The cleantech future is now with robots, accelerators and second “skins” for buildings
This robot is hoping to speed up offshore wind projects
Bedrock, a Brooklyn-based startup founded in 2020, developed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to primarily expedite offshore wind energy development. The AUV, which slightly resembles a beluga whale, surveys seafloor geophysical data through various types of measurement, including multibeam echo sonar and a magnetometer. Bedrock is looking to disrupt the sea mapping industry by reducing the time, environmental impact and costs associated with traditional seafloor surveys.
Bedrock AUV surveying. Credit: Bedrock
Traditional seafloor mapping is a laborious, expensive process. It requires a large manned ship (200 to 300 feet long) alongside an unmanned surface vessel to collect data such as water depth, the seafloor landscape and more, operating 24 hours a day. This survey takes about six months, sometimes up to 12, and can cost tens of millions of dollars.
Compare that with Bedrock, which can fly its AUV to any location and have detailed seafloor maps within three weeks. The data uploads to its cloud data platform, Mosaic. From an environmental perspective, the AUV is electric, with lithium-ion batteries, quiet and slow with speeds of 2-3 knots. This limits noise pollution, ocean floor disruption and danger to marine animals.
This month, the startup raised a Series A round of $25.5 million led by Northzone and Primary Venture Partners. Bedrock entered the market at a favorable time — when the Biden administration set the goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. The Biden administration has approved three major offshore wind projects in U.S. waters to date; the newest project, “Ocean Wind 1,” will power more than 380,000 homes. Besides surveys for offshore wind projects, Bedrock’s AUV use cases include projects related to tidal power, sequestered carbon storage, cable laying and hydrogen production facilities.
Bedrock, if you’re reading this, I think you should name your AUV “Beluga.”
Besides surveys for offshore wind projects, Bedrock’s AUV use cases include projects related to tidal power, sequestered carbon storage, cable laying and hydrogen production facilities.
Accelerating climate tech into the future
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Accelerators are excellent barometers for the future direction of the climate tech marketplace. And one such accelerator is Wisconsin-based Sustainability Accelerator gener8tor.
Launched in the fall of 2021, the sustainability-specific accelerator is a 12-week program that invests $100,000 in its cohort of just six startups. Within the timeframe of the program, gener8tor provides individualized coaching and mentoring sessions, while also connecting its startups with industry experts and investors.
A Showcase Event caps off the end of each cohort, allowing the startups to pitch to a room full of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and community members.
Past cohorts included startups such as REint, which provides accurate forecasts for solar wind and energy using its AI-powered platform. Or Rushnu, which decarbonizes heavy industry by making carbon capture and use technology more energy-efficient and economical. Partners of the accelerator include the Carbon Business Council and TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good.
Any climate tech startup focusing on solving, mitigating or adapting to the climate crisis is eligible to apply, although gener8tor focuses on scalable ventures that will engender systemic change and champion diversity. Applications for gener8tor’s 2023 fall cohort can be found here.
A one-stop shop for serial building renovations
The built environment emits a whopping 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. With that in mind, Berlin-based Ecoworks (German) developed technology akin to a tortilla wrap to cut apartment building emissions called a “second skin.” This skin is a facade that’s installed around a building, becoming its outer shell. In other words, Ecoworks creates pre-fabricated, climate-neutral second skins installed on buildings for renovation. Made from wood with sustainable insulation (cellulose), these second skins save apartment buildings 70-80% of energy costs at less cost than traditional construction.
These second skins save apartment buildings 70-80% of energy costs at less cost than traditional construction.
Ecoworks is poised to accelerate the energy efficiency market as it is vertically integrated from project analysis — the startup creates a digital twin of each building by walking with a 3D camera hoisted over their shoulders — to installation. (You can watch videos of these processes on the company’s site.) A key competitive advantage for Ecoworks is its ability to shift 80% of activities from the construction site to their semi-automated factories, where it creates the second skins and then installs them to buildings on the construction site.
The finished product is a building shell with integrated windows, building technology connections, heat pumps and photovoltaic systems. In 2019, the startup renovated an energy-inefficient 1930s apartment block (which used 369 kWh of energy per square meter) to produce 20% more energy than consumed, according to Ecoworks.
Ecoworks raised a $8.3 million round last year from a few investors including Blackhorn Ventures and Zacua Ventures. The startup is scaling its serial renovation operation, investing in hardware, team and supply chain capacity. To date, Ecoworks serviced 832 residential units with the goal to renovate 30 million apartments in the next 25 years.
This article originally appeared on GreenBiz.com as part of our partnership with GreenBiz Group, a media and events company that accelerates the just transition to a clean economy.
Featured photo credit: Bedrock