The recent IDTechEx event "Energy Harvesting and Storage Europe" in Berlin was once again a good barometer of what is happening in the industry. Here are some of our delegates' comments on our Europe 2015 event:
"It was nice to be exposed to the new fields of power management and other related areas." Analog Devices, Inc
"The event was very informative and in some cases capable to inspire and indicate directions." Maxwell
"The speakers are high quality, good variance and professional. Good topics, good variance and the latest updates in general." Mondelez
"Another excellent conference." TRW Conekt
"Rich participation of suppliers, end-users and R&D Centers" Technical University Berlin/Fraunhofer IZM
This year, there is some reflection of the fact that piezoelectrics receive a huge proportion of university and industrial research attention and there is relatively little to show for it in terms of commercial success so now attention is turning more to thermoelectrics as they are readied for a number of major new markets such as wireless sensors and actuators in volume and Automotive Thermoelectric Generators ATEGs plus the heavy end of 1.5 kW harvesters on engines of huge construction vehicles.
The heavy end - typically 1W to 10kW - is where the biggest value market resides since it includes such things as regenerative electric motors and alternators in vehicles and photovoltaics for remote buildings and facilities. Witt Energy added an exciting new dimension with a mechanical harvester creating rotation to a generator from movement in any direction, said to be potentially useful from 1W to 1MW, the high end being from wave power.
Laurence Kemball-Cook gave a charismatic presentation on his start-up Pavegen. Pavegen are a clean-technology company that manufacture and develop flooring tiles, converting energy from footsteps into electricity. Following powering the lights of a football pitch in a favela in Rio de Janiero backed by Shell and other projects. Its latest project with Samsung involved installing 68 tiles in Sandton City Mall, South Africa. The harvested energy from shoppers was donated to rural areas of South Africa as renewable electricity. He said, "It is an exciting time in the company's development, going for our first crowdfunding round within a few months".
On the other hand, some heavy equipment is using vibration harvesting to provide modest amounts of electricity to wireless sensors where needed and Agusta Westland covered this for helicopters. Sensors are being massively deployed across industrial facilities and vehicles and connection wire costs a fortune. It is tough or impossible to deploy in some cases so it needs to be eliminated using wireless devices but not if tens of thousands of batteries need replacing or recharging all the time. Enter energy harvesting, though the lower power needs of the new chips means batteries do sometimes last for 20 years and are acceptable - there is a changing competitive dynamic here. Energy harvesting at this light end is smaller, lighter weight and lower cost nowadays but not always meeting requirements.
As for technologies, electrodynamics and photovoltaics remain the leaders and multi-mode harvesting is badly needed for continuity of supply but there are, as yet, few suitable multi-mode harvesters available. For every company leaving organic photovoltaics OPV another joins these days because, despite low efficiency and expensive materials it is sometimes favoured indoors and even looked on well for some outdoor opportunities, though sales are still minimal.
See the latest updates at the IDTechEx twitter account at www.twitter.com/idtechex . The next IDTechEx Energy Harvesting & Storage Europe event will be held at the Estrel in Berlin, Germany on 27-28 April 2016 and before that the US event will be in Santa Clara, CA on 18-19 November 2015. Mark your calendars for both of these events and contact us today for early bird registrations. For more details see www.EnergyHarvestingUSA.com