Green Technology in the Private Sector
General Electric Company. (2011). Ecomagination. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from http://www.ecomagination.com/
Screenshot taken November 24, 2011
The Ecomagination website’s expansive provision of General Electric (GE) Company’s reports, press releases, showcase technologies and product portfolios make this site both impressively (and almost dauntingly) informative on current private sector approaches to the adoption and growth of green technologies.
Ecomagination, launched in 2005, is GE’s business strategy for addressing the global need for cleaner sources of energy, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reliable sources of clean water. The strategy’s global and multi-local outlook to seeking technological innovation outside of GE represents the Company’s open and collaborative technological approach towards climate change mitigation. The information available on this site, from the reports detailing GE’s technologically-driven mitigation progress to the showcase prototype technologies that may make a sustainable post-oil world possible, exemplify the realistic capability of the private sector to rapidly redirect resource consumption through its environmental technology research and development. It is important to realize, however, that climate change adaptation in terms of its risks and implications for GE (as opposed to climate change mitigation) is absent from the website’s overall discussion.
It is also interesting to note that, in a thorough read-through of the Ecomagination 2010 Annual Report (available under “Press Releases”), the influence of green technology’s many overarching challenges is present throughout. Despite political uncertainty and lack of supportive public policies, for example, GE states its commitment to continue investment and development in green technologies. It further emphasizes the necessity for green technologies to be efficient, cost-effective and reliable in an increasingly competitive global context. As well, the Company’s global and multi-local outlook is not overlooked from Ecomagination’s scope. An open and multi-national model for collaboration is one of three pillars to GE’s strategy, and is represented in their work with local-level groups and private enterprises in Asia and Latin America.
Although the Company indicates a commitment to addressing local needs in a multi-national outlook, further information on their commitments across the world, and particularly in the Global South, are scarce and difficult to find. Although there is summative information on GE’s activities in countries such as China and Brazil, this information is limited and vague. As a multi-national private company based in the United States, the American focus and pro-corporate bias is unmistakably clear. It is only further exemplified by its clear commitment to job growth in the U.S. and absent evaluation of weaknesses in GE’s operations. Though Ecomagination is nonetheless an informative window into the private sector’s approaches to green technology, its questionable degree of transparency and bias makes this source limited in its objectivity.
Green Technology in the Public Sector – Research
Mok, K. (2010). Harnessing the Wind’s Vibrations for Electricity. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/harnessing-the-winds-vibrations-for-electricity.html
Screenshot taken November 24, 2011
Harnessing the Wind’s Vibrations for Electricity is an article that discusses the work of Cornell University’s Vibro-Wind Research Group and their development of a much smaller-scale energy alternative to wind turbines. This alternative, called the Vibro-Wind prototype (or simply “Vibro-Wind”), is a standing array of foam oscillators that, when moved by gentle winds or breezes, convert their vibrations into stored electricity. The article illustrates the mechanics of piezoelectricity (a form of electricity that enables the transformation of mechanical energy into usable electric power), as well as the premise behind the prototype and its potential implications for the availability of alternative energy to city-dwelling consumers.
The article is featured on Discovery Communications’ child company TreeHugger, and written by one of its writers Kimberley Mok. TreeHugger, a media outlet, hopes to mainstream the discussion of sustainability through its website. Mok, an architecture designer and Cornell University alumni, contributes this article with a primarily promotional view of the Vibro-Wind prototype. Unfortunately, the article discusses many of the potential benefits of small-scale wind energy, with none of its potential weaknesses. The energy conversion efficiency, cost comparisons, and performance data are lacking in the article (most likely because this data is not yet available to the public), thus providing a notably incomprehensive view of the Vibro-Wind prototype. Despite this limitation, the article is a strong informant for the potential and capability of students and research institutions to develop innovative alternative energy solutions for cities. The article most importantly highlights the potential uses of Vibro-Wind and piezoelectricity, including their advantages for capturing wind power in densely populated urban areas with less social and political disruption than its turbine-alternative. Mok also offers further information on the potential for piezoelectricity by pointing to its other manifestations in equally innovative projects, from utilizing crowd energy to individuals’ human motion. Perhaps most impressively, the Vibro-Wind prototype has, since its debut on TreeHugger, captured a spot on the New York Time’s 10th Annual Year in Ideas (2010) and was created into an animated infomercial under the New York Time’s sponsorship.