Russian media has recently been buzzing with news about the Skolkovo project, dubbed Russia’s Silicon Valley. Named after a business school nearby, Skolkovo will be a modern tech-hub for development and commercialization of new technology in the fields of energy, IT, communication, biomedical research and nuclear technology. Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev signed the decree to build Skolkovo already in 2009, building works will start in the second half of 2011 and construction is estimated to take 3-7 years. The overall budget for the project is $4-6 billion. Half of the sum would come from Russia's Federal budget, the other from co-financing agreements. Built on the outskirts of Moscow covering 3.7 km2, Skolkovo will be home for 40,000 people. Although Skolkovo currently exists only on paper, the project has already signed partnership deals with Nokia, Microsoft, Siemens and Rusatom, just to name a few.
The common picture we have of wind turbines are the ones which stand on tubular towers and have three rotor blades, varying in different sizes. The design is very much similar to the windmills of old, which were used to pump water and grind grain. However, Risto Joutsiniemi had already developed another kind of wind turbine over two decades ago - the Windside vertical wind turbine. Its a unique product which has many advantages in comparison to the horizontal wind turbine, most notably that they are able to operate at very low wind speeds and in extreme temperatures.
Solar energy is a favourite of many governments and environmentalists: free and easy to harness energy from the sun - what's not to like about that? Well, for one the production of conventional photovoltaic panels isn't without environmental impacts, and it also uses rare metals which are increasingly difficult to source. Crystalsol, established in 2008 as a spin-off of the Tallinn University of Technology, is developing a product which gets rid of these negatives.
The company's key innovation is the use of tiny semiconductor crystals made of copper, zinc, tin and sulfo-selenide, CZTS for short, where each crystal works as a tiny solar cell. This technology is the combination of decades of research for the Russian military and Philips semiconductor know-how dating back to the 1960s. The result: a new type of flexible photovoltaic module with a significant cost advantage compared to all currently known photovoltaic technologies. The modules are produced roll-to-roll - think paper manufacturing - which eliminates the scale-up issues that thin film producers usually face. Once production is up and running, which should be by mid 2011, Crystalsol forecasts production costs below €0.50 per watt, which should give them the lead in low cost PV modules.
Saving energy is an important and simple way to ease the burden on the planet. What's not so simple is to find out where you can save energy. Enter Seluxit from Denmark, one of the 18 cleantech start-ups to present at the Nordic Venture 50 Forum on October 19th in Copenhagen.
Seluxit, which was established in 2006 by Morten Frederiksen and Daniel Lux, develops and markets software and hardware solutions to monitor the energy consumption of buildings. The company is already marketing two different sensors which use the Z-Wave wireless standard, offer two different Gateways and are currently developing a Mobile Phone programme which will run on all mobiles that support GPRS and Java. The mobile phone app will allow you to monitor and control your house on the go, which could be useful if you're traveling and aren't sure if you switched off the heating system.
There has been talk a feed-in tariff for biogas (and wind) will finally be introduced in Finland. Biogas plants convert biological waste into energy and producer power, heat and/or fuel. The earning logic of a typical biogas plant is based on port fees, power & heat production and end-products like composting material. In Finland, the feed-in tariff for biogas plants has been on the environmental agenda since 2007.
According to the (as yet unconfirmed) rumours, the planned target price for the biogas feed-in tariff is 83.5 euros per MWh for power production (which equals the planned feed-in tariff for wind power in Finland) and around 30-40 euros per MWh for heating. In this system, a biogas producer is assured a certain long term (15-20 years) guaranteed price. We do not yet know if there are plans to introduce feed-in tariffs for other biogas-based fuels, for example those used to run motor vehicles.