Being Green – Emerging Technologies

Hi Folks:

For this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post I wanted to offer a shout out to a few new (to me at least) emerging technologies.  All three of these have the ‘power’ (pun intended) to change our future.  I don’t often highlight specific companies in my blog posts, but have when I thought it was worth doing so and this is one of those times. 

In no particular order:

The first is a Canadian company called ‘Angstrom Power, Inc.‘  Founded in 2001, Angstrom Power uses a thin film fuel cell as a battery replacement for items such as flashlights, cell phones, two-way radios and the like.  Hydrogen is the most common element in the known universe, and hydrogen fuel cells provide high amounts of energy at high efficiency rates.  From their website:

“A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy converter, producing electricity, water vapor and heat from fuel (hydrogen) and airborne oxygen.”

This company came to my attention this week because the Royal BC Museum here in Victoria is using an Angstrom Power system on a test basis.  Given the ubiquitous use of small batteries for electronics in the world today, this sounds like a great idea to me.

The second is a company that came online earlier this year: Bloom Energy.

“Built with our patented solid oxide fuel cell technology, Bloom’s Energy Server™ is a new class of distributed power generator, producing clean, reliable, affordable electricity at the customer site.

Fuel cells are devices that convert fuel into electricity through a clean electro-chemical process rather than dirty combustion. They are like batteries except that they always run. Our particular type of fuel cell technology is different than legacy “hydrogen” fuel cells in four main ways:

  1. Low cost materials – our cells use a common sand-like powder instead of precious metals like platinum or corrosive materials like acids.
  2. High electrical efficiency – we can convert fuel into electricity at nearly twice the rate of some legacy technologies
  3. Fuel flexibility – our systems are capable of using either renewable or fossil fuels
  4. Reversible – our technology is capable of both energy generation and storage

Each Bloom Energy Server provides 100kW of power, enough to meet the baseload needs of 100 average homes or a small office building… day and night, in roughly the footprint of a standard parking space. For more power simply add more energy servers.”

While not yet available for residential use, Bloom’s Energy Servers have been successfully installed in several commercial locations and are currently undergoing further testing.

Finally, for now, pretty much everyone is aware of solar panels, and glass windows have been in use for a very long time.  In fact, most commercial buidlings being constructed today are huge towers of glass and steel.  How about a transparent solar panel that replaces the windows in the building, cuts thermal heat transfer and UV rays and generates electricity at the same time?  So-called “Building Integrated Photo-Voltaic” panels (BIPVs) have been around for a while, but they’ve had some drawbacks.  For one, their useful life has been shorter than silicon panels, and for another they’ve been less efficient.  A company called Pythagoras Solar has developed a BIPV with these claims:

“Pythagoras Solar delivers the industry’s first transparent, high power Photovoltaic Glass Unit (PVGU), providing ‘Triple Value’ benefits in a standard insulating glass unit (IGU) form factor:

Energy efficiency

  • Extremely low solar heat gain
  • Low U-values
  • Daylighting

Energy generation

  • Highest power density, 4X existing BIPV technologies
  • Cost efficient using sunlight concentration

Aesthetics

  • Highest transparency
  • Choice of colors
  • Modern look
  • Adaptable design
  • Available in skylight, vertical curtain wall, and soon in colored tiles

All of these technologies are still being developed

The PVGU is designed to be an easily integrated component of conventional building construction, accelerating the deployment of cost-effective distributed power generation and advancing the creation of aesthetically-pleasing Net Zero Energy Buildings.”

As I said at the top, all of these technologies are still being developed, and it’s likely within a year or two (perhaps sooner) newer technologies will allow even better designs. Such is the nature of technology; we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. Still, I think these are worth celebrating.

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
Mike.

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P.S. This is a great idea, no matter who you are! Read and Download the MBA Oath: Responsible Value Creation

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