought was that the actual impact of energy efficiency would be negligible, while the inconvenience factor would be great. I frequently ride the elevator alone to our office on the 10th floor, and so do many of my colleagues. We rarely have to wait more than a minute for an elevator, and taking 17% of the elevators offline would likely mean the wait time would increase by a similar amount.

My colleague, David Hague here at the Cleantech Group, did some searching and found an online calculation for the energy used per floor by elevators. A 20-floor roundtrip consumes 100 Wh, approximately the same energy used in …