24 June 2013

Is NYC's Climate Resiliency Plan Too Shortsighted? Geophysicist Klaus Jacob Thinks So

"We have to have a long term view to create meaningful short term solutions," so says Klaus Jacob, research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Jacob warned of New York's vulnerabilities to severe storm flooding long before Sandy and has emerged as a central figure in discussions about post-Sandy New York City.

In an interview with City Atlas, Klaus Jacob talks about flood risks, managed retreat, and taking a long-term view on resilience design. Read more about Jacob's response to NYC's new Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency report here.

New York City's plan, "A Stronger, More Resilient New York," contains actionable recommendations for rebuilding communities in the wake of Sandy, as well as increasing the resilience of the city's infrastructure. It can be downloaded here. 

Jacob feels that some of the recommendations in the report are dangerously unsustainable because they’re based on short-term assumptions, making climate adaptation even more difficult for future generations. The uncertainty in long-term projections should be actively considered to build a New York that can respond to a range of future scenarios.

"I’m not making any projections what NYC will look like in 50, 100, 200 years," Jacob imparts. "But I don’t want to create solutions now that I know will not survive for those time horizons. That's all I'm saying. Future generations will have to deal with their own problems. But we should not create liabilities now for them." 

Here's the video interview from TheCityAtlas.org:

21 June 2013

Tesla's Elon Musk Shows Why Electric Cars Are the Future, Today

Last night in Los Angeles, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, Inc, staged a brilliant show in an attempt to convince skeptics of electric vehicles that charging, or in this case swapping, EV batteries is easier than filling your gas tank.

He did it by simultaneously swapping the battery of a Tesla Model S car on stage, while a colleague filled his Audi at the fastest gas station in LA, which pumps at 10 gallons per minute, according to Musk.

The comparison was shown on screen via remote video feed with a timer running overhead.

Not only did the gas-powered car take longer than one battery swap, but two, as Musk rolled out a second Model S and swapped its battery well before the Audi's tank was full and the transaction completed.

Musk failed to mention that the swap was also less expensive than the gas filling, but he probably didn't want to rub it in.

It was a brilliant piece of showmanship, which is causing some to refer to Musk as the new Steve Jobs.

Here is the video. Watch it all the way through and watch it again, if you still have any doubts.


19 June 2013

Cleantech In Da House (Brooklyn's House, That Is)

NYU-Poly's MetroTech Campus
“Brooklyn is in the House” or Cleantech is in Brooklyn's House, I should say.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and New York University’s Polytechnic Institute (NYU-Poly) announced yesterday they will open a 10,000-square-foot cleantech incubator in 15 MetroTech in downtown Brooklyn.

There’s room for 20 cleantech startups in the incubator, including those focusing on energy efficiency and technologies that enhance New York City’s resilience in the face of climate change.

Last fall’s Superstorm Sandy helped focus the city’s attention on where the gaps are in its own ability to weather such storms, and heightened awareness about technologies that can mitigate such impacts, as well as reduce the causes.

Downtown Brooklyn is becoming something of a hub for the tech economy across the river from Manhattan with its Silicon Alley. The area even has a new moniker: “Brooklyn Tech Triangle.”

"Harnessing NYC's leadership in data and information technology, local entrepreneurs are developing new business models and technologies to help solve global urban problems, from energy efficiency to climate adaptation," David Gilford, assistant director of NYCEDC, told me via email.

NYU-Poly and NYCEDC already operate a cleantech incubator, New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy (NYC ACRE), which I’ve written about before on The Green Skeptic.

The new space will have room for more cleantech startups, including those in manufacturing, as well as cleanweb.

"We're really excited about this next phase of our growth, and the opportunity to work with great partners like NYCEDC, NYSERDA, Con Edison, National Grid and others," said NYU-Poly's innovation and entrepreneurship director Micah Kotch. "There are massive challenges to be solved around climate and energy, and we want to empower entrepreneurs to be part of the solution.

The doors of the NYC Clean Technology Entrepreneur Center will open in the fall of 2013.

18 June 2013

With Artisan Exchange, Collaborative Economy Meets Specialty Foods Movement

Co-working works well for techies, freelancers, and artists -- why not for small food businesses?

That's what Frank Baldassarre and Artisan Exchange are trying to answer out in their West Chester, PA, manufacturing and distribution center.

Frank, Green Skeptic readers will recall, was the idea man behind e3bank, which wanted to be the first triple bottom line bank in the country.

When e3bank ran straight into the collapsing economy, a market weary of banking, and socially responsible investors without any capital, Frank had to pivot.

Frank Baldassarre's a survivor. As a banker, he's lived through the S&L crisis, the dot-com bubble, and the latest market downturn.

"I've seen these cycles before," he told me last Friday during a tour of his new venture. "And I really believe we're starting to see signs of real recovery."

Frank's wife and brother-in-law run Golden Valley Farms Coffee Roasters, which owned a 27,000-square-foot building where it housed its coffee service products and supplies. (Golden Valley has offices and roasting facilities at one end of the building.)

"Basically, the bulk of our facility was full of paper cups, lids, straws, stirrers, and stuff like that," Frank said. "You have to sell a lot of paper cups that have little or no margin to make enough to cover overhead."

Increasingly, the company focused on its core competency, Frank offered, "importing, roasting and distributing world class Fair Trade, organic coffee and shade-grown coffees."

At first, Frank tried to lease or sell the extra warehouse space, but there wasn't much call for light manufacturing in the region and there were no buyers for such a large space.

Frank and his family like to eat locally, healthy, and well; a combination that had them running around to specialty shop in the region.

Simultaneously, Frank began to wonder how all these food manufacturers with specialty, small batch products were able to survive. Many were working out of their homes, isolated and alone, and didn't have access to the commercial facilities that would make their business scalable.

With the expansion of the slow, local, and organic specialty food market, Frank hit upon an idea. He had an empty space; the market had a need. Why not combine the two?

Thus Artisan Exchange was born.

Dividing the space into 120-square-foot "blocks," Artisan Exchange rents the spaces to small-scale, individual food manufacturers -- from heirloom cakes to hot sauces, from cheese spreads to bake-at-home pizza and gelati -- providing the entrepreneurs access to a centralized, commercial-grade sanitation facility, shared retail space in the form of a year-round weekly market, and the kind of collaborative,"you're not alone" atmosphere that co-working spaces engender.

In addition, Artisan Exchange collectively markets the tenants under their own banner, which helps attract customers to the weekly marketplace at the site and makes advertising more affordable for the individual businesses. Artisan Exchange is exploring cooperative buying for supplies and materials the entrepreneurs need to create their products.

A year ago, Artisan Exchange opened its doors to its first member-tenants. Now, with one of the original tenants, a pasta maker, having outgrown its walls, the space is almost fully subscribed. There are plans for a brewpub, as well as a full commercial kitchen, and that's only the beginning.

Frank Baldassarre solved Golden Valley's real estate problem with an entreprenuerial solution that provides an affordable environment for entrepreneurs committed to producing hand-crafted, sustainable foods.

Now, that's a delicious idea.

For more of the flavor of Artisan Exchange, check out this video from WCTV: