“Green” is the new gold

If some of the latest “green” reports are key indicators of the market potential for low-power, eco-friendly components and equipment, then the electronics industry may get a significant green boost to its bottom line over the next several years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s push to regulate the power consumption of additional electronics products under its Energy Star program, along with billions of dollars of federal stimulus funding are also helping drive the demand for greener products.

Nearly all electronic component markets — semiconductors, power ICs, sensors, passives, displays, and interconnects — can garner some much needed revenue from emerging green markets including solar and wind power, smart grid (including smart meters) and green information technology (IT).

As an example, NextGen Research projects the green computing equipment market to grow from $47 billion in 2009 to $223.7 billion in 2013. The market researcher defines a green computer/server as one that is built from eco-friendly materials, features low power consumption and computer power management (CPM) capabilities, has fewer and smaller component parts and generates less heat than previous models, and ultimately is responsible for lower CO2 emissions.

Supporting NextGen’s study, a recent U.S. Green IT survey, conducted by IDC, finds that IT organizations are paying more attention to implementing green initiatives through product selection, product design, and product lifecycle management including asset disposal, recovery and recycling as they find that these green activities can generate a substantial return on investment (ROI).

This trend can translate into a tremendous opportunity for growth in the PC, server and storage markets.

IDC’s IT Advisory Tools team was able to validate the benefits associated with the adoption of a Green IT strategy beyond just energy savings.

“IT organizations should revisit the corporate structure linked to hardware lifecycle management. The goal is to move closer to a closed-loop process: this means procurement, IT, facilities, finance, legal, environmental, etc. must all be strategically aligned on the same goals,” said David Daoud, research manager for Green IT at IDC, in a statement.

IDC’s Green IT and IT Advisory Tools team will host a Webcast — Incorporating Green Metrics in IT Procurement and Lifecycle Management: Sustainability For Greater ROI — on December 8, 2009 at 1 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. Click here to register for the Webcast.

Flat panel displays (FPDs) are also becoming greener. DisplaySearch reported earlier this year that 20 percent of all FPD shipments of the total $95.6 billion market for TFT LCD, OLED and plasma displays in 2008 had green features. The market researcher expects this to increase to 70 percent by 2012 and dominate the market by 2014.

The report, “Green Technology in Flat Panel Displays: Market Technology and Trends” covers environmental regulations, power-saving technologies, eco-friendly components, and energy-saving manufacturing processes.


Green electronics is also making inroads into the global handset market. Juniper Research projects global shipments of green handsets could reach 485 million units by 2014, driven primarily by consumer demand for environmentally-friendly mobile devices, and government regulations.

Emerging markets

A new report from NanoMarkets indicates that the smart-grid infrastructure requirements will create big opportunities for advanced materials suppliers ranging from new compound semiconductors to the latest nanomaterials. The researcher expects that smart-grid infrastructure products will create a $12 billion opportunity for suppliers of components, wires, cables, storage devices and insulators.

The report, “Opportunities for New Materials and Devices in the Smart Grid: 2010 to 2017“, covers several product areas including advanced materials, power electronics, nanotube wires, batteries and supercapacitors.

Semiconductor suppliers take note: A key finding indicates that silicon carbide is already beginning to replace silicon in grid power electronics devices and gallium nitride, zinc oxide and industrial diamond may also in the future.

Using devices made with these materials will enable electricity grids to carry more electricity and reduce the number of switching devices needed than in today’s grid infrastructure, reports NanoMarkets. Switching losses are said to be half of those for equivalent silicon devices. The researcher expects that over $400 million in non-silicon power electronics devices will be sold into grid applications by 2017.

Another finding shows that composite materials will carry much larger currents and voltages than today and are already offering two to four times the capacity of conventional transmission cabling. The study cites several benefits — improvements in voltage endurance, breakdown strength, component size, and aging characteristics. Nano-dielectrics are expected to account for more than $500 million in revenues by 2017, according to NanoMarkets.

The researcher also expects about $350 million to be spent on superconducting cables in smart-grid applications, initially for short-haul transmission until pricing falls. These cables are expected to reduce line losses, ensure stable voltage and expand current carrying capacity.

In addition, NanoMarkets expects the need for a two-way communication network topology will open up significant opportunities for sensor manufacturers. All types of sensing (PDF) will be needed in a smart-grid infrastructure including voltage sensing, current sensing, temperature sensing, moisture sensing, continuity sensing and phase measurements.

Despite a slowdown in solar and wind power projects, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth. For example, one interesting opportunity cited by Pike Research is decentralized electricity generation for both small rooftop and large commercial installations.

The market researcher expects the distributed PV market — systems less than 20 megawatts in size where electricity does not pass through the traditional transmission and distribution system prior to being used — to reach $60 billion by 2013, up from $30 billion in 2008, which translates into a compound annual growth rate of 22 percent.

See related articles:

Green Computing Market to reach $223.7B in 2013

Green handset shipments to reach nearly 500M units by 2014, says researcher

EPA sets new Energy Star requirements for A/V equipment

Federal funding delivers $3.4 billion for a smart-energy grid

NREL, Siemens Energy announce 2.3-MW wind turbine project

Treasury, DoE deliver $2B in tax credits for energy manufacturers