Renewable Energy Innovations That Could Change the World
Many utility companies and investors view widespread distribution of renewable energy with caution. But recently, traditional energy sectors have started rethinking their investment in renewable energy by considering large scale investments. Interest in future innovations is now reaching an inflection point. Utilities are considering a multitude of ideas for integrating innovative renewable power sources.
Industry leaders have begun to see renewable energy as a rapidly maturing sector. They are beginning to focus on the next innovations in energy technology and business models, such as blockchain as a financial tool for energy transactions. Developments in renewable energy ensure we make the most out of fossil fuels and other energy sources that will improve efficiency. Here are 5 technologies that promise to change the face of the energy industry in the next two decades.
- Fuel cells
Manufacturers have begun investing in fuel cell technologies. Fuel cells would allow transportation vehicles to run on hydrogen and oxygen. The only emissions that would be released are water and heat. Vehicles that run on fuel cells offer extremely clean alternatives to current transportation energies.
- Lithium-air batteries
Lithium-air batteries are also known as Lithium-oxygen fuel cells. These fuel storage units have been in development since electric vehicles were developed. They have 2 major flaws:
- Unpredictable short circuiting, and
- Rapid loss of battery power.
Recently, scientists at Cornell University were able to solve the issue of long-term capacity, leaving only the first issue of unpredictable short circuiting to be resolved.
- First generation smart grid
Even though technology has brought massive changes to almost every sector, the electric grid hasn’t changed much since it was invented. New investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure, called the “smart” grid, will change that. The smart grid combines information technology with power transmission to homes, businesses and the community at large. The first step in making a responsive, reliable smart grid is to install smart meters in every household and building. The new meters will relay usage data to energy providers in real-time, making it possible for adjustments in availability to be accessible according to each area’s immediate needs. In 2007, the U.S. began setting up a process for synchronized adoption of new technology. Many small communities are jumping on the band wagon, starting “microgrid” projects themselves that will allow consumer demand to drive implementation.
- Tidal turbines
Similar to wind turbines, these underwater rotary engines harness energy from the movement of the waves. This green energy has yielded success, but fishermen have objected loudly. These objections, combined with accidents, have set the technology back a bit. Nevertheless, the science behind tidal turbines is moving forward. Tidal turbines generate two mega-watts of power, making it the largest and most powerful turbine. The latest generation of tidal turbines employ a retractable arm, giving it separate transportation and operation modes, making it portable and impermanent, which is preferred by the fishing industry.
- Space-based solar power
Solar power generated in space has been a long-anticipated reality. Currently, the high cost of transporting solar panels into space is a major deterrent, as well as transference of generated energy back to Earth. Scientists are working on a wireless energy transfer technology similar to wireless smartphone charging feature.
The technologies listed above are inter-related. Progress in the lithium-air battery technology will support future success of electric vehicles, which could be recharged with energy generated by the tides or space-based solar energy. Looking ahead, it will be one small step for science, one giant leap for renewable energy.
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