Growing Green: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cleantech Innovation in San Diego


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solar and renewable energy projects. “AB 811 allows cities to create a special assessment on properties that can pay for solar or other projects,” says Chirazi. The legislation is still in the process of being implemented, allowing more homes to go solar, and more jobs to be created.

—The Eco Investment Club is a membership-based group that offers a forum for entrepreneurs and investors seeking a ROI from the green economy. Members meet twice a month in San Diego and there is a growing online presence with members around the world. Yeves Perez, the CEO of Eco Investment Network International, the parent company, says the club’s “ClimateChangers” designation, recognizes “businesspeople who have demonstrated an eagerness to reduce carbon emissions in their industry of practice, and the knowledge and creativity to achieve that goal.”

—The San Diego Green Business Network helps cleantech entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed through networking and education. Another local green networking group, Green Drinks, is an international network of informal gatherings that is intended to bring together people from the local green business community to talk, have a drink, exchange ideas, and do some professional networking. People who are interested in the monthly meeting can email them at to join.

—The UC San Diego Sustainability Solutions Institute (SSI), led by Lisa Shaffer, seeks to encourage sustainability as part of campus projects on water use, energy efficiency in buildings, and facilitating technology transfer from campus to the private sector. In their efforts related to water use, the SSI is looking at the impact of climate change, individual behavior, economics, and marketing to sell conservation rather than water consumption. They have workshops looking for solutions to water resource issues in Africa and the Himalayas, and are working on campus to explore the feasibility of becoming “water neutral” using conservation, water production, or whatever other technologies can help accomplish this goal.

The Future

“There is a fantastic opportunity to coordinate efforts,” says Heather Shepard, a partner in Wiser Ventures, a business services firm that works with entrepreneurs and socially responsible small and medium-sized businesses. “A lot of education still needs to happen, and better coordination can help to make it happen faster. The challenge is to come together to make green mainstream.”

The great number of groups involved and their passionate commitment does not always readily translate into solid action. With so many groups working and often moving in different directions, effective collaboration will continue to be one of the keys to realizing the potential of this field. The developing cluster of green groups and cleantech companies has come a long way, but there are still massive opportunities as the challenges ahead with our environment are as pressing as ever.

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Robert Noble is the founder, chairman, and CEO of San Diego-based Envision Solar International, Inc. and Chairs the California Center for Sustainable Energy. He is an architect, environmental designer, industrial designer and environmental technology entrepreneur. Follow @

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