I popped into a university fair about energy technologies in Berkeley yesterday and was struck by just how many brilliant ideas and how much interest there was from students in it as a sector. Just a few of the things I didn’t really know about before last night were:
- High altitude wind turbines — as you walked in you could help but notice a Makani carbon fibre wing with turbines on it that acts as a kite, flying 250 metres up and generating electricity. The reason is simple — there’s a lot more wind at 250 metres up than there is at ground level. The kite can land itself if the wind drops or gets too strong.
- Energy storage devices — there were quite a few ways of turning electricity into stored capacity without using chemical batteries. My favourite version of this is actually one I’ve seen in the UK where electricity is used to liquify air and then the air is allowed to re-gasify when you need it to drive a turbine.
- Solar concentrator technologies — the big solar arrays apparently use molten salt but there was a company that had developed another material that is more efficient and less corrosive. There were also a number of systems using lenses and mirrors to concentrate the sun on photovoltaics or solar water heaters.
- Energy reclaim devices — there seem to be lots of technologies around now for reclaiming waste energy, either from heat or vibrations. Very interesting.
And then there were tens of different ways of making energy use more efficient. I’ve written before that I think efficiency is probably the best investment at the moment (hence our investments in Gnergy and Homely for BGV) but it was great to see so many inventions that are trying to get generation and storage right as well.