We achieve this by fostering collaborations across the private-public-academic landscape, leading advocacy efforts to promote cleantech priorities, and encouraging investment in the San Diego region.
Cleantech San Diego’s membership includes more than 100 local businesses, universities, governments, and nonprofits committed to advancing sustainable solutions for benefit of the economy and the environment.
Since the start in 2007, what has been accomplished within Cleantech San Diego?
Eight years since our founding, we now have 120 private, public, and academic member organizations from across the greater San Diego region supporting our mission. In addition, the San Diego region’s list of cleantech companies has grown from 125 to over 800. Throughout the years we have worked with our members and partners to position San Diego as a leader in the cleantech economy.
Last year San Diego was named the #4 metro region for cleantech leadership in the country. We are the #2 city in the nation for solar installations. We have 18,000 electric vehicles on our roads and more than 900 public charging stations. Furthermore, We are home to the top programs in the nation for algae biofuel research and top companies working in commercialization of biorenewables. We are also fortunate to have access to progressive municipalities, universities, and the military, all committed to advancing cleantech innovations. Our stakeholders clearly view cleantech and sustainability solutions as exciting business opportunities, and the citizens are continuing to demand those solutions.
"Last year San Diego was named the #4 metro region for cleantech leadership in the country. We are the #2 city in the nation for solar installations. We have 18,000 electric vehicles on our roads and more than 900 public charging stations"
What kind of projects does Cleantech San Diego currently work with?
Cleantech San Diego is involved in a variety of public-private initiatives ranging from helping secure Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) funds for energy upgrades at San Diego schools, preparing local cleantech startups for market entry through our SCRUB program, and advancing the adoption of electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the region.
Additionally, there is a great deal of interest in our Smart Cities San Diego initiative, which is bringing exciting new energy- and cost-saving technologies from companies like Intel, Dell, OSIsoft, and Black & Veatch to landmark locations such as the Port of San Diego, the City of Chula Vista, and the San Diego International Airport. These high-profile cleantech deployments will continue to advance San Diego's position as a global smart city leader.
You are also the executive director of the Cleantech San Diego Education Foundation – tell us more about that! And what kind of projects you work with!
The Cleantech Education Foundation is designed to develop education and workforce development programs aligned with the mission of Cleantech San Diego. The EDGE Initiative – which stands for Educating and Developing workers for the Green Economy – is a great example of this kind of work.
Since 2010 a consortium of local groups have been training biofuel workers at UC San Diego and MiraCosta College with a $4-million grant from the state’s Department of Labor under the EDGE Initiative. The grant involves the work of a number of local public and private partners, including Cleantech San Diego, BIOCOM, BIOCOM Institute, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation, California Center for Algae Biotechnology (Cal-CAB), UC San Diego, UC San Diego Extension, San Diego State University, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and MiraCosta College. At UC San Diego Extension, over 166 students have enrolled in the EDGE Biofuels Certificate Program and more than 70 certificates had been earned as of last year.
What are your 3 best tips on being climate smart in a big city like San Diego?
In the easiest way possible, for someone who is not so familiar with clean technology, describe what Mining and Fracking Eco Solutions actually do.
Mining & Fracking Eco Solutions use a process called the KNeW process. The KNeW process is a desalination process that converts the salts found in brackish groundwater into fertilizers. The sale of the produced fertilizers offsets the cost of desalination and leaves a reasonable profit. The fact that the KNeW process is not reliant on the sale water, we are able to supply water to the Agriculture market at competitive prices.
What problem is Mining and Fracking Eco Solutions trying to fix/reduce?
All current inland desalination process produces a brine concentrate. The brine concentrate is toxic to the environment and needs to be managed at great expense. The KNeW process does not produce concentrated brine.
Why is Mining and Fracking Eco Solutions a game changer?
The main fertilizer produced by the KNeW process is pure potassium nitrate (KNO3). Potassium nitrate is used in the horticulture industry with an annual market of over 2 million tons per year. All potassium nitrate is imported into the USA and Europe. Two manufacturers control over 80% of the market because the nitrate concentrates needed for the production of potassium nitrate occur naturally in abundance in only two regions of the world (Chile and Israel). The KNeW process now allows for the manufacture of potassium nitrate whereever there is brackish groundwater.
Tell us more about the company’s next steps and projects.
We have a proof of scalability plant located in South Africa. This 10,000 gallon a day facility is currently producing fertilizers (potassium nitrate & Ammonium sulfate) from water that has over 33,000 part per million of salts. We are building a second plant (30,000 gallons per day) for third party verification in the USA. This plant will be located on Federal land at the Bureau of Reclamation’s research facility located in Alamogordo New Mexico. The facility known as the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF). New Mexico State University (Prof Pei Xu) will also be party to the verification of the KNeW process.
This is the second part of the interview with Jacques Chirazi, speaker and moderator at the Green Connections 2015. You can find part one here and Mr. Chirazi's presentation here.
Why is it important to talk about clean technology and having events like the Green Connections?
The topic clean technology is very popular and there are a lot of clean technology conferences and events in San Diego. What is however interesting with SACC San Diego’s Green Connections is that it connects businesses from two different markets – the Swedish and Southern California markets. Many of the Swedish companies are interested to expand their businesses out Sweden by entering new markets like the US. These types of networking events help bridge the gap between two different countries and help foster new business relationships.
If somebody from Sweden is ready to expand in the US it is important that they don’t think only about Silicon Valley, L.A., New York or Boston. San Diego is a great entry point to the US economy. I think that people don’t realize that San Diego is the second largest city in California with the lowest costs of doing business in the State of California.
Hopefully, it should go both ways. I would love to see American companies wanting to go to Sweden and learn about the Swedish market. Sweden could potentially be an entryway to the European market. Usually, American companies start by expanding in the UK because of the similar language and culture.
Why do you think that that is? That American clean technology companies don’t go to Sweden?
I think it is as simple as that the language is a barrier, but then again, Sweden has a high level of proficiency in English compared to other European countries. It could also be the lack of awareness. I think that the average person lack of awareness about the incredible cleantech innovations taking place in Stockholm and Gothenburg for examples. The Swedish government has been very progressive on how to address subject concerning sustainability, mobility and developing smart cities in general.
What do you think Southern Californians could learn from Sweden when it comes to clean technology?
It’s a hard question to answer but Sweden is good at developing innovative sustainable policies. Sweden has impactful national policies that affect all the regions and cities in Sweden. Southern California could learn how to implement innovative policies that could benefit all the stakeholders in the economy.
Another thing we could learn more about is how Swedish cities (public sector) are more willing to take more risks. There are a lot of innovative projects going on in Swedish cities. Some projects could on the onset sound a little daunting but could be very successful if it is carried out successfully. The Swedish cities have an appetite for well-evaluated risk – something I think many American cities could learn from.
The other way around then, what do you think Swedes could learn from Southern California and San Diego when it comes to clean technology?
Possibly the way startups finance their projects. Here in the US, especially in California, you could raise capital quite easily whereas in Sweden it is not that easy.
The difference with the US and many other European countries is the level of risk and appetite of risk in the private sector. American entrepreneurs can fail two, three or five times and they will always rise up again. Failure is not something that will hold you back. Eventually, after your fifth failure, you will be very successful and the failures before that will fade away. On the contrary, I think that the idea of failing in many European countries is seen as something bad. Europeans in the private sector are more conservative of how to treat risk and therefore not willing to take the leap. That could be something Swedes could learn about the private sector of Southern California.
Last but not lest, our two questions we ask all our speakers:
If you could make a change in the world towards sustainability, what would that be? (2-4 sentences)
I would address water. Water is essential to life on earth . The way we treat water, conserve water, essentially we need to develop new ways to clean, treat and transport water that is cost effective.
What are your three best tips on being climate smart in a big city as San Diego?
1. Fully use all the mobility options. Bike share, car share, mass transit system, etc.
2. Look through your consumption habits.
3. Start getting consciousness about your water consumption and usage. This is not only about water for direct consumption but also ‘process water’, the water that is used for producing something like a pair of jeans or a computer processor.
Get your tickets for Green Connections here.
Mr. Chirazi is involved in a number of projects and has managed electric car share programs in the City of San Diego, such as the City’s car share program and is also responsible for building infrastructure for electric vehicle throughout the city, such as charging stations. A couple weeks ago we had the chance to sit down with him to talk about clean technology, the city of San Diego and Green Connections. This is the first out of two parts interview with Mr. Chirazi.
The City of San Diego's Cleantech Initative started in 2007, what have been accomplished in the city and the region since then?
Since the program was launched the city has seen great results. The interest for clean technology has grown around different entities in and around the city and many want to collaborate in cleantech projects. The cleantech industry itself has grown, from a few hundred companies to close to 500. Thanks to this growth, the city has been successful in getting on with projects, such as the Solar-to-EV (Electric Vehicle) project in Balboa Park. It was a one-of-a-kind project, the only one in the US, where we created a solar EV structure in the parking lot outside the zoo that would store solar energy and where electric vehicles could been charged. A very successful project that has been replicated since then.
My colleague Cody Hooven, Sustainability Manager is working on a climate action plan where she is looking at how the city could reduce its green house gas emissions, transportation, waste, etc. The target is extensive and the plan is currently being reviewed. This climate action plan will allow more opportunities for investment in solar, waste reduction technology, etc., - something all cleantech companies will benefit from.
"If we could reduce the operation costs we currently have, by making savings in water and power and thus potentially reducing waste, then we really are able to funnel the money back to City services and programs"
What is the long-term goal with this initiative?
The long-term goal is to continue embracing this emerging cleantech sector to grow. San Diego is known for being an innovation economy with sectors such as robotics and cyberspace, and we want to support the cleantech sectors growth and help it attract more investment and companies coming to the San Diego region.
San Diego is a smart city and we want to embrace technology that will help make the city more efficient and sustainable. For example, we want to make it easier for companies to come up with ideas and solutions to make the city smarter. With access to City open data, companies could potentially come up with software solutions and, or, apps that could help the improve services for the city. For instance, we have not had a lot of rain because there has been a four-year drought. However, next year we are most likely to have a pretty strong El Niño and expect significant precipitation and/or storm surge, which could lead to potential wastewater spills. Having a system that could detect the water spills early on would be valuable to the city.
In what ways is San Diego a smart city today, according to you?
The City of San Diego is doing a ton of innovative things that people are not aware of. There are many developments when it comes to solar energy, how we use wastewater and generate power. For example, the City of San Diego is doing big things when it comes to water management. We have the Pure Water San Diego Program that is about recycling our own water here in Southern California rather than importing water from Northern U.S. Another good example is also how the port and the airport are really progressive and how they are going to the next step to improve the infrastructure.
If we could reduce the operation costs we currently have, by making savings in water and power and thus potentially reducing waste, then we really are able to funnel the money back to City services and programs.
To read part 2 click here.