5 Hot GreenTech Trends for 2013

December 27, 2012

What will be hot in green tech in 2013? GreenTech Advocates has identified five hot areas for green tech growth—plus five more really warm ones to watch.

Can you identify what will be hot in 2013 from this collage?

The things we’re tickled about? We don’t want to give them away, but they have to do the sun, cars, the use of these two things together, lighting and lots and lots of energy management. The other stuff we’re keeping a close eye on includes sensors, energy harvesting, window shading for daylighting and that little thing called the smart grid.

Get your smartphones ready. With further ado:

More EVs

BMW's ActiveE electric vehicle has been tested with smart grid applications, and the company plans a 2014 EV..

Electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales have been slow to date, but with more models coming out in more mainstream brands like the Toyota Prius and RAV4 and the Honda Accord and Fit, look for growth in this market to inch up. “EVs are certainly on a disruptive trajectory, but not there yet because of compatibility of costs,” says Mike Calise, director of Electric Vehicles for Schneider Electric.

We may still be a decade away from an EV mainstream, as general consumer awareness of EVs and PHEVs remain low. But expect the early adopter market to grow as more plug-ins come on line and more honors are bestowed upon green cars like the Tesla Motors’ Model S Sedan being the first electric car to win Motor Trend Car of the Year. Tesla, which has its own charging protocol, recently opened 480-volt Supercharging stations on the East Coast for Boston-to-Washington Corridor driving. We’ll also see more interest in solar PV to EV charging (who doesn’t like that idea?), more charging stations being deployed and likely control products using a powerline-based Green Phy communications standard adopted by several car makers for universal EV charging.

In the coming years—and it may not take a decade—GreenTech Advocates expects EVs to have the biggest value in a connected home.

Solar PV

San Diego Zoo solar

The San Diego Zoo Solar to EV project features 10 solar canopies that produce 90 kilowatts of power for EV charging.

Solar is hot, especially in leasing and power-purchase agreement (PPA) deals that require little to no money down. More and more people will realize the benefits of these systems, especially in solar-friendly states that provide incentives like California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and a few others. In some areas, using solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to provide the electricity for efficient, hybrid hot water heaters and air source heat pumps is a better option than using solar thermal to heat water. One problem, though: Quality manufacturing has become an issue, especially with the glut of cheap panels from China and warranties that aren’t exactly owner-friendly. GTA will report more on this growing issue soon.

RoseWater Energy's 10kw Residential Energy Storage Hub contains 24 lead-carbon batteries, two DC-to-DC converters for energy stabilization and an Energy Router to supply connected circuits. It is also capable of load shedding with smart grid demand response programs,

Energy Storage

For those who can afford it, storing the energy produced by solar panels can free you from the grid, and keep you from losing power from them when the utility power goes out. (That’s right: grid-tied solar PV systems shut down to prevent dangerous backfeeding when the local power is out.) The answer is an often-expensive battery array to store several hours worth of that energy for use at night or when needed. We’re starting to see more of this in luxury homes, big off-the-grid homes, and in products like the Energy Storage Hub that address this need. Next step: monitoring and managing that power.

LEDs Galore

Philips hue on iPad

With Philips' hue, users can create color pallettes of light from photos on iPads or iPhones.

It’s still an industry in its infancy, yet “LEDs are sweeping the market and taking over for so many older technologies,” says lighting designer Naomi Miller. Not only can you pick up 12-watt LED lamps to replace 60-watt incandescent bulbs at Home Depot and Lowe’s for $15 or less, commercial-grade LEDs are on the rise, with a host of different solutions that include automated integration with skylights. We’re also seeing more lighting control technologies geared toward LED, including LED via Power over Ethernet (PoE) low-voltage systems that preclude the need for AC/DC conversion.

One of the coolest LED systems that should tweak homeowners’ imaginations is the Philips hue system of smartphone and color control, which really shows off the beauty and ambiance of this super-efficient lighting technology.

Replacing all those fluorescent tubes in commercial buildings is trickier, especially as fluorescent tubes remain cheap. But the efficacy of LED T8s is rising fast, and the economic viability may arrive when lumen output rises and LED lamp costs go down.

“You have to careful what you choose, but LEDs can be gorgeous,” Miller says. “In my humble opinion, we’re going to kiss CFLs goodbye and we’re not going to miss them.”

Energy Management Made Easy

Vantage's Equinox interface with an Energy Widget is available on iPad and touchscreens.

Let’s face it: Energy management is tough. It’s difficult to implement. It’s difficult to shop for. Heck, it’s difficult to write about. But it is becoming easier, both for homeowners and building managers trying to implement energy-efficiency strategies. That’s changing on both fronts.

In the home we’re seeing easy-to-use products like the Nest Learning Thermostat, which like its name suggests, learns your patterns so you may never have to program the thermostat to come on at certain times yourself. Service providers like  ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint and Alarm.com  offer wireless thermostats that can be programmed and operated remotely via smartphones, which is a whole lot niftier than forging a relationship directly with a thermostat. Some control systems, too, can show you thermostat or energy management in displays you can configure yourself.

On the business side, energy management software companies are making products that make it easier for building and facility managers to collect, organize and analyze the data received from monitoring and building management systems, whether the data is collected in “real time” or via utility bills. Many of the systems are widget-based, so managers can see only the data and graphs they need. And more open platforms like Johnson Controls’ Panoptix system allow third-party apps.

Also Hot for 2013:

Sensors—Motion, occupancy, photo (light), you name it. They’re better, they’re cheaper and they will be used to automate our home and building systems for energy efficiency.

Leviton's EnOcean devices use pizeoelectricity created by pressing a button, for instance, to make all their own energy.

Apps, apps, apps—Do we really need to say this? Smartphone and tablet control is now de rigueur. If you haven’t designed for this yet, make it so.

Energy harvesting—One of our favorite things. We’re hoping that EnOcean’s opening of its standard makes devices that create their own energy more ubiquitous.

Motorized window shading—More people now realize shading’s energy efficiency and use for daylight control. Crestron recently introduced a line of motorized shades and fabrics to work with its control systems, and Lutron plans a high-end Coulisse fabric collection.

Smart grid and smart appliances—Are we there yet? Are we there yet? We keep hoping, but no. We do expect more smart grid projects to come on line and for the Green Button initiative to have some effect on providing energy usage information to many more people. We will get there—some day in the next few years.

You may also like:

10 GreenTech Trends to Watch—and How to Plan for Them

Must-Dos for Selling Energy Management

The Efficiency Singularity is Near

The Green Tech Lessons of Abraham Lincoln

Rockin’ Without a Carbon Footprint


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