Has anyone cast Elon Musk as a superhero? If so, does he have counterparts in another green universe? All superheroes have them, and “Zero Carbonista” Dale Vince could be one of them, from across the sea, in Britain.
Dale Vince, born and raised in Britain, is probably one of the few people we would refer to as hippies, but able to actually make something of his ecological mind. To be sure, it is one thing to embrace the planet, and another thing, entirely, to make a business out of it and get other people to embrace the planet. As he states in his own blog, ZeroCarbonista.com, “I am a hippie. I run a business… to bring change to the world. My interest Is the next Industrial Revolution… how to live without burning up the planet.”
Sounds great, Mr. Vince, but what are you gonna do about it? So far, Mr. Vince has been listed regularly as one of Britain’s richest people, but how does an ecologist and self-proclaimed hippie do that? Dale Vince is founder and sole shareholder in Ecotricity, the biggest green energy company, and one of the more successful startups, in Britain. [Elon Musk has his fir share of successful startups under his belt, including PayPal and Tesla Motors.] Starting with just one wind turbine in 1996, located in Stroud, Mr. Vince poured any customer money back into the company, reinvesting the profits to research and expand his green energy network. Today, Ecotricity has over 70,000 clients and 55 wind turbines. About $600/client/year gets reinvested in the company, a total of about $42 million.
Ecotricity even put together the Nemesis, an all-electric, wind-powered, performance car, although Mr. Vince drives a Nissan Leaf whenever he needs to get around. Like Elon Musk, Dale Vince realized that he’d have to invest millions to even get close to mass-marketing and mass-producing electric vehicles, so he turned his attentions back to green energy production, including wind and wave power, and even an Electric Highway project in between major cities in Britain. [Sound familiar, anyone? Elon Musk, perhaps?]
One project that he has been attending to is reducing the size of wind turbines so they can be placed in urban environments. Traditional, horizontal-axis wind turbines don’t scale down very well, and in an urban environment, wind direction and stability is hardly trustworthy. Vertical-axis turbines, however, though less efficient, can turn pretty much constantly, as long as there is a slight breeze, with no regard to direction, which would mean time and energy wasted to turn a tradition wind turbine into the wind.
Dale Vince’s crowning achievement could come in the form of The Black Box, so called because he hasn’t released any information about this large-scale UPS [Uninterruptible Power Supply], what it’s capabilities are, what it’ll be called when it’s available for sale, or what it’s made of. In any case, one problem with renewable energy, including wind power, is intermittency, which requires a big change in the way that we perceive the use of power in our homes. According to Mr. Vince, if every home had this Black Box, most likely some kind of internet-connected battery storage system, electricity demand could be cut by as much as 15%, without requiring consumers to make changes in their consumption habits.
Image © ZeroCarbonista