August 14, 2014

NRG is about to charge everything the light touches.     Photo: Courtesy of Brody Leven/Goal Zero

Goal Zero Gets Gobbled Up by Big Energy

What's next for the maker of portable solar products

One of the country's largest independent energy companies, NRG Energy, just bought Goal Zero, officials announced Thursday. 

The Fortune 250 company is entering the mobile solar business after acquiring the portable solar start-up for an undisclosed sum. Goal Zero makes solar battery packs that can keep your GPS charged from your backpack, in addition to emergency and backcountry generators.

"[Goal Zero] makes really cool solar-driven portable products that anyone with a little bit of cash can afford and will find use for, and it allows us to expand the opportunity of solar," NRG CEO David Crane told the New York Times. "Our ultimate goal is to energize people wherever they are."

Wholesale energy distributors like NRG have struggled due to the growth of distributed generation (using small renewable power sources to make energy on-site) and smart products that help consumers create their own energy. By launching divisions devoted to helping customers do just that, Crane is hoping to get ahead of the competition.

"What Crane is betting on is a more decentralized power system where the company whose wire comes into your home is less important than the one which actually creates your power, which could be done directly or through an equipment lease," TheStreet.com writer Dana Blankenhorn wrote earlier this month.

What does this mean for Goal Zero, the company that grew from humanitarian efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo? With NRG's resources, the company's products might expand beyond the adventure sports and camping niche, says Crane. We could also see its technology find its way into other, bigger applications—like a solar-powered ski gondola that would charge your phone between runs. We can get on board with that.

0 Comments

While SeaWorld reports a slight increase in attendance this year, earnings over last year's second quarter have been a real flop.     Photo: Getty Images/Hemera

SeaWorld Earnings Flop

Blackfish drives down revenue

This is a first for SeaWorld: When releasing its second-quarter earnings report on Wednesday, the company acknowledged that the growing controversy surrounding its treatment of animals could actually be hurting the parks.

Monetarily speaking, SeaWorld expected second-quarter revenue to be $445.3 million but instead came out with $405.2 million—a 1 percent decrease in earnings, despite a meager increase in attendance compared to this time last year. It's not as significant a hit as last quarter, which compared to the previous year suffered an 11 percent decrease in earnings.

Still, the market took note of SeaWorld's continued money troubles; the company's stock fell almost 33 percent Wednesday afternoon. The Wall Street Journal reports that Blackstone Group LP, one of SeaWorld's biggest shareholders, suffered a particularly large money drain, losing about $187 million in value on Wednesday.

Nonmonetarily speaking, a growing number of people and organizations continue to question SeaWorld's practices. Yes, there is Blackfish and all of the fallout from the film. SeaWorld made no mention of the critical documentary in its report but did acknowledge that some negative attention related to its treatment of animals could be to blame for suffering profits. "The company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California," SeaWorld said in a statement, alluding to a bill calling for the review of possible "psychological and physical harm" to orcas in captivity. If it passes, live orca performances will be banned at marine parks in California, with the ultimate goal of phasing out keeping killer whales in captivity there.

Outside's Coverage of the SeaWorld Controversy

The Story of the SeaWorld Death That Started It All
Are SeaWorld's Trainers In Danger? Part 1 and Part 2
SeaWorld's Media Blitz Against Blackfish
Most Recently: SeaWorld and Southwest Part Ways

0 Comments

In 2013, Peter Metcalf was inducted into the American Alpine Club Hall of Fame.     Photo: Center for the Study of Ethics/Flickr

Black Diamond President Peter Metcalf Steps Down

Alpine gear company co-founder replaced by former Gap executive

Peter Metcalf, longtime president of Black Diamond Equipment, has stepped down from his position at the outdoor apparel company.

Zeena Freeman, former Gap senior executive, took over the role of president on Monday, August 11. Metcalf will continue to serve as the CEO and director of Black Diamond. “While we expect Zeena to succeed me as the next CEO of Black Diamond [by June 2015], I intend to remain involved with the business for the long term, both as a director and as a senior executive responsible for public policy and advocacy, as well as playing an integral role with our culture, products, and marketing,” said Metcalf in a press release

Metcalf co-founded Black Diamond in 1989. He oversaw the company’s rise as a global leader in performance equipment by acquiring several other outdoor gear companies over the years, such as Ascension climbing skins, Franklin climbing products, and Bibler tents. He is also known for advocating an active, outdoor lifestyle. In 1991, he relocated his company from Ventura, California, to Salt Lake City, Utah, so employees could train in the Wasatch Mountains. In 2003, he wrote a strong op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening to take the Outdoor Retailer trade show out of Utah unless the state took action in preserving land.

Freeman expressed a desire to maintain the company’s core values. “I’m thrilled to be joining the Black Diamond team,” she said. “These brands offer a unique opportunity, anchored in the authenticity with which they have served the professional and core communities, and in existing and emerging areas such as apparel and personal accessories, to meet the growing, global consumer demand for an athletic, outdoor approach to living one’s life.”

0 Comments

Luckily, tattoo biobatteries do not look like this.     Photo: Shannon Wages/Flickr

Temporary Tattoo Will Charge Your Phone

Runs on lactate

Your brutal gym workouts in the not-too-distant future could power your electronic devices.

In the latest of a series of exciting innovations unveiled at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco, scientists have presented a tattoo biobattery fueled by the lactate present in sweat after intense exercise. 

"Our device is the first to use sweat. It's a proof of concept," said Dr. Wenzhao Jia of at the University of California, San Diego.

"At the moment, the power is not that high—only four microwatts. But we are working on enhancing it so it can power small electronic devices."

The team of researchers initially intended to develop a wearable lactate sensor, which they achieved by building one into temporary-tattoo paper.

"I've worn it myself; you don't even feel it," Jia told BBC News. "It really is like a tattoo." 

Another layer of sophistication was added to the invention when Jia and her colleagues incorporated an enzyme capable of stripping electrons from secreted lactate, which generated a weak electrical current.

Test subjects on exercise bikes were reportedly able to generate up to 70 microwatts per square centimeter of skin. Interestingly, the less fit among them were able to generate more electricity. The simple explanation is that if you're not in such great shape, less activity is required for you to start forming lactate.

"A fit person is going to have to work out much harder to power the battery," Jia explained.

The next step in the process is figuring out a way for this wearable biobattery to generate more electricity, possibly by making the strips more sensitive to lactate.

If all goes according to plan, you will eventually become your own renewable energy source. For better or worse. 

0 Comments

Comments