Looking Ahead at 2023 Clean Energy Tech
Many startups have taken up the challenge of designing new technology to make a global transition to net zero easier. Let’s look at four companies whose designs are promising in 2023.
It’s 2023, and climate technology is in!
The opportunities for clean energy technology startups these days seem endless. Between new battery technologies, carbon sequestration plans, and renewable energy ideas, each fresh climate tech idea promises to change the world for the better.
Opportunities for clean energy technology startups abound. Image used courtesy of Pixabay
For the first time in history, all major nations have made a solid commitment to climate sustainability; all signatories of the United Nations’ Paris Agreement have agreed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Unfortunately, this global energy transition will not be an easy path. We’re in for a marathon of adaptive plans and global changes over the next 30 years.
The good news is many startups have found especially unique ways of tackling climate change and reducing fossil fuel emissions to make the transition smoother. Let’s look at a few who could have an impact in the next year.
Renewell Energy Repurposes Oil Wells
There are around 2.6 million idle wells across the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that these wells release methane emissions of 7-20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year. That’s approximately equal to the emissions of 2 million to 5 million cars.
Idle oil wells can be used for energy storage. Image used courtesy of Pixabay
Renewell Energy, a startup based in Bakersfield, California, wants to use these wells for energy storage and has designed a prototype that harnesses gravity-based energy conversion from the deep wells (an average depth of 5,000 feet). Once the wells are sealed up to prevent further oil and gas leakages, the “Artemis Prime” prototype will be installed.
The system is designed using the principle that when an object falls, it gains kinetic energy due to the force of gravity acting on it. A weight attached to a long rope would be pulled up through the well on a mechanical motor and then released to create energy. The reverse rotation of the motor will generate power sent to the grid.
The startup suggests this system be used to supplement volatile energy supply from other renewable sources such as wind or solar. The system could be lifted in preparation to use when solar or wind supply is not meeting demand, which would help support challenges with these renewable sources.
SkyCool Systems Designs Electricity-free Cooling
Currently, air conditioning is responsible for nearly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As the world gets hotter, the demand for air conditioning will only increase, and the associated emissions will too.
Using patented radiative cooling technology, SkyCool Systems wants to turn the sky into a renewable resource.
This startup has developed a passive cooling panel that will improve the efficiency of an existing air conditioning system. Each panel has a dual-mode film applied to the top and a fluid pumped through it. The film reflects sunlight, preventing the panel from heating up during the day and emitting infrared heat back to the sky.
SkyCool Systems panels don’t need to be south-facing and can complement solar panels. Image used courtesy of SkyCool Systems
The fluid pumped through the panels transfers cooling of up to 15°F to a building’s air conditioning system. This is expected to improve system efficiency by 10-40% by reducing the load on these systems.
Radiative cooling panels can also be used in place of an air conditioning system, estimated to have an 80-90% energy reduction for cooling.
Either option will have a big impact on reducing energy consumption and costs for a building. This technology does not require any external power source or refrigerant, making it a low-energy and environmentally friendly option for cooling. This could be particularly useful in off-grid or remote locations, where access to electricity and refrigerants may be limited.
Verne to Increase Hydrogen Fuel Benefits
While still in its early stages of development, hydrogen fuel has been shown to have some potential benefits. Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel that only produces water when its burned, which means no greenhouse gas emissions; it is incredibly versatile and can be produced from a variety of sources; and it has a high energy density, meaning that a small amount can store a large amount of energy, making it an efficient fuel source.
The challenges are in the transportation and storage of the fuel. It requires either high-pressure containment or a liquefication process that can be expensive. Proper handling and storage of hydrogen fuel are essential to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.
Zero-emission hydrogen truck. Image used courtesy of Verne
The startup, Verne, is developing cryo-compressed hydrogen to solve these challenges. Their cryo-compressor and lightweight storage systems should allow for cheaper, safer, and more dependable use and transportation of hydrogen fuel.
The technology is in active on-road testing and will be released to customer pilots within the next year.
The Nitrogen Company Uses Lightning to Create Fertilizer
Fertilizer is an everyday product used on various plants, from indoor potted ferns to crops, to help support growth and development. The most common type of fertilizer, nitrogen, is made from natural gas or coal, two of the world’s largest sources of fossil fuel emissions.
To remove the need for fossil fuels in fertilizer production, The Nitrogen Company wants to mimic the natural process of nitrogen creation using a plasma reactor.
One way nitrogen is produced in nature is during lightning strikes when high temperatures and pressures can cause nitrogen gas to react with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides can then be converted into nitrites and nitrates, which plants can use.
Nitrogen is produced during lightning strikes when high temperatures and pressures can cause nitrogen gas to react with oxygen oxides. Image used courtesy of Pixabay
The Nitrogen Company’s system uses a plasma catalyst, electricity, water, and air to produce pure nitrates through direct nitrogen fixation to create a sustainable liquid fertilizer. Adopting this process could make it unnecessary to use fossil fuels to create fertilizer.