There are many substantial benefits for public health, the environment, and the economy that come with the use of renewable energy. The International Energy Agency predicts that by the year 2020, the world will rely on renewable sources for at least 26 percent of its total energy supply. This is good news, because the world’s natural resources continue to decrease. While nature provides is with the wind, tides and the sun, it is up to innovators to create renewable technology to take advantage of these sources.
Printable Solar Panels
Solar ink is a renewable technology that is providing a lightweight and lower cost alternative to silicon cells that are used in most solar panels. The ink is flexible and can be printed on a wide range of materials such as walls, windows, and consumer packaging. Silicon-based panels are still more commonly used, but silicon ink is currently a viable renewable alternative for low power applications.
Solar Roadways emerged from an idea by environmental leaders, Scott and Julie Brusaw. The goal is to build solar-powered roads made of tempered glass and LED technology. This renewable innovation has many benefits. LED lights will create lines and signage without using paint. Heating elements will prevent snow and ice accumulation, and microprocessors will allow the road panes to communicate with a central control station, with other vehicles, and with each other.
Floating Wind Turbines
In Scotland, the government approved a project by the company, Statoil. It involves the use of five floating wind turbines that are interconnected with cables and are attached to the ocean floor via an anchoring system. The turbines have the ability to generate enough energy to power 20,000 homes. Similar projects are underway in Norway, Portugal, Japan, and the US.
Artificial Solar Trees
Solar Botanic, Ltd in London creates artificial solar trees by combining three different energy-generation technologies that include solar power from visible sunlight, electricity from heat, and electricity from pressure. The trees include nanoleaves, which generate power from wind, rain, and sunlight without disturbing the natural landscape.
Wave/Tidal Energy Technology
While being difficult to capture, wave energy is an abundant clean energy resource. Engineers are testing large model-scale wave energy to improve the performance of wave-energy converters (WECs). They estimate they can increase the energy absorption of WECs by 300 percent.
Materials like crystals and ceramics generate power when they are actuated, pressed, or stressed. The result is renewable energy. One way to produce this energy is by walking over piezoelectric structures in the ground, generating up to 7 watts of power with each step. On a larger scale, this can be applied to roads and highways, and on a smaller scale to homes and businesses.
Solar Power from Space
Another large potential source of clean energy involves solar power from space. A geostationary array located outside of Earth would collect and focus light from the sun. This would then be converted to electricity and, by using a microwave laser, aimed toward a ground station to be converted back into electricity. This process could provide a continuous energy source that is sustainable outside of the Earth’s surface and is immune from weather fluctuations.
Advancements in Solar Cells
Solar cells have advanced with the use of perovskite, a newly popular material that is less expensive, more flexible, easy to make, and more efficient. Combining two layers of perovskite material enables a single solar cell to absorb different wavelengths or colors of sunlight.
Converting Carbon Dioxide into Fuel
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Chicago realized the ability of converting carbon dioxide into a renewable and clean energy source by using sunlight. The process is similar to the way plants capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to sugars, thereby storing usable energy.
Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius discovered the slightly radioactive metal thorium in 1828. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and it is three times more abundant than uranium. Compared to uranium, it is easier to obtain, produces less waste, costs less, and is more efficient as a renewable energy source. It is also safer. Additionally, thorium does not produce much plutonium, which could eliminate further nuclear weapon production without sacrificing energy.
As the population increases and the strain on our natural resources becomes greater, the need for renewable energy technology is at an all time high. Despite obstacles like cost, access, and barriers to widespread adoption—innovators, inventors, and scientists continue to look for naturally-occurring and environmentally-friendly sources of energy.
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Recommended ReadingsEvolution of Renewable Energy
Four Powerful Renewable Energy Systems
Five Essential Renewable Energy Systems