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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

Five Energy Companies Disrupting the Status Quo


This month, five energy companies joined CNBC's "Disruptor 50" list. Their inclusion illuminates an interesting trend in the energy sector - a push for Negawatts before Megawatts. Overall, four of the five companies included in CNBC's list of energy disruptors focus a significant portion of their work on energy efficiency. They also reveal how companies (big and small) are increasingly able to use modern data resources to increase energy system efficiency.

Included in the list were LightSail Energy, MicroSeismic, Nest Labs (of the Nest thermostat), Opower, and Picarro. According to CNBC, "in a battle between wildcatters in the shale boom and renewable energy dreamers, [these] five companies are uniquely positioned to influence the future of the energy market and climate policy."

1. LightSail Energy - This company's technology stores heat energy using compressed air, which can improve energy system efficiency and increase the economic integration of renewable power generation with system optimization. LightSail Energy was founded in 2009 by Forbes 30-under-30 Danielle Fong, Steve Crane, and Ed Berlin.

2. MicroSeismic - Targeting another vein in energy system operation optimization, this company is focuses on improving how the world identifies and accesses natural gas and oil resources. According to the company's CEO and founder Peter Duncan "Before MicroSeismic's PSET seismic imaging technology, no one believed it was possible to detect the energy release equivalent of a human heartbeat through 10,000 feet of rock. Not only does the technique work, it has opened new ways for operators to improve their oil recovery previously not possible."***

3. Nest Labs: The "Nest Learning Thermostat" is designed to learn behavioral patterns, which allows it to personalize a home's temperature control. The goal is to maximize energy efficiency while maintaining comfort. [Note: Plugged In's David Wogan has written a few posts about his personal experiences with the Nest thermostat]

4. Opower: Taking the saying "knowledge is power" to heart, this company links consumers with their energy consumption data through innovative software. Their platform allows for increased efficiency and demand response capabilities. To date, this company reports that their work has resulted in more than 2.4 TWh of energy. Today the company has expanded to more than 350 employees and works with approximately 80 utilities to increase the energy efficiency of 15 million homes. Last year, Opower was featured on Earth Day in "Green at Google."

5. Picarro: This company's vehicle-mounted gas measurement systems allow for the measurement and tracking of fossil fuel emissions. The Picarro Surveyor is reported to be 1,000 times more sensitive than traditional methods for detecting natural gas leaks. Founded in 1998, this company has realized 115% five-year compound annual growth rate and is expected to reach profitability in 2013.

Photo Credit: Featured photo by tedytan and used under this Creative Commons license.

*** May 30, 2013 - this post was originally published with this video for MicroSeismic

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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