cleantech insights

Discussing the ABB + Solar Impulse Partnership with ABB SVP Maxine Ghavi

M Paschich

ABB_Maxine _GhaviEarlier this quarter, ABB announced their technology alliance partnership with Solar Impulse. We spoke with Maxine Ghavi—SVP & Head of the Solar Industry Segment Initiative at ABB—about the nature of this corporate partnership and what she sees lying ahead for the team.   

Hello Maxine… Can you tell us the genesis story for the ABB + Solar Impulse partnership?

If you look at ABB and Solar Impulse we share a common ideal, and that is to address the growing energy demand with increased efficiency and minimal environmental impact. Both organizations value innovation, value pushing the envelope on the limits of technology. We also share the cultural characteristics of being Swiss-based companies. We both have novel approaches to solving problems in a responsible way, and endeavor to make significant contributions to the areas of renewable energy and storage. All of these together – our shared visions for technology, innovation and sustainable energy – they set a solid foundation for collaboration and to take these common areas of expertise to the next level.

ABB_Blog_Image1Yes, that’s quite interesting. How do you fit into this story? Can you share a bit on your background, and what you’re doing at ABB? Also, what do you like


Dirty Cleantech? GlassPoint’s Challenge to the Scope of our Sector


If you were to spend time in our research department you would normally hear only the patter of keyboards, with occasional bubbles of technical questions punctuating the tranquil atmosphere. However one morning this week the peace was broken by animated argument, all over one company and whether it should be profiled in our i3 platform: GlassPoint Solar.

A perfect test case for any definition of cleantech, GlassPoint has developed an innovative solar system for producing steam to be used in extracting oil. On the one hand this technology removes the need to burn natural gas to produce steam, on the other it reduces the cost of extracting oil. You can imagine the lines of debate, one side pointing negative environmental impact of oil and therefore anything that makes its extraction cheaper, while the other pointing to reduced natural gas consumption.

An over-simplistic labeling of this dichotomy would be to characterize the two sides as ‘idealists’ and ‘pragmatists’, however I believe this is to miss a fascinating insight into the nature of cleantech. If you were to measure the immediate environmental impact of GlassPoint and its customers you would find little clean to justify its inclusion as clean

Is cleantech a service industry?

Josh Gould

Services, as any economist would tell you, are hugely important to the economies of developed countries.  In the European Union, where this post is being written (I’m here for our wonderful Amsterdam event), services make up 71% of the economy.  In the US, it is even higher (at 77%).  In fact, it’s likely that you – the reader – are part of the service economy.

Against this service-centric economy, popular media has often portrayed cleantech as a starkly different type of industry – one that is manufacturing-centric and commodity-reliant.  Think of utility scale wind turbines, or solar manufacturing, or even hybrids.  And these examples illustrate the stereotype is not entirely off the mark.  But we at Cleantech Group believe the next wave of cleantech will be much more heavily focused on services.  Here are just a few examples of where and how this is happening, in cleantech-sectors stereotyped as “dumb” or hardware-centric:

  • Lighting: Innovation in lighting types (e.g., LED, OLED, etc.) is extending the operational life of fixtures up to 100,000 hours.  While this is excellent for consumers, it challenges the traditional, large lighting companies’ business models of selling fixtures, waiting a few years, and selling the consumer new

The UK’s Innovative Entrepreneurs can’t go it alone: Government must lead the way with a strong hand


As an analyst with the Cleantech Group, I have been privileged to meet some of the UK’s most creative and committed people: its cleantech entrepreneurs. This small group of innovators are working courageously, often against the odds, to produce the next generation of technologies that will allow society to prosper through looming challenges. If Winston Churchill were born 100 years later he may well have said of these entrepreneurs, “Never in the field of human innovation was so much owed by so many to so few”.

When it comes to cleantech innovation, the UK has much to be confident about: The INSEAD Global Innovation Index ranks the UK 4th in the world for ‘culture of innovation’ and ‘quality of scientific research institutions’ and we have a government that has stated its desire to be the “greenest government ever”. UK cleantech entrepreneurs have benefited from partnerships with world leading universities and a raft of helpful legislation, including the Renewable Heat Incentive, Code for Sustainable Homes and Feed-in Tariff. However they still face significant challenges: in a Cleantech Group research project, conducted in April 2011 on behalf of the Carbon Trust, 29% of UK cleantech entrepreneurs cited …

How green was my trip to the Dry Creek Valley

Whitney Michael

Up in wine country last week, I got a chance to taste some delicious wine and see first hand how some innovative wineries are implementing clean technologies.

Ridge Vineyards, aside from making amazing Zinfandel, have built an energy efficient, environmentally friendly tasting room at their Lytton Springs location.  The building itself is made from rice straw bales encased in a natural earthen plaster made from soil from the surrounding vineyards.  It was the largest straw structure in the US at the time it was built.  The straw is highly insulating and reuses rice straw that rice farmers used to burn until the practice was banned due to air quality concerns.  The tasting room was built with recycled lumber and features a smart heating and cooling system that monitors indoor and outdoor temperatures and opens and shuts louvers around the floors and ceiling to warm or cool the interior.  Additionally, they installed solar panels that currently supply 75% of the winery’s electricity needs.

Quivira Vineyard in Healdsburg has, since 2005, gotten 100% of it’s energy from a solar installation. Concerned too about the amount of water used in the wine making process, Quivira has “dramatically reduced [water usage] thanks to a …

New JV pursues all-in-one solar PV and solar thermal

Federica Dalamel de Bournet

Australia-based Power Alliance Global is seeking A$40 million in funding for its potentially game-changing solar technology. Details in the Pitch o’ the Week.