Conferences and Fairs

The Magic of the Bioneers

bioneers logo 2Prior to 2012 I did not know of the Bioneers organization; didn’t even know they existed. I came across their website and signed up for their newsletter. After reading and pondering what they had to say, I convinced myself that this was a very interesting and meaningful organization and there was probably more than meets the eye. And was I ever right. I signed up and attended their 25th Anniversary Bioneers Summit Conference. It was held near the civic center complex in San Rafael, California. It was a nice drive there and I leisurely stopped along the way taking lots of pictures.

drummingThe conference opened with the drumbeats of Deb Lane and Afia Walking Tree; accomplished and talented percussionists. That brought most of the attendees in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium out of their seats moving to their magic beats. It reminded me of events I was part of in my college days. Looking around I saw youngsters, oldsters, people of all different races, people from nearby, and people who travelled across the U.S. and from across the oceans to attend. As each day unfolded, I was in awe at the magic taking place before my eyes. The organizers had something for everybody to get involved with on each day of the event.


ken ninaThe founders, Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel, followed with their keynote addresses. Ken had some positive comments on the renewable energy efforts going on in California as well as some stories related to women’s roles throughout history, capitalism and corporate evils, and indigenous people. Ken said that “the 60’s are going to look like the 50’s”. Wow, think about that one! He followed that with “the stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones”. Nina threw an idea out to the audience that the reason our brains became bigger was to allow for greater social interaction. Bioneers was founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico by Nina and Kenny. It is written that it is an innovative nonprofit organization that brings together social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. Being at this event was like being in a candy store. There were all these innovators to interact with and I had to figure out which ones I wanted to spend my time with!

The core of the Summit Conference was the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday events. Each day would start with a four hour series of Keynote addresses and performances followed by an afternoon full of tantalizing interactive sessions. Every speaker, every performance, and every session was incredibly rich in content urging us on to be a good steward of this earth, respect all that is living, and protect it for future generations.

A crowd favorite was mycologist Paul Stamets. His talk on “How Mushrooms Can Help Us Survive Extinction 6x” brought the house to a standing ovation. Paul gave an update on his patents and efforts to bring to use non-toxic fungi to control termites and other pests. This cheap (under a dollar) control can replace the two thousand dollar method that current pest control companies use. We are talking about a natural remedy versus one backed by corporate chemical companies.

Paul presented dramatic evidence on the important relationship of fungi and the health of bees. The bees visit rotting logs to harvest material produced by various fungi. This fungi gains entry into the logs through the bear scratches on the logs. By eating the fungi byproducts, the bee’s immune system is upgraded to be able to survive viral and mite attacks. Fungicide use is interfering with this process and bee colonies are collapsing. There you go; another example of the interconnections within the web of life.

Severine V T Fleming , Director of Greenhorns, provided us with a really entertaining talk about supporting new farmers and why it is important to get back to the basics. 40% of the terrestrial land is agriculture. Commodity farming is destroying the earth.

The effect of capitalism and corporate greed on the earth’s climate was highlighted by Naomi Klein; Canadian Journalist, Activist, and Author of This Changes Everything. Naomi emphasized that an economy built on the consumption of fossil fuels is bad for the earth and humanity. She has been encouraged that many local fights are morphing into global principals.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, Organizer for Idle No More, Co-Director of the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign of the Polaris Institute, shared an idea he hopes we will follow; don’t ask what kind of earth we are going to leave our children but ask how we are going to raise our children to help the earth.

The crowd was inspired by the stories shared by John Warner about Green Chemistry. John Warner, CTO of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, and co-founder of The Beyond Benign Foundation, was very convincing when he told us that industrial chemistry confuses our cells. Companies use extreme pressure and heat and forced reactive collisions to create chemicals that do not naturally exist. Nature does not do this. Nature pretty much uses room temperature and pressure! We need to go down the path of biomimicry using nature’s models and time tested patterns for our own living. Survival of the most compatible and not the strongest will prevail. Did you know that solar panels can be made with water, sugar, and berries?

Robin Kimmerer, professor of Environmental Science and Forestry at State Univ. of NY, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, provided some guidance as to how we should interact with our earth and the living things around us. It is called the Honorable Harvest. Never take the first one. Listen for the answer. Ask permission. Take only what you need. Minimize harm. Use everything that you take. Be Grateful. Share it with others. Reciprocate the gift. Take only that which is given to you. She reminded us that it is not the land which is broken, but our relationship to the land. Her thoughts come from Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of the Grass.

Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, founders of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in SF, Ca. shared many personal stories related to Glide and how they have been involved with social change. They emphasized that at Glide you will be in the company of unconditional love and radical inclusiveness. “Beyond the Possible” is Cecil William’s book.

There were numerous sessions covering many aspects of technology, water, sustainable farming, green chemistry, climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy, solar, social change, eco governance, philanthropy, capitalism and corporations, fungi, indigenous people, and community action. To get more information on these well covered topics, I encourage you to visit  where you will find links to presenter bios and program content.

poetreeDuring the conference we had the pleasure of interacting with many performers. Climbing Poetree is a very powerful duo (Alixa Garcia & Naima Penniman) that mixes spoken word poetry, hip-hop, and other forms of artistic media to tell stories of humanity and community challenges. Everybody looked forward to when the last morning presenter was done. That was the time when “Slam Poet Harvester” Tim Merry would come out and do his thing. While the morning presenters were speaking or performing, Tim was busy composing a poem which would highlight the thoughts of the presenters. He enthusiastically put his whole body and voice into delivering his creation which put everybody into a fun mood to get ready for lunch. The Bioneers 2014 Summit Conference was the most inspiring conference I have had the pleasure of attending. Plan to go next year and I will see you there.



About the Author

rod kirk pic smallerRod Kirk, a San Francisco Bay area native, has held various Electrical Engineering positions in numerous companies in the areas of data storage, networks, and motion control. He has a degree from San Jose State University and an Energy Management certificate from De Anza College. Rod is currently providing Technical Writing services for cleantech, green, and emerging companies.






Intersolar N. America 2014 Day 3 Exhibit Highlights

intersolar 2014 logoI always enjoy attending the Intersolar Exhibition. The product and technology demos on display are very diverse and there are always some good “take aways”. I will share with you some things I observed while attending Day 3.

This year, similar to past years, the three floors of the San Francisco Moscone West Hall were organized by the various areas within the Solar landscape.  On Level 1 there were PV Cells, Modules & Systems, PV Manufacturing Equipment, and PV Materials & Components. Level 2 was full of companies dealing with Energy Storage, Balance of Systems, and Solar Heating & Cooling Technologies. Level 3 topped off the exhibition with miscellaneous PV components and items related to Mounting & Tracking. This year was the seventh annual occurrence of this event. The exhibition floor space seemed to be a bit smaller than last year.


Energy Storage

There were several stages with continuous presentations going on. Stage 1 was dedicated to Energy Storage. ViZn Energy Company presented their micro-grid scale energy storage technology. Their Z20 building block is named as such for the Zinc chemistry it uses in its Flow Battery and the 20 foot standard shipping container that it is housed in. The highlights of their product are:


vizn pic       *   Reliable/safe Zn/Fe chemistry       *   25% savings over conventional battery storage

       *   Abundant materials                      *   Used on the grid for peak shaving, load shifting, islanding

       *   Recyclable                                   *   20 year service life


An interesting data point that Ron Van Dell, President/CEO of ViZn Energy Systems, Inc. US, brought up was that in Q1 of 2014, 76% of new energy was derived from solar.


varta logoVarta Storage, GmbH, presented information on their Lithium-Ion battery based storage systems (Engion) which target residential and small commercial installations and which are made to complement solar energy systems. Bill Flanagan, President/CEO of VARTA  Microbattery, Inc., suggested the four key drivers which make these type of products attractive includes the desire for less oil usage, hesitancy of using nuclear power, natural gas volatility, and the increasing occurrence of natural disasters. He also pointed out that 51% of the renewable energy production is owned by the citizens or farmers and not the energy companies. How do other countries compare? 


sonnen picThe third energy storage presentation I attended was presented by Boris von Bormann, Country Manager USA, Sonnenbatterie GmbH.  Their Comfort product line, like the previous products, is aimed at residential and commercial installations. The core of the product utilizes Lithium-Ion battery technology with intelligent control. They can provide 15 ms maximum switching time to make the stored energy available.

These three companies are aiming to satisfy the demand for energy storage which is complementary with solar power generation, decentralization of the grid, less reliance on the utility companies, and the desire to reduce fossil fuel usage.



It seems the number of software tools displayed this year was less than last year. Nevertheless, there were some interesting ones to be found. 

solar census logoSolar Census was demonstrating their remote solar shading assessment tool named Surveyor. Using this online tool, much of the shading data that would require a technician to physically roam the install site, can be obtained remotely. Solar Census is working with NREL and is part of the DOE’s SunShot Incubator program. This collaboration has verified that the methods employed produce results that are statistically equivalent to the results obtained using Solmetric SunEye devices onsite.

So what does this buy you? Lower customer acquisition costs; it costs less to gather the background PV system site data remotely than it does to send a technician out to climb on the roof. 

faz 1 picFaze-1 has created some online tools that assist with front end customer interaction. Their Sunview tool provides geographical based data to identify high value prospective PV customers and factors in name, site suitability, credit score, owner/rental, and utility rate & territory (ie..Big Data).



SolarTAC (Technology Acceleration Center) is the largest solar technology test facility in the United Sates. Located in Aurora Colorado on 74 acres, SolarTAC provides an important setting for companies with solar technology products to do research, development, testing, collaboration, and refine their products prior to commercial introduction.

solartac logoThe temperature at this facility can be at both extremes so it is ideal for real world environmental testing. The site is large enough to support the testing of such products as CSP and other large form factor solar products. SolarTAC is managed and operated by MRIGlobal which also operates labs for the DOE and is also a partner in NREL.

  Security and Safety

There were quite a few companies displaying interconnect products for controlling the connection between grids or between various parts of installations. Some of these products were quite large and capable of handling considerable current. 

viasys logoViasys Solar Secure is a company which has created a very robust video alarm system to protect solar plants and installations. In a nutshell, it monitors the video capture and detects changes between samples and makes intelligent decisions based on proprietary algorithms. In this way it can intelligently pick out events happening and determine if it they are a real threat. This system is supposed to be easily integrated into SCADA infrastructure which is a core part of the Smart Grid. 




For more information on Intersolar North America, please visit: To download the PDF click here.

More information about the products highlighted above can be found at the following locations.

ViZn Energy -

Varta Storage -

Sonnenbatterie GmbH -

Solar Census -

Faze-1 -

SolarTAC -

Viasys -


About the Author

Rod Kirk 2Rod Kirk, a San Francisco Bay area native, has held various Electrical Engineering positions in numerous companies in the areas of data storage, networks, and motion control. He has a degree from San Jose State University and an Energy Management certificate from De Anza College. Rod is currently providing Technical Writing services for cleantech and green companies as well as creating media content for the EcoGreen Group of Silicon Valley.

 meetup logo new 5
  • 2018 Cleantech Open Acceleration Program

    2018 Cleantech Open Acceleration Program

    The Cleantech Open is ramping up their 2018 acceleration program here in the West. As in each of the past few years, their application deadline is on May 1. Click on the link to find out more about this exciting program. This may be your opportunity to make things happen! Read More
  • Are Cryptocurrencies Such As Bitcoin Sustainable?

    Are Cryptocurrencies Such As Bitcoin Sustainable?

    We are looking into the issue of whether or not cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are sustainable. As of this writing, the jury is still out. It is very controversial and many people do not want to touch them with a ten foot pole! Take a look at the presentation which has some good references to start your investigation. Read More
  • Shelkie Tao says -

    Shelkie Tao says - "Turn Your Garden Into A Water Efficient Garden!"

    Contact us to help you save water, get design inspiration for your garden, or connect with a landscaper. We are here to help you get the water efficient garden you have always wanted and need! Read More
  • Water Saver product now available at Home Depot!

    Water Saver product now available at Home Depot!

    Learn about a great product that provides for more efficient usage of water in the landscape. The Water Saver product is now available at Home Depot. Click on the title link above to learn more about the product and where to get it! Read More
  • Advertise In This Space! - Get Your Message To More People - Contact Us For More Information

    Advertise In This Space! - Get Your Message To More People - Contact Us For More Information

  • Santa Clara Agrihood Community Support Needed!

    Santa Clara Agrihood Community Support Needed!

    The Agrihood Project, which is destined to be located right near the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and Winchester in Santa Clara needs your help to ensure the project proceeds in the right direction! Please read on and get involved! Read More
  • SCVWD WaterFix/Delta Tunnels Workshop on June 21, 2016!

    SCVWD WaterFix/Delta Tunnels Workshop on June 21, 2016!

    This is going to be an important meeting. If you cannot show up to vocalize your opposition to the WaterFix/Delta Tunnels Plan, then you can send in your comments to be read out load. Join us! Read More
  • 1

Our Partners

  • SVTAGS +

    Silicon Valley - Technology, Art, Green and Sustainability Read More
  • Simple Home Energy +

    Energy efficiency does not have to be complicated Read More
  • CSix Connect +

    Networking opportunities for people in transition Read More
  • Cleantech Open +

    Providing cleantech opportunities in business Read More
  • eve - Electric Vehicle Entrepreneurs +

    Bringing eve owners together Read More
  • 1

hap logo

HAP is doing a good job of informing the community on pesticide hazards.
Follow HAP and become involved with eliminating hazardous pesticides.