Rooftop falcon-cams and electric-car chargers on streetlights may sound like things out of the future, but for the city of San Jose, California, the future is now.
[From my post originally published at Red, Green, and Blue] Okay, I'll admit it. Having grown up on the East Coast, for much of my life all I knew of San Jose was that Dionne Warwick apparently didn't know how to get back there.
But take one look at the LEED Platinum-certified City Hall; the Falcom-Cam that keeps watch of once-endangered Peregrine Falcons that now nest annually on the building's roof, and; the electric car charging station across the street, and you'll get a peak into the future of urban sustainability.
The thing about San Jose, Mayor Chuck Reed said to me during a phone call we had last week, is that "innovation just happens" happens in the Silicon Valley. Obviously not every city has the advantage of such a robust technologically innovative base, but like any other city, the hard part, explained Reed, is implementing policies to facilitate the development of that innovation.
Electric car-charging networks and regional sustainability
For example, said Reed, the technology exists to put electric car charging stations on light posts all across town, but because street lights are metered differently than other loads, and the metering infrastructure is owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, the current institutional infrastructure would not be able to account for the energy used, even though the technical component of converting those streetlights is not the sticking point.
But building an electric vehicle infrastructure is something that is creeping ahead despite the bureaucratic hurdles it faces. San Jose's four vehicle charging stations are open to the public through Coulomb Technologies' ChargePoint Network. Coupled with the new installations at San Francisco City Hall and similar efforts in Oakland, the region is forging ahead as an electric vehicle hub.
For San Jose, converting 100 percent of public fleet vehicles to run on alternative fuels and electric vehicles is part of the city's 10-point "Green Vision", a 15 year plan of action, including such laudable environmental goals as reducing per capita energy use by 50%; switching to 100% clean renewable energy; recycling or reusing 100% of wastewater, and; creating 25,000 new jobs in the clean tech sector alone.
Part of the economic engine needed to achieve the aforementioned job growth in the clean tech sector is helping entrepreneurs move their ideas from the back of a cocktail napkin to the front page of the business section. Enter: The Clean Tech Open.
Spawning Clean Tech
Expanding to the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions this year, the Clean Tech Open is a contest that awards early stage clean tech businesses with critical support in their formative years. Early stage startups are invited to enter in six competition categories: renewable energy, transportation, smart power, energy efficiency, green building, and air/water/waste management.
In addition to the recognition/exposure, regional winners are awarded with packages that include: $50,000 cash, office space, legal services, accounting, insurance, public relations, recruiting, software, and other business essentials. Regional winners are also now entered into the national competition with an even larger purse.
"We've seen some exciting products and companies come out of the Clean Tech Open in previous years," said Reed, citing the company GreenVolts and their concentrating solar photovoltaic technology as an example of how a company can take the spoils of winning the Clean Tech Open and really springboard into the marketplace.
Some argue that the key to creating a sustainable future on this planet will be found in developments in urban sustainability. How can hundreds of thousands or millions of people live, work, and play in such a confined space without having a collective footprint that spreads well beyond the city limits? San Jose believes it has found some of those answers, but certainly not all.
And as for those Perergrine Falcons that have nested on the roof? Mayor Reed told me that the pair of adults is watching over four eggs, so he is hopeful.