Energy Harvesting Gaining Ground

EnOcean Alliance has announced a 50% growth in its membership within one year, which reflects its strongest growth rate since its founding in 2008. The organization now has a membership base of 300 companies worldwide, developing automation solutions for sustainable buildings.

The organization focuses on energy harvesting wireless technology and is dedicated to creating interoperability between the products of OEM partners. The newest EnOcean Alliance members include Adura Technologies, Somfy, Telefunken Smart Building, Deuta Controls, Weinzierl, Dooya, Viessman, Waldmann, NEC, Omron, Vimar and NTT.

The Alliance’s core technology consists of the EnOcean batteryless wireless technology, which is based on the international standard ISO/IEC 14543-3-10. The technology has been integrated into 1000 interoperable products.

Using energy harvesting techniques, EnOcean’s wireless technology requires no cables or batteries. Modules generate the energy required for transmitting a wireless signal from movement, light, or temperature differences. The EnOcean Alliance represents an association of companies that implement products or system solutions using this energy harvesting wireless technology.

Frost & Sullivan Researches Energy Harvesting
Meanwhile, research firm Frost & Sullivan released an analysis in late 2011 on energy harvesting technologies for buildings. Recognizing that heating, cooling and lighting are main energy expenditures in buildings today, the firm notes that a building automation system (BAS) — traditionally powered by batteries — can assist in reducing and optimizing these energy expenses, while maintaining a comfortable environment for occupants.

The firm notes that “the key in making a BAS function in terms of relaying data related to temperature, occupancy, wind flow, light intensity, and so on, are wireless sensor networks (WSNs). A drawback for WSNs has been the dependence on batteries, which have severe limitations with respect to life span and maintenance, among other shortfalls. Energy harvesters (EHs) significantly improve battery life, thereby reducing maintenance and disposal costs.”

Analysis from Frost & Sullivan’s Advances in Energy Harvesting Technologies for Building Automation research finds that progression in EH technology has enabled BASs to be more independent and flexible to identify and address energy waste from buildings. This is provided through EHs’ ability to scavenge ambient energy, including solar power as well as thermal, kinetic and electrical energy, allowing EHs to resupply power regularly. From this enhanced energy reservoir, WSNs are enabled to have additional features and options for end-users. Additionally, the energy efficiency of EHs allow WSNs to be placed anywhere in a building, with minimal overhead.

Frost and Sullivan’s release on the topic reads:

Universities are at the forefront of exploring techniques and designs to reduce the EH footprint and increase the power density factor. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) initiatives have also caused a huge impact in bringing together market actors to deploy products with interoperability and ease of implementation for the end-user. Alliances have played a vital role in collaborating and bringing together the different manufacturers under one umbrella; however, more collaboration is needed at the university level.

“Reducing the energy consumption of EHs has not affected the performance of the device,” said Technical Insights Industry Analyst Saju John Mathew. “Rather, the unique microstructuring design and dense packing has increased the power density several fold. This enables the EH to be physically integrated with different custom designed WSN applications.”

However, ambient EHs are currently limited in that each application requires a specific technology. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as EHs still have not reached a broadband platform—they are very much tuned to the requirement of the actual application. Additionally, the lack of a total solution delays mass adoption, so component manufacturers and OEMs need to further integrate EH devices to offer a complete solution.

“Hybrid EH devices can power ultra-low-power electronics,” said Mathew. “Building from this amalgam design would enable EH devices to scale a major hurdle to move closer to a nonspecific solution.”

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