When a group of over 11,000 scientists from all over the world issues a statement that climate change will cause “untold suffering,” you have to listen. The not-for-profit Conservation Biology Institute’s grim warning is echoed by many others including the now-famous teenager, Greta Thunberg. New energy technologies are needed more than ever to transform our relationship with energy and the environment.
There are new energy technologies emerging to help make the future seem a little brighter. To learn about them, and how they may impact you, keep reading!
New Energy Technologies
Energy technologies impact energy generation, storage, and utilization. In each of these areas, there are examples of new developments that will have a profound effect.
1. Solar Power
Fossil fuels such as coal or gas are used to generate electricity. In the process, they produce CO2 and other greenhouse gases. These gases contribute to the warming of the atmosphere and the consequences of that are melting of the polar ice caps and climate change.
Solar power converts sunlight into electricity without emitting greenhouse gases. Solar power has negligible negative environmental impacts compared to burning fossil fuels.
Almost no CO2 is produced. Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are produced during transportation and construction.
Electricity from Sunlight
There are two ways in which electricity is produced from sunlight. These are photovoltaics and concentrated solar power.
Photovoltaic solar cells were first used for small low powered devices. You may have used a calculator powered by a photovoltaic cell. Developments in photovoltaic technology have made it possible to have roof-mounted solar panels.
They are capable of providing power for the home. They even provide surplus power that can be sold to the wider electrical grid.
Concentrated solar power uses a combination of solar tracking, mirrors, and lenses. They collect diffuse sunlight into a concentrated beam. This beam is directed onto photovoltaic cells and converted into electricity.
Large and Small Scale
What started as an interesting, if a bit quirky way, of powering small devices now has the capability to produce utility-sized power stations. The largest solar power plant in the world is the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China. It can produce 850MW of electrical power which is enough to serve the needs of 200,000 households.
Domestic users can install and run their own mini power plants. These smaller-scale photovoltaic solar panels provide all your home electrical needs and are a source of income too.
Selling surplus electricity to the grid helps the utility companies. It also improves their percentage of green energy distribution.
Upfront costs can be low or even zero. There are often tax incentives to produce your own electricity. Solar companies can fit solar panels that are customized to fit your roof and don’t look intrusive.
2. Energy Storage
Green energy production often grabs the headlines when it comes to news about green energy. Of course, developing alternatives to carbon fuels is vital but there is a problem with wind and solar energy generation. What do you do when it’s not sunny and the wind isn’t blowing?
Strangely enough, there may be a problem with overproduction of green energy. Crazy as it may seem, China is cutting the subsidies that have driven the rapid development of utility-sized solar projects. There is an imbalance in supply and demand caused in part by the logistics of getting power from remote solar power plants to high energy users.
As markets have grown for lithium-ion batteries economies of scale and improved technology has seen prices drop. Electricity storage for motor vehicles seemed to be inhibiting growth in the market. Both costs and storage capacity made viable e-powered cars a remote possibility but things are changing.
Now lithium-ion batteries have the capacity to store electricity for longer journeys. The cost of the batteries is such that electrically powered cars are economical to manufacture and can give the dominant internal combustion engines a run for their money.
Utility Energy Storage
Falling energy storage costs and improved technology is making energy storage on a utility-scale more viable. Matching solar energy production with demand peaks has proved difficult in the past. Now with lower storage costs and better storage technology, this is likely to be a thing of the past.
Utilities are increasingly interested in green energy production driven in part by legislation and consumer demand. The developments in energy-efficient transport are likely to see changes to the way in which we all consume energy. This is partly supported by better and cheaper energy storage.
The three worlds of energy production, energy storage, and e-transport will see further technological development and integration. Vertical integration of these businesses and the associated technologies is likely to drive even more innovation.
3. Energy Distribution Efficiency
Cryptocurrencies have received a great deal of controversial media coverage. One thing that isn’t controversial is that the blockchain technology that cryptocurrencies use has interesting potential applications across many other domains. Blockchain technology may play an important role in improving the efficiency of energy distribution.
Blockchain is used by cryptocurrencies as a form of ledger. It digitally accounts for transactions between users.
The peer-to-peer network that manages the cryptocurrency is a decentralized system. It provides incorruptible security for users.
Internet of Things
The development of internet technologies has seen the emergence of the concept and then the reality of the “internet of things”. When devices have computers embedded in them they can receive and send data via the internet. This enables them to operate in a network.
Devices can now communicate with other devices to perform useful tasks. Speaker systems can connect to your calendar. A refrigerator can order food from a grocery supplier when stocks are getting low.
Combine the “internet of things” and blockchain technology and you have a powerful peer-to-peer network that can have an impact on energy supply. Devices could engage in energy buying and even selling.
This would mean the devices could optimize purchases according to the market price for energy. As devices could also control storage of energy they may even sell energy back to the grid when it is prudent to do so.
New energy technologies are having an impact on your life. They are also important for the sustainability of life on the plant. We should all be watching the progress with interest.
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