It takes a village to succeed in climate tech

June 3, 2020 by  
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It takes a village to succeed in climate tech Ben Soltoff Wed, 06/03/2020 – 02:00 Solving climate change depends, to some extent, on technological innovation. The world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a landmark 2018 report highlighting the urgency of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report outlines four potential pathways for reaching that goal. The pathways are vastly different, but one thing they have in common is a central role for new technologies, all of which fall under the growing category known as climate tech . Relying on emissions-reducing technology isn’t the same as blind techno-optimism . New technology needs to complement existing solutions, deployed immediately. But the IPCC pathways make clear that the route to mitigation goes through innovation. So, what does it take to turn a societal need into a functional reality? Scientific breakthroughs are only part of the challenge. After that, there’s a long road before solutions can be implemented at scale. They require funding through multiple stages of development, facing many financial and operational risks along the way. There’s a parallel here with the response to COVID-19. Even if a working vaccine is developed, it must go through trials to determine efficacy and the logistical challenge of distribution to billions of people. But a key difference is that effective climate solutions are more varied than a single vaccine and usually more complex. At a webinar last week hosted by Yale, Stanford and other groups, Jigar Shah, co-founder of clean energy financier Generate Capital , noted that climate technologies, unlike medical breakthroughs, must compete with systems already in place.   “In the biotech industry, which I think folks herald as a well-functioning market, once companies reach a certain validation of their technology and approach, there’s a payoff there,” he said. “And in [climate tech], there really isn’t one [in the same way], largely because there are a lot of incumbent technologies that provide electricity, energy, water, food, land and materials.”   The period when a new technology is costly to develop but too early-stage to produce commercial revenue is often called the “Valley of Death” because even promising technologies often fail during this period. Success requires the collaboration of a wide set of partners and investors. As an Environmental Innovation Fellow at Yale, I’ve helped compile insights for investors on overcoming the unique barriers faced by nascent climate technology. Fortunately, many investors are already tackling this challenge.   The new wave of climate tech investors In the early 2000s, there was a well-publicized boom then bust in clean energy investing. According to Nancy Pfund, founder and managing director of impact venture capital firm DBL Partners , much of this interest was from “tourists” looking for an alternative to the dot-com failures earlier in the decade. On a GreenBiz webcast last week, she observed that the current interest in climate tech is markedly different. “Today there’s such a high level of focus, commitment and knowledge on the part of both the entrepreneurs and investors,” she said. Pfund said the interest in climate tech is partially due to the compelling economics of renewable energy compared to alternatives. “There’s been a stunning cost reduction over the past decade,” she said. “This brings in mainstream investors who are just making dollars and cents. They’re not even necessarily waving the climate banner. They want to rebalance their portfolio for the future.” During the same webcast, Andrew Beebe, managing director of Obvious Ventures , noted that an additional factor in the rise of climate tech has been the overwhelming public demand for climate action. “There’s been a societal shift as well,” he said. “In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. People are not that interested in doing yet another social media company, unless it has a real impact.” In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. It’s important to note here that climate tech takes many forms. There are software solutions that can help reduce emissions and that don’t face the Valley of Death I mentioned earlier. But some of the most critical solutions are physical technologies that require a lot of time and capital to succeed. “You can’t spell hardware without the word ‘hard,’ and everyone knows that,” said Priscilla Tyler, senior associate at True Ventures , at the Yale-Stanford webinar. “Hardware is hard, which isn’t to say it’s impossible. And if anything, in my opinion, it begets more impact and more opportunity.” There are promising signals that climate tech is here to stay. Tyler is part of a group of venture capital investors called Series Green , which meets regularly to discuss climate tech opportunities. Additionally, multiple weekly newsletters share the latest deals in climate tech, and in a recent open letter , a long list of investors confirmed that, despite the COVID-19 economic downturn, they remain committed to climate solutions. Going beyond traditional venture capital A notable climate tech deal that happened last week was the $250 million investment in Apeel Sciences . The California-based company has developed an edible coating for fruits and vegetables that can help to preserve some of the 40 percent of food that normally gets thrown away. Investors in this round included Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry. A company such as Apeel doesn’t start out raising hundreds of millions of dollars from large institutional investors and celebrities. At the early stages, many new technologies depend on government grants and philanthropy. Apeel got started with a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation in 2012. Apeel coats fruits and vegetables with an edible layer that can is designed to extend shelf life by two to three times. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Apeel Sciences Close Authorship Prime Coalition is an organization that helps foundations deploy philanthropic capital to climate solutions through flexible funding structures that allow for long periods of technology development and multi-faceted risk. It calls these funding sources “catalytic capital,” because they can help unlock other forms of finance further down the line.  In addition to helping others deploy catalytic capital, Prime also makes its own catalytic deals directly through an investment arm called Prime Impact Fund. “We’re looking to support companies that have specific things to be de-risked before they will be attractive to follow on funders, and then we can be the source of that de-risking capital,” said Johanna Wolfson, principal at Prime Impact Fund, at last week’s Yale-Stanford webinar. By collaborating with one another, investors such as Prime can help technologies move through the stages of innovation, until they’re ready for more traditional investment structures. Catalytic capital invested today could help create the next Apeel Sciences several years from now. At each stage, investors serve not only as sources of money but also strategic partners for the startups themselves. This is particularly true for corporate investors, who may have substantial industry knowledge to share and more flexible expectations than traditional investors. There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago. “There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago,” said Pfund. “Then, you saw the agenda of the corporation being pushed around the board table more than you do today, and that’s never a good idea.” If their interests are aligned, corporations and startups can create mutually beneficial relationships, where each offers the other something that it couldn’t have obtained on its own. “These corporate investors see so many different technologies, and they believe their own products are better than the startup products, so how do you actually get their support?” said Andrew Chung, founder and managing partner of 1955 Capital , on last week’s GreenBiz webcast. “Well, you need to have a widget or product they haven’t seen before or can’t build themselves.” Non-financial support also can be catalytic Investors such as DBL Partners often connect the startups in their portfolio to corporates and other partners. These connections can be hugely valuable for startups, especially in emerging industries where networks are largely informal. While investors’ main role is to provide capital, they also provide many forms of non-financial support, which can be essential to advancing innovation. In addition to connections, they also can help startups to navigate dynamic policy environments at the state and federal level. “Policy plays a pivotal role,” said Pfund. “We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape.” We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape. DBL Partners helps to shape the policy landscape by convening roundtable meetings, advocating for legislation and reaching out to regulators in order to help create a more favorable environment for innovation. This sort of engagement is relatively low-cost in the short term, but it can have massive benefits in the long term, especially as new technologies begin to scale up. Shah pointed out that the challenges facing climate tech don’t end once solutions reach commercialization. Nascent technologies still need to be deployed at a large scale to have impact. “A lot of us focus on going from zero to millions,” he said, “but then, in fact, millions to billions is still nascent.” Reaching the necessary scale requires a careful alignment of technological development, market creation, political support and investment across a wide spectrum of capital. “All of these things work together in tandem to really unlock nascent technologies,” Shah said. This story was updated June 4 to correct Apeel’s funding information. Pull Quote In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago. We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape. Topics Innovation Climate Tech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Take a virtual dive with NOAA

April 22, 2020 by  
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NOAA has released a series of virtual dives to keep stay-at-homers entertained,  educated  and interested in the undersea world even when everybody’s stuck on the couch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes viewers deep into national marine sanctuaries, revealing sights non- divers have likely never seen. The creators used 360-degree images to show off  corals , sea creatures and the undersea habitat. You can virtually visit these sanctuaries on your personal computer or smartphone. For more fun, pair your device with virtual reality goggles or a headset. Sanctuaries available for VR visits include American Samoa, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks off Galveston, Texas, Gray’s Reef in Georgia, Monterey Bay, the Olympic Coast in Washington state, Stellwagen Bank in  Maine and Thunder Bay in Michigan. Each sanctuary offers a handful of dives to choose from featuring different types of sea life. A sea lion-focused dive was filmed in California’s Channel Islands. The virtual dives feature something for a wide variety of interests. You can get up close to a huge barrel sponge at Flower Gardens, or watch marine invertebrates called tunicates duke it out with orange cup corals in a turf war for the rocky substrate of  Washington’s Tatoosh Island. Those more intrigued by human drama can check out the remains of the  Paul Palmer,  a coal schooner built in 1902 that now lies atop Stellwagen Bank. Maybe it shouldn’t have started that final voyage on Friday the 13th, 1913. These 360-degree photos allow visitors to view spots within sanctuaries from every angle, almost as if you were turning your head to see what’s over yonder. Divers with special cameras take the underwater photos, which are then edited together.  NOAA plans to add to the gallery as divers take more shots. This collaboration between NOAA and the  Ocean Agency , a nonprofit ad agency that focuses on the sea, will open underwater doors for parents suddenly thrust into the role of home school teachers. + NOAA Images via Pexels

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ReGen Villages plans smart, circular communities in Sweden

April 22, 2020 by  
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Silicon Valley-based  ReGen Villages  has teamed up with Swedish architecture firm  White Arkitekter  to develop ReGen Villages Sweden, a vision for smart, self-sufficient communities throughout the Scandinavian country. Developed to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the proposal combines a wide variety of high- and low-tech environmentally friendly systems from organic gardens for local food production to the integration of artificial intelligence on a community-wide scale. The two firms hope to break ground on a ReGen Villages Sweden pilot project in 2020.  The ReGen Villages concept is based on five core principles: high-yield organic and ecological food production, mixed renewable energy and storage systems, water and waste recycling,  energy-positive  architecture and the empowerment of local communities. Each ReGen Village would measure approximately 250,000 square meters with only a quarter of the site occupied by buildings, including around 250 to 300 houses. The rest of the area will be used for farming and food production, energy production and water management.  Key to the design of ReGen Villages is the integration of Village OS, a ReGen Villages Holding-developed system based on AI technology and machine learning. Like the technology used in “ smart homes ,” Village OS will use computer systems to monitor all aspects of the community, from farming and recycling to residents’ energy and water usage. The local housing cooperative can use Village OS from a central hub to run the community’s daily operations, which will be optimized over time through collected data. Related: This train station which doubles as city hall in Sweden will function as an “urban living room” “Scalable, innovative solutions are the answers to the challenges of the future,” said James Ehrlich, founder of ReGen Villages Holding. “The collaboration with White will give  Sweden  and the Nordics the world’s first economically, ecologically and socially sustainable communities for ordinary people.” ReGen Villages has spent the past four years meeting with Swedish municipalities, landowners, property developers and stakeholders to push the project forward. White Arkitekter will handle the overall site planning and design of the community’s energy-positive architecture. + White Arkitekter Images via White Arkitekter

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Stunning new prefab kit home centers on sustainability

December 20, 2019 by  
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Michigan-based Hygge Supply is known as a leader in the world of sustainable home design thanks to its customizable kit homes. Now, the company has unveiled the Birch Le Collaboration House — an incredible house that highlights how the company’s innovative, prefab designs can marry sustainability and high-end luxury. Founded by entrepreneur Kelly Sean Karcher, Hygge Supply creates what it calls “kit homes,” — sustainable, high-end prefab home designs that are customizable to virtually any taste or style. The company ships its kit homes all over the United States. Karcher explained, “What sets Hygge Supply apart is the focus on high design, sustainability and simplicity.” Related: Cube Haus seeks to solve the housing crisis with affordable prefab homes To highlight its unique kit homes, the company recently built a gorgeous, contemporary house in a forest, just steps away from Michigan’s Lake Leelenau. Like all of its projects, Hygge Supply’s Birch Le Collaboration House is made from structural insulated panels (SIPs) and steel framing. This framework allows the prefab home to be built to the owner’s specifications and easily delivered to the building site, leaving zero waste behind. Combining the best of minimalist , Scandinavian design with environmental sustainability, the contemporary home kit includes several high-end materials provided by Hygge Supply’s like-minded partners. The home is clad in Thermory’s responsibly sourced wood panels, while all of the home’s doors and windows were produced using environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels wrap around sections of the home, not only creating a seamless connection between the exterior and interior, but also providing the interior with an abundance of natural light. The interior design revolves around the idea that top-of-the-line, eco-friendly furnishings don’t have to be prohibitively expensive. For example, the kitchen features Durat countertops that are made from 30-50 oercent recycled hard plastics and are 100 percent recyclable. Additionally, no-VOC powder coat color was used throughout the home. The beautiful home features one of the company’s most popular layouts, a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath space with multiple connections to the exterior. What’s more, the Birch Le Collaboration House can be rented out by potential buyers who would like to test it out before ordering a Hygge Supply kit for themselves. Karcher invites guests to enjoy the sustainable home as a serene retreat that could possibly be their permanent home. “This home highlights the best of Hygge Supply: minimalist design, modern finishes, high comfort and expansive windows that draw the natural world in,” Karcher said. “We invite people to put down the concept drawings and come live immersively in this intimate space. It’s a perfect spot to retreat and it may inspire you to envision your own modern sanctuary.” + Hygge Supply Via Dwell Photography by Will Johnson via Hygge Supply

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Stunning new prefab kit home centers on sustainability

The Skai hydrogen-powered aircraft produces zero emissions

October 7, 2019 by  
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Alaka’i Technologies has launched a zero-emissions aircraft with six rotors, electric motors and hydrogen fuel cells as well as a range of 400 miles or four hours. The helicopter-meets-drone aircraft was designed to be piloted either in person, remotely or autonomously, with ample space for up to five passengers. The most impressive feature — that it runs on hydrogen fuel cells — gives this aircraft the potential to become one of the greenest modes of air transportation. The hydrogen fuel cells allow Skai to travel farther and carry more weight, and they are 95 percent reusable, with 99 percent of the remaining materials being recyclable. An Airframe parachute feature adds an additional level of safety, and there is no need for long runways thanks to the vertical take-off and landing capabilities. Related: Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world So who exactly designed this futuristic, environmentally friendly aircraft ? The creators are an impressive team of nationally recognized aerospace experts, engineers and veteran pilots that have completed top-level positions at organizations such as NASA and the Department of Defense. Alaka’i Technologies has been around since the 1990s, earning recognition with its development and testing of the world’s first Fly-By-Light aircraft. These days, the company is focused on transportation though hydrogen-powered mobility. For Skai, Alaka’i Technologies teamed up with Designworks, the design studio for the BMW Group. This collaboration promises a sleek, fashionable design in line with the luxury and style for which BMW is known. Skai also offers so much more than commercial air travel. Brian Morrison, the co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Alaka’i Technologies, suggested that this eco-friendly aircraft can provide affordable and responsible solutions to “everything from relieving traffic congestion to delivering supplies during natural disasters.” Currently, Skai is in testing with the FAA, pending certification. The company plans to launch the piloted version of the aircraft initially and follow with an autonomous version. + Alaka’i Technologies Via Uncrate Images via Alaka’i Technologies

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Scandinavian company Tikkurila debuts new paint collection to protect endangered species

October 7, 2019 by  
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Headquartered in the Finnish city of Vantaa, Tikkurila has been producing paints since 1862 but its latest paint collection, Endangered Colors, shines the light on endangered animals and will donate one euro of each package sold to protect endangered species . The paint manufacturer has long been in the business of creating products that stand the test of both time and weather. Now, Tikkurila seeks to cross-apply this stewardly value set to the global crisis facing vulnerable and endangered species. Related: Microplastics accelerate cell death at 3 times the normal rate, study says “The goal of Tikkurila’s paints has always been to protect buildings and furniture, thus increasing their lifespan,” shares Elisa Markula, CEO of Tikkurila. “With Endangered Colors, this effort expands to the most threatened species on the planet. I believe that we can raise awareness, help protect threatened animal species, and make sure future generations can enjoy a colorful tomorrow.” Nature is in crisis, with humans threatening over one million species, pushing each closer to extinction at an unprecedented rate. And, as each species goes extinct, the world loses each of their natural colors. Tikkurila therefore aspires to bring widespread awareness to the endangered species predicament.  The new Endangered Colors collection serves as a way of preserving the color palette unique to species that are at the brink of extinction. Nine different hues, each representing an endangered animal, comprise the assortment. The names of these nine paints call to mind the animals they represent — Giant Panda Black, Siberian Tiger Orange, Snowy Owl White, Saimaa Ringed Seal Grey, Steppe Eagle Brown, Gibbon Grey, Sumatran Orangutan Orange, Siamese Fighting Fish Blue and Red Panda Red. Designed to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, all the paints are low-emission and water-based. They are also packaged into recycled plastic buckets. This is in alignment with Tikkurila’s mission “to serve our customers with user-friendly and environmentally sustainable solutions,” per the company website. Markula explains further, “Quality, sustainability and safety are our guiding principles in raw material selection and product development, and throughout all our operations. Our goal is to continuously reduce our environmental impact by investing in the development and promotion of water-borne and low- emission paints.” The Endangered Colors collection will debut in 2020 globally, with the first phase to launch in Russia, China and the Baltics. + Tikkurla

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Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills

November 22, 2018 by  
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Some kids understand the benefits of working harmoniously with others … The post Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Sharing Cities: Building Local Collaboration

June 15, 2018 by  
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How do we get people talking about solutions to recycling … The post Sharing Cities: Building Local Collaboration appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Airbus, Siemens, Rolls-Royce partner to build a hybrid-electric plane

December 5, 2017 by  
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Hybrid-electric commercial planes could be a reality if Airbus , Rolls-Royce , and Siemens are successful. The three companies recently teamed up to work on the E-Fan X technology demonstrator that could hit the skies in around three years. Siemens, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce announced their collaboration recently at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. They’ll come together to create what they call a near-term flight demonstrator that could fly in 2020. Out of four gas turbine engines on the aircraft, one will be replaced with a two-megawatt electric motor , and they’ll work towards switching out a second. Related: Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year Each company has a role to play: Airbus is in charge of overall integration and control architecture for the batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion system. Rolls-Royce is in charge of the two-megawatt generator, power electronics, and turbo-shaft engine. And Siemens will provide the two-megawatt electric motors and a power control unit – and an inverter, power distribution system, and DC/DC converter. According to an Airbus press release on the project, “The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues. The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety, and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid-electric technology.” The companies said some of the major challenges facing the aviation sector are lowering dependence on fossil fuels and boosting efficiency. They’re working to meet the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which entails a 75 percent and 90 percent reduction of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide , respectively, as well as slashing noise by 65 percent. Airbus said existing technologies cannot achieve these targets, so the companies are pursuing alternatives like electrification. The statement said, “Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges.” Via Airbus Images via Airbus

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Floridians rescue Manatees stranded on shores drained by Irma

September 11, 2017 by  
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Of all the destructive impacts of a hurricane , with its life-threatening storm surges and massive flooding, the sudden lack of aquatic habitat is not a typical concern. However, bays and canals drained by Hurricane Irma’s intense storm system were exactly the threats facing Florida’s aquatic wildlife over the weekend, including manatees. Michael Sechler of Sarasota, Florida , saw these stranded creatures beached where formerly there was water and took action to save them. Law enforcement and other locals also arrived to offer a helping hand and, together, the Floridians carried the manatees, which can easily weigh over 600 pounds, back into the sea. The manatees beached in Sarasota and other parts of Florida along Irma’s path suffered from an unusual phenomenon in which water was pulled away from typically submerged shores while areas above sea level suffered flooding. As the storm approached places like Tampa, strong winds pushed water out of shallow bays and canals and into a storm surge elsewhere. “As soon as the wind shifts direction, the water will come back quickly and continue to move inland,” said CNN meteorologist Judson Jones. Although the wind temporarily removed water from the area, it returned with strength. “After the storm center passes Tampa, the wind will change from offshore to onshore and push water and large ocean surface waves onshore,” said Shuyi Chen, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Related: Snooty, the world’s oldest living manatee in captivity, dies at age 69 While the water was low, Sechler and his friends traveled out to where the manatees were trapped. “My friends and I couldn’t move these massive animals ourselves, and we called every service we could think of, but no one answered,” said Sechler. “We gave them as much water as we could, hoping the rain and storm surge [would] come soon enough to save them.” Eventually, fellow citizens and law enforcement officers arrived to assist in the rescue operation. The animals were rolled up in a tarp, then carried the 100 yards to the open ocean. Now that Irma has passed through Sarasota, the manatees and their rescuers can expect more peaceful seas. Via The Telegraph and CNN Images via cyberartist/Flickr ,  Marcelo Clavijo/Facebook  and  Tony Foradini-Campos/Facebook

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