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Powering cleantech innovation: Earth Capital’s Jim Totty previews Cleantech Innovate 2019’s energy entrepreneurs

From a pool of over 120 entries, six finalists in Energy will be presenting their game-changing businesses on the morning of 30th April at Cleantech Innovate 2019. Jim Totty, Managing Partner at Earth Capital and a member of the Selection Committee, gives us a taste of what to expect from this pitching session.

Electrical storage is one of the most key components of a clean and sustainable future, and lithium-ion batteries have taken a leading position in this market in recent years. However, lithium-ion is far from providing a complete solution. Safety issues have arisen as the envelope of the technology has been pushed to its limits. Lithium and cobalt chemistries have major supply-chain issues with adverse environmental and social impacts. Grid infrastructure and incumbent generators are facing significant customer pain through intermittent renewables and there are massive issues coming over the next 10-20 years in providing electrical storage in the right places and at the right times for electric vehicle charging.

There are also many unanswered questions with lithium-ion technology. Can lithium-ion get below $100/kWh in cost? Can it provide solutions on time scales of many hours, or even up to days or weeks? Can degradation become better understood, and can battery management systems solve lifetime issues? Can parasitic loads and round-trip efficiencies be improved?

New innovations are now addressing these unmet market needs, and we are welcoming three exciting businesses to pitch their energy storage technologies at Cleantech Innovate. Innovative alternative chemistries such as grid-scale rechargeable copper zinc from Cumulus Energy Storage offer economic and long-timescale solutions. RFC Power have developed cutting-edge new flow batteries using manganese which can dramatically decrease costs. OXTO Energy have developed novel mechanical flywheels which offer low operating costs with no degradation over 25 years and high round-trip efficiency. We are looking forward to hearing Cumulus Energy Storage, RFC Power and OXTO Energy pitch their innovative storage technologies.

In solar PV, there have been incredible advances in the last few years with prices falling over 70% since 2010. However, there are still many challenges and opportunities for the industry. Although around 1000 watts per square metre of solar irradiance falls on the ground, many solar cells harvest barely 20% of this. Not all of the spectrum can be harvested by a simple cell, and fundamental efficiency limits can limit improvements. Upfront fixed costs and long-term degradation impact the economics.

Silicon cells represent over 90% of the solar market and delivering high efficiency at low cost in silicon is the ultimate challenge in PV. Two disruptive PV technologies are pitching in the Energy session. One exciting approach from Lambda Stretch is to modify the spectrum to help silicon generate more power. Another impressive innovation by Oxford PV improves efficiency with a low-cost tandem cell using a second active perovskite PV layer. Lambda Stretch and Oxford PV will be presenting their innovative solutions in the Energy pitch at Cleantech Innovate.

With climate change, it’s time to stop talking, and start doing. The prospect of 4 degrees of global warming is unthinkable. Yet again David Attenborough highlights the devastation that is to come through sea-level rise, water and food shortages, and storm damage. Dumping CO2 in the atmosphere is no longer an option.

Technologies that offer a commercially economic route to CO2 reduction are needed urgently. One exciting approach developed by Origen uses a novel combination of existing technologies to turn taxable waste dilute CO2 emissions from lime manufacturing into valuable pure stream CO2 which can be used (in fizzy drinks), fixed (in aggregates and novel polymers) or stored as a solution to climate change. This game-changing innovation from Origen completes our line-up for the Energy pitch.

 

We’re looking forward to hearing all our energy finalists pitch on April 30th at Cleantech Innovate 2019 – we look forward to seeing you there!