Pundits Predict Cleantech Boom Despite Recession

Tony Perkins is bullish about the future of green technologies. (Photo: JD Lasica [CC by 2.0]/Flickr)

California has been home to many a gold rush, and with each one has come to a landmark achievement in technology -- railroads, film projection, personal computing, and then the Internet. But multimillionaire and financial pundit Tony Perkins sees a coming boom that will surpass all others in terms of scope and breadth — the coming Clean-tech Revolution.

Why so big? Ask the 600 or so entrepreneurs, engineers and venture capitalists who attended Octobers’s GoingGreen conference in Silicon Valley, and you’ll hear a lot about the “remaking” of the world. It sounds big, and it is. Every previous revolution (trains, silicon, computers, the internet) has added something to a foundational infrastructure of building, power generation, transportation and communication. Now imagine remaking that very infrastructure itself.

This is why, despite the fact that just a few thousand miles away Wall Street was literally falling to pieces, everyone here seemed pretty happy. “We are the farthest spot in America from Wall Street, and it’s a good place to be right now,” said Tony Perkins. Perkins, who both invented the word “bubble” and also predicted the popping of said phenomenon in his bestseller “The Internet Bubble,” sees Clean-tech as an entirely new and potentially much larger field for growth. “We predict that in 3-5 years, the green area is going to be bigger than the IT area.”

The goal and opportunity, as Perkins put it, “...is about challenging ways that almost everything can be done. Can we do this cheaper, cleaner, less toxic, more efficiently?”

From “biofuels to building materials” an explosion in capital has matched an explosion in technology, a perfect boom storm that will more than likely carry us out of the coming “Great Recession” (as the weapons/aviation industry carried us out of the Great Depression). But this time, it will not only mean financial growth but the increased health (and safety) of the planet and its inhabitants. So its a compound value proposition: built into the formula is a self-fulfilling prophecy of increased growth that is sustainable, in every sense of the world.

This explains all the big money guys. For decades California has hosted green festivals showcasing “alternative” technology. Now, as we collectively come to realize there really are no alternatives if our planet is to survive, and that in fact there is quite a lot of money to be made helping people to save resources, the large funds have moved in.

Kleiner Perkins, whose Greentech Initiative is headed up by Al Gore, Draper Fisher, Morgan Stanley and many more representing billions in available equity are ready and willing, some would say bullish, to fund companies creating cutting edge technology — companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors (whose plant will open in Silicon Valley) and his SolarCity venture which builds solar infrastructure by leasing solar panels to homeowners. Then there’s Brightsource, a solar company that could put coal out of business, GreenVolts a non-silicon solar company, Aurora Biofuels, Reva compact electric cars designed for the booming Asian markets. The list goes on and on, and so do the business plans.

Raj Alturu, who heads up Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s green fund, says when he started in 2001 he had just a handful of business plans to look at. Now he has thousands, and the numbers grow each day. “No question, this is really the new new thing.”