Greentown Labs: Helping Entrepreneurs Solve Big Energy Problems
I had the opportunity earlier this month to meet the people behind Greentown Labs and many of the entrepreneurs growing their business ideas at this Boston, MA-based cleantech incubator.
Greentown Labs enables entrepreneurs to create game-changing energy technologies that will transform the way people live, work and play. With a focus on creating new ways of producing and consuming energy, Greentown Labs provides office space, ample resources and funding to help these early-stage companies thrive.
In July, Greentown Labs announced its plans to move in September to Somerville, MA, just 3.5 miles from downtown Boston. The announcement was made at a press event that included Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and other dignitaries including the Massachusetts Secretary for Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan and the Massachusetts Secretary for Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki.
Founder of Greentown Labs Jason Hanna and CEO and Exectuive Director of Greentown Labs Emily Reichert with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick at the press event in July announcing Greentown Labs' new location.
The new building will offer 24,000 sq. ft. of prototyping lab and co-located office space, a shared machine and electronics shop, immersion in a growing community of energy and clean technology entrepreneurs, and on-site events and programs designed to enable start-ups to rapidly grow their networks and companies.
Greentown Labs was the first recipient of a $300,000 working capital loan through Somerville's new one million dollar revolving innovation fund. Greentown Labs also received a $150,000 loan from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
“Two years ago, we were just four startups who needed affordable space to build things. Now we are home to 28 organizations, 100 employees, a 15 company wait list, and a vibrant community that is helping to grow the clean energy ecosystem. All of this has exceeded our expectations in every sense of the word," said Jason Hanna, founder of Greentown Labs.
Also announced at the press event was a $30,000 Greentown Grows crowdfunding campaign to help finance final construction costs. The crowd funding campaign, which ends Sept. 16, already boasts 169 funders and more than $23,000 raised. In addition, Greentown Labs is offering founding sponsorships to companies and partnering organizations that have strategic interests in building the cleantech ecosystem including talent acquisition, deal flow, company formation, and future acquisition and licensing opportunity.
“We are grateful for all the friends, sponsors and partners that have gotten us this far. The Greentown Grows Campaign is one way you can help continue to build this community and give more entrepreneurs a chance to pursue their dreams," said Emily Reichert, CEO and executive director of Greentown Labs.
Greentown Labs is home to more than 25 start-up companies—ranging from those just beginning prototyping to those who have raised a Series A venture round, and span technologies ranging from energy efficiency to transportation to water technology—including:
Altaeros Energies: Developing a breakthrough airborne wind turbine that produces abundant, low-cost, renewable energy. Altaeros turbines are designed for easy mobility and deployment at remote locations.
AMPL Energy: Creating advanced modular power, lighting and energy solutions to help the move to alternative energy sources and micro-generation.
Cleantech Open Northeast Region: The world's oldest accelerator program specifically for cleantech companies, finding, funding and fostering entrepreneurs addressing today's most urgent energy and environmental challenges.
Coincident: Developed a solution to optimize the use of HVAC equipment in residential and commercial settings.
Dirt Power: Developing microbial fuel-cell powered devices (aka dirt batteries) for remote, off-the-grid locations.
Dynamo Micropower: Proprietary low cost, ultra-portable microturbines with applications including oil and gas, portable power generation, and distributed residential and commercial cogeneration.
Energy Compression: Developing safe, green and low-cost energy storage solutions to facilitate microgrid energy management and islanding. Patented technology based on the adsorption of compressed air by zeolite minerals.
Energy Intelligence: Developing the first economical road-based energy harvesting system for use at commercial sites with regular, heavy-load vehicular traffic using an array of proprietary electro-mechanical devices.
Enmojo: An online marketplace that allows homeowners to shop competitively for home energy solutions. With Enmojo, customers receive multiple quotes from qualified local installers and get the best option.
Global Catalysts: A unique project facilitator that unites large clean energy project opportunities in Latin American emerging markets with the cutting edge commercial-ready technologies from the world's innovation hubs.
Helmet Hub: Making helmets more available lowering the barrier to entry for bikeshare users and minimizing need-to-drive vehicles.
Hydrorecovery: Scalable hydrosystem technology transforming waste energy in water pipelines into clean and useful electricity with a payback time of four years or less.
Keystone Tower Systems: Developing a new manufacturing process for wind turbine towers that enables taller, more structurally efficient towers.
NBD Nano: NBD's nano-structured surface treatments result in improved energy efficiency for various applications such as HVAC, desalination, and atmospheric water generation.
Nordic Scientific: Environmentally friendly, highly efficient and stable oxidizing solution for the bleaching, disinfectant, antiseptic and therapeutic markets.
OsComp Systems: Developing a game-changing compression technology capable of efficiently compressing wet gas and multi-phase streams to a magnitude higher compression ratios than existing technologies.
R3 Energy: An energy management consulting firm that brings energy cost saving solutions to building portfolios.
Rise Robotics: Bringing robots to life by making their building blocks better, including FiberBlocks, a new type of spring and power module that stores five times more energy than steel coils or pneumatics.
Save Energy Systems: Provides small to medium sized facilities with a simple, cost effective solution for the intelligent control of multiple HVAC systems, resulting in overall energy savings up to 25 percent without compromising comfort.
Sol Power: Designing and manufacturing solar powered charging stations to provide mobile electronic device users with a free and convenient outdoor charging option while on the go.
SolSolution: Making it extremely easy and financially attractive for schools to adopt solar power, reinvesting funds into low-income schools and educational programming focused on solar energy and STEM education.
Sustainable America: Aiming to reduce U.S. oil consumption while increasing U.S. food production. By raising awareness and supporting innovation, we can effect sustainable change.
Vecarius: Developing an exhaust heat recovery system that generates electricity and reduces fuel consumption and emissions of vehicles by five and 10 percent, achieving hybrid-like benefits at far lower cost.
Visit EcoWatch's RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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