Public Access

Community storytelling.

This post was created by a member of the Public Access community. It has not been edited for accuracy or truthfulness and does not reflect the opinions of Engadget or its editors.

Editor's Picks

Image credit:

7 Cool and Cutting Edge Innovations in Renewable Energy

Dianna Labrien, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist, @DiLabrien
09.09.16
2 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links


Green technology – world leaders understand it is no longer an option but a necessity.

The recent signing of the Paris Accord is the first step toward getting the world in step and on the path to a greener future. Not a moment too soon according to the UN, as by 2025 an additional 2.9 billion people will inhabit the planet, and by 2030 the world's energy needs will have increased by 60%. We've reached the point where we can no longer tolerate the slow pace of development in the green sector.

Luckily there are some ground-breaking innovations that, whilst currently still mere fledglings, show promise for the future.

Necessity = Innovation in Gaza

The years of conflict in Gaza has resulted in about 90% of the water not being fit for human consumption. Estimates suggest that the territory could run out of clean water within months. Fayez al-Hindi had been working on a solution and has finally accomplished his goal – creating a solar-powered desalination unit that produces drinkable water. Using solar power ("Sunshine is readily available in our country," he says, jokingly), he has built a simple tank that separates the pollutants and salt out of water. His specific unit produces about 2.6 gallons a day, which is enough for his family to drink and cook with. He is now helping others build their own tanks. The water has been tested by the local water utility and it is amazingly clean according to their standards.
On a wider scale, the impact of his invention is huge. If grand scale tanks can be built and solar powered, then the water shortages in many parts of the world look set to face, whether through conflict or climate change, can be overcome.

HVAC Systems That Generate Clean Energy as They Run

Be Power Tech, a startup in Florida, has developed an HVAC unit (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) that holds the promise of significantly reducing energy usage in a state where there is always stress on the grid in the hot summer months. The unit uses natural gas rather than electricity, but here's the great part, while running it charges a fuel cell which creates clean electricity for use elsewhere in the building.

The unit mounts on the roof of a building and uses a new evaporative cooling technology. According to Be Power Tech, its BeCool unit reduces energy costs by 67–70% and has the equivalent ecological impact as taking five cars off the road.

Wind in the Ocean – Floating Turbines

Series of wind turbines at sea
Offshore wind innovations have been in the works for a long time. Off the northern coast of Japan two relatively small turbines have been at work since 2013, but now they have built a much larger turbine - the largest to be ever used at sea. Two other countries, Norway and Portugal, also have offshore turbines and currently in all of cases the turbines have been positioned onto platforms that rest on the ocean floor. Japan's new turbine will be attached to a floating structure because the ocean is too deep where it's set to be positioned. This new way of installing turbines using robust connections and cables capable of withstanding the ever-moving floating platform was launched toward the end of 2015. If successful, it will mean that other countries will be able to install offshore turbines and harness the power of their territorial waters, no matter how deep the ocean that surrounds them.

Grass Clippings into Solar Cells

They're called biophotovoltaics – devices that can produce energy from photosynthesis. The possibilities are endless but the technology is too pricey for them to be feasible right now.

Or is it - an MIT researcher, Andreas Mershin, has found a way to mix grass clippings and cheap chemicals to create a solar cell. Once the chemical process is complete the mixture can be painted onto a roof to power the premises. While the innovation is still in the early stages, this kind of solar energy could power homes and buildings in rural areas and in developing nations. The science is a bit complicated and has to do with extracting a protein involved in photosynthesis so that it continues to live, but according to Mershin its feasible that this will be ready to roll out in just a few years.

Electric Roads

Sweden has just opened two kilometres of test road in which electric vehicles connect to an overhead power supply, similar to that used by light rail systems. It makes them one of the first countries in the world to trial this type of electrically-powered transport on public roads. Right now, testing is only for large municipal vehicles such as garbage collection trucks, but ultimately the goal is to expand this to all vehicles on its roads. This innovation is a part of the longer-term goal of Sweden to be operating a totally electricity-powered fleet of public vehicles by 2030.

The system requires each truck to have a pantograph that connects to the power lines above it. When the overhead line runs out they seamlessly move over to a regular road and operate as the hybrid vehicles they are. There's no need to recharge as the connection to the overhead line provides the electric charge whilst the rest of the time it runs on biofuel.

Only a small fleet is being tested right now, but the future for electric roads is looking better and better, at least in Sweden.

Solar Power Planes


At the end of July 2015, the Solar Impulse 2 completed its flight around the world. Run solely on solar power, it was piloted by Bertrand Piccard over the 17 legs required to circumnavigate the globe.
The plane took off from Abu Dhabi on March 19 and whilst there were a few hiccups including a battery failure which forced a one-month stopover in Hawaii, Piccard and his co-pilot made it without using a drop of a fossil fuel. They used their stopovers to try to educate communities about the need to move to a fossil fuel-free transportation system, and to prove that one day this will be a reality.

One Last Note

We agree that the aim is to no longer be dependent on fossil fuels – as much to combat the dwindling natural resources as to support a greener future – but the process of moving over to these technologies will take time. In the meantime, we can now make oil out of just about any carbon-based waste. Researchers have experimented using everything from the guts of turkeys to rubber waste (think old tires). Using a process called thermal-depolymerisation, adding heat and pressure to the waste, they can quickly make what nature takes millions of years to create. The research continues but it does hold a lot of promise should we still need oil in the near future.

The next 20 years will be exciting to watch in terms of green energy technology. These seven innovations hold amazing promise for the future and will in turn help fuel ideas for further innovation. A fossil fuel free, greener future is getting closer – watch this space!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
2 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

View
Alphabet's rebooted robotics program starts with trash-sorting machines

Alphabet's rebooted robotics program starts with trash-sorting machines

View
Watch Al Pacino hunt Nazis in Jordan Peele's upcoming Amazon series

Watch Al Pacino hunt Nazis in Jordan Peele's upcoming Amazon series

View
AT&T will bring real 5G to millions of customers this year

AT&T will bring real 5G to millions of customers this year

View
Tesla's electric ATV matches well with the Cybertruck

Tesla's electric ATV matches well with the Cybertruck

View
Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr