The displays in the William J. Clinton library in Little Rock, Arkansas are lit by Efficient Fiber Optics from Fiberstars, which emit no damaging infrared or ultraviolet rays.
Skole noted that the technology for measuring real-time carbon dioxide (CO2) abatement was already old news, and that planting trees on a large scale has a quantifiable positive effect on the Earth"s atmosphere. Skole is envisioning a future where there is a measurable and easily implemented monetary incentive for people in third world countries to plant trees and plants that "fix" greenhouse gases, effectively removing them from the Earth"s environment. By tying global warming to third world empowerment—the chance to make $2 a day carbon trading instead of $1 in subsistence agriculture—the plan could significantly increase quality of life for millions (assuming that this form of carbon sequestration could work on such a massive scale).
Thanks to the diverse network of satellites and earth observation facilities used by GEOSS, most of the complicated measurements required to create this system could be done remotely, if not automatically. By eliminating the need for observation personnel in the field and on the ground, these systems would lessen both the overhead cost and instances of error in generating data. And, of course, it looks really cool seeing all of this happen in three scaleable dimensions from the comfort of your laptop or—soon to come—your cellphone.
Chikai Ohazama, senior project manager at Google, showed the audience a detailed 3D map of his favorite hiking trail around Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Clicking a button, Ohazama brought the trail into view as a translucent purple path curving around the area"s topography, rising to meet the track"s iconic summit.
That was cool, and there"s no doubt that it appealed to the hikers in the crowd. But as Ohazama went on to demonstrate even more features, the audience got a taste of why GEOSS is kind of a big deal. Clicking a couple of different buttons and entering in a few search terms like a seasoned sire of Silicon Valley, Ohazama was able to locate power plants and areas of industry near Half Dome and graphically demonstrated historical and current data on air and water pollution in the vicinity of his beloved peak.
"We love it when people tell us that their six-year old showed them something on Google Earth," Ohazama said, emphasizing the application"s ease of use by showing what a one-degree rise in global temperature would do to the east and west coasts of the U.S. As large portions of New York and California were submerged underwater (as seen in An Inconvenient Truth), the crowd"s silence soon gave way to a cascade of murmurs.
It was interesting to watch the conference attendees—including multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, billion-dollar asset managers and high-riding, jet-setting captains of industry—pause to consider their stakes in one of the most promising, fastest-growing venture sectors on the market: saving the Earth. Al Gore"s name was batted around the room, and previously antithetical words like "sustainable" and "profits" became acquainted with one another. As Ohazama closed his dazzling three-ring performance, Skole echoed the thoughts of many when he remarked, "Ladies and gentleman, the color of money is getting greener all the time."
Portraits in Innovation
One of the benefits of attending the Cleantech Venture Forum was getting a close-up view of young start ups searching for capital. Many of these businesses are made up of research scientists and former policy figures who see a potential market for their ideas in the clean technology sector.
These capsule summaries are taken from among the crowd of exhibitors at the Cleantech Venture Forum.
" Bio-Organic Catalyst. Bio-Organic Catalyst (BOCs) are establishing a new category of biochemistry. BOCs are biological breakdown agents that can be used in water and wastewater treatment, petroleum hydrocarbon cleaning/remediation and environmental cleaning applications. Chemical oxidation agents work, but they"re detrimental to biological processes in environmental waste water management. BOCs work with advanced water and wastewater treatment systems, as well as simple and low-tech installations. Not only are BOCs non-toxic, they are biologically-enhancing. BOCs have the ability to increased dissolved oxygen and gas transfer rates at the same or lower energy levels. By creating a nearly instantaneous catalytic breakdown of organic molecules, BOCs make them more readily digestible by indigenous bio-organisms, as well as more rapidly oxidized by chemical agents. Rather than attempting to break down specific elements, as an enzyme would,
a broad cascading action is created, accelerating biological degradation throughout the entire spectrum of organic contaminants. CONTACT: www.bio-organic.com.
" Energy Unlimited. In the wind power industry, innovation happens at 200 feet above the ground. Just as the wind power industry is achieving rapid growth (a 40.5 percent expansion to $14 billion in revenues in 2005), the cost of deploying wind turbines has actually risen by over 20 percent in the last 24 months, as rising raw materials costs out pace technological progress. EUI’s flagship technology is a variable-length wind turbine blade that automatically extends the tip of the blade in response to light winds, while retracting the tip in higher speed winds. The primary advantage is a 25 percent power production increase with only a five percent projected increase in wind turbine unit cost. With an existing population of 82,400 operating wind turbines in 2005, EUI will likely become a major player in the retrofit market by effectively increasing the overall performance of a turbine without carrying the necessity of its removal. CONTACT: www.eui-tech.com.
" Infinia. The world’s leading developer of free-piston Sterling engine generators is currently developing its three-kilowatt multi-market Stirling engine and a Solar Sterling product to serve the global solar energy market. Multiple Infinia Sterling engines have logged more than 20,000 continuous hours of operation and remain in service. Infinia’s longest-running machine logged over 100,000 hours (11 years) of continuous, maintenance-free operation. These Stirling engines are externally-heated machines that generate electricity from any renewable energy heat source, including solar energy, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, biogas and biomass. Infinia says its Solar Stirling product will generate up to twice the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity than similarly sized photo voltaic systems. CONTACT: www.infiniacorp.com.
" SkyBuilt Power. SkyBuilt bills its product as being the world’s first self-contained, plug and play, renewable energy power station that is expandable, sets up in hours and runs for years with little maintenance. The product purports to cut fuel costs for the U.S. military by over 90 percent, and has both Homeland Security and third world applications. CONTACT: www.skybuilt.com.
" Sunarc of Canada. Automated greenhouse insulation/shading system using on-demand liquid foam (non-toxic) system to increase energy savings for growers. CONTACT: www.sunarc.ca.
" Washington Biodiesel. Northwestern biodiesel company uses canola seed to produce high-quality biodiesel at a low cost ($.02 per kWh). CONTACT: www.wabiodiesel.com
—Curtiss P. Martin
SHANNON HUECKER and CURTISS P. MARTIN are staff writers at E.