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July 22, 2019updated 23 Jul 2019 11:00am

Get up, start up: the top start-up companies in the energy industry

Who are the leading start-ups in the energy industry? Jack Unwin takes a look at some of the most innovative companies competing in the sector worldwide.

By Jack Unwin

Often the preserve of established companies, the energy industry has been invigorated by the surge of start-up companies in recent years, who are creating niche technologies to complement existing infrastructure.

These companies are now recognised by the Start Up Energy Transition award. Held in Berlin and now in its fourth year, the awards are spread over six categories: innovative mobility, intelligent grids, energy efficiency, low carbon and Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG-7).

Innovative mobility – Bodawerk

Innovative mobility recognises companies who design energy efficient vehicles, such as Ugandan company Bodawerk International.

The company recycles lithium-ion batteries and has also created the Ug innovation hub, which has created solar powered refrigerators and barbecues.

Its leading product is the E-Boda, an e-mobility solution to increase transport sustainability. The company takes the Bajaj Boxer 1000 motorbike and converts it into an electric bike that uses a lithium-ion battery.

The E-Boda has numerous benefits including its affordability – as usage costs are dramatically reduced by purchasing electricity not petrol – as well as less maintenance required, reduced CO2 and a decrease in sound pollution.

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Intelligent investments – The Sun Exchange

Founded in 2015, the Sun Exchange allows people to earn money as solar power generators in what it calls ‘the stock exchange with sunlight’.

Sun Exchange identifies solar hotspots based on social and financial viability. Then, people can buy solar panels for the area, using either standard banking methods or bitcoin. The panels are installed and the investors begin receiving monthly lease rental payments, which are also available in bitcoin.

Despite only being four years old, Sun Exchange has secured membership from 138 countries and operates over 500,000 solar cells, which have generated 693,665KWh of energy.

Social enterprise through training – Sunsawang

A finalist in the awards, Thai company Sunsawang is a leading company in the SDG-7 sector.

Formed of eight employees and initially a non-profit organisation based in the Tak & Mae Hong Son provinces on the Thai-Myanmar border, Sunsawang switched in 2013 to become a ‘social enterprise’ with a subsidised payment plan that includes a five-year warranty agreement.

The company provides training to people in the area who want to become technicians, who can then install and maintain Sunsawang products. These include two ‘lantern’ products, the Sun King Pico Lantern and Sun King Pro 2 Solar Lantern. Both are solar panel lights, with the Pro 2 also doubling as a phone charger.

Low-carbon hydrokinetic technology – Waterotor Energy Technologies

Canadian company Waterotor Energy Technologies was founded in 2011, creating hydrokinetic technology that it hopes can help ‘create a revolutionary new era of low cost electricity everywhere’.

Rather than use the power of waves or the tides like other hydropower companies, Waterotor utilises standard slow moving water from speeds as slow as 3.2km an hour, with optimum performance at 6.5km an hour. This technology can convert 50% of the available energy in the flowing water to electricity.

By working at such low speeds and without the need for major infrastructure, Waterotors product is an attractive power source. It doesn’t need fuel, works 24 hours a day and is not invasive to marine life.

Energy efficiency using the cloud – Ecosync

Ecosync is a UK based company that is working to reduce CO2 emissions from buildings by using smart technology.

The company was born from the realisation that in hotels, universities and buildings like them, around 70% of rooms are empty, which wastes 40% of the total energy. As such, the company created a cloud-based platform – similar to how a hotel uses a booking system – to ensure that heating is only used in occupied rooms.

Ecosync does this through using internet of things (IoT) devices, machine learning algorithms and occupancy detection technology to create responsive heating zones that can be controlled through a mobile app.

The technology has also been adapted through a retrofitted solution for buildings as old as the 15th century and is currently used by a number of colleges at Oxford University.

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