BP Spill Puts Focus on Future of Power - TheStreet

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The BP (BP) - Get Report oil spill has us worried about our dependence on domestic oil as much as foreign oil. Take heart and take a gander at some alternatives for the future, and what scientists are doing to perfect the ideas.

Building a better light bulb

: Considering that artificial lighting consumes an estimated 22% of the nation's electricity, and about 40% of the electricity in office buildings, it behooves the world to start using better bulbs. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) hog less energy than their incandescent brethren, but consumers tend to shy away from them, in part because the light from LED is often harsh, cold and unflattering.


QD Vision

, a Watertown, Mass., startup that specializes in the field of quantum dot lighting, also known as "nanocrystals." In layman's terms, the company uses the technology to create LED lights that are highly efficient -- at 65 lumens per watt -- but that give off warmer, color-rich light. The brightness of these lights is equivalent to 75-watt incandescent bulbs, but they use only a quarter of the energy, according to Vladimir Bulovic, the inventor who co-founded the company.

QD Vision is quickly racking up intellectual property, having bought the bulk of


( MOT) quantum-dot patent portfolio in May. In March,

Nexxus Lighting


began shipping the first commercially available quantum dot/LED bulb, which the company developed in conjunction with QD Vision.

Building a better battery

: President Obama has been touting new battery technology as a way to reduce dependence on oil, via electric cars. Last year, the federal government put its money where the president's mouth is, allocating $2.4 billion in Recovery Act grants to companies and research facilities that deal with cutting-edge batteries.

The biggest direct winner was

Johnson Controls

(JCI) - Get Report

, which received $299.5 million to go toward the production of lithium-ion hybrid vehicle batteries. The company already has battery production agreements with


(F) - Get Report



, as well as development contracts with


(TTM) - Get Report


Land Rover




Johnson Controls is building an advanced battery-manufacturing plant in Holland, Mich., with battery-pack assembly set to begin in August and cell production due to start in 2011.

Of course, one wonders whether our dependence on foreign oil might be replaced by a dependence on foreign lithium, what with

the recent discovery of untapped minerals in Afghanistan


Building a better sun catcher

: While the solar-energy industry has done a lot to lower the cost of solar-cell production, it's still often too prohibitively expensive for the average American to go comfortably off the grid with the power of the sun -- especially when factoring in installation costs. (Not everyone has the fat wallets of Jay Leno and Ed Begley Jr.)

Marc Baldo, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leads a team that's developing ways to create more energy with fewer cells. Lowering the cost of harnessing the sun should increase the adoption of photovoltaics, the science of converting solar radiation into electricity.

Taking advantage of our gassy planet



(CVX) - Get Report

is among the heavy hitters dabbling in geothermal energy, in which power is extracted from heat stored in the earth in the form of greenhouse gases.

According to a May report by the Geothermal Energy Association, in 2005, there were 8,933 megawatts of installed power capacity in 24 countries, generating 55,709 gigawatt hours per year, according to the International Geothermal Association. As of May, the IGA reports a worldwide installed base of 10,715 megawatts, generating 67,246 gigawatt hours, representing a 20% increase between 2005 and 2010. IGA projects this will grow to 18,500 megawatts by 2015.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

>>Six Solar Energy Stocks: The Heat is On!

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