Energy Department Announces Funding for Small Business Innovation Research in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The Energy Department has announced up to $9 million available this year to fund approximately 50 small businesses to advance innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This initiative will help small businesses with promising ideas that could improve manufacturing processes, boost the efficiency of buildings, reduce reliance on oil, and generate electricity from renewable sources to bring new clean energy solutions to market faster. This effort is part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to drive innovative clean energy technologies into the market and help spur economic growth, diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and create skilled jobs for American workers.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is offering this funding through the Department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which allow federal agencies with large research and development budgets to set aside a fraction of their funding for competitions among small businesses. Small businesses that win awards in these programs keep the rights to any technologies they develop and are encouraged to commercialize them.

Inspired by meetings with hundreds of small businesses around the country, this funding opportunity includes ambitious cost and performance targets to elicit outside-the-box approaches. Used by DOE’s SBIR/STTR programs for the first time, this “broad topic” research solicitation gives small business broadly framed problems to work on and goals to achieve—and gives them the freedom to innovate—instead of providing narrow or prescriptive technological solutions to be improved. It also encourages small businesses with groundbreaking concepts to become part of the EERE programs’ research teams.

The funding opportunity announced today includes 8 broad topics and 30 subtopics in areas including advanced manufacturing, energy-efficient buildings, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, solar energy, and wind and water power technologies. The Energy Department will fund selected small businesses with one-year awards of up to $150,000 to explore the feasibility of innovative clean energy concepts. Awardees with successful projects will have the opportunity to compete for more than $1 million in follow on funding.

Detailed application instructions, including eligibility requirements, can be found on EERE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website under Reference Number DE-FOA-0000715.

How Microsoft is using data to slash its energy bills

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Many companies already collect data to make sure their sustainability programs stay on track. But data collection also can go a long way toward helping companies set up an effective — and potentially even profitable — program in the first place.

That message was underscored in sustainability sessions at the OSIsoft user’s conference in San Francisco this week. The software company’s event ends Thursday.

Simple steps to a greener cloud

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The dispute over how dirty Apple’s data centers are continues: In the wake of Greenpeace’s latest report criticizing IT giants [PDF] for relying on dirty energy for their data centers, Apple struck back at Greenpeace, arguing the advocacy group vastly overestimated the energy used by its North Carolina data center.

Apple denied accusations from Greenpeace that it relies on dirty, coal energy to power its massive data centers, which house its cloud services, arguing that it has already made significant strides in energy efficiency and citing its plans to build a solar-powered site at the North Carolina facility. Apple, of course, is not alone in Greenpeace’s crosshairs: The group also targeted Microsoft and Amazon for using dirty energy to fuel their data centers, saying they haven’t yet gotten the clean-energy message.

Although Greenpeace’s campaign has again raised the question of just how green — or dirty — big tech companies’ clouds are, we got to wondering just what it takes to actually green the cloud. It turns out that a number of simple, inexpensive steps to data center energy efficiency are available to those willing to take a second look.

Biomimicry and teaching business the ‘secrets of life’

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Janine Benyus has shown time and again in her work on biomimicry that life creates conditions conducive to life. Here’s how the business world could do that.

5 management principles for a converging world

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Today, GreenBiz Group and PwC are releasing a white paper on the future of business — specifically, on the business implications of the convergence of information, energy, building, and transportation technologies we’ve come to call VERGE.

The project began more than six months ago, in the wake of the three VERGE executive roundtables we produced last year in Shanghai, London and San Francisco (of which PwC was a lead sponsor). Those events, and the planning for this year’s global VERGE events, led to an investigation of how some of the world’s biggest companies are thinking about these technology shifts and what they were doing to prepare.

How Best Buy makes money recycling America’s electronics

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Retailing giant Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) has seen its recycling take-back program grow from a costly gamble into a fast-growing business that’s making a little bit of money. “It’s profitable. But just barely,” said Leo Raudys, senior director of environmental sustainability at Best Buy. “People still don’t believe it.”

The skepticism comes from the fact that the program is not only free to consumers, but they can also drop off just about any kind of junk that runs or ran on electricity. A dead tube TV? Check. The cell phone you dunked? Of course. That leaky washing machine? Yep. Best Buy takes appliances, too.

So how does the company cover its costs and a bit more? I had the chance to catch up with Raudys last week during the Sustainability Operations Summit in New York City, where he spoke on a panel titled “Successfully Tackling Waste.” Afterward, Raudys talked about how Best Buy turned the potentially thorny problem of collecting recycling into a self-subsidizing operation.

Where is LEED Leading Us?…And Should We Follow?

Read the full post at ArchDaily.

At this point, it’s fairly uncontroversial to say that the Earth is under siege. From us, from our resource-consuming ways, ultimately, from our thoughtlessness.

Green Design is not just a catch-phrase, but a mindset. As Architects, implementing the principles of Green Design means putting thoughtfulness back into our actions, conscientiously considering our built environment, and reversing the havoc we have wreaked on our resources.

To do that, we need to know what Green Design means, and be able to evaluate what it is and isn’t. Using Earth Day as our excuse then, let’s examine the single most influential factor on the future of Green Design: LEED.

To its credit, LEED has moved a mountain: it has taken the “mysticism” out of Green Design and made Big Business realize its financial benefits, incentivizing and legitimizing it on a grand scale.

But as LEED gains popularity, its strength becomes its weakness; it’s becoming dangerously close to creating a blind numbers game, one that, instead of inspiring innovative, forward-looking design, will freeze us in the past.