The Potential of Innovation in Greentech
The last decade has seen a rise in greentech advancements. This is largely due to society’s insistence on social responsibility and overall global awareness.
From the installation of solar panels, recycling efforts by large corporations as well as electric cars to hydro-powered plants, smart homes and buildings made of environmentally friendly materials, the term “greentech” has become synonymous with efforts to contribute towards society and the world at large.
As the world shifts towards a greener future, two industry subsets have gained traction over the last few years. Carbon storage and advancements in the manufacturing of batteries. This is due to the dramatic possible implications in terms of their imminent contributions to conservation. We take a look at both these areas and explore how they have paved the way for advancements in greentech:
CARBON CAPTURING AND STORAGE
The process used to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emitted while producing power or making materials such as steel, cement or fertiliser is commonly referred to a carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Power plants and large industrial operations cause increases in greenhouse gas emissions. This is hazardous to both society’s health as well as the environment. Carbon sequestration is the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form. It is now possible to capture CO2 at industrial sites or directly from the air – and store it underground.
Aside from the obvious advantage of reducing harmful emissions, this carbon dioxide ha multiple uses. For example, in the manufacturing of carbonated soft drinks or in industrial processes like the recovery of oil from underground. Other uses are to create bio-oils, fertilizers, chemicals and fuels.
An example of this technology used on a large scale was seen earlier this year in NRG Energy and JX Nippon’s introduction of the Petra Nova project, where over 5000 tonnes of CO2 is collected daily in one of the largest plants in the United States. The plant collects CO2 from its exhausts and pipes it to a nearby oil field for enhanced oil recovery.
CCS technology has also paved the way for several startups to enter the industry. An example of this is seen in Global Thermostat’s development of a proprietary technology that uses low-cost leftover process heat to grab carbon pollution from power plants, converting it to a power source. This technology could help fossil fuel power plants achieve eco-friendliness by removing 5 pounds of CO2 per kWh of electricity.
ADVANCEMENTS IN LITHIUM-POWERED BATTERIES
Lithium batteries have been around for ages, with the lithium-ion variant being extremely popular in the last few decades. The industry, however, has evolved considerably, introducing a range of new technologies. This is largely due to the increasing demand for electric cars and consumer electronics.
Although lithium-ion batteries are generally safer and more reliable, most end up in a landfill after use. They have also been found to contribute considerably to greenhouse gas emissions, with up to 12.5kg of CO2 equivalent emitted per kg of battery.
An example of advancement in the field has been seen in Toyota’s development of hydrogen automobile fuel cells that produce water as a by-product, proving to be more efficient and cleaner than lithium. This has been administered through the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen – that can be stored in common tanks – the most flexible energy storage method to store renewable energy on a large scale.
Investors should be cognisant of the fact that the greentech industry relies heavily on governmental regulations as seen in the case of fossil fuel subsidies and retroactive changes to renewable incentives. New technologies in this area don’t come cheap and incentives are necessary for companies to make the shift. The U.K. for example, handed out GBP 1.3 Billion from 2010 to 2014, according to research commissioned by Catholic charity CAFOD and carried out by the Overseas Development Institute (information after this date is unavailable). These figures will continue to rise due to increasing pressure from environmental lobbyists and the general public. This assistance will only be further strengthened by the fact that consumers are increasingly willing to part with their money when a business attaches the environmentally friendly tag to it.
Aside from the vast advancements in innovation and affordability, there needs to be support from policymakers. China, for example, passed a regulation to cap sales on fossil-fuel cars in late September. This will boost sales in new-energy vehicles, helping the electric car sector in the world’s most populated country.
All things considered, the greentech industry is making huge strides forward and for good reason. Talk of environmental concerns has been constant in international political debates. Many entrepreneurs have been taking note of the reality of the situation. The world needs solutions and where there’s such a demand, a supply will follow.