With roughly $369 billion allocated to combat climate change, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act or “climate bill” has created a new pathway and incentive for the U.S. to invest in and implement green energy solutions. As corporations and individuals alike look to lower their carbon emissions and reduce their power bills, innovative and effective green technologies once considered too far-fetched or expensive will likely get renewed attention.
With this, some are looking to Big Tech to solve our climate conundrum. But bigger isn’t always better. Perhaps the real solution to this outsized problem starts with updating one of the smallest yet ubiquitous electronic components in the world — the electronic switch.
As our country — and the world — moves toward the electrification of everything, why do we still rely on switches and transistors designed more than 50 to 150 years ago? It is estimated that roughly 40 percent of the world’s electricity is lost to inefficient transmission and switch technology. Not only are these fundamental building blocks of technology inefficient — in terms of size, weight and power — they also were not designed with our future power grid needs in mind. They are bulky, they don’t scale, are too costly and worst of all energy inefficient. As a matter of fact, they are counter to the push toward mass transition to renewables.
Combining the electrical strengths of the “conductive” relay with the scalability and reliability of the “semiconductive” transistor, Menlo Micro has created an entirely new category of switches called the Ideal Switch that are 99% smaller, lighter and more efficient, and 999 times faster than traditional electromechanical switch technology. If we replaced the more than 20 billion outlets and switches that currently exist in U.S. buildings with Menlo Micro’s digitally controlled Ideal Switch the US would save the amount of electricity produced by 11 coal-fired power plants over 10 years, cumulatively stopping the emission of 825 metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2050. Currently, the industry relies on digitally controlled standard electromechanical relays, which do not deliver the same energy efficiency benefits.
The climate bill offers an opportunity to fundamentally shift the way we power our country by investing in innovative green technologies and climate solutions. And, like the Ideal Switch, many of these innovations will be conceived of and developed by small tech companies and startups.
Small companies and startups produce 14 times more patents than large companies and universities and employ nearly 40 percent of America's scientists and engineers. Despite this, they face comparatively greater barriers to funding, implementation, and scaling than their larger, corporate counterparts. Congress has made it clear, through both the climate bill and the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act, that strengthening U.S. tech leadership and attracting top STEM talent are critical to the future of America’s economy, workforce, and national security. Thus, to ensure these momentous bills do as their champions intended and the country needs, we must think small and invest in the startups that will drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness for decades to come. The ROI is enormously better!