If you want to see the green energy ecosystem evolve, the City of Santa Clara offers a front row seat.
For the sixth year in a row, Santa Clara’s city-owned electric company, Silicon Valley Power (SVP, www.siliconvalleypower.com), made the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL, www.nrel.gov) top 10 green power programs in the customer participation category. Serving over 100 businesses and almost 4,000 homes, Santa Clara Green Power has grown steadily since the program was introduced in 2004.
“Participating in utility green power programs is one way that consumers can support renewable energy development,” said NREL senior analyst Lori Bird in a recent press release. “These utilities are the national leaders.”
Indeed, one recent Santa Clara project demonstrates that the social benefits of green energy cut many ways. Last month, HomeSafe Santa Clara (www.charitieshousing.org/homesafei.htm) cut the ribbon on its new solar installation, a collaborative project of Santa Clara-based Vista Solar (www.vista-solar.com), SVP, Charities Housing and the Housing Trust. The money the agency saves on electricity will further fund its programs for victims of domestic violence
“Vista Solar’s business mission coincides with the City of Santa Clara’s own efforts to protect the environment, and to safeguard natural resources,” said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews at the May 25th ribbon cutting. “The City of Santa Clara realizes the value of affordable housing, as well as sustainable solar projects like this one.”
Green business opportunities were also a central topic for the more than 3,000 business people who gathered a few weeks ago at the Santa Clara Convention Center for the 17th annual TiEcon (www.tiecon.org), the world’s largest business conference dedicated specifically to entrepreneurs.
Energy transformation was the topic for keynote speaker Vinod Khosla (www.khoslaventures.com), a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and a celebrated venture capitalist. Innovation, rather than conservation, is the front line of meeting energy and ecological challenges. In other words, don’t worry about $150-a-barrel oil because you won’t be buying that much of it.
In his remarks, Khosla noted some of the startup companies that, he predicts, will drive down demand for both oil and electricity.
One company that’s attacking the supply-side of the equation is Texas startup Kior (www.kior.com). The company’s technology converts biomass – logging residue, agricultural waste, algae – into “renewable” crude oil using a process called fluid catalytic cracking.
LightSail Energy (lightsailenergy.com), an Oakland company, is focused on making renewable intermittent energy -solar, wind – as consistent as fossil- and nuclear-fueled power by using compressed air for storing energy.
At the other end of the energy consumption chain is Los Gatos-based Calera (www.calera.com), which sequesters greenhouse gas from power plants in stable minerals, such as limestone and sodium bicarbonate, which are in turn used for green building materials.
Carolyn Schuk can be reached at email@example.com.
Caption: Sun Microsystems founder and a celebrated venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told listeners at the recent TiECon conference that innovation is the key to meeting energy needs.