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San Diego Council President Todd Gloria discusses Climate Action Plan

Gloria, ToddThis morning CleanTECH San Diego’s board meeting included a presentation by Todd Gloria, Council President of the City of San Diego, and most recently the City’s Interim Mayor.  Councilmember Gloria reviewed several items of interest to CleanTECH San Diego membership including the proposed City of San Diego Climate Action Plan.  The current working draft of the Plan was published in February 2014 near the end of Gloria’s six month stint as Interim Mayor.  He said that his goal is to have a plan which is specific and which challenges the community with aggressive goals.  He estimated the process to approve the Plan would most likely extend into the first quarter of 2015.  Click here for a copy of the Draft Plan and the Appendices


Posted in CleanTECH San Diego, Climate change | No Comments »

Algae Biomass Organization Announces San Diego Will Host the 2014 Algae Biomass Summit

ABO Logo1The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the trade association for the algae industry, announced that the eighth annual Algae Biomass Summit will take place September 29-October 2 in San Diego, California, a global hub of algae research and commercial activity. The ABO is now accepting abstracts and proposals for keynote speakers, panel presentations and poster sessions at the event, the world’s largest algae industry conference. Speaking opportunities for the Summit are highly competitive, making the submission of high-quality abstracts before the April 1st deadline essential. Information about the event and call for abstracts can be found at

“The ability of algae to provide us with sustainable fuels, feeds and other products without depleting our freshwater supplies or our farmland has sparked more interest in this industry than ever before,” said Dr. B. Greg Mitchell, Chair of the Summit’s Program Committee and Research Biologist at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). “San Diego has more algae industry activity than any other city in the world, and we expect the 2014 Summit to draw on that community as well as a broader international group of scientists, entrepreneurs and Fortune 100 companies. The Summit’s regional tours of algae facilities, including algae farms in nearby Imperial Valley, will provide unique opportunities for participants to broaden their understanding of this rapidly expanding industry.”

Speakers and attendees at the Algae Biomass Summit will include national and international technologists, producers, scientists, investors, and end user companies. During the course of the event, leaders and attendees will discuss issues of critical importance to the emerging algae industry, including the commercial viability of algal production, current government and private initiatives, evolving technologies, processing concepts, life cycle analysis and project finance.

With new pilot, demonstration and commercial production facilities planned or operating around the U.S., the algae industry is rapidly emerging as an opportunity to address many of the energy, food, economic, and environmental challenges facing the world today. Algae have the power to simultaneously put fuels in vehicles, recycle CO2, provide nutrition for animals and people, generate useful chemical products and create jobs for millions of Americans. Algae’s ability to produce high yields, grow in saltwater and on marginal lands means that they can be cultivated at large scales without harmful impacts on freshwater supplies or valuable agricultural land. More information can be found at

About the Algae Biomass Organization The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit whose mission is to promote the development of viable commercial markets for renewable and sustainable commodities derived from algae. Its membership is comprised of people, companies and organizations across the value chain. More information about ABO, including its leadership, membership, costs, benefits and members and their affiliations, is available at the website:


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San Diego nominees for Biofuels Digest’s Transformative Technologies 2014

Today Biofuels Digest “announced nominations for Transformative Technologies 2014, in which organizations are recognized for their impact in transforming a feedstock, a process step, a processing technology, a molecule — and in which plants, towns or industrial complexes, and states and countries are recognized for transforming their economies through the use of new technology.”

The San Diego biorenewables cluster is well represented.

Transformation of an oilseed or tree

SGB JMax jatropha

Transformation of a microbe or algae

Sapphire Energy algae

Transformative Harvest, extraction or dewatering system

Sapphire Energy DAF dewatering

Molecule – biobased chemical

Genomatica BDO

Plant or integrated biorefinery

BP Biofuels – Tropical Bioenergia, Brazil

Town or industrial symbiosis

San Diego, California

Click for Biofuels Digest’s Transformative Technologies 2014 nominees announced


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UC San Diego Takes Top Two Positions in National Rankings for Biofuel Research


Mark Hildebrand's Scripps lab ranked best in the nation.

Mark Hildebrand’s Scripps lab ranked best in the nation.

Department of Energy report rates Scripps Institution of Oceanography lab and UC San Diego consortium as country’s best in algae technology research

new report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) ranked programs at UC San Diego as the two best in the country for algal biofuels research, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography as top in the nation.

An external group of experts from industry, academia, government, and the non-profit sector evaluated 219 projects across nine technology areas representing $1.6 billion of BETO-supported research.

For the 28 Algae Technology Area projects reviewed by the panel, Mark Hildebrand and his team at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego were ranked the highest for criteria that included technical progress, project relevance, and critical success factors. The report specifically cited the lab’s “outstanding research” in the genetic manipulation of algae to improve the yield of key growth components for biofuel production. Coming in second was the UC San Diego Consortium for Algal Biofuels Commercialization (CAB-Comm) led by Stephen Mayfield. Members of the consortium from UC San Diego include Susan Golden, James Golden, Michael Burkart, Steven Briggs, Jonathan Shurin, and Mayfield; Scripps Institution of Oceanography members include Hildebrand, Greg Mitchell, Brian Palenik, and Bianca Brahamsha; Industry collaborators Sapphire Energy and Life Technologies and other academic institutions also participated in the consortium.

“(Hildebrand’s) project is a tantalizing example of the need for and potential of genetic engineering to strongly contribute to productivity increases,” the BETO report noted. “… Algal feedstocks can provide high-yield renewable oils that are well suited to displacing petroleum-based fuels and products.”

CAB-Comm was cited for demonstrating how the yield potential of algae can be preserved by controlling pests through development of resistant strains, use of chemical pesticides, and cultivation of consortia of strains.

BETO strategically supports bioenergy research that will reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote sustainable energy resources, establish a domestic bioenergy industry, and reduce carbon emissions from energy production and consumption.

“Scripps has a unique perspective in being able to apply long-standing interests in algae productivity in the oceans to the technological application of algal productivity for biofuels,” said Hildebrand. “These high rankings indicate that Scripps and UC San Diego are among the best institutions for algal biofuels research in the world. This relates not only to the quality of the science, but to the training of students, as evidenced by recent pioneering publications led by Ph.D. student first authors. We are training scientists and policy makers who will shape the future development of renewable fuels.”

“This review validates what many in the world have known for a long time; that UC San Diego and Scripps are at the epicenter of algae biotechnology, and at the forefront of research and innovation for developing renewable fuels and bio-products from algae” said Mayfield. “The BETO review also noted that CAB-Comm ‘did an exceptional job of technology transfer to make the new genetic tools available to all researchers in the field,’ something that we at CAB-Comm view as essential in advancing algal research not only at UC San Diego, but for the entire world.”

As described in the BETO report and based on a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, recent Scripps Ph.D. recipient Emily Trentacoste led the development of a genetic technique to target a specific enzyme inside a group of microscopic algae known as diatoms. Trentacoste, working out of Hildebrand’s and Gerwick’s laboratories, developed a technique to metabolically increase lipids, the fat molecules that store energy and can be used for fuel, without compromising the growth of the diatom. (Trentacoste was recently selected to receive a Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship from the California Sea Grant program, during which she will work at the Aquaculture Program Office, part of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service).

Separately, Scripps graduate student Cameron Coates led a new report on the biofuel properties of blue-green algae, tiny photosynthetic sea organisms also known as cyanobacteria. Working with Gerwick, a professor in the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and UC San Diego’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cameron and his colleagues described for the first time the process and pathways in which cyanobacteria produce fuel compounds known as hydrocarbons. Cyanobacteria are one of only a handful of organisms that are known to directly produce hydrocarbons.

“Cameron’s work really sets the bar on describing what’s out there for cyanobacteria, one of the more notable sources of hydrocarbons in the natural environment,” said Gerwick. “Ultimately, this work will direct efforts to clone biosynthetic capacities from these marine cyanobacteria that would be expressed in other organisms, such as microalgal strains, to make a readily usable liquid fuel.”

Coauthors of the paper, which was published in PLoS ONE, include Sheila Podell, Anton Korobeynikov, Alla Lapidus, Pavel Pevzner, David Sherman, Eric Allen, and Lena Gerwick.



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White House Recognizes CleanTECH San Diego’s Downtown Pilot Project

CleanTECH_San_Diego_LOGO[1]White House Office of Science and Technology Policy highlights San Diego’s leadership in clean technology and big data solutions. This distinction is in recognition of the region’s success in accelerating research, development, and collaborations in data-enabled science and engineering.

This event: “Data to Knowledge to Action: Building New Partnerships,” was hosted in Washington, D.C. under the Obama Administration’s Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) program. This program represents the information technology portfolios of all 18 Federal agencies.

CleanTECH San Diego’s Sustainable San Diego pilot project was prominently featured as one of five programs characterized as “Supporting the Earth, Energy Use, and the Environment.” The pilot’s goal is to change the way people think and support a city – not as a collection of independent buildings, streets, or utilities – but rather as an integrated system, much in the same way a university campus operates.

CleanTECH San Diego received White House recognition as a “launch partner for building the data innovation ecosystems.” Other projects acknowledged in the same category were led by Google Earth, Amazon, and federal agencies including NASA, Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Sustainable San Diego pilot project deploys a cloud-based data infrastructure, provided by OSIsoft (, which connects physical city systems – such as those managing electricity, gas, water, waste, buildings, transportation, and traffic – allowing the City of San Diego to drive large-scale applications to lower electricity consumption and costs. Under this new system, the city will also be able to discover and anticipate grid instabilities, educate the public, and improve the region’s quality of life and economic development.

“CleanTECH San Diego is excited to be part of this cutting-edge smart city initiative that advances national priorities while also asserting the San Diego region as a clean energy leader,” said CleanTECH San Diego Chair Jim Waring. “We look forward to sharing results from the Sustainable San Diego downtown pilot project so the model of energy efficiency on a big data platform can be scaled and replicated in cities around the globe.”


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CollectiveSun: Invest in solar. Help a nonprofit. Earn a great return.

CollectiveSun LogoBy Guest Author Lee Barken, CPA, LEED-AP 

Homeowners and businesses everywhere are going solar.  In California alone, nearly 200,000 systems have been deployed.  Yet, only 1,039 systems, or 0.5%, were installed on the roof of a nonprofit organization.  Did you ever wonder why so few churches, synagogues, schools and community service organizations have been able to “go green”?  The answer may surprise you. 

It turns out that due to a subtle nuance in the tax code, nonprofits are at a financial disadvantage and unable to access a series of tax benefits that are available to residential homeowners and commercial businesses.  While philanthropy is a welcome and encouraged practice for all other types of giving, making donations for a solar system and losing valuable tax benefits is a poor financial decision for the nonprofit and an inefficient use of benefactor funds.   

Another problem faced by nonprofits is that traditional financial institutions are unwilling to underwrite projects for nonprofits.  If the nonprofit relies on charitable giving as a revenue stream, it may be considered unreliable to secure the new solar obligation.  In addition, financial institutions are often uncomfortable securing projects with other assets such as real estate because of the reputational risk involved with a foreclosure and sale.  (Think about the newspaper headline if a financial institution repossessed a church steeple or other treasured community asset and tried to sell it to the highest bidder?) 

The good news is that now you can do something about this problem. 

CollectiveSun is a community funding platform for nonprofits that want to lower their energy bills with clean solar power.  Rather than relying on large financial institutions, CollectiveSun leverages the strength of the community for investments (not donations) that are repaid using the savings from the solar system. 

“Impact Investing”  

“Doing well by doing good” is an old adage suggesting that individuals should be able to feel good about how they choose to invest their hard earned money.  In addition to earning a return on investment, CollectiveSun provides a way for your favorite nonprofit to enjoy significant utility cost savings.   

As an example, TERI, Inc. is an Oceanside-based nonprofit that operates residential facilities for adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities.  For each dollar invested, TERI will save nearly two.  This means that a $1,000 investment will also produce nearly $2,000 of savings for TERI over the course of the solar system lifetime while simultaneously providing a modest rate of return for the investor.   

Feel Good Supporting Nonprofits 

As with any investment, these projects are not without risk and should only be considered after reading the prospectus.  In addition, CollectiveSun projects are currently only available to California residents.  However, the idea of supporting a great nonprofit by investing instead of donating is certainly appealing.  Impact investing allows you to align your investments with your ethics.  When’s the last time your stock portfolio created a simultaneous financial benefit for a nonprofit cause?  CollectiveSun makes investing easy, with a minimum as low as $25.  Sunshine never felt so good!  

Lee Barken, CPA, LEED-AP is the Chief Community Officer at CollectiveSun, LLP.  (  You can reach him at



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Algae Fuel Leaders Meet at Summit: San Diego Selected for 2014 Algae Biomass Summit

ABO Logo1The 2013 Algae Biomass Summit, the world’s largest event focused on algae technology, ended Oct. 3 in Orlando, Fla. Hosted by the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), industry leaders revealed new production capabilities and forecasts for commercial quantities of biofuels, feeds, Omega-3 oils, plastics and other products derived from large-scale, industrial algae agriculture operations.

Speaking to a packed conference hall on Oct. 2, executives from Algenol, Sapphire Energy, Cellana, BioProcess Algae, Heliae, Algix and Aurora Algae all emphasized scaling up production as the industry’s next major priority as it begins to provide algae-derived fuels and a wide range of other products to worldwide markets. Matt Horton, CEO of alternative fuel retailer Propel Fuels, showcased research results demonstrating consumer preference for algae-based fuels.

Paul Woods, CEO of Florida-based Algenol Biofuels, unveiled a new vertical bioreactor design that has allowed the company to achieve algae-to-ethanol production capacities in excess of 10,000 gallons per acre at competitive prices. Algenol also uses its algae to produce renewable jet fuel, diesel and gasoline. The company expects that the new system, based on simple, easy to set up photobioreactors growing algae in seawater, will enable a rapid expansion to commercial production. 

“As fast as people can put up the bags, I can fill them with algae,” said Woods.

Algenol and Sapphire Energy both expect to meet production capacities in excess of one million gallons within the next year. That milestone was acknowledged as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the industry’s goal of supplying markets with meaningful quantities of sustainable, renewable fuels derived from algae.

“A million barrels is a significant milestone but it’s only the beginning of what’s required,” said CJ Warner, Sapphire Energy’s CEO & chairman, who reported on Sapphire’s success in the past year in bringing its pilot-scale facility online, and announced they are selecting a site for a full production scale facility.

Beyond fuels, the ability of algae to be a source of fertilizers, feeds, plastics, and nutraceuticals was the subject of updates from executives at Cellana, BioProcess Algae, Heliae, Algix, and Aurora Algae. Algix, a Georgia-based company producing a range of algae-derived plastics, was among the companies expressing a growing interest in purchasing large quantities of algae from producers.

“We brought our checkbook and we’re taking orders,” said Michael VanDrunen, president and CEO of Algix.

The Summit came at a time when industry is increasingly looking for new sources of sustainable raw materials—feedstock—for a wide range of end-uses. Products made from algae are the natural solution to the energy, food, economic, and climate challenges facing the world today, contends ABO. Algae have the power to simultaneously put fuels in vehicles, recycle CO2, provide nutrition for animals and people and create jobs for millions of Americans without harmful impacts on freshwater supplies or valuable agricultural land, the organization further claims.  More information can be found at

The 2013 Algae Biomass Summit will be held in San Diego.  San Diego previously hosted the Summit in 2009.


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Cleantech’s Future in San Diego Heating Up – How Will You Benefit?

Clean technology is one of the newest sectors to receive widespread community attention and support.  However, issues abound on the economic health of the cleantech industry in the United States: bureaucratic red tape, subsidization uncertainty, and boom/bust cycles have all played a role spinning bleak narrative of the state of the cleantech industry in 2012, but a closer look reveals a very different picture.  Globally, three core technologies (solar photovoltaics, windpower and biofuels) are projected to grow over the next decade, nearly doubling from $248.7 billion in 2012 to $426.1 billion in 2022 (March 2013 report by Clean Edge, Inc.).  Furthermore, the underlying economics of water is opening up all kinds of new technological opportunities at a local level on a smaller scale. 

At 5:00 PM on Wednesday October 9th the MIT Enterprise Forum will present Cleantech’s Future in San Diego Heating Up – How Will You Benefit? 

Lee Krevat, Director of Smart Grid, SDG&E

David Andresen
, Board of Directors, PI Energy
Rick Halperin, Corporate Development, GC Green
Paul R. Brown, Visiting Professor and Director of Applied Research, University of South Florida, Patel College of Global Sustainability

The MIT Enterprise Forum’s reputation for thought-provoking programs is well deserved.  The networking opportunity is an added bonus.

Register today for the October 9th event.  Be sure to arrive at 5:00 PM with a fist full of business cards.


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UC San Diego’s Advanced Energy Initiative Public Lecture Series

Our Energy FutureYou are invited to come hear UC San Diego experts give informative TED-style general audience talks on the essential topics relating to the future of energy in this country and the world.  The Lecture Series will be held on Thursday evenings from 5:30-8:30pm on October 3, 10, 17, and 24 at Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego. This series will launch the campus-wide Advanced Energy Initiative by Food and Fuel for the 21st Century and the Center for Energy Research.

10.03.13 Energy Production and Options for a Sustainable Future
10.10.13 The Impact of Energy on Climate Change
10.17.13 Social and Economic Issues of Energy
10.24.13 Energy, Water, and Food Security

Each evening will feature three speakers followed by a catered reception for attendees to connect with the students, faculty, and investigators who are conducting advanced energy research at UC San Diego. Visit the Our Energy Future page to see the topics and speakers. The first night will be October 3 and cover Production and Utilization of Energy.


Energy Future Public Lecture Series Phone: 858-534-6383


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The Real Population Problem

Tom Murphy UCSDTom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.  His blog, Do the Math, takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

Sometimes considered a taboo subject, the issue of population runs as an undercurrent in virtually all discussions of modern challenges. Naturally, resource use, environmental pressures, climate change, food and water supply, and the health of the world’s fish and wildlife populations would all be non-issues if Earth enjoyed a human population of 100 million or less.

The subject is taboo for a few reasons. The suggestion that a smaller number would be nice begs the question of who we should eliminate, and who gets to decide such things. Also, the vast majority of people bring children into the world, and perhaps feel a personal sting when it is implied that such actions are part of the problem. I myself come from a long line of breeders, and perhaps you do too.

Recently, participating in a panel discussion in front of a room full of physics educators, I made the simple statement that “surplus energy grows babies.” This is motivated by my recognition that population growth bent upwards when widespread use of coal ushered in the Industrial Revolution and bent again when fossil fuels entered global agriculture in a big way during the Green Revolution. These are really just facets of the broader Fossil Fuel Revolution. I was challenged by a member of the audience with the glaringly obvious statement that population growth rates subside in energy-rich nations—the so-called demographic transition. How do these sentiments square against one another?

So in the spirit of looking at the numbers, let’s explore in particular various connections between population and energy. In the process I will expose the United States, rather than Africa, for instance, as the real problem when it comes to population growth. Continue reading →


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Funding Available for California Clean Energy Projects

In decisions reached in 2011 and 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC). These decisions provide the framework for funding investments in applied research and development, technology demonstration and deployment, and market facilitation of clean energy technologies and approaches.

The EPIC Program will provide public interest investments in clean energy technologies and approaches for the benefit of electricity ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor owned utilities – Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and Southern California Edison Company. Funding will be collected at the rate of $162 million per year between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2020. All funds are administered under the oversight of the CPUC, with the investor owned utilities and the California Energy Commission (CEC) designated as the program administrators.

The current EPIC Investment Plan is organized by funding area. Proposed initiatives are grouped under strategic objectives. Through this plan, the CEC intends to issue solicitations in all strategic objectives.  To review the plan, you may visit:


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CleanTECH San Diego Awarded Grant to Support Region’s Biofuels Industry

Anderson, Jason HEADSHOT 9-12-12The statement which follows was released today by Jason Anderson, Vice President of CleanTECH San Diego.

We are excited to announce that CleanTECH San Diego, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation have been awarded a Regional Industry Clusters of Opportunity II (RICO II) grant from the California Workforce Investment Board.  This $250,000 grant is funded by Assembly Bill 118, Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, through the California Energy Commission and will help facilitate the continued development of our region’s biofuels industry.

As you know, the San Diego and Imperial Valley regions continue to be leaders in the advanced research and development of biofuels.  With the successful conclusion of the EDGE initiative, a state funded, industry-led program to train and educate workers in the biofuels industry, San Diego and Imperial Valley face additional obstacles in developing our biofuels industry.  As companies like Cellana, Sapphire Energy and Synthetic Genomics continue to refine their products here regionally, they’re turning elsewhere to commercialize their suite of biofuels products.  Although the research and development Read the rest of this entry »


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Oberon Fuels Brings Production Units Online, Launching the First North American Fuel-grade DME Facilities

Oberon partnering with Volvo Trucks in North America and Safeway, Inc. to test heavy-duty commercial vehicles powered by clean-burning dimethyl ether (DME) produced from biomass

Oberon Fuels LogoThe first-ever North American production units for clean-burning, fuel-grade dimethyl ether (DME) have been developed by Oberon Fuels, and will go online in June in the Imperial Valley region of southern California. The production facility and Oberon’s cooperation with Volvo Trucks in North America and Safeway, Inc. were announced at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento today. The three companies are partnering to test DME performance in heavy-duty commercial Volvo trucks driven by Safeway for operations in the San Joaquin Valley.

San Diego-based Oberon Fuels has developed an innovative process that cost-effectively produces DME, an economically- and environmentally-advantageous fuel, Read the rest of this entry »


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Power Analytics becomes only provider of real-time power usage efficiency

Power Analytics LogoSan Diego-based Power Analytics Corporation was recently awarded an additional technology patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for formulating real-time predictions about power usage efficiency (PUE) and/or data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE) of an electrical system.  This patent makes Power Analytics Corporation the only software company in the power systems management space to provide real-time power usage efficiency (PUE) to the data center segment.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment and makes Power Analytics the single software provider of real-time power usage efficiency to the data center market,” said Power Analytics CTO Kevin Meagher.  “The entire suite of Paladin Software gives Read the rest of this entry »


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CleanTECH San Diego’s RSS News Feed is a resource for cleantech research

Since October of 2008 CleanTECH San Diego’s website has hosted a RSS Feed which archives news about cleantech companies and events in San Diego.  This month the 5641st item was posted to the list.  The accelerating flow of stories underscores San Diego’s global reputation as a cleantech cluster. 

In addition to the convenience provided by the CleanTECH San Diego’s RSS Feed, the list is of value to anyone who wishes to research the cleantech experience in San Diego.  A quick click-by-click over the past few weeks generates a vivid picture of the breadth and diversity of regional cleantech activity.   

Using Google’s “site search” feature the article archive can be searched in a manner which is more effective than a general Google search.  For example, a Google search of “CleanTECH San Diego” and “solar” yields over 82,600 results.  A search limited to only the CleanTECH San Diego RSS Feed generates 513 unique stories.  This focused approach narrows the results to only those stories which are about innovative solar in San Diego.  The format for the search is:   solar

(If your Google search only yields one page of results, drop down to the bottom of the page and click at “… repeat the search with the omitted results included“.)

The story selection process for the RSS Feed seeks to identify all news reports which are both cleantech and San Diego with an emphasis on innovation.  To add utility, the curated list is screened to minimize story duplication and the inclusion of items of small consequence.  The result is a fingers-on-pulse tracking which is both timely and thorough. 

Click here to access the CleanTECH San Diego news archive and to subscribe to the RSS Feed.


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As CO2 Approaches Symbolic Milestone, Scripps Launches Daily Keeling Curve Update

For the first time in human history, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) could rise above 400 parts per million (ppm) for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.

To provide a resource for understanding the implications of rising CO2 levels, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is providing daily updates of the “Keeling Curve,” the record of atmospheric CO2 measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. These iconic measurements, begun by Charles David (Dave) Keeling, a world-leading authority on atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation and Scripps climate science pioneer, comprise the longest continuous record of CO2 in the world, starting from 316 ppm in March 1958 and approaching 400 ppm today with a familiar saw-tooth pattern. For the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million.

Keeling Curve 2013

“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling, who has taken over the Keeling Curve measurement from his late father. “At this pace we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

The website offers Read the rest of this entry »


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Let’s Blow this Joint

Tom Murphy UCSDTom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.  His blog, Do the Math, takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

I have a confession to make. When we moved into our current house three years ago, we had to sell our clothes dryer due to gas/electric incompatibility (happens every time we move!). So we lived without a dryer for three years, hanging clothes out to dry, and generally being frugal about washing vs. re-wearing clothes. Well, after several weather-induced trips to the laundromat this winter, we (or can I lay this all at my wife’s feet?) finally broke down and bought a used washer/dryer set on Craigslist. We’ll still let the sun dry our clothes 95% of the time, but have other options now.

Even though this little vignette does relate to the common Do the Math theme of low-energy lifestyles, the actual point of bringing it up is that the washer/dryer came from a house that had just been on display as a model for energy efficiency—including the washer and dryer. At the house, we met Jason Beckman, of Classic Residential, Inc., who had carried out many of the efficiency upgrades to the house. I thought it would be instructive to have him perform an energy audit at our home—especially a blower door test to expose ventilation issues.

As a bonus, after the nominal audit activities were over, I was able to spend some quality time with the blower door, doing extensive tests in virtually every room in the house. What I found was certainly instructive for me, and hopefully will be useful to a broad audience as well.

Continue reading →


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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Team Internship Program Summer 2013

Team Internship Program (TIP)

Today’s employers are looking for engineers who have both technical skills and the ability to collaborate and function as a team. Summer Team Internships are part of the Jacobs School’s effort to enhance their students’ education through real-world engineering experiences in a team setting. Students work on-site with industry partners as a multi-disciplinary team focused on a clearly defined and significant project.

Jacobs School Student Teams

  • 2-5 members, each with distinct technical experience and training
  • Undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. Levels
  • All engineering majors

Internship Details

  • Paid Internships
  • 10-12 weeks over the summer
  • Full-time, i.e., 40 hour/week commitment

In summer 2012, the Team Internship Program (TIP) sent 289 students out to 45 different companies on 86 teams.  Please call or email Erica Kosa, Manager, Team Internship Program, at 858-822-6772 and  to discuss your summer intern hiring needs and possible project ideas.


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EvoNexus & QualcommLabs@EvoNexus Applications Deadline January 23rd

San Diego has a global reputation for collaborative innovation.  An example of this culture is EvoNexus, the business incubator of CommNexus.  EvoNexus is San Diego’s only community-supported, fully pro-bono technology incubator. They provide full services – furnished office space, domain experts and mentors, and the opportunity to leverage our wide network of business and VC contacts – to start-up companies striving to achieve sustainability. Unlike many other incubators, they provide these services entirely free of charge.  Their incubator companies are under no financial or IP-related obligation to EvoNexus when they graduate. 

EvoNexus is technologically agnostic.  In the cleantech space ecoATM is an EvoNexus graduate.  The current slate of companies includes
Biogas & Electric

EvoNexus is accepting applications for the latest round of companies until Wednesday January 23, 2013.  EvoNexus and QualcommLabs@EvoNexus are designed to give young companies and entrepreneurs the opportunity to give their business a head start in the San Diego area.

EvoNexus Statistics to Date:

  • $95M in total venture funding raised by companies
  • 39 companies admitted to date
  • 16 successful graduations to date
  • 400+ jobs created

EvoNexus Benefits:

EvoNexus provides the following benefits to entrepreneurs admitted to the incubator at ZERO cost:

  • Mentoring & oversight
  • Rent-free use of fully furnished office space
  • Visibility to capital providers

QualcommLabs@EvoNexus Benefits:

Full EvoNexus benefits PLUS Qualcomm Labs will consider one or more companies admitted by EvoNexus to the incubator program for the opportunity to receive seed funding of up to $250,000 each.

All submissions will be considered for funding by Qualcomm Labs, and participation in the QualcommLabs@EvoNexus initiative, unless otherwise indicated on the application.  Must submit application by January 23, 2013.

To apply, see a full list of benefits, and get more info visit or or contact Michele Yoshioka,


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Flux Power Adds Key Functionality to its Advanced Energy Storage Systems to Address Growing Solar and Grid Storage Market

New Product Capability Yields Opportunity to Expand Customer Base into Residential, Industrial, and Commercial Solar Energy and Storage Applications

Flux Power Holdings, Inc. an innovator in durable, scalable, and affordable advanced energy storage systems, today announced that they have enhanced their product portfolio with the addition of a standard interface for solar and grid storage applications.  This interface is able to control many industrial components such as inverters used for power management in solar and grid applications which greatly broadens the applicability and markets for their advanced energy storage solutions.

Flux Power has entered into an agreement Read the rest of this entry »


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Smart City San Diego and Mayor Jerry Sanders Unveil Completed Solar-to-EV Project at Balboa Park

This Tuesday Smart City San Diego and City of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders unveiled the completed Smart City San Diego Solar-to-EV Project – a 90-kilowatt solar photovoltaic canopy that directly charges electric vehicles (EVs) in the San Diego Zoo parking lot.  Smart City San Diego is a collaboration that combines the resources of San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), City of San Diego, GE, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego to drive projects forward that improve the region’s energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assert San Diego as a clean energy leader.

“The Solar-to-EV project is a cornerstone in the City of San Diego’s ongoing efforts to usher in sustainable solutions for Balboa Park in anticipation of the Park’s 2015 Centennial Celebration,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders, City of San Diego. “This project will serve as a new energy infrastructure blueprint that can be replicated throughout the San Diego region and beyond.”

One of the first of its kind in the country, the Solar-to-EV Project harnesses energy from the sun to directly charge plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), store solar power for future use and provide renewable energy to the electrical grid. The project incorporates 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW) of electricity – enough energy at peak capacity to power 59 homes – as well as five EV charging stations, with one station located in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space.  Using new battery technology, a 100-kW energy storage system is charged by the solar canopies and used to offset power demands on the grid to charge the vehicles.  When the battery is full, the excess solar energy that is generated is put onto the electric grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community.  The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the Zoo’s southeast parking area

“California has established the most aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals in the nation. With almost 40 percent of our state’s GHG emissions coming from transportation, clean vehicle alternatives will be critical to achieving these goals,” said Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E.  “Under Mayor Sander’s leadership, the City of San Diego has consistently been ahead of the curve in determining how best to demonstrate new technology and provide necessary infrastructure to promote clean energy adoption.”

The clean energy produced by the Solar-to-EV project is equivalent to removing 189,216 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, or the same as planting 2,788 trees annually. For additional comparison, the greenhouse gas emissions savings from the electricity produced is equivalent to removing 21 cars from the road each year.  Furthermore, PEVs when driven on electricity offer zero tailpipe emissions and no emissions overall when the electricity is directly from solar power.

The project not only aims to encourage EV drivers to visit the Zoo and Balboa Park, but also provides displays onsite and online to educate visitors about the role that the system plays in driving sustainability forward. The system and its educational tools are part of the Zoo’s goals to encourage the application of sustainable design driven by science and the natural world.

“As part of our ongoing effort to be a conservation leader, San Diego Zoo is thrilled to host the Solar-to-EV project and help set the stage for the future,” said John Dunlap, director of the San Diego Zoo.  “By providing a sustainable energy mechanism at one of San Diego’s most well-known destinations, the Zoo is not only providing this vehicle charging option to our guests, but also raising awareness for new technologies for the millions of people we host from all over the world.”

The Solar-to-EV project is owned and managed by SDG&E’s Sustainable Communities Program, which promotes local solar installations and green building design and construction throughout the region. The charging stations are part of The EV Project and are owned by the program’s administrator.

About Smart City San Diego

Smart City San Diego is a collaboration combining the resources of the City of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric, GE, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego. Together, these leading organizations from government, business, education and non-profit are maximizing synergies to drive existing energy programs forward, identify new opportunities, embrace additional collaborators and move the San Diego region beyond today’s boundaries of sustainability. Visit the Smart City San Diego website at



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Crippling Intellects

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.  His blog, Do the Math, takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

People can be individually smart and collectively dumb. Or some may argue that people can be individually dumb yet collectively smart. When it comes to plotting a future path, I think we often get the worst of both worlds. In this post, I’ll look at the role that mental horsepower plays in our societal narratives, for better or for worse. We’ll explore two aspects to the problem: people who are so smart that they have dumb ideas; and smart people who are held captive by the manufactured “dumb” of society.

A word of warning: “smart” and “dumb” are loaded words, and even impolite. We place so much value on intelligence in our society that being called smart can make a person’s day, while being called dumb can cut to the core. We’re very sensitive to people’s perceptions of our intellectual standing, and some of the choicest insecurities are laid upon this foundation. I use “smart” and “dumb” as blunt instruments in this post, so if you’re particularly touchy on the topic, either steel yourself or skip the post and call it the smartest thing you did all day.

Let me preface what I am about to say by the disclaimer that most of this is conjecture. I have little data, relying instead on hunches about what makes people tick based on personal observations.

One other disclaimer: this isn’t a post whose veiled message is how smart I am. I might once have thought so, but then I met bona-fide geniuses when I was in grad school at Caltech. Fortunately, I was mature enough at that point for it not to cause a crisis of confidence or identity, and rather enjoyed the window I had into the off-scale brilliance of some individuals. So let’s go ahead and put me in the dumb box so we can move on to what I want to say.

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When Science is a Conveyor of Bad News

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.  His blog, Do the Math, takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

Science is a phenomenal institution. Sometimes I can’t believe we created this construct that works so incredibly well. It manages to convert human imperfections into a remarkably robust machine that has aided our growth juggernaut. Yet science seeks truth, and sometimes the truth is not what we want to hear. How will we respond? Will we kill the messenger and penalize the scientific institution for what is bound to be an increasing barrage of bad news this century as Earth fills beyond capacity?

I think for many people in our society, personal contact with science is limited to science classes in school or perhaps the dreaded science fair—or maybe as adults watching shows like Nova or tuning in to Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

So let me take a moment to explain science as I have come to understand it. (You can skip if you already have a firm grip.)

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Algae Biomass Organization: Report from the Executive Director

By Guest Author Mary Rosenthal Executive Director, Algae Biomass Organization

It’s been just two weeks since the conclusion of the 6th Annual Algae Biomass Summit. And what an event it was! More than 800 experts from around the world.  More than 200 combined poster and oral presentations.  Networking events. Pre-conference tours. It was great. 

That said, I must admit that one of my favorite parts of the event was the last day, during which we presented the first ever Young Algae Researcher Awards to six of the brightest up-and-coming minds in our industry.  Together in the same room was the present – and future – of our industry.  It couldn’t be more exciting!

This year’s summit featured Read the rest of this entry »


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The Energy-Water Nexus

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.  His blog, Do the Math, takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

The principal challenge of this century, in my view, will be adapting to a life without abundant, cheap fossil fuels.  It has been the lifeblood of our society, and turns out to have some really fantastic qualities.  The jury is still out as to whether we will develop suitable/affordable replacements.  But additional challenges loom in parallel.  Water is very likely to be one of them, which is especially pertinent in my region.  For true believers in the universality of substitution, let me suggest two things.  First, come to terms with the finite compactness of the periodic table. S econd, try substituting delicious H2O with H2O2. It has an extra oxygen atom, and we all know that oxygen is a vital requisite for life, so our new product will be super-easy to market.  Never-mind the hydrogen peroxide taste, and the death that will surely visit anyone foolish enough to adopt this substitution.  Sometimes we’re just stuck without substitutes.

Substitution silliness aside, water and energy are intimately related in what has been termed the Energy-Water Nexus (see for example the article by Michael Webber from this conference compilation; sorry about the paywall). We’ll explore aspects of this connection here, touching on pumping water, use of water for the production and extraction of energy, and desalination. As glaciers and snowpack melt and drought becomes more common in the face of climate change, our water practices will need to be modified, hitting energy right in the nexus.

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