Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Interview with Steve Berens, Cleantech Fellows Department Head

Steve Berens is one of the Cleantech Fellows Institute’s invaluable Department Heads, leading the Capstone Project team. We asked Steve to share his thoughts about the program. 

You know the startup and entrepreneur environment very well.  How do you feel about the cleantech startup market given today’s economic pressures?

I'm excited by the amount and variety of unique, market-worthy opportunities currently being considered as part of the cleantech fellows program. I believe the contributing institutions, up-and-down Colorado's front range, have exciting and innovative technologies that can make economic and social impact. Today's economic realities require that each of the Fellows’ technologies be evaluated on their own merits. The Fellows are approaching these opportunities by looking intently at the feasibility of projects that survive without government or grant funding and deliver strong ROI to their customers.

What drew you to the Cleantech Fellows Institute?

I was initially drawn to the Cleantech Fellows Institute by the passion and capability of the founding team. Their commitment and dedication to bringing a strong program to Colorado was evident. I am continuously impressed by their ability to bring a wide variety of clean technologies and real opportunities to Fellows who want to join or expand the cleantech industry in Colorado.  It is exciting to see the progress in the unique opportunities that are being pursued.  It has been an honor to be a part of the team. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Focus on the Fellows: Henry Mouton

With over half of the Cleantech Fellows Institute curriculum completed, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the Fellows and the progress they have made to date.  This first installment of our Focus on the Fellows looks at Henry Mouton, a successful Fort Collins businessman with 26 years of experience in the restaurant industry and a deep passion for sustainability. 

On track for an engineering career in the oil industry, Henry took a class his senior year called “Ethics of Engineering.”  This class illuminated the challenges between the oil companies and the environment and came to be the catalyst in his shift of focus away from traditional energy development and towards environmental stewardship.  The second career-altering event came soon after he graduated, with an invitation from his older twin brothers to move to Colorado to ski for a season and help out at their newly founded Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.  Whether it was the great snow or the Rio’s impressive success, Henry stayed longer than a year, 26 to be precise, becoming the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Sustainability while the Rio grew to 8 locations, employing 575 Coloradans at its peak.  Having recently retired from the Rio, Henry notes only one regret - that he would have devoted even more of his efforts towards corporate sustainability earlier in his career.

The experienced restaurant businessman is now returning to technology, specifically to cleantech.  In this industry, he believes that determination is the key attribute for an individual to succeed and his environmental emphasis is Henry’s main motivator.  “For me, reducing my carbon footprint is critical, so I think that’s the biggest driver for me.  I think that can be my biggest contribution.”  Since being in the Cleantech Fellows Institute program, he views energy efficiency and building technologies as the most promising area in cleantech, short-term, because many of our buildings are at the age where retrofits are needed, regardless of whether clean technologies are integrated or not.  He cites notable examples such as the Empire State Building retrofit, and locally, the Byron Rogers Federal Building retrofit, which the Fellows Institute toured in late October.  In these cases, developers were able to take advantage of new financing strategies and better ROI’s to make energy efficiency plays attractive and economical.  Energy efficiency can also be increased by behavioral modifications, which companies such as Green Button and Tendril emphasize.  

Henry believes the nation is moving in the right direction in terms of accepting cleantech, but wishes the industry wasn’t labeled as a high-risk venture for investors.  He says, “The way I see it is, if it’s a great idea and if you have the right people at the table, then you’re going to end up with a successful company.  So whether it’s cleantech or not, the basic tenets apply.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ampt Creates Solar Energy Leadership Alliance to Improve Solar Energy Economics

At the recent Solar Power International Trade Show last September, Ampt Solar, a Fort Collins-base company, had several significant partnership announcements. Most significant was the launch of an industry alliance to drive down cost of solar:

Ampt has patented technology that enables an inverter to deliver up to twice the power at a higher efficiency than the same inverter operating in a normal mode. Doubling the rated power is equivalent to cutting the cost in cents per watt in half. Ampt’s technology also enables systems to be designed with more PV modules in a series string to save up to fifty percent on DC BOS costs. These savings collectively represent Billions of $s each year that can be eliminated from the cost of PV solar. 

Ampt Converter

"We recognized that our technology is disruptive, but also that it enabled innovation in many areas of the PV system from inverters to PV modules to system design and operation. The opportunity for disruptive cost reduction was bigger than just Ampt, and so we looked for partnerships with other innovators in the industry," said Ampt CEO Levent Gun. "HDPV, or High Definition PV, creates the highest ROI, derived from increased performance and lower cost of PV systems. Better project economics makes financing available to more projects, and removes the most limiting bottleneck for the rapid growth of solar market. This accelerates market growth.  That is the opportunity of HDPV, and, we hope, part of our legacy for the future."

Within the HDPV Alliance, manufacturers of inverters, junction boxes and solar modules as well as monitoring companies will have access to Ampt's technology. As Ampt becomes an integral part of the system architecture, solar developers drive down costs system wide.

The HDPV Alliance generated quite a bit of buzz at the show, with news stories from Green Tech Media and others:

A website and more information about the program is pending. For details about current partners and the alliance, visit