Innovators ‘home’ in on energy

Oct. 13, 2011
By Elisa Wood October 12, 2011 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 […]
By Elisa Wood
October 12, 2011

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 co-author of the report, “Energy Efficient Lighting Explained: A guide for business people who aren’t lighting techies.”

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

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