Clean Tech Event Recap



Lisa Ann Pinkerton moderated a rousing discussion on various clean tech topics last night. Engagement was high and a variety of interesting questions were fielded by the panel. A selection of take-aways is provided below. This list is not comprehensive and any omissions are unintentional.

From Virginia Klausmeier, CEO and Founder of Sylvatex, we heard about the challenges of engaging in paradigm shift in the fossil fuels arena through the use of nanotechnology. Making fossil fuels cleaner and more efficient is an interim but important step due to the challenges inherent in winding down our dependence on this type of energy generation. She spoke about the challenges involved in dealing with a male-centric arena and exemplified how engendering dialogue with opposition can be fruitful in catalyzing change.

From Teresa Zhang, Sr Manager, Global Design and Engineering at SunEdison, we learned about the advantages and challenges of working as a woman in a technical field. She suggested:

  • Don’t be shy about networking, particularly with other women. Seeing familiar faces frequently helps you feel like an insider even if you don’t fit the mold of an insider.
  • There are different ways of standing up for women. Sometimes, you have to trade off actively fighting inequity and quietly disproving prejudices by doing your best work.
  • Evaluate partners and employers carefully for a culture of inclusivity. Not only can you allocate more energy to doing your best work, gender equality can be a proxy for other very desirable attributes.

Teresa also spoke about the incredible trajectory of renewables to date, and how she expects to see a much more global, equitable, and efficient energy future in 10-20 years.

Karen Zelmar, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs at PG&E spoke about PG&E’s learning curve and the passion inside the organization to work with clean tech innovators as they strive to develop new approaches and policies for managing energy sustainability initiatives along with cleaner power generation and grid evolution. She also touched on the currently evolving “Grid of Things” paradigm.

Nicole Bambino, Associate, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, conjectured that as part of the burgeoning decentralization of energy generation, 3rd world countries will likely skip the complications of developing a traditional energy power grid and jump to renewables (similar to mobile phone adoption).

Finally, Nancy E. Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners shared a great deal of insights from her experience funding clean tech companies:

  • Although the media focuses on the “big advances” in clean tech and renewables, it is important to pay attention to incremental improvements in existing infrastructure. Micro-steps are still steps in the right direction.
  • Tesla Motors has proven that “Green can be sexy.”
  • Carbon use pricing might be the most proactive way to change current behaviors with regard to energy/resource usage
  • In response to a question regarding the fact that the renewable energy sector is not 100% environmentally benign although much better than fossil fuels, Nancy pointed out that “Renewables, like women, are always held to a higher standard.” (best quote of the evening, imho)
  • While it is tempting to be impatient about the sustainability adoption curve, continuing outreach and education is the best

She also provided tips for managing your role as a woman in tech. All of these ideas were expressed in various ways by all of the panelists:

  • Ignore the subconscious bias if/where it exists
  • Stay professional and focus on what you want to accomplish
  • A strong sense of self allows you to deflect conflict

In conclusion, the event was a huge success. The feedback from attendees has been incredibly positive. Thanks to all who participated and see you at the next Tech Women’s Program!

Robin Fisher, Take Flight Graphics~
Tech Women Marketing Director


Moderator: Lisa Ann Pinkerton, Founder of San Francisco’s Women in Cleantech and Sustainability

Lisa Ann Pinkerton is founder of San Francisco’s Women In Cleantech & Sustainability, as well as Founder and President of Technica Communications. She’s an award-winning former NPR and PBS journalist.

Nancy E. Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners
Nancy Pfund is Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. Ms. Pfund currently sponsors or sits on the board of directors of several companies, including; SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY) on both the audit and compensation committees, BrightSource Energy, Primus Power, Eco.logic Brands, and Farmers Business Network, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora Media. Prior to founding DBL, Ms. Pfund was a Managing Director in Venture Capital at JPMorgan, having started her investment career at Hambrecht & Quist in 1984.
Neha Ruikar, Senior Product Development Controls Engineer at Bloom Energy

Neha is a Mechanical Engineer from Purdue University and is currently working on design, development and implementation of Control Systems for Bloom’s Energy Server which uses fuel cell technology for distributed, clean, reliable and affordable power generation. Neha has co-authored several papers on the subject of rate shaping of piezoelectric fuel injectors. She is also named on a provisional patent. Neha was a Cummins-Purdue fellow during her Master’s studies at Purdue. She has over 4 years of research as well as industry experience and loves to volunteer for STEM related activities for high school kids.

Karen Zelmar, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs at PG&E

Before joining PG&E, Karen worked at SunPower to develop lead generation programs for their solar commercial business unit. Prior to that, she worked in product management for the high-technology sector, leading product management and planning organizations for AOL in both Mountain View, CA and Dulles, VA. Karen also directed the development of a suite of online and print mapping products at NAVTEQ. She has a BA from Northwestern and MBA from UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Teresa Zhang, Sr Manager, Global Design and Engineering at SunEdisonTeresa Zhang is an environmentalist, engineer, and expert witness with nine years of experience in solar, encompassing technology assessment, cell and module manufacturing, performance modeling, project due diligence, project finance, and business strategy. Teresa manages the Design and Engineering Innovations Program at SunEdison, the world’s largest developer of renewable energy, and holds degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT (BS) and UC Berkeley (MS, PhD).
Virginia Klausmeier, CEO and Founder of Sylvatex

Sylvatex Inc is currently featured in the New York Times, Fast Company, the Estadao of Sao Paulo, and has been honored at the SVASE Launch, Port Tech LA Expo, and the Clean Tech Open. Virginia was recently named one of the most influential women in biofuels.

Nicole Gambino, Associate, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Nicole Gambino is an associate in the San Francisco office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where she specializes in renewable energy and project finance. Nicole has represented both equity investors and developers in the financing of wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass facilities, utilizing a variety of structures. She also represents investors in new market tax credit transactions. Selected transactions include:

Residential and commercial DG solar portfolio with aggregate investor commitment of approximately $500 million; AES Ilumina Solar PV Facility, the first utility-scale solar PV facility in Puerto Rico; Alta Wind Energy Center, which was the first leveraged lease financing of a wind power project; and Dixie Valley geothermal project.


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