Opportunity: Free Solar Equipment for Groups

The Solarize South County Community Coalition seeks applications from qualified community organizations interested in having a donated solar photovoltaic system installed at their facility, an award worth about $20,000, with the added value of up to $1,250 per year in electricity savings and incentive payments.

The equipment will serve as a community award as part of Solarize South County, a project of Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development and Snohomish County PUD.

Qualifying community organziations must:

  1. Be located in Solarize South County territory, defined by ZIP codes 98020, 98026, 98036, 98037 and 98043
  2. Own their building or have a minimum 10 year lease
  3. Have at least 75% solar access
  4. Have composition asphalt shingle or standing seam metal roof with at least 15 years of useful life remaining
  5. Provide a highly visible site with good access for the public to see and learn about the solar energy system.

A request for applications can be found at www.solarizewa.org. Deadline to submit is August 21.


Big Batteries Are Starting to Boost the Electric Grid

This is an NBC News Story by John Roach. It features WCTA Members Avista and UniEnergy Technologies and WCTA Board member Curt Kirkeby.

Curt Kirkeby, Avista

Curt Kirkeby, Avista

Long hailed as a game changer that will allow unlimited amounts of wind and solar energy onto the electric power grid, big rechargeable batteries are beginning to move out of research labs and find a home amid the real-world tangle of smokestacks, turbines and power lines. Today, the reality falls short of the hype about fossil-fuel-free electricity — but experts say that future could be in store.

Read the full story here.


Please Partner with Us in Promoting Our Northwest Green Chemistry Market Survey

NW-Green-ChemistryNorthwest Green Chemistry (NGC), the innovative center promoting science to improve environmental business practices in the Pacific Northwest, is asking regional companies and organizations for help with an important survey released today.

The online market survey is aimed at gathering opinions and ideas related to NGC’s goal of promoting “green chemistry” to protect and improve the environment throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.  The survey is underwritten by the Bullitt Foundation of Seattle, a leading organization supporting environmental initiatives in the Pacific Northwest.

“The Bullitt Foundation is pleased to support Northwest Green Chemistry and the belief that companies can be environmentally responsible and sustainable, and still be successful,” says Denis Hayes, the foundation’s President and CEO.  “But we need to hear from them and talk to them more, which is why this survey is so important.  If we work together, I think we can really start a green chemistry revolution right here in the Pacific Northwest.”

Find the survey here.

Read More…


Funding Options Shrink for Early-Stage Cleantech Ventures

By Martin LaMonica, Originally published by Xconomy Seattle

The term “cleantech” has gone through a rebranding. However it’s defined, though, investment in energy and natural resource-related startups continues. Just don’t expect venture capitalists to be writing all the checks.

As a reporter, I chronicled the rush of venture capital in cleantech in the mid-to-late 2000s and the subsequent financial bust and politicization of green energy. But is cleantech really dead just because many venture capital firms have moved on?

To get more insight into where innovation is going and who is funding it, I spoke to the Cleantech Group, which has been following the ebbs and flows of investing for more than a decade. It’s difficult to get hard and fast answers because what constitutes cleantech is a moving target, but some trends emerge when you look at the data.

Cleantech is not dead.

Without a doubt, many venture capitalists lost lots of money making ill-advised investments in capital-intensive companies that required many years to bring products to market and supportive government policies. And if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s more difficult to get financial backing for a cleantech venture than in years past, particularly for materials and energy-related technologies (more on that below.) Read More…


Life on the Grid is Getting Smarter

CEI_logo_colorUW Clean Energy Institute Research Update

For nearly a century, the electrical grid remained essentially the same. Yet, as electricity consumers we keep asking it to do more for us. Chill or heat our homes. Help keep our drinks cold, freeze our food and dry our laundry. Charge our phones, computers and cars. Deliver us electricity where we want it, when we want it, and for a reasonable price. And, just as important, pleasefind a way to integrate more renewable energy resources into our grid so we can move away from fossil fuels.

These demands are among a growing number of factors that are driving major changes in the utility business models.  It is widely accepted that the grid will need to become “smarter” in order to find this optimal balance among the dynamics of supply, demand, pricing, consumer behavior and intermittent nature of renewable energy. Fortunately the grid is modernizing. Consider:

  • More than 38 million homes in the U.S now have smart meters.
  • The mix of renewable resources for power generation is growing: 74 percent of all new electricity generation in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 came from solar energy, according to Solar Energy Industries Association.
  • Governments and utilities have invested approximately $8 billion in smart in grid upgrades since 2007.

Read More…


Cancelling Washington R&D Incentives Will Erase Success

Published on Xconomy, August 5, 2014.  Written by Tom Ranken (WCTA President) and  Eric Viola (WCTA Public Policy Analyst).  The WCTA board voted unanimously to support re-authorization of the program in its January 2014 meeting.

Tom Ranken

Tom Ranken

Washington state’s principal high tech innovation tax incentives are set to expire on January 1. Adopted in 1994, the programs removed large tax barriers to performing new research and development activities in Washington. They have been counted on by the high tech sector for twenty years, providing early boosts for young, innovative companies, and high-value jobs for the state.

Before the programs, Washington tax law was punitive to R&D growth—and the job growth that goes with it. Building a $10 million R&D facility, for example, would incur more than $1 million in tax liability. Other states offered tax breaks and even helped pay for new facilities outright, banking that such investments would pay dividends in the form of high-paying jobs for the state. Our state has an unusual constitutional prohibition against the lending of state credit, which has severely limited our ability to compete with other states for business growth. The R&D tax credits were a legal means of addressing a small portion of that problem.

In the coming years, the state budget is going to get even more challenging. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington State had not met its “paramount duty” of making “ample provision for the education of all children.” It is not yet clear what the budget impact of that decision will be, but it is expected to require large additions to the education budget. The R&D incentives, painted as wastefully throwing millions of state dollars at established companies, made an easy target.

Eric Viola

Eric Viola

Do the programs really create jobs? The state’s research (PDF) shows inconsistent results over the past seven years. The research is almost entirely drawn from the Great Recession. With raging volatility surrounding it, the high tech sector was hit hard.

The data for 2012, when the state had gotten its head above water, reveals the true value of these programs.

In 2012, job growth among companies receiving the R&D tax incentives was 4 percent—double the national high tech sector rate and far outstripping the 1.6 percent rate of Washington companies that didn’t use the incentives. Executives at young, growing cleantech companies like 3Tier and UniEnergy Technologies have been quite clear that the people, equipment, and facilities they’ve invested in under this program have been critical to their scaling up.

At the same time, that job growth stayed in state: 86 percent of new employees hired by companies receiving the incentives were Washington residents, compared to 67 percent in 2008. And their survival rate was 53 percent, compared to less than 39 percent for those that did not get incentives. Washington ranked third in patents per capita in 2012, up from seventh at the program’s inception. Washington’s average annual growth in high tech patents from the same time period is 8 percent. The next-highest state is California, with 6.4 percent annual growth.

The 2013 Department of Revenue study concluded that, compared to other states, Washington’s growth in the high tech industry was competitive without the incentives. But unsurprisingly, adding the R&D incentives improved Washington’s rank. The data is in strong, if not unanimous, support of the state’s high tech R&D incentives.

But if the data is strong, why are these programs set to perish on January 1?

The companies that benefitted the most from these programs were the worst equipped to protect them. Small, young, innovative companies for which the limited state funds had the greatest impact simply couldn’t afford to lobby the legislature. And so, on January 1, the small startups and labs that benefitted the most from the R&D incentives will get just a little bit smaller.

The Washington Clean Tech Alliance’s inaugural showcase event earlier this summer revealed the robust growth of R&D under the current system. Prominent local job creators like Boeing and Alaska Airlines were in attendance, bolstered by the innovation and potential represented by the sheer number of young, R&D-heavy companies that presented their research at the event. Whether the achievements made will remain salient without continued incentives will be seen in the coming months as small innovators prepare to cut back R&D spending, including new project development, construction, and research positions.

We believe, ultimately, that an important part of the solution to our state’s budget challenges is the creation of new jobs; it doesn’t make sense to cut a program engineered specifically to meet that goal.

Follow Tom Ranken on Twitter at @jthomasranken.


“Wetting” a Battery’s Appetite for Renewable Energy Storage

Battelle / PNNLBy Frances White, Originally published by PNNL

RICHLAND, Wash. – Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material could allow more utilities to store large amounts of renewable energy and make the nation’s power system more reliable and resilient.

A paper published today in Nature Communications describes an electrode made of a liquid metal alloy that enables sodium-beta batteries to operate at significantly lower temperatures. The new electrode enables sodium-beta batteries to last longer, helps streamline their manufacturing process and reduces the risk of accidental fire.

“Running at lower temperatures can make a big difference for sodium-beta batteries and may enable batteries to store more renewable energy and strengthen the power grid,” said material scientist Xiaochuan Lu of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Read More…


Random Thoughts from the Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Chairman & Executive Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle-King County

Several different topics to discuss this week…

On the global warming front, the Obama administration’s rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants has been upheld by the Supreme Court in large part. The requirement for cuts, coupled with the flexibility in the rule, may be the driver for either cap and trade programs or carbon taxes. In another interesting development, the State of California signed a nonbinding agreement with Mexico to cooperate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While some see this as an attempt to spur action on the national level, others are more cynical, and criticize Governor Jerry Brown for allowing “fracking” and being too close to the fossil fuel industry.

Elsewhere, the world-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was set back by Australia’s decision to rescind the carbon tax. Based on current trends, Australia’s GHG emissions will have increased by nearly 20% in the two decades ending in 2020. Read More…


Inslee to lay out ideas for cap-and-trade, carbon tax

Governor Jay InsleeBy John Stang, Originally published by Crosscut

Gov. Jay Inslee is putting a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax into play as ways to tackle the fallout from global warming in Washington.

Those are the two propositions that an Inslee-appointed carbon emissions advisory task force will begin studying today, according to a document posted on the governor’s Web site on Monday. The task force will be briefed on the propositions at 10 a.m. in Bellevue.

Inslee wants the task force to look at the cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax and tinker with the details that would be involved before submitting recommendations to him in December. Inslee will use those recommendations to pitch bills to tackle carbon emissions in the 2015 legislative session.

In a cap-and-trade program, Washington would have an overall annual limit to its carbon dioxide emissions. Limits would be set for specific geographic areas. Firms would obtain rights for specific amounts of emissions in those areas and could trade their rights. A carbon tax is simply a levy on a firm’s carbon dioxide emissions, which is supposed to inspire a business to decrease its emissions. Read More…


Karen Gruen Nominated by Alaska Air to WCTA Board

Karen-GruenJuly 28, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – New WCTA Gold Member, Alaska Air Group, has nominated Karen Gruen to the board of the Washington Clean Technology Alliance.

Karen Gruen is Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for Alaska Air Group. She is responsible for oversight of Alaska’s airport lease and operating agreements and planning, engineering and construction projects for airport and non-airport company facilities, facilities maintenance, and related real estate business transactions. Gruen is a 16 year veteran of Alaska Air Group. She oversaw the air carrier’s construction of and move to a completely remodeled Terminal 6 at Los Angeles International Airport. Presently she is responsible for a similar project to develop and improve concourses C and N at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Gruen previously served as Managing Director of Corporate Affairs, Assistant Corporate Secretary and Associate General Counsel at Alaska Airlines with a focus on corporate legal work including corporate governance, securities law, executive compensation, equity plans, and executive benefit plans. Prior to joining Alaska, she worked as an attorney at Short Cressman & Burgess in Seattle.

Gruen holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University.

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