50%

of electricity

in california should come from clean energy by 2030

The Obama Administration’s initiative to combat climate change targeted a 32% reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions on the baseline year (2005) by 2030. The best way to achieve that goal is to make greater use of green energy and although the Obama plan has now been called into question by the current US President, who favours continued use of traditional CO2-emitting fuels such as coal, a number of US states have nevertheless set more ambitious goals and intend to stick at them whatever it takes. California is one of these, aiming to generate fully 50% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2030, a goal that, according to a number of scientists, can be reached easily. The President of the California State Senate recently even proposed going further. He wants 100% of the state’s electricity to be based on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, by 2045. California can certainly count on a number of startups to help achieve this environmental improvement: companies in the water, energy and recycling fields have come up with innovative clean solutions. Below is a brief overview of startups offering promising CleanTech solutions.

How recycling helps sustainable smart cities

A few years ago, San Francisco became the model city for zero waste, based on a hierarchical approach which means first and foremost preventing waste, then reusing and reducing waste, followed in order of preference by recycling or composting materials. The Golden Gate City has thus set itself the goal of becoming 100% zero waste by 2020. Some young companies have drawn inspiration from this concept to create innovative new approaches. Smarter Sorting, a startup that took part in SXSW, has – as its name implies – developed a smart solution for sorting waste, in particular household cleaning products. The Austin, Texas-based company aims to help cities make large savings with its sorting centre technology. Its software is designed to enable household cleaning products and containers that have been thrown away to be sent on to firms that are able to make good use of them. A robot reads the product barcode and reviews the chemical composition so as to determine the applicable rules and potential uses of any given product.

A Smarter sorting for A  sustainable smart city 

A sustainable smart city start at home

Smart Sorting

Close to 1/3 of all food produced worldwide is thrown away or wasted

Published figures indicate that incinerating waste containing chemical substances today costs local authorities in the United States $1.4 billion. Reducing the amount of waste will help both to reduce that bill, protect the environment and safeguard public health. Given that the problem of waste is (at the very least) a national issue, there is a very large market for this kind of solution, which should mean a bright future for Smarter Sorting’s. A number of pilot tests are being run in the United States, and a country-wide launch is planned for the month of August. A different kind of recycling technology has been developed by Boston-based Spoiler Alert. This startup’s goal is to prevent food waste. And there is plenty of work to do, given that today close to a third of all food produced worldwide is thrown away or wasted, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute. Food loss and waste costs the world about $940 billion a year, says UNEP.

Water, fire, sun… controlling the elements to create a green smart city

One solar panel to power them all!

Sharing solar panels inside a community

Californians are devoted fans of solar energy. According to the US Energy Information Administration, for several hours on 11 May half of all electricity consumed in the state came from solar energy. This is an important milestone on the road to 100% use of solar power. According to non-profit cleantech company Solstice Initiative, close to 90 million US households cannot take advantage of solar power today, because they rent their homes, they do not have the means to install the equipment, or the sun does not strike their roof. These are the people the startup is focusing on. The solution is a solar panel shared by the community. Solstice Initiative - who was finalists at the SXSW pitch contest - will find an organisation to host solar panels and share the benefits with people living in the vicinity – for example a school, a workplace or a religious centre. Solstice manages the solar garden and provides a link with the power supply company so that everyone can benefit.

The sun is a source of energy but may sometimes cause fires in times of drought, as California knows very well. Fire can have a disastrous effect on forests and also produces large quantities of greenhouse gases. In order to prevent such disasters, the founder of Austin, Texas-based fire-retardant product manufacturer Miraculum has developed a miracle product. The startup – which also pitched at SXSW – has developed an aerosol which can be used either proactively, to prevent combustion, or reactively to extinguish fires that break out. In contrast with Miraculum’s direct competitors, its product carries certification stating that it is environmentally friendly. The startup has filed a patent and is awaiting the decision. In any case, the demonstration on stage looked conclusive. Another key aspect when it comes to safeguarding the environment is water. Sedona, Arizona-based Crystal Clear Technologies, which specializes in water treatment – especially runoff from power stations – takes an approach based on imitating nature. The startup has set out to develop affordable technology to eliminate chemical and biological contaminants, especially heavy metals, from water. Crystal Clear’s solution is based on prawn and crab shells which filter the water. CEO Ron Epperson estimates the total value of the market at $2billion a year.


These technologies, which aim to preserve the environment, really seem to have a future in a tech-based smart city. In fact, when we talk about smart cities, there is really no need to add the word ‘sustainable’: it should go without saying.

By Sophia Qadiri
Journaliste