Berkeley, Calif.-based Alphabet Energy announced on Tuesday that it will receive $1 million in seed money to develop prototype devices of its proprietary thermoelectric technology.
Alphabet Energy’s technology is a balancing act: using laws of thermoelectrics, it harnesses excess heat which would otherwise be left unused in “normal” electricity production practices. The extra heat becomes an incremental add in electric volume. While the science is nothing new—it’s a recognized idea in science that creating electricity produces extra heat that is “wasted”—Alphabet Energy says that its technology has the “possibility of offsetting as much as 500 million metric tons of carbon per year.”
Alphabet’s new funding, recent grants and four awards at the 2009 Clean Tech Open is certainly telling of what the VCs are thinking right now: solar is no longer trendy. When solar started showing up on household roofs and commercial buildings, the renewable energy dream became reality. Now, solar is just another established market, and there’s been a lot of talk about using solar as part of the answer to job creation recently. That means solar is now “old school” and you won’t find too many VCs getting excited about solar.
And, recent clashes between solar companies and the Mojave desert environmentalists have only further tarnished the formerly sunny reputation of solar. Now, just about any other renewable or clean energy technology available could be a welcome pitch.
Though, to find out whether thermoelectrics is actually the new clean tech darling, we will just have to wait and see. All the same, the rush of clean tech and the success of the solar industry is cause for optimism. Anything will work and anything can happen.
What do you think, are we going to see another energy innovation that will earn the same ubiquity status as windmills and solar panels?
For more, check out Greentech Media’s take on how thermoelectric technology works.