The Green Guide to CES 2010

The gadget-frenzy that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off this week, and like in recent years past (2009, 2008), we’re keeping an eye out on the energy efficient and “greener” gadgets on display at the show. Like in 2008 and 2009, expect to see a variety of light emitting diodes (LED) products, energy-efficient TVs (particuarly to meet the coming California mandate) and new, experimental energy management gear.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES, has started to focus more heavily on greener gadgets in recent years, buying the Greener Gadgets conference in 2008 (disclosure: that was owned by my sister, explainer here) and opening up a Sustainable Planet section of the show.

But to be honest, a lot of the green efforts at CES in past years has left me a bit bored — the sustainable section is a small side event that’s filled with companies that aren’t generally that interesting. Hopefully CES 2010 will surprise me with some big announcements about how major, mainstream, highly anticipated gadgets from the industry leaders are more sustainable, more-easily recycled and more energy-efficient than standard gadgets.

Here’s some of the green goods I’ll be watching for this week:

Embertec: Australian company Embertec plans to show off its microchip technology which can monitor and learn both the electrical system and human interactions of gadgets and can make them more energy efficient. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but they’re launching it at CES, having a press conference on Thursday and will be at Booth #4413.

Direct Energy’s Energy Management Tool: Energy reseller Direct Energy and a group of gadget heavyweights, including appliance maker Whirlpool, retail group Best Buy, and gadget developer OpenPeak, tell us they plan to launch a home energy management device dubbed the Home Energy Management (HEM) center at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show on January 7.

PowerGenix’s AA Nickel Zinc: Ten-year-old nickel-zinc battery maker PowerGenix sells AA rechargeable NiZn batteries for gadgets, along with batteries for hybrids. The San Diego, Calif.-based company says its gadget batteries are less toxic, provide more power and are “the first true replacement for disposable battery technology.” They’re also a little costly, selling for $34.99 per pack of four with a charger and $14.99 for a pack of four without.

Sean Energy: The weirdly-named Sean Energy’s battery division will be on display at CES, and the company says its “successfully tested a new battery which can power the iPhone in Video mode for almost 48hours.” Not sure what’s green about it, but we’ll send our crew to the booth to check it out. I absolutely love the company’s intro on its About page.

Qualcomm’s (s QCOM) Energy Efficient Screen Tech: As Pedro on GigaOM Pro (subscription required) points out, Qualcomm will be showing off its MEMS-based Mirasol display that only requires power when the screen is refreshed, but can also handle video. Game-changer?

Energy-Efficient TVs: Many TV makers are upset at the ruling that new TVs sold in California in 2011 (58 inches and smaller) need to reduce energy consumption by an average of 33 percent by 2011 and 49 percent by 2013. But expect to see a rush of more energy efficient TVs at the show from makers like LG, Sharp, Hitachi, along with the typical ‘the bigger the better’ TVs that are usually on display at CES. Many will be turning to light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting for LCD screens, replacing less efficient cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs).

Solar Gadgets: One reason I’ve gotten a bit tired of the Sustainable Planet section is that (as TreeHugger put it last year) it’s been filled with “solar junk” in years past. While we appreciate the solar-powered (and wind-powered) cell phone chargers, they’re really not the end-all, be-all of what green gadgets should be. Solio and MiniWiz will be showing off their goods again this year.

Sustainable Planet Section: The section will be will be 40 percent larger than the Sustainable Planet section at last year’s CES,¬†with more than 30 exhibitors and 5,500 square feet of exhibit space.