MIT Technology Review, a publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has released its 2013 “50 Disruptive Companies” List. Among the companies recognized are a series of cutting edge firms that are ushering in a new era of clean, renewable energy.
“The pace at which technology changes is astounding,” said Jason Pontin, publisher and editor in chief of MIT Technology Review. “This issue celebrates organizations at the forefront, displaying ‘disruptive innovation’ that will prove to surpass the competition, transform an industry, and change our lives.”
“We anticipate a busy year.”
Among the companies recognized is a Durham, N.C.-based solar company called Semprius Energy. Last year, Semprius set a new world record for photovoltaic module efficiency, becoming the first company ever to convert over one-third of the sun’s energy into electricity.
“We consider Semprius a solar company worth watching closely,” said Pontin. “It stands out for its novel method of concentrating sunlight onto tiny solar cells to deliver photovoltaic modules with cutting-edge efficiency and the potential to significantly lower the cost of generating solar electricity.”
Semprius is a fairly young company, having announced the opening of its first solar module production facility as recently as Sept. 13, 2012. The company has already secured a contract to supply solar modules to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) in support of PWR’s 200-kilowatt solar system to be located at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
“This recognition by MIT Technology Review validates our ongoing efforts to lower the cost of renewable energy,” said Joe Carr, chief executive officer of Semprius. “We anticipate a busy year filled with innovation and the continued expansion of our production facility to meet the increasing demand for our solar modules.”
Semprius’ modules, which were developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, are twice as efficient as conventional silicon-based modules. The modules have also been shown to perform better in hot climates.
“Wait a second, I’ll design my own.
Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who created the iPod and was a leading figure on the team the developed the iPhone, came up with the idea for Nest when he was designing his energy-efficient dream home near Lake Tahoe. When Fadell tried to find a programmable web-enabled thermostat that could control his eco-friendly heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, he hit a wall.
“They were 500 bucks a pop, and they were horrible and doing nothing and brain-dead,” Fadell told MIT Technology Review. “And I was like, ‘Wait a second, I’ll design my own.’?”
Nest, founded in 2010 and headquartered at the heart of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, Calif., manufactures a thermostat that learns users’ temperature preferences and maximizes efficiency as it implements them.
“Think of a normal thermostat. Everyone turns it up, turns it down, a couple of times a day-that’s a pattern we can infer from,” said Fadell. “Instead of changing it fifteen hundred times a year, do it 10 or 20 times and the Nest thermostat can learn from that.”
With 10 million thermostats sold in the United States every year, Nest has a lucrative market to disrupt. Because thermostats typically control around half the energy in used in U.S. homes, Nest’s energy-efficient design could also make a huge dent in U.S. energy consumption.
Nest’s $250 thermostat has already saved owners an estimated 225 million kilowatt-hours of energy, the equivalent of around $29 million at average U.S. prices.
“A very unique solar company.”
MIT Technology Review has also recognized Alta Devices as a disruptive energy company. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm manufactures the world’s thinnest solar cells that can be embedded into any other material, offering the potential to significantly extend the battery life of all kinds of mobile devices.
Founded in 2008 by professors Harry Atwater from Cal Tech and Eli Yablonovitch from Berkeley, Alta Devices has also been honored as one of the Global Cleantech 100 by cleantech.com and as one of CTSI’s Top 17 Defense Energy Technology Solutions, among other awards.
“Alta Devices is a very unique solar company,” said Chris Norris, president and CEO of Alta Devices. “Our goal is to free mobile devices from the grid and to empower the developing world with abundant clean energy.”
In many cases, mobile devices that incorporate Alta Devices’ solar cells never need to plug in.
A full list of MIT Technology Review’s 50 Disruptive Companies will be available on newsstands worldwide on March 5, and has been available online since February 20.