Defining Cleantech

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Today in business circles as well as in everyday conversation we are hearing the term “cleantech” used frequently. Considering the word “cleantech” is a relatively new term, having been coined within the last decade, it’s important to understand what the term actually means.

Cleantech or “clean technology” refers mainly to industries and businesses associated with alternative energy production, processes and services. These include solar power, wind generation, hydropower, geothermal, and biofuels among others. With widespread environmental pollution and growing evidence of global warming, the switch to renewable sources of energy is steadily increasing. Many startup companies are finding a share of the marketplace as the public becomes increasingly aware of environmental damage caused by the use of fossil fuels. What investors realize, are the increasing number of business opportunities and resulting financial benefits associated with a growing environmentally conscious public. Cleantech also has an appeal to visionaries who see a sustainable energy future without the harmful impact to the environment which carbon based fuels are known to have. However, there is still resistance among cautious venture capitalists, hesitant to invest in what they see as an uncertain future.

In North America, the pollution of air, soil and water caused by the excavation, transportation and burning of oil and coal is becoming a major concern in many communities. Although it receives little publicity, this is evident in parts of central Appalachia where increasing numbers of residents are opposed to mountaintop mining. As the name implies, mountaintop mining is the process of bulldozing or dynamiting the top layers off mountain tops in order to get to the exposed coal. Estimates say that nearly 500 mountain tops have been destroyed in this manner for the sole purpose of mining the top portion of them. Additionally, adjoining valleys are also being destroyed by filling them with rubble and debris from the excavating process. Unfortunately the beauty of these pristine areas is being compromised by an energy ravenous nation. Hopefully the people directly affected by these issues will have a voice with any administration elected to office.

It’s ironic that both the United States and Canada, which are mainly technology driven nations for the most part, have been slow to react to growing concerns of highly fluctuating costs of carbon based energy. In contrast, many areas of Europe have been investing heavily in environmental technology for years. The largest single factor motivating European countries to invest in clean technology has been the rising cost and decreasing availability of fuel (primarily gasoline). In North America, we have been complacent over the years, relying on abundant resources and relatively low cost of oil. However, it’s a different world now, as we have seen the cost of oil climb to record prices per barrel, and many developing nations showing an ever increasing demand for fossil fuels. In order for North America to have any hope of becoming energy independent, the initial investment must be made soon, because the consequences of waiting will be disastrous to both the environment and the economy.  Things are moving, but they are moving slowly.

For those genuinely concerned about the environment and future generations, it’s an easy decision to begin supporting alternative energy solutions both at home and in the community. With what appears to be an infinite sustainable energy market looming on the horizon, those wise speculators who act now by investing in cleantech will be the real winners. More importantly, with investment in cleantech and alternative energy sources, directly or indirectly, we will begin seeing immediate benefits, as well as for many years ahead.

Silicon Solar Solutions is working towards enabling solar panel manufacturing regardless of geographic location by reducing processing inefficiencies and minimizing the labor requirements. Could Arkansas leverage the existing logistics infrastructure to become a leader in domestic manufacturing of solar PV?  What do you think?

Author: Douglas Hutchings – E-mailLinkedin - Twitter