September 25 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment Year: 2012 Rating: 4
The key word for the cleantech (or alternative energy) world is momentum.
Market conditions change, as do consumer attitudes and expectations. If alternative energy concepts fail to live up to their hype, public support could fade along with political will and policies that enable growth.
Cleantech startups are trying to reach people who are asking ‘What can I do to accelerate changes in energy?’
The formula is relatively straight forward. Consumers buy things so they need to be low cost and easy to use. And moving beyond criticisms of trying to buy or consume ourselves into a greener planet, start ups have to evolve around one of two categories products and services to survive. Today we’ll look briefly at products in home and local power generation.
Local power generation is an area that should see solid growth in the years ahead. Producing 10-20% of our own electricity needs could go a long way in reducing emissions and demand on our electrical grid.
Small scale wind and solar systems are ideal for homes, schools, factories and office buildings looking to reduce their demand on the energy grid.
Small Wind Turbines
Home Energy’s Energy Ball (pictured) is quiet, works at low wind speed, and can generate up to 500 kilowatt-hours per year, or 1,750 kilowatt-hours per year with the larger 2-meter unit.
Solar – Electricity & Hot Water
Consumer targeted solar solutions fall into a few categories – traditional glass (or crystalline) solar panels, ‘thin film’ solar printed on more flexible/durable materials, and solar-water heaters.
Looking at the next five years, many energy entrepreneurs believe that thin-film solar could see significant growth rates as consumers turn to advantages of these low cost solar materials.
Unlike traditional glass-based solar panels, ‘thin film’ solar is printed in more durable and flexible materials. The manufacturing costs are low, but so are the efficiency rates. The upside of thin-film solar is that it can be incorporated into building materials. So it is possible that your next rooftop might be a solar collecting system that is durable and cheap.
Or might they be acquired by more widely recognized appliance and electronics brands such as Sharp, Samsung and GE who might soon enter the thin-film solar market.
The vision is that consumers will soon be able to buy low cost, durable thin-film solar from Home Depot!
Beyond solar and wind? Looking ahead to 2012-17, there are a number of storage and micro power systems (e.g. fuel cells, cleaner burning generators, advanced batteries) that could change the nature of home power generation. We will look more closely at these systems in the weeks ahead.
A Look Ahead
Next week we will look at the future of cleantech services in home power management systems!