March 31st, 2011

Insights into the Philly Cleantech Market, Investing, and Best Industry Blogs from @Greenskeptic


This weekend (April 3rd – 5th) I’m going to PV America to cover the show with the Renewable Energy World crew. I’ve never been to Philadelphia before and haven’t learned much about the renewable energy industry in the city. Since I’ve started writing one of the perspectives I’ve most enjoyed has been Scott Anderson’s on The Green Skeptic. What do you know? Scott happens to live in Philly. I decided to reach out to the green skeptic because I enjoy the nice mix of topics and subject matters that he weaves together on his blog all with a single goal, development and deployment of useful and clean technologies that make sense.

For those of you reading from the mid-Atlantic who are interested in the industry, check out the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic. I’ve never been to any events but I hear they are the place to connect with companies and investors in the area.

I had a lot of fun with the interview and look forward to doing it speaking with Scott again. We talked for about 30 minutes and we discussed a number of topics:

  1. His perspective on the cleantech startup scene in Philadelphia and what it brings to the industry as a whole. Scott talked about 3 unique companies that are doing well.
  2. Scott’s thoughts on making the water issue mainstream.
  3. 6 awesome recommendations on the top bloggers and perspective in cleantech that you should be following to keep up to date with industry.
  4. Lastly, we discussed how to invest in cleantech in the stock market. Remember kids, the first rule of cleantech investing is stay far, far away.

NOTE: The interview was split up into 5 sections for uploading purposes and I outlines each section below so you can get an idea of the discussion. I could not transcribe the whole discussion so if you want to hear you’ll have to listen to the clip. There are a couple minutes if part one where the audio is scratchy but it ends

2ND NOTE: In order to listen to the audio you have to click on the hyper link, it may take a little while to load because the audio files are large.

Part 1

SEA Part 1

Chris: What does philladephlia have to offer the cleantech industry? What is happening in the mid atlantic.

Scott: Scott discussed how the positioning of Philly between NYC (money) and DC (government) along with some strong local political support is creating some momentum to make Philly a region innovation hub.

Chris: Last year, Pennsylvania had the largest solar growth of installed capacity and PV America is being held there next week. Is solar a huge part of the industry?

Scott: In the past, wind has had a large foot pint, both Gamesa and Iberdola have U.S. offices in Philadelphia but solar has been adding a lot of capacity lately.

Chris: You write a lot about water issues. It’s a huge issue but is rarely talked about in public circles like solar is. When and how do you think this will change?

Scott: The problem has been that it’s still too cheap and not scare, in the Notheast we have plenty of water. Scarcity, costs and access will all be drivers in the water space and are increasing the amount of people looking to develop new technologies and invest. This is happening specifically in places in the country that have a very old water infrastructure.


SEA Part 2

Chris: What are some of the most interesting products you’ve seen Philly?

Scott: There are an amazing group of emergening companies in the area and mid-atlantic region.

1. Black Gold Biofuels: Black gold has developed a patent pending design that turns sewer grease from municipal waste into biodiesel. Sewer grease is a HUGE problem for many municipalities because the grease clogs up water lines like fat in your arteries.

Black Gold takes the stock that is usually thrown away (a no cost feedstock) and make a very useful product from it. They have first plant operating in San Francisco.

2. Momentum Dynamics: They are creating a technology that allows for mobile wireless charging of electric vechiles. It’s a safe, easy, efficient alternative to plugged in charging of electric vechiles. It’s battery agnostic and because it can constantly charge, it makes the battery last long.

3. Mark Group:  Mark group is actually a 40 year old British company that is focusing on energy efficiency. I like to think of them as the “geek squad” of EE. They’re trying to make the model standardized and scalable so that consumers know what sort of quality to expect.

Chris: Besides yourself, where do you go to keep up to date with new perspectives and the latest information? Whose perspective to do you respect? (NOTE: Scott apologies for missing any of his friends that he forgot to mention!)


Katie Fehrenbacher of Earth2Tech. Katie is on the beat and is just a solid journalist. If something good is happening, she’s on it.

Rob Day Cleantech Investing at Greentech Media. Rob is a no-nonse VC perspective on cleantech. He’s been doing it for a number of  and is sharp, insightful, has good insights, and a good contrarain in many cases.

Chris Nelder writer at getREALlist. Chris wrote a book about peak oil and how to profit on the transition to renewable energy. He really knows his stuff.

Gregor McDonald. Gregor is an oil analyt, energy industry investor and focuses on the coming transition to alternative. He understand peak oil and has looked at it from a historical, macro and firm level. He knows it better then anyone.

The Energy Collective. The Energy Collective is host to a lot of thought leading bloggers in the area.

Alex Madrigal. Alex is a senior editor at The Atlantic focusing on cleantech, he has a new book out called Powering the Dream about the history of cleantech. (this is not an affiliate link)

PART 4. Stock Picks.

SEA Part 4

Chris: How do you invest your money in cleantech stocks?

Scott: First, if you’re new to investing stay far far away from cleantech stocks. They are very volatile and risky. The barriers to entry are large and volatility is huge. Most companies are small tom middle size or are department in larger companies.

I don’t do any day trading, I only look at long term investments. Full disclose here, this is not financial advice, you can look at my portfolio at Green Skeptic to see that it has taken a beating. Here is who I like:

  • First Solar
  • EnerNOC
  • Ormat
  • Cree
  • American Water.

(Chris: notice a couple long terms trends Scott is hinting at, solar, commercial and industrial energy efficiency, geothermal, LEDs, and water)

My strategy is very long view and to look for stocks that are or will be the best in class in their sector.

Part 5.

Chris: All sectors in cleantech seem to be growing now, looking back on your career, what is your advice/thoughts for college student or young professionals interested in the industry?

Scott: If I had to do it all over again, I’d join a startup. The time when you can build a startup is now. Find a group of people and a cool technology and build it.

Scott also went onto describe a couple issues the industry is facing in term of a lack of good manager and strategies that some of his non-engineering friends use to look for business opportunities.


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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.

  • Anonymous

    The area of ​​water and increase the number of people seeking to develop new technologies and invest. Precisely what is happening in the places in the country that have a very old water infrastructure.

  • alternative investments san fr

     That’s great, I never thought about
    Nostradamus in the OR

  • cesscurtiss

    Huge problem from sewer grease can now be a useful products, it’s good that people try to turn waste into gold. Good job.. grease trap