Energy crisis: a driver of change
The energy crisis is on everyone’s lips. As a result of the recent armed conflict, there is more talk than ever about energy dependence and valuable alternatives. In the meanwhile, we are reaching price records, affecting our day-to-day life.
There are several positions on how to solve the problems of energy dependence:
- Exploring new routes for the arrival of gas from other countries including the reopening of coal-fired power plants.
- Promoting the use of nuclear energy, despite the debate between those who are in favor of its use and those who are against it for security and environmental reasons.
- Improving renewables and its efficiency.
Good news is that at the end of April 2022 one of the most populated urban centers on the planet, the state of California, managed to practically supply its energy demand exclusively with renewable energies for one hour. Although this milestone was achieved during low consumption hours, it is still a great advance for the supply of large population areas.
Cities have the appropriate infrastructure for the use of renewable energy, but what about the most isolated places? What happens when conditions are not easy, or the necessary infrastructure is not available? That is when innovation takes the lead to develop options for the energy transition worldwide.
After technology scouting with our platform InnoScout we have detected the following 10 startups leading the energy transition:
The Sun as a source of energy
Renewable energies are receiving all the attention.The Swiss startup Power-blox focuses on solar energy by offering the possibility to install a small number of solar panels connected to a battery (lead or lithium ion) with a total weight of 20 kg. Each cube provides 200 Watt of alternating current that can supply electricity to a household or small commercial business. It allows you to combine the best of a solar home system with the power of a mini-grid.
Polar Development, a Spanish startup from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program of the Carlos III University Science Park, has designed the Polargreen solution: an innovative approach to portable solutions. It offers mobile solar energy with products that are adapted to different cases: from a suitcase for low power applications (200 W to 1000 W) to a trailer for humanitarian emergencies or natural disasters with everything that’s necessary to obtain solar energy. It even develops small movable solar parks for larger energy needs. These solutions don’t require any previous knowledge so that’s a plus too.
Harness the energy of the wind
Portable renewable energy alternatives based on wind power are also being developed. An example of this is Uprise Energy, with the first portable air turbine capable of generating 10kW. It is easy to transport and can be towed by almost any vehicle. In under an hour, one person can set it up and power up to 15 average US homes, villages, factories, farms, military installations and off-grid commercial operations.
Besides ecological and humanitarian reasons, there is another application for portable renewable energy devices: adventure. Aurea Technologies has designed the Shine Turbine, a portable turbine that fits in your backpack and provides energy solutions while outdoors. It generates energy for charging devices such as mobile phones or GPS in an eco-friendly way.
Biomass as an alternative
Near our Spanish headquarters, a pioneering project was developed to obtain thermal and electrical energy from local biomass in isolated places. The project, Pyrogaz, was an initiative of Genesal Energy in collaboration with Norvento. The efforts are focused on searching an alternative when the revenue from selling forest residues to biomass power plants are not enough because the nearest plant is far away. Using InnoScout tool we can easily find articles that show how portable biomass energy generation may help rural communities.
The energy transition to debate
Transitioning to greener energies is at the core of stopping climate change. New alternative fuels and innovative processes such as the one developed by Prometheus Fuels, based on extracting CO2 and turning into gasoline are helping.
So are renewable energies, which play a major role although there are still some issues to solve. Besides high costs and political pressures, the impact of the plants themselves is not always carbon zero. Then there is the climate dependent imbalance between supply and demand, with makes energy storage essential.
Using Linknovate we can see how the results of the query “renewable energy storage” focus largely on the topic “ion batteries”. Still, ion batteries are not the definite solution. They require expensive materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium, and they don’t last that long.
The most common solutions are pumped hydro (moving water to and from two reservoirs at different heights) and thermal storage (storing energy in the form of heat) but most recently startups are using gravity storage (excess energy will move a weight up and energy will be released when lowering the weight down).
New options are being developed by fast growing startups. Most recently, Energy Dome, an Italian startup focused on long duration energy storage, completed its bridge funding with $11 M. Their technology uses CO2 as a fluid to store energy cost effectively in a closed thermodynamic process within a dome.
Besides the 10 startups already mentioned helping with the energy transition, there is the EU-funded HYFLEXPOWER project that is also currently working on storage solutions with less environmental impact. Their aim is to develop and control the first power plant to convert electricity to hydrogen and back to electricity on an industrial scale, thereby facilitating its storage. This project is expected to be completed in 2024 and may mark a before and after in the application of renewable energies.
Scouting for innovation is essential if you want to follow the energy transition. Contact us for a demo if you still don’t know how to.