Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Comlight
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 9, 2014

Technoport 2014: Siri Skøien on entrepreneurial success

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Siri Skøien, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Comlight, a motion-sensing street light system to reduce energy use.

Where did you get the idea for Comlight from, and how did it start?
It really started as an idea – I had no engineering or technical experience, I come from a business background, but I knew that if I didn’t do this someone else would. So for the first year I was working alone, getting the marketing plan off the ground and starting the patenting process. And from there I worked on incorporating electrical engineering and so forth.

How did you find the process of looking for early stage funding?
It was very difficult – very difficult, even in Norway.  This was seven years ago, and I think there’s been some progress since then, but I spent a long time looking for funding. You know, I would keep calling people and I’d get 200 noes and eventually one yes, and that’s what you’re waiting for. One thing I did was I used the local press to get the word out, I tried to get coverage of all the new developments in the local press. And actually it ended up that our first investor contacted me! It may be that I got very lucky, but that’s how we started.

Since Comlight has been going for seven years, as you say, how has the product changed over time?
We’ve made some improvements to the radar detection, and recently to the backend so users like road authorities have a better computer programme to see all the lights individually and manage them. That’s been a big project.

With the radar system, the first generation of Comlight could only detect cars and trucks and other vehicles. It took two years of intensive research and development to create a system that could detect pedestrians, which is what we have now. We’re always working to incorporate market feedback to increase the functionality, and so customers can adapt the system to their needs.

So how would a pedestrian experience street lighting in a place where Comlight has been installed? I can imagine that people would be concerned about safety.
Yes. In fact, though, I often have people come to me and say, “Are you sure it’s working? I can’t see the lights turning off anywhere.” And I say, “That’s great!” That’s how it’s supposed to be. We wanted to create a product that is so effective you don’t notice that the lights are off in front of you or behind you. If you’re walking through a park you don’t want have that spotlight feeling of being lit up on a stage. This applies to cars as well. It’s about safety as well as energy savings – safety and security is a big priority. So the system is working and saving energy, but our eyes can’t detect it.

Where is Comlight going in the future?
We want to stay small and stay innovative – to always be one step ahead, because the customers are always asking for more things. We do have some work going on in Canada and the US, but for this year we are mostly focusing on Europe. Our target customers is big lighting companies like OSRAM and GE, because it’s very time-consuming to go after the end-customers ourselves. Companies like that want to offer smart lighting but they don’t have what Comlight has, so they buy our product and sell it on to road authorities, city agencies and so on.

In terms of developing the Comlight system, we’re looking to increase the functionality so it can do other things like monitor traffic, count vehicles or check speed. It’s possible to incorporate things that aren’t even connected to lighting and energy efficiency, and that’s where this technology is going.

Are you optimistic about the future of smart lighting?
Yes, I’m very optimistic. Smart cities as a concept is really taking off, and the market for smart lighting has grown a lot recently. Norway has fallen a bit behind, people tend to want to install the same systems as they always have, but still it’s increasing here too.

Smart cities are one of the biggest movements of our time, and this has really expanded even in just the last year. This is where the world is headed.

Want to hear more?

Siri will feature at our Venture Angels and Crowd Investors event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we shed light on the future of funding new ventures. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit: Comlight AS

Tesla S
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 20, 2014

Can electric cars provide a more sustainable future?

Whatever the environmental concerns, it seems certain that the car is part of our future here on earth. So here on the Technoport Playground, I’ll be taking a look at innovation in the car industry, and what steps are being taken to help us achieve a safer and more sustainable future. First up, the electric car.

Right now, the best selling car is Norway is not made by Ford, Toyota, or Volvo. It’s the Tesla Model S, the world’s first premium electric sedan.

It’s so popular in Norway primarily because of a Government economic incentive package, designed to encourage 50,000 zero emission vehicles on to Norway’s roads by 2018.

The incentives include:

  • No sales tax or duty on purchase
  • Free parking in municipal car parks
  • Free use of the bus lane in cities
  • No tolls or congestion charges

Tax on buying new cars in Norway is colossal, so the first point alone is sending hoards of Norwegian drivers into Tesla showrooms.

It’s not a model that can be copied by other countries without some serious investment in infrastructure. Electric cars require electric charging stations, and Norway has one of the best developed networks outside the USA. One driver (the northernmost Tesla owner in the world!) proved it’s possible to drive all the way from Oslo to Kirkenes at an electricity cost of just NOK 400. Free charging stations are strategically placed around the country (there’s one here in Trondheim), while other for-cost stations are placed cleverly at shopping centres and even on ferries, to minimise the disruption when you need to recharge.

However, it’s not all rosy.

Despite the company’s PR stating the car performs well in winter driving conditions, some Norwegian drivers have reported problems with the charging process as the sub-zero winter temperatures have set in.

There’s also the question of how environmentally-friendly electric cars really are.

In Norway, the vast majority of the country’s electricity is generated through hydropower, but with 25,000km of coastline let alone the countless fjords, that’s easy. But for other countries that generate electricity through coal-fired power stations, electric cars will just put more pressure on an already overloaded energy grid.

One Forbes columnist went as far to claim that electric cars are an extraordinarily bad idea, arguing that they are not economically viable without substantial Government support.

So over to you.

Electric cars – part of the solution, or not?

ola og connie hånd i hånd
11Annette Hovdal

Annette HovdalSeptember 13, 2013

Ola Borten Moe and Connie Hedegaard discuss renewable energy at Technoport Talks

“How can Norway play a role in a renewable energy Europe?”  This was the topic discussed  at Technoport Talks earlier this summer. At the panel debate, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Ola Borten Moe, met with EU Commissioner on Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard. Borten Moe stated that the EU should stop subsidizing renewable energy.

During the panel debate between the two, and Professor Asgeir Tomasgard, Director at Centre for Sustainable Energy Studies,  Borten Moe claimed that the EU should not subsidize renewable energy, and rather use public money to develop new technology, like carbon capture and storage technology. This controversial statement was then published in several Norwegian newspapers, and criticized by many. The problem today is not the subsidizing of renewables, but the subsidizing of fossil fuels, some of the critics argued. Hedegaard also pointed out that the subsidization of fossil fuels can be problematic. “Every time the world is spending 1 dollar subsidizing renewables, we are spending 7 dollars subsidizing fossil fuels”, Hedegaard said. Watch the panel debate bellow:

The background for the panel debate was this question: How can Norway play a role in a renewable energy Europe? The EU has high ambitions on energy and climate change. The EU wants to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 % by 2020. However, due to the variability of wind and solar power, there will be variations in power generation, and the EU therefore needs more balancing capacity to ensure a stable and reliable power supply. Norway with its hydropower and natural gas can play a role here.

Click here to hear our speakers from research and industry talk about Norway’s role in the EU’s energy mix.

The topic, “Norway’s role in a renewable energy Europe”, is  highly discussed nowadays. In Oslo, there will be a mini-conference (25 September) on this.

However, what is the popular view on Norway as a “green battery” to Europe? If you haven’t already –  do read Henrik Karlstrøm’s guest blog post on the subject. Henrik is presenting new research on people in Norway’s view on the subject.  

 

 

Marchlyn Resovoir
1Henrik Karlstrøm

Henrik KarlstrømSeptember 10, 2013

What do people think about Norway as Europe’s “green battery”?

The politics of Norway’s energy supply is not something that many people often think a lot about. However, in recent months a discussion about whether Norway should increase its production of renewable energy, and extend more cables to neighbouring countries to become Europe’s “green battery”, has started. Here, I will try to discuss the issue of an increased power exchange with the rest of Europe, by looking at what average electricity users think about these questions.

But first, what is the idea behind the “green battery”? Well, Europe is rapidly increasing its adoption of renewable energy, with Denmark now being 40 % renewable, and Germany approaching 20 %. This is mostly good news, as this power replaces more polluting sources of electricity, or at least keeps some coal or gas plants from being built. However, renewable energy is less stable than fossil fuel energy, because it relies more directly on the current weather conditions. When it is windy, Spain can get two thirds of its power from wind turbines, but when it is not it needs to get power from somewhere else.

This is where Norway and the idea of a green battery come in. With its large supply of hydropower, which is stable, and can be turned on or off in a matter of minutes, Norway is an ideal candidate to act as a regulating instance in an electricity grid where renewables is an increasing part of the mix. It is also a potential source of income for Norwegian electricity companies and the Norwegian municipalities that mostly own these utilities, as well as the Norwegian state, which gets more tax revenue from it.

Because of its beneficial environmental effects, several environmental organisations, such as Zero and Bellona, strongly support the adoption of more renewables in the Norwegian energy mix. They are lobbying for increased power exchange with other European countries. Local governments in the south of Norway (link in Norwegian) have also voiced support for the scheme, wishing to benefit from increased exports.

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photo by: ohefin
renderer_rhu_exloded
14Hermann Ørn Vidarsson

Hermann Ørn VidarssonJuly 11, 2013

Flat packed refugee homes from IKEA

How do you make a house to a family of 5 that you can fit in a station wagon?

It is IKEA’s philanthropic branch, the IKEA foundation, that is developing flat packed housing solutions to refugee camps in cooperation with the UN refugee program. The quality and design of housing in refugee camps haven’t changed much for the last 100 years and are still almost exclusively made up of tents. Understandable; as both the production and logistics of shipping and assembly tents are simple. How ever flat packed houses will keep those advantages to some degree. IKEA is hoping that when those houses reaches mass production the cost of producing one unit will be around $1000, twice as much as a tent costs today, but with an estimated lifetime of 3 years. 6 times as long as the tents used to day. The houses are also twice as big in terms of areal.

In addition the houses will be better isolated. Both by thicker materials in walls and roof (It is a specially made polymer called Rhulite), but also by the novelty “shade nett” that is mounted with approximately 15 cm from the houses roofs. They reflect sunlight during the day as well as reflect heat from the roof, keeping the living space warmer during nighttime.

The houses include a small solar panel and LED lamp, making activities like studying and cooking possible inside, even after sunset. This was an easy upgrades to the existing tents, but the light blocking material in walls of the houses makes lit evenings possible with out compromising privacy. Turning on the light inside a canvas tent cast shadows on the walls.This infringement on privacy is so strong that many people prefer to live in the darkness. All ready close to 50 pilot homes are being tested in camps in Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia.According to Johan Karlson, a project manager at The Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), “This is a very challenging field, we are only tapping the surface of what could be done in the future.”

What other applications could one build into such a house that would increase the living quality its inhabitants with out compromising price and logistics.
Technoport looks forward to seeing the final assemble manual that will follow this flat pack and are curious whether it will get a Nordic IKEA’esque name like “Kåk” or “Sommerstugan”.

 

Photo by the IKEA foundation