Smart Grid

January 16, 2013

Google and Yahoo Help Plant the Smart Energy 'SEEDZ' of the Future

Joint Venture Silicon Valley—including members Applied Materials (News - Alert), Electric Power Research Institute, PG&E, Google, Juniper Networks, Yahoo, and the cities of Sunnyvale and Mountain View—has launched a public-private partnership to develop a Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone (SEEDZ) in Northern California that it envisions to be the nation’s most advanced commercial power network.

Originally established in 1993 as the Silicon Valley Network, the not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization provides analysis and action on issues such as climate change, sustainable buildings, disaster preparedness and wireless communications that affect the region's economy and quality of life.

Now, the regional development think tank is centering its efforts on Moffett Federal Airfield— an 8.25-square-mile zone that encompasses parts of North Mountain View and North Sunnyvale—which will become a shared testing ground for cutting-edge cleantech solutions.

Both of the peninsula cities and their utilities will participate.

The initiative encompasses a portfolio of essential smart energy elements. These include practices, standards and technologies for efficiency, renewable energy, grid performance and business model integration.

To lead the initiative, Joint Venture has appointed Don Bray, a veteran player in systems integration and clean technology solutions for the enterprise market, as executive director. Bray cofounded AltaTerra Research of San Jose, a market research and consulting firm focused on clean technology solutions for the enterprise marketplace.

Prior to AltaTerra, Don spent 23 years with the business and technology consulting firm Accenture (News - Alert), serving as a managing partner in Silicon Valley.

"Smart energy matters to the world, and uniquely so in Silicon Valley," said Joint Venture president and CEO, Russell Hancock. "It promises essential long-term economic and environmental benefits. For many reasons, Silicon Valley sits at the heart of the emerging ‘nexus’ [among] energy, electronics and information technology, and sustainability. Until now, there [has been] no such large-scale collaboration in Silicon Valley. That's why Joint Venture has undertaken this important project."

Image via Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Specifically, in this initiative, Hancock clarified, the group is trying to accomplish two things: “First, we’re trying to reduce Silicon Valley’s carbon footprint. The second is we’re trying to promote Silicon Valley as the answer to this problem.”

Under the SEEDZ initiative, the Joint Venture hopes to have renewable energy sources—solar, fuel cells, and biogas—in operation by 2020. Together with electric car charging stations and analytics to ensure efficient energy usage, Hancock described the future system to the Silicon Valley Business Journal as “maybe the world’s most integrated example of a smart grid.”

About 300 businesses are located in the zone, requiring an estimated 175 megawatts (MW) to 200 MW of power. Once up and running, the goal is for the tech companies to test new energy solutions and establish best practices that can be used in other markets as well.

Bray said the program will begin with initial investments from Joint Venture and the companies participating, and funding for specific assets like solar panels will “come from the utilities and other public sources, primarily.”

PG&E (News - Alert) alone has allocated about $1 billion for smart grid improvements in the areas it serves by 2020.

Hancock said the project is especially important because energy needs look likely to keep increasing for prosperous tech companies.

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Edited by Braden Becker