While Michael Easton focuses on wind power, other inventive eggheads use different technologies to deal with ecological problems. Meet the designers of your next car. And backpack. And trash can. And…
King of Grease
Back in 2000, Justin Carven drove across the country in a VW camper with an engine reconfigured to run on vegetable grease. The van emitted net-zero carbon; its exhaust smelled like French fries. Later that year, he founded Greasecar Inc., the first and now the largest supplier of vegetable-oil conversion kits in the country.
Aaron LeMieux dreamed up the nPower Personal Energy Generator on a hike along the Appalachian Trail. His Cleveland, Ohio–based company, Tremont Electric, makes the devices that convert the motion of walking and biking into power for cell phones and other personal electronic devices. The PEG comes out this fall.
The big idea behind Makani Power comes from Saul Griffith: wind generation from high-flying kites. Wind-kite power, the Alameda, California–based company says, will be much cheaper than coal. Though Griffith left the company this year, Makani is still at work—but declines to say when wind-kite production will begin.
In 2003, Jim Poss designed the BigBelly, a trash can that compacts garbage on-site using solar power. The device compresses trash as passersby throw it in. When the can fills up, it sends a wireless message to let collection staff know to empty it. That reduces the number of trips to collect garbage, saving gas (and money).
In 2008, Peter Bermal helped start Cambridge, Massachusetts–based StarSolar, a company desiged to build a better solar cell. He says their new technology—which uses photonic crystals to make light bounce around more before exiting the cells—will increase solar-cell power generation by a third.