One of the most exciting things about the renewable energy industry is that there is no end to innovation — everyday there is something new. From new designs for wind turbines and updates to solar panels to trendy gadgets that help people power their electronic devices, scientists, designers and entrepreneurs are working constantly to improve the way we use and conserve energy.
Here are five cool innovations you should know about in energy and sustainability:
Giant Offshore Wind Turbines
Sandia Labs has developed a design for a low-cost offshore 50 MW wind turbine with rotor blades that span over 650 feet — two and a half times longer than that of any existing turbine. The extreme-scale Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor has the potential to make offshore wind farms more cost-efficient by increasing turbines’ resilience while maximizing energy production.
Inspired by the way palm trees move in the wind, the design equips offshore turbines to withstand high wind speeds. During severe storms, the blades can be stowed and aligned with the wind direction to reduce the risk of damage. When the wind speed is lower, the blades spread out to enable energy production. The size of the blades also allow for as much energy to be produced as possible.
Home Energy Storage
Multiple manufacturers — most notably, Tesla — have been working on developing energy storage solutions for homeowners. By creating rechargeable battery units that enable load-shifting, homeowners with residential solar panels can store energy that is being produced when its not needed to be released at times of peak demand. The continued improvement of energy storage solutions is key in order for renewable energy use to continue its rise to the top.
Energy efficiency has become a key aspect of sustainable living. One type of design has taken things to the extreme. “Earthships” are self-sustaining dwellings that are self heating and cooling, collect rain water that is filtered for plumbing, and sustain an attached greenhouse for growing crops. Solar panels provide electricity, while a strategic ventilation system allows the dweller to adjust the internal temperature. These homes are perfect for anyone who wants to experience living off of the grid.
Floating Wind and Solar
Renewables have taken to the seas, as companies across the globe look for new ways to generate clean energy.
Japan is one country taking advantage of open water to make more space for solar panels. Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. and have started building a 13.7-megawatt floating solar plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir near Tokyo, which is scheduled to launch in 2018.
Wind turbines have also followed the floating trend — the company WindFloat successfully tested a 2 MW floating turbine, which has led to a consortium of companies to plan a 25 MW offshore wind project by 2018.
The main benefit of this innovation is, of course, to provide more space for solar and wind farms. But floating turbines also have the added bonus of allowing wind farms to be set up farther from shore, where the water is too deep to mount towers, reducing interference with shipping routes, and reaching stronger, more consistent wind.
Solar Powered Window Socket
Okay, technically this innovation is still in the concept phase. But if these developers pull through, people would be able to charge their phones, laptops, and other electronics by simply finding the nearest window. Fighting for a spot near an outlet at coffee shops and airports would be a thing of the past. And, of course, producing electricity from clean sources is always a good thing.