May 26, 2005

Forefront of modern energy sources

Green technologies represent opportunity for NorCal companies

Sentinel staff writer

FELTON — In crisis lie the seeds of opportunity, and the country’s current energy situation illustrates that concept.

That was the message from two leaders in the solar energy field who spoke at a luncheon Wednesday hosted by the Monterey Bay International Trade Association of Santa Cruz, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting small to mid-sized businesses in the global marketplace.

About 35 people involved or interested in sustainable energy gathered for the luncheon at Don Quixote’s Mexican restaurant in Felton. The speakers were Ron Swenson of Santa Cruz’s SolarQuest and Reinhold Ziegler of Synergy California L.P. in Sausalito, and they discussed so-called green technologies, California’s position in the growing global eco-energy industry, challenges and opportunities for solar energy in emerging markets, research and development, manufacturing and global marketing.

Organizers arranged the luncheon mainly because they felt that California companies, especially Northern California firms, are competitive in green technologies.

"We have cutting-edge kinds of things that other countries are looking for," said Tony Livoti, president of the Monterey Bay International Trade Association. "Whether it’s licensing the technology or exporting the product, we have a lot of opportunity in those areas. It’s a very good area for companies in our region to compete."

Swenson said the world has reached its peak of oil production, and measures need to be taken swiftly to conserve or find alternative sources of energy, or suffer the consequences.

Americans, Swenson said, "use one-quarter of the world’s oil. We consume our body weight in oil every week."

Silicon Valley represents an interesting situation in the field of energy, Swenson said.

"If you think of solar energy, Silicon Valley has a key potential because silicon is the basis for solar power," he said. "We’re in a place to do something about this."

For Ziegler, the 9/11 terrorist attacks illustrated the need for the country to hasten development of sustainable technologies to remove reliance on oil, enhance life and protect the planet.

However, said Ziegler, the current administration is not interested in promoting new green technologies, though California leadership has embraced them and the field is hot in Europe and China.

"There’s a great challenge going on in the Republican era, and we need to get together, see what is ready to go and put some money into it," he said.

Synergy California has new turbines, systems and programs in place, said Ziegler, and the company even recently received an order for solar equipment from the new Iraqi government.

"Green technologies is no longer a technological problem," he said. "Our biggest problem is how to get the projects financed."

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