Green Light Distrikt is about entrepreneurship focused on the cleantech sector. GLD U provides cleantech courses . Edited by Chris Williams with frequent guest posts from friends, experts and industry insiders from clusters across the globe. Our goal is to provide a place where cleantech entrepreneurs in various clusters across the globe can learn from one another. Green Light Distrikt is creating the "Hitchikers Guide to Clentech" to provide a resource for cleantech entrepreneurs. Read more
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August 17th, 2012
Launch of GLD University and Renewable Energy 101 Workshop for Students, Career Changers, Young Pros, and EntrepreneursNEW YORK -
I’m very excited to announce Green Light Distrikt University. It might look a little ghetto, but I assure you, it’s awesome.
Even though I’m not sure if everyone in cleantech is making money, I am sure that education and knowledge sharing of all sorts are in high demand in the cleantech industry. Technical training on a very specific technology, introductory trainings, workshops, peer-to-peer instruct and meetups to privately exchange industry specific information within and between cleantech clusters fluently are all needed. My goal is that GLD U can help in some small way.
There’s four forms of education that we’ll use GLD U to deliver:
- Renewable energy technology certifications. We’ll be reselling HeatSpring courses with a discount for GLD readers of course That discount is “GLD”
- Renewable Energy 101 Workshop for Students, Young Pros, Career Changers and Entrepreneurs. Yes, I’m charging a fee for this because I’m distilling everything I’ve learned in the past 6 years and am willing to provide introductions and advice for the right people. It won’t be worth the cost to most people, but I’m targeting the small group of people that will find it very valuable.
- Introductory Courses: For example, “How to Make Money in Renewable Energy”
If you are looking for a particular type of educatino that you cannot find access to please let me know, you can contact me here.
A few other cool events, and workshops I’m running
- Building Tour of 100% solar powered building in Brooklyn
- How to Find a Job and Make Money in the Solar PV Industry.
Here’s some more color and details about the purpose of the Renewable Energy 101 Workshop
In the past 2 years, I’ve done a lot of writing on the renewable energy industry and frequently people reach out looking for advice for their new products, exchanging ideas, and where the opportunities are for employment.
All of HeatSpring’s training are professional level certifications and continuing education on niche topics for experienced professionals. The purpose the workshop training is to boil down everything I’ve learned in the past 5 years to people looking for guidance that will be entering the industry. The focus will be on current students, recent graduates, young professionals, career changers or entrepreneurs looking to build a company in the industry.
The course will capped at 20 students to make sure I can connect with each person.
It will be split into two parts
Part 1 – Lecture and walkthroughs of the technical, financial and industry trends in solar PV, solar thermal and geothermal.
Part 2 – The second part will be Q+A. Be prepared with questions and when you sign up, I’ll send you a list of questions to prepare before the class, that must be prepared for the class. I’m prepared to help in every way that I can. The plan is to help you and provide introductions, further resources if you’re looking to start a company, or find an entry level position, etc.
August 12th, 2012NEW YORK -
My life is extremely random. Last year, I wrote about my interest in real estate, renewable energy and reducing a buildings utility costs by 75%, making it much more profitable. I’ve run the numbers and know it’s possible, it all really comes down to having the right client because the technology works.
Two months ago, I was walking by a weird looking in Brooklyn, see the above image. I noticed there was an array on the top of the roof, but that it wasn’t at the proper angle for a fixed tilt array in the latitude of NYC (it was around 20 degrees, a better angle is around 40 degrees). A hear a voice yell at me from across the street, “those are solar panels”. I looked down at him for a second, back up at the array and replied, “yes, I know. Why is the array so low?”. The man looked at me strangely, wondering why a young punk was questioning him about a system he likely designed and installed him on the street. He looked back up at the array and said “oh, height restrictions in NYC, the DOB won’t wouldn’t let us build any higher.” He came across the street, we talked for 30 minutes, and started working together.
The first thing I’m doing is creating a speaker series and monthly building door to show what’s possible in NYC with renewable energy and energy efficiency. The is two purposes of the event:
- I’ll be inviting speakers who are actively working on increasing the adoption of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and recycled materials in NYC. They will range from policy, to non-profits,
- The purpose of the building tour is very simple, to show that this technology works and frankly, it’s not hard. It you own a building in NYC, investing in using less energy is a riskless investment.
Again, you can RSVP here: http://thedeltatour.eventbrite.com/
Here’s the full desciption of the event:
Learn the ins and outs of integrating renewable energy in buildings in NYC. Join us on Sunday August 19th for at 1pm for a 1 hour tour of “The Delta” in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
This is the 1st in what will become a free monthly speaker series in Brooklyn about green building, renewable energy, and energy efficiency in NYC. Each month, we’ll give a tour of the building and invite guests to speak about various topics related to green building.
This month we will be hosting
- Max Rubenstein from BIG!NYC who will be talking about using recycled building materials in NYC
- Max Joel from Solar One will discuss why solar power *hearts* NY and vice versa. Find out what it takes to get solar on your roof, what it does up there, and how government incentives for renewable energy work.
The Delta is 100% powered with solar and utilizes many renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that significantly decrease it’s energy use by more then 75% compared with the average building. The building has extensive use of
- Solar PV
- Solar thermal
- Small wind
- Air-source heat pumps
- Recycled materials
- Super efficient building envelope
- Super efficient appliances.
The tour is free but has limited space, you MUST RSVP for the event. It’s open to the public and it is for NYC residentis that are interested in learning more and understanding what it possible in the city when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
We’ll tour the building, have a simple presnetation to illustrate how the technologies work and will have plenty of time to answer any and all of your questions. Please come with questions
What you’ll learn
- The challenges and possibilities of renewable energy and energy efficiency in New York City
- How The Delta produces so much renewable energy and uses such a small amount of energy
- How renewable energy technologies work, and how they integrate into existing building
- Which technology is most efficient and provides the best financial return
- How to utilize recycled matierls the most efficinctly in NYC
- How to manage the demolition process to send the least amount of garbage to the dump
- How NYC and NY state is supporting renewable energy technologies
About the Delta: The Delta is the 1st building in NYC to be 100% powered by solar. The Delta has been featured and numerous publications and you can read more about it here:
About your host: Chris Williams
Chris Williams will be your host. He has designed and installed 300kW of solar PV and plenty of solar thermal and geothermal systems as well. He’s a consultant at Voltaic Solaire, the Cheif Marketing Office at HeatSpring, a leading national renewable energy training company and frequently writes and has been quoted in Renewable Energy World, Forbes, Climate Progress, Cleantechies, and Alternative Energy Stocks.
About the Super Special Speaker: Max Rubinstein
Deconstruction Manager, Max Rubinstein, from Build It Green!NYC will be speaking about incorporating reuse and recycling in your next home renovation project. Deconstruction is the selective and careful dismantling of buildings to maximize re-use and recycling rates. Build It Green!NYC’s Deconstruction Team can professionally dismantle anything from a kitchen to a whole house, uninstalling the items carefully and removing the items as a tax deductible donation. Decon is also your best environmental, and often financial, alternative to the landfill!
About BIG!NYC: Build It Green!NYC, is New York City’s only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials. Our warehouse has everything from panel doors to high end refrigerators and shutters to movie props. Our mission is to keep these materials out of the landfill, while offering deep discounts on their resale. We are sponsored by Community Environmental Center (CEC)www.cecenter.org. Founded in late 2004, our Astoria warehouse opened in February of 2005. Our second reuse center opened in November 2011 and is now open 7 days a week in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Learn more at www.bignyc.org.
Speaker Bio: Max spearheads the Deconstruction program at Build It Green!NYC. The recurring scene of perfectly good building materials crushed at the bottom of a dumpster led him to BIG!NYC, and he’s never looked back. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Max attended Bard College where he received a Bachelor of Arts in film. Since then he has really cultivated his skills as a precision craftsman, having worked as a fabricator, cabinetmaker and carpenter, all in NYC.About our Second Speaker: Max Joel, Solar One
Max Joel is the former Director of the Energy Connections Program at Solar One, a non-profit green energy, arts, and education center based in New York City. The Energy Connections Program develops education, outreach, and community partnership projects in an effort to make all New Yorkers part of our city’s ambitious efforts to combat climate change and develop a clean, green economy. Ongoing projects include Clean Energy Connections, a discussion series and networking hub for NYC’s emerging cleantech economy, and Whole Building Education, which trains the managers, staff, and residents of low-income housing in energy savings behaviors and management strategies. Max also served as a NYSERDA Energy $mart Communities Coordinator, helping building owners and businesses access incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.Previously, Max was the Capital Projects Coordinator for the Queens Botanical Garden, where he facilitated the construction of New York City’s first public building to achieve LEED Platinum certification. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Columbia University and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where his thesis explored emerging and innovative strategies for financing green community development. Max is a 2008 Doris Duke Conservation Fellow and serves on the Advisory Board of the Jewish Greening Fellowship. He is currently consulting with Solar One and launching his own consulting practice specializing in renewable energy and community development.
July 27th, 2012NEW YORK -
Lately, I’ve been feeling very bullish on cleantech, from my perspective anyway. I’ve had a number of conversations with peers in the industry, property owners, and others to see what’s happening and if anyone is actually making any money. Don’t get my wrong, I still think there are opportunities. The question is: are there opportunities from where I’m coming from? At this time?. Or, do I need to wait?
Here is my perspective and where I’m coming from:
- 26 years old no kids or major responsibilities
- No debt and some cash (~20k) ready to invest
- Well paying consulting work that is 100% remote.
- Amazing knowledge and existing relationships of solar PV, thermal, geothermal, air source heat pumps. I feel comfortable marketing, selling, designing or installing any of these technologies. Yes, I know, I’m a weird animal.
Back to the point, here’s why I’m bullish on cleantech.
It doesn’t appear that many people are making any money! All of the major solar PV manufactures are loosing money hand over first, and I’d say it’s 50/50 for pure play EPCs making money in the solar PV space. The volume for solar thermal is low so most of the manufactures and EPCs are making money because their margins are so high, to compensate for low and unsteady volumen.
I just got back from InterSolar and these days, solar PV is the darling of the industry doesn’t seem to be in a good place. Most are loosing money, and there’s only a few people that I’m certain are making money.
- Small niche B2B companies selling to EPC contractors. They have high EBITDA but relatively low volumes. These business include the best racking manufacturers, site visit tools and other software companies. While these companies tend to be very profitable, they’re also starving for cash because they’re plowing it all back into growth, which is not a bad thing because they tend to owned privately with no outside investment.
- Great salespeople are killing it. I residential or commercial sales person in the top 25% of their companies is making a nice income.
- Electricians making prevailing wage. 40 hours per week @ $75 an hour in the Boston area isn’t too bad.
- General contractors where solar makes up less then 30% (or so) of their business, so if they don’t get unbid because they don’t need to go lower just to win the job, which could cause them to lose money.
- Tax equity investors investing in MW projects or creating large funds for commercial or residential projects. Private equity investing in MW solar projects are getting un-levered IRRs of 9%, which are almost risk free because the PPA is signed, they have no construction risk and all the other risk is dumped on other parties. The tax equity investors investing in residential projects are making ~14% in 7 years, and most of that cash is made through ITC, cash rebates and MACRS so they’re not very exposed to the actual performance of the projects.
- Property owners that paid cash for their systems and can leverage all the tax benefits are also making good, 15% IRRs over the 20 year expected life of the system.
- Investors that are providing bridge financing to small/medium solar PV EPCs against cash utilities are making a killing. At least 30% YOY returns without much risk. Volumes are also low, $20k – $50k might be a typical deal, but the transactions costs are minimal as it’s basically financing an accounts receivable which is a well known business transaction.
With that being said, here’s the type of opportunity I’m looking for
- Not technology risk, sales oriented. I want to just assemble existing technology.
- Able to test the market relatively easily.
- I don’t care about “scale”, however you’re defining that.
- Niche opportunities that have the ability to, maybe, become larger opportunities
- Quick sales cycles and easy to find the decision maker. Critical for momentum when making the first sales and going from 0mph to 1mph
- No outside investment need, it’s too much of a pain to deal with investors when you’re getting going.
- My number goal is simply to not being bored
- The second goal is building really cool sh%t.
- I love the feeling when you put something in front of someone and ask them to buy it. I don’t want to be a consultant or investor, because they lack this rush. I need to be on the front lines.
- Currently, consulting is ok, however, I’d like to build something myself. I want to get excited enough about a product that I can put all my chips into. I recently spent a lot of time thinking why this was so important and it has nothing to do with ownership, but of honing a skill set and pride. It would be like a apprentice carpenter then never became a master carpenter.
Potential areas of opportunity:
- Cleanweb. Whatever this buzz word means. You could also look at it as tech that’s focusing on energy issues, or the overlap of IT and physical products to increase their performance. The only type of these opportunities I would look at are things that can tested cheaply, I’m not interested in dealing with the VC stuff. Running HeatSpring and getting good at customer acquisition, internet marketing, managing sales funnels I’m confident that I’d be able to work with tech companies focusing on cleantech. Also, I have intimiate knowledge of EPC contractor, distributors and manufacturers and strong technical knowledge of many technologies. The issue with ‘cleanweb’ seems to be 1) cutting through the bs of buzzword world and 2) figuring out how to charge money for a service
- Customer acquisition is a huge issue. There a lot of lead gen companies, BUT leads are not valuable. SIGNED CONTRACTS ARE VALUEABLE. 1Bog did this well, but not well enough and they were just sold to an Ontario company. To acquire a solar customer for a typicall EPC costs between $3k and $6k, so the question is, how much is a signed contract worth? $3k?
- Import. Some of the geothermal heat pump manufactures are charging an arm and leg for their equipment. I could get it in China for much cheaper.
- Real Estate: Provide equity and cash flow. You can buy a 3 unit apartment building relatively easily, lump the utilities into the rent and upgrade the energy system = vastly increase net operating income. Also, the tax benefits of owning property almost equal the downpayment for the building within the first 7 years.
Principles that I’m keeping in the back of my mind
- Continue to save massive amount of cash, and as much as you can. Forgoing weekends drinking and going on trips is worth it. Then, when you find an opportunity, you’ll have an extra $10k or $20k to plow into the idea and you don’t need to convince anyone for cash.
- Put yourself where it’s slippery. Continue to keep your ear to the ground to learn what’s going on and create real relationships with awesome people and help them with whatever they’re working on. Why? When you need to really get something done, you need to be able to make personal phone calls to make sh%t happen ASAP. Never network, don’t throw business cards around and try to seem super important.
Flaws in my thinking
- Right now, I can tell that I’m trying to make sure that plan 1 works even though I know that most business end up on plan 5 before they hit their stride. Here’s the rub, they can’t get to plan 5, before going through the first 4 paths.
I’m curious, where are you confident investing your money, time and resources within cleantech?
December 8th, 2011
NYC GLD Meetup: How can we Create Profitable, Easy to Test, and Cash Flow Positive Businesses Focused on Cleantech?NEW YORK -
The renewable energy and cleantech industries need to be making more money. This might seem like a simple observation, but I don’t think it’s talked about as much as it should be within our industry. I certainly do not hear it enough.
In order to help facilitate this process, I’m creating a meetup in NYC for entrepreneurs looking to build companies and make money in the renewable energy industry. Read below for the backstory, meetup details, types of opportunities we’re look at and the types of individuals who will be at the meetup.
May 25th, 2011BOSTONNEW YORK -
There are two great events happening tomorrow in Boston and NYC.
In New York City, Clean Energy Connections along with NYC ACRE will be hosting the “Value of a Negawatt: Startups & The Energy Efficiency Boom”. Tickets can be on the Clean Energy Connections homepage.
More details on both events below.