It’s been a busy year for green technology and clean power. From a virus that could power your cell phone to projects in Mississippi to Hawaii that prove renewable energy is coming into its own, 2012 may be remembered as the year that sustainability moved from society’s margins to the mainstream.
Amid all the headlines, only a few developments will actually lead to lasting change. That means real innovation in research, products, business models and marketing strategies to create new opportunities for investment and growth. With that in mind, we present the five most popular stories of 2012, as judged by CleanTechIQ readers.
In Hawaii, “unstable” wind power becomes energy backbone.
Renewable energy sources including wind and solar long have been criticized for their big fluctuations in power generation. But on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui, two projects created by First Wind, a wind energy company, and Xtreme Power, which specializes in energy storage and management, have brought newfound stability to the power grid. Since our story ran in May, Xtreme Power announced a new collaboration with GE Energy Storage to match GE’s long-lasting Durathon battery technology with Xtreme Power’s Xtreme Active Control Technology, which allows for remote monitoring real-time power response.
Power supplier bets that renewable energy will grow as consumers start to choose their own energy source.
NRG Energy is investing in distributed solar, smart meters an the popularization of electric vehicles, believing that together they represent the future of the energy sector. That also means a big marketing and promotion push, including solar panel arrays at NFL stadiums nationwide. NRG purchased GenOn Energy in July for $1.7 billion in stock, creating one of the nation’s largest power generation companies.
Creators of sustainable products market themselves as new and unique. That may be a mistake.
During a panel discussion at this year’s GoGreen conference, leaders of the sustainable products marketer Ogilvy Earth discussed research finding that Americans worry more about fitting in with their friends than breaking new ground.
Since sustainable products are still seen as outside the norm, manufacturers will find more success by dropping their environment-based promotions and appealing to traditional tastes.
Texas company claims first place in plants-to-crude race.
After dozens of competitors tried and failed to turn plants into crude oil, KiOR announced in November that its new factory in Columbus, Mississippi is capable of producing commercial quantities of the fuel. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that in the near future, manufacturers using KiOR’s pyrolysis technique may be able to reduce their production costs to $2 per gallon, making it an effective competitor against traditional petroleum, but concerns remain about the price of feedstocks and natural gas.
From cell phone batteries to grid-sized storage and a new commercialization venture, researchers work tackle the problem of storing electricity.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory had emerged as an international leader in the pursuit of electricity storage, according to panelists at the Cleantech Forum this March. That could lead to the replacement of carbon by more-efficient lithium ion in most batteries. The lab also partnered with the California Clean Energy Fund, a nonprofit fund-of-funds that will allow firms greater access to the lab’s research efforts. In May, the lab announced it had created a virus capable of generating electricity.