There is no doubt at this point that fossil fuels are no longer an option for producing energy, as the climate crisis continues to get worse. Thankfully, green tech companies are constantly innovating, creating new ways for us to utilise our renewable energy sources, whether it be solar, wind geothermal or others. Here are 5 of the latest renewable energy innovations that will help fight the climate crisis.
One of the latest innovations in renewable energy is Solar Glass. With the ability to turn windows into power-generating panels, this technology can be built directly into the building rather than being added on like traditional solar PV (Photo-voltaic).
This Solar Glass has a varying efficiency that depends on its opacity, itself varying between 50% transparent and fully opaque. The greater opacity, the more efficient it’ll be, however, being less transparent will allow less light to penetrate through.
The main benefit of Solar Glass is the ability to integrate it directly into a building’s facade. This makes it perfect for cities with glass buildings. Traditional solar panels, on the other hand, take up a fair amount of space, making them more suited to houses.
Other benefits include sound insulation, thermal control, transparency and/or shading and aesthetics thanks to multiple colour options. You can find out more about solar glass here.
On the subject of utilising building facades, Strategic Science Consult (SSC), a Hamburg based company led by Martin Kerner, has developed a bioenergy facade that leverages sunlight to produce both heat and micro-algae biomass.
The heat is produced solely by the physical process of sunlight absorption into the water. The heat obtained will be between 20-25° but can be increased to 50-70 °C if desired, with a heat pump.
Micro-algae are plants that use light, CO2 and nutrients for growth, creating biomass in the process. The algae can grow within a space of about 1 cm thickness between two transparent glass panels. It is then harvested about 4 times daily, thanks to a method of flotation.
In addition to the heat and biomass production, the facade also provides sound insulation and sun protection.
Tidal Renewable Energy
Created using the movement of our tides and oceans, it is estimated that tidal renewable energy could cover up to 20% of the UK’s energy needs. There are three different ways to harness tidal energy: tidal streams, barrages, and lagoons. Although it’s currently quite expensive, companies are constantly innovating, creating new technologies that will undoubtedly bring the cost down.
The advantage of tidal energy is that tides are predictable and constant, thanks to gravitational forces. Only needing to assess the low or high tide, makes it easier for engineers to design efficient systems. Furthermore, equipment and facilities of tidal power can last a lot longer, with an asset life of 120 years. This can make it more cost-competitive than other renewable technologies.
Taking inspiration from the way that plants create their own energy, scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a renewable energy device that imitates photosynthesis by using carbon dioxide, sunlight and water to make oxygen and formic acid, a storable fuel that we can convert into hydrogen.
The device operates without requiring any additional components or electricity. It relies on photocatalysts embedded on a sheet to produce a so-called photocatalyst sheet.
Finding new ways to produce renewable energy is essential, but so is finding ways of storing it! One of the biggest downsides to renewable energy is its inconsistency. If there’s no wind, we can’t get energy from wind farms. If there’s no sun, solar panels can’t produce energy, etc…
By improving the energy storage infrastructure, we would be able to store excess renewable energy and use it more efficiently, namely on days where inconsistent renewable energy sources can’t operate.
One of the most common ways of storing energy is with batteries, namely lithium-ion. But these batteries aren’t perfect, and to improve energy storage infrastructure, batteries will also have to be improved. Thankfully companies have made a lot of progress in this field.
For example, IBM has developed a battery that uses materials extracted from sea-water. Not only is this battery’s composition very promising, but it also has the potential for great performance. Tests have proved that it can surpass Lithium-ion in many different areas namely faster charging time, lower costs, higher power and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability. For more innovations in battery technology, you can check out this article.
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