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In Focus: Eco SmartHomes

eco-smarthome

Our smartphones are like Batman’s utility belt. Encased within their sleek and slim, aluminium and glass coated bodies is, sometimes seemingly, the answer to all our problems. Roaring into the limelight in the last few years, smartphones are a brilliant example of the natural progression of technology, taking an old premise and stuffing it full of modernity until it’s a barely recognizable shade of its former self. Now, many of us claim we couldn’t leave the house without our smartphone, the mere suggestion causing us to tremble and shake before needing to lie down immediately. So what’s next; SmartHomes? Quite possibly.

The House of Tomorrow

Whilst there are many different visions for the House of Tomorrow, or the SmartHome, one of the most predominant features that many developers and artists are working toward is the completely eco-efficient home. Sustainable energy is something just about every industry is factoring into their many equations these days, and as our home can often be the base upon which we carve out and increasingly deep and detailed carbon footprint, it’s certainly something that needs to be addressed.

So how do SmartHomes change all this? Essentially, they fuse the latest technological advancements to the home to deliver both convenience and energy saving solutions simultaneously. Take for example one significant, increasingly popular technology which is actually available today – home automation.

Automatic Man

Home automation systems, cleverly meld your home to your smartphone – in many ways they are the most significant step toward a more literal, literary ‘SmartHome’. By connecting up each and every aspect of the home to a single system, it can grant you remote access from wherever you are. From your lights to your fireplace, to your home cinema system, everything can be connected allowing you to control it from you smartphone. This means you need never leave unnecessary lights or appliances on and you can even set curtains and blinds to move according to the amount of light in the room. Clever just doesn’t cut it.

Sustainable Living

But it’s not just fangled, futuristic convenience technology that will transform the homes of tomorrow, as one Flintshire-based entrepreneur is out there proving right now. Russell White, owner of Field Farm near Northop has refurbished a huge 39 homes that now either have no running costs at all or actually make money from their renewable energy sources. His own property is also a zero-carbon home, generating 7,000 kW of electricity a year, powering the house for him and his family and feeding the rest back into the grid.

Every inch of his innovative, high-tech home has been tailored for optimal energy consumption, with efficient LED bulbs lighting the rooms, a sophisticated ventilation system that ensures no heat is wasted, and an electric ribbon under floor heating solution that eradicates the need for radiators.

Is this the true home of the future? An entirely sustainable building that generates electricity, heat and even money? This emphasis on renewable energy, combined with innovative leaps in consumer technology such as that seen in home automation products could well be laying the foundations for new housing standards in the coming years. So are SmartHomes the new Smartphones? It’s unlikely such an undefined idea will reach the dizzying popularity heights of Apple’s biggest seller, but one way or another something will change over the next few years in regards to how our houses are built and how they function, and ‘SmartHome’ might just be the tag line the housing industry runs with.


This article was written by Rob Vicars of Bygone Windows, home enthusiasts and sash window specialists. To make a real, energy efficient upgrade to your home today, Bygone supply eco-friendly sash windows at brilliant prices! Image source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Solar-Powered Wi-Fi is Here

solar-wi-fi

Our current centralized energy and financial systems often fail the poor. In order to meet the energy needs of people in less developed countries in a sustainable way, a distributed energy framework is necessary.

Already we’re seeing entrepreneurs making this vision reality by leveraging off-grid mobile phone penetration to deliver distributed clean energy access. Now entrepreneurs are using that same off-grid infrastructure to deliver vital new services. The latest is AirJaldi Networks, a company that provides solar-powered Wi-Fi for the rural masses.

AirJaldi designs, builds, and operates wireless networks spanning five different states in rural India. Just like the clean energy micro power plants that OMC is building, AirJaldi’s networks piggyback on rural telecom towers. These towers are located in areas where the grid is either non-existent or unreliable. In the early days, the company used battery backups, but those proved expensive to maintain. Eventually, just like the telecom towers on which they were perched, AirJaldi switched to solar.

AirJaldi made the move because maintaining backup diesel or batteries was just too costly. Often, employees were forced to travel for four hours or more through the monsoon rains or other extreme weather events to take care of operations in an area where the grid failed. Maintenance trips like these, and the heavy costs they posed, were eliminated by solar.

The move to solar also allowed AirJaldi to focus on core operations: buying wholesale bandwidth through distributed Wi-Fi relays that optimize traffic without degrading the user experience. In other words, it sells internet access.

Here’s how it works: every client has a router (just like you or I have at home) that gets connectivity via the airwaves and bandwidth provided by the telecom companies. AirJaldi mounts relays on small towers that receive a signal from other relays or a main distribution point. Those relays send the signal to AirJaldi’s clients. The main difference between our systems and theirs is the vast distance covered, which requires stronger routers.

While nearly all relays are solar-powered, the network operation center is not. That’s because these are large systems (1 kilowatt or more) so the economics are slightly different. But in about a month, AirJaldi will convert its first center to solar. The company expects to convert more as the price of solar falls.

Continue Reading at Greentech Media

Riding the Risks and Rewards of the Solarcoaster

It’s been a while since I reflected on my career journey on what many of us in the industry have affectionately begun calling “The Solarcoaster.” Rather than look at events in the industry as a whole over the 2011-2012 period, I wanted to take a more personal view; a view as a big fish in a very small pond that has become a small fish in a big pond with all the humility and lessons-learned that went along with it.

I’m no different from many who have migrated to California before me following their own “Gold Rush” dreams.  With some convincing from industry colleagues and the willingness to risk it all, I made the move in the summer of 2010 from a rural part of Massachusetts where I was “the solar girl” to the bustle of the Bay Area, where I was another face trying to differentiate myself in the solar industry.

After Intersolar of 2011, I was recruited by Sungevity, a growing, mission-driven residential leasing startup with a fascinating online-focused business model that intrigued me. Many folks who have followed this blog will recall my writing about Sungevity and a number of other firms with business models promising to disrupt residential solar. I had met a few Sungevity employees at a SolarTech summit earlier that year, where I unabashedly squared off with panelists asking tough questions about their data and assumptions. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to help shape the future of this exciting company.

Over the past year and spare change, my position in the Design and Engineering department has grown and changed and my understanding of what being a successful leader takes has begun to take shape. I am privileged to work alongside people of all walks of life and expertise, and grateful for the opportunity to take on bigger projects and more responsibility as I fail, succeed, learn, and continue to deliver results.

I have always been proud of my “Yankee work ethic” – show up and commit, apply yourself, make it do or do without, and overdeliver. Here in California, where there is so much opportunity, I see the results of my labors in ways I could have never imagined even 5 years ago.

As the Design and Engineering department, we are defining ourselves as a group and as individuals in a process I would have never imagined happening at a company. Together and in the spirit of Sungevity’s own mission, we defined our values in five words: profitable, flexible, balance, integrity, and success. We embarked together on a group-empowerment journey honoring everyone’s contributions. Is this the future of business; as a place where the contributions of all truly work toward a common vision? I believe so and I can tell you from being there, the results are incredible. Leadership is not about telling people who to do; it is about helping people do what they do best and giving them the opportunity to let their talent shine and grow.

I find myself in such a reflective state for a number of reasons; one, marking a little over a year since I signed on with Sungevity but two, I recently finished reading Danny Kennedy’s “Rooftop Revolution” which has reminded me just how far the solar industry has come itself in its own carnival of risk and reward. The more I have gotten to know Danny and his past as an activist and many of my colleagues as agents of social change, the more I have realized that the solar industry is really creating a whole new way of doing business, drawing community-minded and cause-driven people together to create change in one of the most powerful machines we have available today: The Marketplace.

Had the anti-”System” collegiate idealist I was 10 years ago heard myself agreeing to this today, we would have gotten in a serious row. But a lot has changed. I still hear the words of one of my first mentors echo in my head about working from within the System of the Marketplace to enact change. While I dismissed it then, I still paid attention because I respected him so much. Now I am glad I did. This man, John Fabel, is an unsung visionary, inventor, entrepreneur, bike commuter, and inspiration to me.

We’ll see where this next year takes me…

Original Article on Chaolysti

Chaolysti Invited to Speak on Expanding Residential Markets Panel at SPI

Solar Power International SPI 2011 logoSolar Power International has invited Chaolysti to share expertise in theexpanding Northeast US residential market with conference attendees aspart of the panel “Expanding Residential Solar Markets” as part of theMarkets conference track.

Please join Pamela Cargill, Principal of Chaolysti along with panelists JP Ross, VP of Strategic Relationships at Sungevity, Charles Boortz, CEO of Dallas-based distributor SES 21 USA, and Ethan Sprague, Director of Government Affairs at SunRun. Wilson Rickerson, CEO of Boston-based energy and sustainability consultants Meister Consultants, will serve as panel moderator.

Please join us at SPI in Dallas, TX on Thursday, October 20, 10:30 am – 12 pm for an exciting session for solar professional interested inentering the Northeast markets or operate more effectively in theircurrent Northeast business territory. The audience will leave thissession understanding the potential of the small-scale residential andcommercial PV markets in different regions, including the challenges and opportunities.

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Join Chaolysti at SolarFest

Are you an entrepreneur with your own small solar or renewable energy business or considering starting your own business in these fields?

Are you attending SolarFest this year?

Join Pamela Cargill on Saturday July 16 at 1PM for an hour longpresentation/discussion under the USA Solar Store Tent for “The GreenMarketing How-To” and MORE! The presentation will cover low/no-coststart-up tactics from Total Digital Office to setting up effective business operations to developing sharpmarketing techniques- many of which you can do yourself no matter whatyour technical aptitude!

Bring your questions, stories, advice, best practices, and lessons learned to share Read more

My Review of The 2011 SolarTech Leadership Summit

solartech logoMarch 29 and 30 I attended the SolarTech Leadership Summit in Santa Clara, CA. You can read my toplevel thematic writeup at RenewableEnergyWorld.com and my opportunity assessment report at The Green Light Distrikt. Aside from analysis provided in those articles, there were some otherinteresting observations to take away from the event that fold into thenational conversations about where the solar industry is heading andwhat its greatest needs are.

Continued California-Centrism a Roadblock to Success

Many pundits and analysts will agree that California historically has led the solar industry in overall product adoption across all sectors(residential, commercial distributed, and utility), as well as been theprimary source of the newly rising class of supporting products likefinancial products, business management software, niche-engineering,permit and process think tanks, and niche-marketing. However, theelephant in the room was the rise of East Coast states, as Shayle Kann’s pointed out in a repeat performance of the toplevel findings of the joint GTM Research/SEIA US Market Insight Report.

With preferences, culture, and incentive programs different fromCalifornia, it will take new levels of collaboration, insight, andlistening/learning cycles to keep the new wave of California marketentrants into the East Coast from going the unsuccessful way of thosethat have been coming in waves before. Likewise, establishing homegrownsolar businesses in the East Coast micromarkets will have to spend timelooking outside themselves to success and failures in establishedmarketplaces like California’s solar market to help them drive theirbusinesses. Industry stakeholders need to find new ways to collaborate.

Lack of Clear Paths for Collaboration

Unfortunately, these paths for inter-state collaboration are unknown. Repeated questioning of keynote speakers, rebate programadministrators, and other summit attendees led to a lot of talk aboutpossible inter-California collaboration between stakeholders at thevarious levels of the value-chain (from manufacturing all the way downto the consumer), but no discussion of packaging the lessons learned for benefit of the emerging markets.

For a summit devoted to a toplevel theme of “let’s not reinvent thewheel” for permitting, interconnection, and streamlining of process,this was a disparaging realization. It shines a light on the much moreserious concern about the potentially damaging fragmentation in thedevelopment of the solar market in the US. While some analysts haveclassified this fragmentation/diversity as a sign of a healthy industry, it simultaneously indicates an incredibly challenging businessenvironment. Meanwhile, as each state in the union is churning away in a vacuum developing its own policies and programs, unifying supportneeded at the federal level has not materialized and more analysts areadmitting that the federal policies and energy plan may never come.

Lack of Incentive to Collaborate Across Sectors

While program Department of Energy administrators have promoted the SunShot Initiative and called for collaboration across the value-chain to achieve itsgoals, there is currently very little concrete incentive in place forthis new type of collaboration. It has proved challenging enough tobring the right voices and leadership to the table for a think-tank atSolarTech, still a group of primarily California and overwhelminglyBay-Area voices. Understandably, SolarTech is a Silicon Valley prodigyand will naturally draw from the networks that derive from the iconichub of technology innovation.

The question remains: how do we build pathways to progress thatinvite the voices, perspectives and talents from across the entire value chain in the solar industry across the entire country? This, as I seeit, is the key to solving the toughest problems that will achieve thestreamlining, process improvement, and unification the solar industryneeds to open up the new era of success.

Original Article on Chaolysti

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How Can we Make Progress in Residential Solar Marketing?

With a lot of energy spent on technical issues in the solar industry, few analysts are discussing driving the industry’s adoption throughsales and marketing savvy. The road ahead for the growth of solar iscomplex. How can we make progress to advance adoption of residentialsolar?

Start With The Basics; Advance Methodically

So many solar companies are not even getting the really basic stuff right like using their logo in a consistent manner, having theirbusiness cards match their website, having a website that is easy tofind (or having a website at all), having effective local searchmarketing presence, or understanding how to engage customer with anappropriate value proposition. If companies start with getting thesimple things right, it makes it easier to move methodically throughthe planning and implementation processes of more sophisticated andcomplex marketing programs.

Choose Listening over Communicating

Too much of the social media discussion revolves around the tools;be they Twitter, Facebook, blogging, community portals, or some otherengagement strategy (online or offline). It’s important to realize that the key in social media is the “social” part, not the media part. The social part is about customer engagement and driving referrals thatreward your customers for being your ambassador. Referrals are stilloverwhelmingly driving business as we are still a niche market withless than 1% adoption (US).

Consider common psychology; good communication springs fromlistening. Marketing, especially for a niche product, is aboutlistening to the concerns of a key demographic your product is tryingto reach and crafting a service and value proposition that meets thatneed. How do you determine what those needs are? Market research, focus groups, and reading marketing studies already completed. Business owners should invest in these tactics to help develop theirsolar company’s business plan if they expect long term successfulgrowth.

While a fair number of more established solar installers understandwho their demographic is, a lot of bright-eyed upstarts are confusedabout who is actually buying solar and continue to market withineffectual guilt-based messaging (i.e. climate change, environmentalconcerns, etc). If you set up a negative situation that your producthas to overcome, you are artificially creating a roadblock to customerengagement.

How does a company determine its messaging and unique value proposition?

Planning, market research, focus groups, continued testing, and measuring results. Good marketing is consistent in its message across all media. Great marketing isnimble, responsive to customer needs, and relevant to the local andglobal world situation.

Business owners need to put good systems for measuring metrics alsoneed in place to make this possible. There are still so many solarcompanies operating out there who have haphazard systems for managingleads and keeping track of projects. Lack of tools to measure marketing effectiveness, sales pipelines, and other business goals will stimiebusiness growth.

Let Changing Buyer Personas Lead Your Efforts

Many of solar companies fall into the “we need to be on X” trapwithout considering a strategy. The major marketing problem I haveexperienced working with solar companies is the overwhelming obsessionwith the technology. Today’s solar buyer is less likely a solartech-geek than even a few years ago. Let your customer tell you who they are; don’t try to jam them into a buyer persona that they are not orthey will walk and look down upon the entire solar industry based onthat interaction.

Solar companies need to be responsive to this market change. It’sbecome more critical to express marketing and sales savvy thantechnical aptitude to customers. Let your technical aptitude shinewhere it is most relevant- in installing and designing quality systemsthat generate no callbacks and the least amount of customer-facinghassle possible (i.e. change orders, complex local or utilityagreements).

There is a lot of room for improvement. The best solar companies will rise to the challenge and open up new market demographics.

Original Article on Chaolysti

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