by Josh Gould
| March 18th 2011
As the many attendees of our recent Cleantech Forum know, the buzz around cleantech for quite some time has been about the convergence of cleantech and data. All kinds of people – myself included – have described (using adjectives) all the ways in which this will be the next major cleantech wave. But I wanted to use this post to drop some of the adjectives, and focus on the verbs (the doing).
At our forum, I hosted three panel discussions – each of which touched on specific actions in integrating data into cleantech:
1. Intelligent Buildings
“Version 1.0″ of the intelligent building was about swapping out old, inefficient light fixtures and HVAC systems for newer, more efficient ones. Certainly 1.0 still has a long ways to go but lighting controls and software companies like Lumenergi, efficiency consulting and implementation firms like Ecos, and traditional HVAC companies like Trane are all increasingly shifting their focus to managing and optimizing data around energy building use, rather than just providing more efficient devices.
2. Financing Energy Efficiency
Traditional energy efficiency financing is based on the ESCO model. While certainly a profitable business for companies like Johnson Controls, this model has …
by Josh Gould
| November 30th 2010
In energy storage, most start ups either focus on building a better battery (see A123 Systems or Boston Power), or innovating on the materials themselves (see Nanosys). Yet Newark, CA-based start up Qnovo is taking a different approach.
Instead of building batteries or creating new materials, Qnovo intends to help customers get the most out of batteries through electronics. Though the company is a bit hesitant to discuss the product and technology in great detail, co-founder and CEO Nadim Maluf described the product as focusing solely on electronics. It fits between the materials science approach to batteries (e.g., new/better materials) and the traditional electrical engineering approach, which focuses on the voltage source and power management. In short, though Qnovo claims to understand the chemistry of a battery cell very well, it targets the electrochemistry using only electronic controls. The result is battery operational improvements.
The market trends and needs Qnovo are addressing are almost as interesting as the company itself. Lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous in the fast-growing mobile computing segment (think smart PDA, laptops, tablets). But as the market for batteries is growing, it’s also changing. Consumers increasingly demand longer battery life, but also want devices that are …
by Josh Gould
| September 9th 2010
Energy storage for the grid has been referred to as something of a “game changer” for integrating intermittent sources of renewable energy – such as wind or solar – onto the grid. If done properly, energy stored when these sources are producing energy could be discharged when users demand it – even if the source is not producing energy at that moment.
But if you ask utility executives about grid-scale energy storage options available today, it’s likely you’ll hear a response indicating that they are unimpressed with their current choices. Many have remarked that – in some cases – there isn’t a solid business case justifying the investment necessary to site, build, and interconnect a grid-scale storage solution. Or that it’s hard to predict operations and maintenance costs over a long period for (what can be) relatively new technologies. Or that there can be major permitting obstacles. Or that they struggle to choose from a bewildering range of electrochemical solutions that seemingly span the entire periodic table. And this is not to mention mechanical, thermal or electrical solutions like compressed air energy storage (CAES), ice storage, or capacitors.
Given these challenges, why bother with grid-scale storage at all? Is it …