Now that large, established players — Silver Spring Networks and Cisco (CSCO) — are building out the smart grid network, the next area for innovation will be the applications, software and services designed to run on top of the network. That’s a trend we’ve covered, and it has been heavily discussed at this week’s GreenBeat conference. As Khosla Ventures partner Vinod Khosla put it today, he’s searching for the Twitters and Facebooks of the smart grid.
Khosla, who has seemed a lot more bearish than many investors in terms of the smart grid (in contrast, Steve Westly, partner at the Westly Group welcomed GreenBeat attendees to bring him their business plans), predicted not many of the next-gen smart grid entrepreneurs in the room would be successful, but that there would be enough winners to make the sector “interesting.” Next-gen applications and services could sprout up in the middle of the grid or at the edge of the network. It’s at the edge where Duke Energy CTO David Mohler said earlier this week he aims to “let thousand flowers bloom.” Here’s 3 companies that have developed next-gen smart grid services that were at the GreenBeat show:
Locust Storage: Locust Storage tied for the innovation award at GreenBeat (with established player CPower), and the San Diego, Calif.-based startup has developed a data storage system that CEO Seth Georgion says can reduce power of data storage systems in data centers by 90 percent. The device, which the company plans to commercialize early next year, caches data partly with flash storage (more expensive but a next-gen storage tech) as well as traditional spinning discs. What makes the technology interesting for the grid is that the storage unit can power up and down quickly and potentially add power back onto the grid in the same way solar can. It’s an example of innovation at the edge of the grid with implications extending all the way to the data center.
BuildingIQ: Building IQ launched at GreenBeat and has created optimizing software for commercial buildings that is fully automated. The company sells its software via a subscription to building owners, and says its service can be used for a next generation demand response.
R2EV: R2EV says its on-demand energy storage solution, which is made of lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries, is a portable solution for the power grid. Based in Boise, Idaho, R2EV says it is working with the U.S. Army to commercialize the units dubbed Fuel 2.0. Again it’s innovation at the edge of the network.