I just got back from VERGE San Francisco 2013 and I have to tell you, I’ve never been so excited about the opportunities facing the Cleantech industry. Styled as, “Where tech meets sustainability”, VERGE SF covered:
- Food-Energy-Water Nexus
- New Energy Systems
- Next-Gen Buildings
- Resilient Cities
- Smarter Supply Chains
- Sustainable Mobility
The morning consisted of fast-paced main tent presentations by big names in Cleantech, while the afternoon contained more in-depth breakout sessions on the topics above. I mostly attended breakouts in the New Energy Systems and Next-Gen Buildings tracks, but I also attended some from the Sustainable Mobility and Food-Energy-Water Nexus track.
In the VERGE Interconnect Pavilion they featured what is believed to be the world’s first conference microgrid: an operational, temporary, and replicable microgrid inside (and outside) the hotel. The microgrid was powered by biogas and solar (in the street outside the hotel) and powered lights as well as charging an electric vehicle in the ballroom. An energy monitoring system provided real-time information on the state of the microgrid. It was an innovative and thought-provoking way of demonstrating the interconnnectedness of the many of the facets of Cleantech: renewable energy, clean air vehicles, smart cities.
Some of my favorite learnings from VERGE were:
- Creative new approaches to energy storage are being evaluated for commercial viability across small to utility-scale markets. Chemical energy: No surprise, many companies are working on improvements to Lithium-ion battery cell technology as well as new chemical compounds for battery storage. Potential energy: Lifting loaded rail cars up a ramp is a an interesting variation on utility-scale potential energy storage which can be implemented almost anywhere, unlike pumped hydro. Thermal energy: Molten salt, among others. Mass commercial viability of utility-scale energy storage will be a game-changer.
- Gamification is the secret to consumer behavior change in energy efficiency decision-making. It”s not just about making information more available to consumers, but make it more social and competitive.
- Corporate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives are becoming widespread, and moreover, a value-center for corporations due to ROI of energy improvements, increased retention of employees, improved corporate brand image.