December 22 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: Beyond Rating: 1
To reach a point where our global economy can rely on solar driven energy production, we need to continue making major breakthroughs in fundamantal science.
We still know relatively little about the fundamentals of photosynthesis and how we might replicate the process in materials used to turn energy from the sun into 'clean electrons and molecules'.
Sunlight can be used to capture photons for heat (solar thermal), electricity (photovoltaics) or direct hydrogen production. We are looking at ways of capturing solar energy in silicon and carbon based materials, and also using molecular machines inside of algae and bacteria. We must also find a way to store solar energy efficiently and at a low cost.
List of 11 Solar Energy Breakthroughs in 2008
Hawaii seems ready to stand head to head against California as a leading edge testbed for the new energy economy.
While it might lack the market size, political clout and industrial base of California, Hawaii is building the intellectual captal and policy experience needed to export cleantech around the world.
In the past year Hawaii set in motion some sweeping regulatory changes to manage its electrical grid, and signed an agreement with electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place. Hawaii has established pilot facilities for next generation biofuels, and Lockheed is planning a cutting edge ocean thermal energy conversion plant. The state is also home to a few promising startups involved in materials for fuel cells and solar.
Distributed Solar Power Generation
Now, Honolulu-based Sopogy has announced a 50 MW project in Toledo, Spain in what will be the largest commercial demonstration of its micro-concentration power technology. Sopogy believes that its smaller solar systems offer an easier, more cost effective method for brining clean electricity online.
Videos: How It Works - Sopogy
Next generation energy storage solutions (e.g. batteries, fuel cells, capacitors) continue to gain attention from investors and energy forecasters who see significant growth ahead beyond typical production side investments.
A new report from Lux Research, titled Thin Batteries: Novel Storage Powering Novel Devices, believes that this low cost battery platform could have 'enough juice to grow from a $19 million market in 2008 to a market of over $250 million in 2014.'
The report updates Lux Research's analyses of eight thin battery manufacturers and draws on nine additional interviews with application developers downstream to assemble a comprehensive perspective on thin battery technologies, companies, and markets.
Thin batteries appear to be following a classic 'low end disruption' growth strategy of avoiding direct head to head competition with current 'coin cell' batteries in favor of growing around new applications. Lux describes potential growth across a range of sectors including healthcare (e.g. drug delivery patches), media (e.g. video displays), and information systems (e.g. RFIDs/Sensors)
Lux expects opportunities for investors able to find opportunities in later stage funding rounds but stress the inevitability of shake out in emerging markets. "By 2014, there simply won't be enough space in this market for ten thin battery companies to sustain a healthy business," said Jacob Grose, an Analyst at Lux Research and the report's lead author "Anyone interested in getting a seat at the table will need to identify the winners, and identify them early."