How much do you know about clean energy?

Clean Energy

How much do you know about clean energy? We’ve all heard of wind and solar power. However, there are many more innovations that will contribute uniquely to the quest for sustainable and clean energy, offering promising solutions for a greener future. Read our article and test yourself at the end to find out how prepared you are for a greener future.

Clean energy innovations
clean energy
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Here are ten of the most innovative solutions for clean energy. Maybe you know of even more?

 
1. Solar Paint

Solar Paint Solar or “photovoltaic” paint, is paint that contains billions of pieces of light sensitive material that can transform sunlight into electricity. This is not yet available as a consumer product because it has yet to capture more than 10% of the total available sun energy. However, when this efficiency problem is solved, it could turn any exterior surface into a solar panel and could be much cheaper and more discrete than solar panels.

 

2. Tidal Energy

This harnesses the power of ocean tides to generate electricity through underwater turbines that are placed where tidal currents are the strongest. Water is more dense than air so tidal energy is more powerful than wind energy, and more predictable than solar and wind energy. Europeans started trying to use tidal energy over 1000 years ago for milling grain, but its operation at scale has been limited.

 

The European Marine Energy Centre is the leading facility now for testing larger prototypes. The UK, Portugal, and some Scandinavian countries have implemented tidal energy projects, while wave energy initiatives are in progress in Australia and the USA.

 

3. Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a viable and clean energy source to power vehicles in the future. Their only emission is water vapor and they are very fuel efficient. However, they are not yet ready for prime-time. Hydrogen can be made from renewable energy, but it currently isn’t, and actually creates huge carbon emissions. It is also too expensive for now, and there is no infrastructure in place for drivers to refuel. But in theory, this is a great innovation and Japan and South Korea are among the leaders in developing hydrogen fuel cells.

 

4. Wave Energy Converters

These devices are designed to capture potential and kinetic energy from ocean waves and convert it into electricity. Many designs involve large buoys on the surface that absorb energy from waves while tethered to the seabed. A number of companies are in the final stages of testing, demonstrating that they can work connected to a national energy grid. For example, tests are underway in Portugal.

 

5. Geothermal Power

Geothermal power taps into the Earth’s natural water (hydro) and heat (thermal) to generate electricity and heat buildings. The geothermal power plants require high temperatures of 300-700°F from deep wells. This energy source is clean compared to fossil fuels and well established, with plants in 26 countries. However, only around 7% of global potential has been tapped, so there is ample opportunity to responsibly expand the use of geothermal power. The United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Iceland have all adopted geothermal power.

 

6. Energy-Generating Roads and Pavements

There are some very innovative proposals from start-ups to make roads and walkways embedded with materials (piezoelectric crystals or electromagnetic induction generators) that harness kinetic energy from vehicles or footsteps. The idea of creating energy when we move is very appealing for its efficiency and resourcefulness, but it is far in the future. The existing technology has limited energy outputs so the costs outweigh the benefits for now.

 

7. Wind Energy Innovations

Advancements in wind turbine technology could unlock more wind energy potential. Longer blades, taller towers, vertical axis turbines, and floating offshore wind farms are among the technologies being tried to make wind energy more efficient and reliable. Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the United States are among the countries investing most heavily in wind energy, utilizing both onshore and offshore wind farms and rolling out new technologies.

 

8. Biomass Energy

Biomass energy converts organic materials like agricultural waste or algae into usable energy sources. It can offer the double appeal of offering renewable energy and reducing waste. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass energy is not depleted because there is a constant supply of plants on Earth, which also makes biomass energy reliable. Countries with strong agricultural sectors and lots of land, such as Brazil and the United States, have adopted biomass energy solutions. However, biomass energy is only to be taken forward with caution. Biomass plants require a lot of space which can lead to deforestation. In addition, some biomass policies can distort global food markets. For example, ethanol subsidies in the USA led to a spike of over 100% in global grain prices, causing global hunger in 2007 and 2008.

 

9. Smart Grids

These electrical grids use digital technologies, sensors and software to optimize energy distribution, reduce wastage, and integrate renewable energy sources efficiently. Providers argue that they offer the benefit of improving efficiency and lowering costs for utility companies and consumers. Several developed nations, including the US, Germany, and Japan, have been implementing smart grid technologies to modernize their electrical infrastructure. The U.S. Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) program is providing $billions in grants for smart grid infrastructure projects.

 

10. Nuclear Fusion

A major priority for many countries is to develop energy from controlled nuclear fusion reactions. In a controlled environment, this would be a safe, renewable, reliable and clean source energy. Wheres the old nuclear fission reactors make energy from splitting a heavy atom into two atoms, nuclear fusion combines two light atoms to form a larger atom. Fusing atoms in a controlled environment creates four million times more energy than burning fossil fuels, and four times more energy than conventional nuclear power. What is more, nuclear fusion does not create the same harmful radioactive by-products from existing nuclear power plants that have to be stored for thousands of years (how do we warn people 1000s of years in the future where they are hidden?).

 

However, there is a long way to go to make nuclear fusion a clean energy source. So far, scientists have twice managed to achieve “ignition” (when the reaction yielded more energy than was put into it.) It is only something countries can achieve together. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) involves collaboration among many countries, including the EU, US, China, Russia, Japan, India, and South Korea, to develop nuclear fusion technology.

 

 

Case studies of clean energy

 

Adoption rates vary due to factors like geographical suitability, government policies, technological advancements, and economic feasibility. Many nations are actively exploring or integrating these innovations into their energy portfolios to transition towards sustainability.

 

Here are a few case studies highlighting the implementation of sustainable energy solutions.

 

Germany’s Renewable Energy Transition (Energiewende)

Germany has made significant strides in renewable energy adoption. They’ve invested heavily in solar and wind power, aiming to transition away from nuclear and fossil fuels to low carbon, safe and reliable technologies, a national transition called “Energiewende”. The country’s feed-in tariffs and incentives have encouraged individuals and businesses to install solar panels. As a result, Germany has become a global leader in renewable energy usage, with renewables accounting for a significant portion of its energy mix.

 

Germany experienced setbacks when Russia invaded Ukraine, being forced to re-open coal powered plants to compensate for sanctions on Russia. However, overall, the EU is doing better than expected in speeding up its transition to renewable energy.

 

Costa Rica’s Renewable Success

Costa Rica has achieved impressive milestones in sustainable energy. In 2022, the country exceeded 98% renewable electricity for the eighth year in a row. They predominantly use hydroelectric power but are diversifying into wind, geothermal, biomass and solar energy. Government policies, along with public support, have facilitated this transition towards clean energy sources.

 

 

Masdar City experiment, UAE

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a sustainable urban development pilot project striving to be a zero-carbon and zero-waste business development zone. The business hub aims to rely entirely on renewable energy sources. It has integrated and tested various technologies like electric public transport systems and solar panels. It is an interesting experiment in how to make an entire community carbon neutral and zero-waste and a lot could be learned from it. For example, the original plan to install solar panels on every building had to be canned because the sand that is characteristic of the region sticks to the solar panels and stops them from working. The area now also draws power from the local grid to function. Low-flow water fixtures are installed everywhere, and the water is reused as many times as possible for irrigation.

 

Floating Offshore Wind Farms in Scotland

 Scotland is the pioneer in developing floating offshore wind farms. The Hywind Scotland Pilot Park, developed by Equinor, is the world’s first floating wind farm. It uses floating turbines in deeper waters where traditional fixed-bottom turbines aren’t feasible, and it has achieved the highest average capacity of all UK offshore wind farms. This innovation vastly expands the potential for offshore wind energy generation.

 

These case studies showcase diverse approaches to sustainable energy implementation, ranging from national policies to localized eco-friendly urban developments and innovative technological solutions in renewable energy generation.

 

 
Get involved with clean energy

 

There are numerous ways for people to get involved in promoting and supporting sustainable energy.

 

You have probably heard a lot about energy conservation. Start by reducing personal energy consumption, before exploring how to reduce energy consumption where you work. Your energy provider probably sends you a chart of your energy consumption compared to similar homes/buildings and tips for reducing your consumption and bills. Use energy-efficient appliances and insulation materials and check for rebates where you live, switch to LED lights, and practice habits like turning off lights when leaving a room, unplugging devices not in use, turning down heating thermostats and turning up the same for A/C.

 

Advocacy and awareness is another option. You can raise awareness about clean energy by educating others about its importance and exciting potential. Support and advocate for policies that promote renewable and clean energy sources at the local, national, and international levels.

 

Join or initiate community programs focused on sustainable and clean energy and the environment. This could involve neighborhood solar panel installations, energy-saving workshops, or community gardens promoting renewable resources. Get involved in environmental organizations, participate in local clean energy initiatives, or volunteer for events and projects promoting sustainable practices.

 

Make sustainable consumer choices. You can support companies that prioritize renewable energy and sustainable practices. Make informed choices by purchasing products and services from businesses committed to reducing their carbon footprint. Our article walks you through the most reliable sources of corporate sustainability data.

 

Invest in renewable energy if you can. If they are within your budget and means, consider investing in renewable energy sources such as solar panels for your home, supporting renewable energy projects financially, or investing in companies focused on clean energy solutions. Our article outlines everything you need to know about climate investing.

 

Support renewable energy policies. You can engage with policymakers, participate in discussions, and support initiatives that advocate for policies promoting clean energy, such as tax incentives for renewable energy adoption or community-based renewable energy programs.

 

Education and research. You can engage in learning more about sustainable energy. Explore courses, workshops, and seminars related to renewable energy technologies or environmental sustainability. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed.

 

By taking action at individual, community, and network levels, people can contribute significantly to the advancement and adoption of sustainable energy solutions.

 

 

Clean energy quiz

 

OK so now you are plugged in, test your clean energy knowledge! (Spoiler alert you can check the answers at the end.)

 

 

**Question 1**: Which country is known for pioneering the concept of “Energiewende,” aiming for a transition to renewable energy sources while moving away from nuclear and fossil fuels?

 

a) United States  

b) Germany  

c) China  

d) Japan

 

**Question 2**: What technology involves generating electricity from ocean tides using underwater turbines?

 

a) Geothermal power  

b) Wave energy converters  

c) Tidal energy  

d) Hydrogen fuel cells

 

**Question 3**: Which innovative energy solution involves harnessing the Earth’s natural heat to generate electricity and heat buildings?

 

a) Biomass energy  

b) Geothermal power  

c) Solar power  

d) Wind energy

 

**Question 4**: What renewable energy source can convert organic materials like agricultural waste into usable energy?

 

a) Tidal energy  

b) Biomass energy  

c) Hydrogen fuel cells  

d) Wave energy converters

 

**Question 5**: Which type of wind turbine technology is designed for use in deeper waters where traditional fixed-bottom turbines are not feasible?

 

a) Horizontal axis turbines  

b) Floating offshore wind farms  

c) Vertical axis turbines  

d) Onshore wind farms

 

**Question 6**: What is the specialized paint that can generate electricity from sunlight, turning any surface into a solar panel called?

 

a) Solar coating  

b) Sun-powered paint  

c) Photovoltaic paint  

d) Solar pigment

 

**Question 7**: Which energy innovation involves utilizing hydrogen as a clean energy source to power vehicles and produce electricity?

 

a) Hydrogen fuel cells  

b) Wave energy converters  

c) Geothermal power  

d) Tidal energy

 

**Question 8**: What kind of grids optimize energy distribution and integrate renewable energy sources efficiently?

 

a) Traditional grids  

b) Sustainable grids  

c) Advanced grids  

d) Smart grids

 

 

How did you do? Let us know in the comments and sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop!

 

 

 

Answers:

1. b) Germany  

2. c) Tidal energy  

3. b) Geothermal power  

4. b) Biomass energy  

5. b) Floating offshore wind farms  

6. c) Photovoltaic paint  

7. a) Hydrogen fuel cells  

8. d) Smart grids

 

Tags :
Environment,ESG Investing,Renewable energy,Shareholder activism,Smart Cities
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