Thinking Big with Little: Creating Efficient Energy in Different Ways

The clean/renewable energy industry is seemingly focused on the big picture. That’s big as in big companies, big investors, big impact on the environment.  Two main components of the industry, wind turbines and solar panels, occupy large spaces, and are often the biggest and most viscerally associated with “green” energy. In my last blog post, I mentioned the fact that many clean energy startups focus on these bigger products. But clean energy is not just having the apparatuses to create renewable energy. It can also be the ways in which we use energy efficiently.

Alaska, for example, is currently looking into more efficient energy solutions due to its exorbitant energy consumption. Because of its harsh climate and its vastly spread population, Alaskans are dependent on energy sources that are far away and too expensive. This led to companies such as 60Hertz, which is providing microgrids to Alaskan customers. Microgrids are a group of energy sources that can function in isolation–useful for places like Alaska and the Arctic. What 60Hertz does is “optimize” energy sources, making them more efficient in rural and small areas. For many native Alaskans, the otherwise high cost of energy is devastating, making it hard to live in a frozen tundra. 60Hertz is then utilizing previous technology to make benefit Alaskans and make the process more efficient–and subsidizing the cost as well.

An Allentown native has a similar idea to increase energy efficiency. SaLisa Berrien has created what she calls the “uber of energy.” Using previously established systems for energy customers at COI, she has patented a new and improved system that will allow for energy companies to communicate with their customers more efficiently, and thus reduce unnecessary energy waste. It takes “full advantage of smart grids” which means that the already advanced grid will be faster, smarter, and more reliable in cases of blackouts and other electrical emergencies.

With these innovators using creativity and growth mindsets, continuing to grow and improve upon ideas within previously established companies, they show that clean energy can be accomplished with more than just the large and costly apparatuses. And while micro- and smart- grids do often rely on some of these larger scale setups, what Berrien and 60Hertz prove is that thinking of clean and efficient energy on a smaller and simpler scale can still have a pretty large effect. The images of wind farms and the stretches of solar panel are not what define the industry anymore. 

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