Strong Marriages Needed for Success in Energy Harvesting

February 08, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The bachelor life is ending for energy harvesting companies. Various energy harvesting and thin-film battery technologies have reached a level of maturity that now requires getting "married" with strong partners to enable successful market penetration and growth. According to Darnell’s third-edition analysis of "Energy Harvesting & Microbatteries: Market Forces and Demand Characteristics," partnerships that include sensor and control manufacturers and ultra-low power electronics makers will be needed for success in these rapidly evolving markets. Profitability of energy harvesting and microbattery companies will increase, and within a short time, the industry will begin to experience consolidation and mergers.

"The honeymoon period will be short for these marriages of necessity. The market is moving rapidly and the new partners will either surge forward, enjoying strong and sustained growth, or quickly get divorced and lose out on the benefits of these relationships," stated Linnea Brush, Senior Analyst with Darnell Group. "Darnell Group has been following the energy harvesting market for more years than other analyst firms. In 2005, we recognized the potential of this technology to both capitalize on, and transform, the small but growing wireless sensor market. After working with a number of North American and European companies, this current report is the third edition of our Energy Harvesting report series."

A detailed quantitative analysis of the relative costs of wired systems, battery-powered wireless systems and energy-harvesting-powered wireless systems is a key part of this third-edition analysis. The installed cost savings are consistent for both smaller and larger wireless versus wired systems. Smaller systems do not have as many nodes, however, so they do not have as many batteries to replace. Therefore, the cost savings for a smaller system are good, but battery replacement is less of an issue. In a large system, however, the number of nodes increases significantly, along with the number of batteries. This presents a good business case for energy harvesting, where the cost of battery replacement is added to the installed cost savings.

The increasingly mature nature of energy harvesting is evident in the appearance of third-generation products from multiple makers. That development signals the crossover into the Growth phase of market development. Just as wireless sensor networks have created opportunities for energy harvesting devices and thin-film batteries, the latter are driving demand for innovative materials and packaging. This is another area where successful marriages will match the strengths of one partner with the needs of the other and result in enhanced opportunities for both. In order to allow large-scale manufacturing and market penetration, low-cost yet high-value solutions are needed, such as increased integration. Not even the largest semiconductor manufacturers have all the capabilities necessary for success in these markets; marriages are inevitable.

As part of this extensive and on-going effort, Darnell has also identified key industry issues and players, and brought them together with the international nanoPower Forum (nPF). Now heading into its fourth year, nPF will be held in May, 2010. This experience provides unique and useful insight into a market that is ready to break out of its emerging status. The nanoPower Forum website is here .

Complete information on "Energy Harvesting & Microbatteries: Market Forces and Demand Characteristics" can be found here .