The Kind of Renewable Energy Ideas that could change the World…10 of them!
In recent years there has been a paradigm shift towards new, renewable energy resources and away from fossil fuels. Billions of dollars are being invested in hundreds of new ideas. These ideas range from conservative improvements on to current technologies, all the way to outlandish sci-fi like concepts. It is likely that there won’t be one magic bullet, but instead, a number of innovations will help free us from the bondage of our current energy situation. The following innovations are a selection of some of the more exotic and exciting new ideas in renewable energy, some of which may have the potential to change everything we know about how our world is powered.
Tornado Power Plant
Tornadoes are among natures most powerful and destructive forces. In fact, tornadoes have the highest energy density of any storm in nature. If the energy of a tornado could somehow be sustained and harnessed, it could be used as an effective renewable source of energy. Canadian engineer Louis Michaud believes he has figured a way to do just this. He calls it an “Atmospheric Vortex Engine.” This engine ore AVE would consist of a 200-meter-wide arena with 100-meter-high walls. Warm humid air enters at the sides, directed to flow in a circular fashion. As the air whirls around at speeds up to 200 mph, a vacuum forms in the center which holds the vortex together as it extends several miles into the sky. Michaud estimates that as much as 200 megawatts of electricity (enough for a small city) could be provided by such a system. -SOURCE
Traditional wind turbines have been around for years, and have continuously improved their efficiency. Unfortunately, modern wind turbines are limited by the wind speed and consistency of their location. Hawaii based company MAKANI POWER believes they have invented a new technology that will allow them to circumvent the constraints of traditional turbines by capturing wind at much higher altitudes via energy generating kites. Below is an enlightening TED presentation about their new technology.
The preceeding Video is Saul Griffith’s ‘Kites tap wind energy’ Video on Ted.com
MINESTO TIDAL ENERGY has created an underwater kite, not dissimilar from Makani’s wind kites. This new technology will allow the utilization of low water speeds, making wave power a feasible solution in many new locations. Because water is 800 times more dense than air, it contains 800 times the energy of the air while in motion. Minesto’s underwater kite also travels ten times faster than the water flow it operates in. Speed and energy have a cubic relationship, so at ten times higher kite speed, it produces 1,000 times more energy than a non-moving model. Below is more information from Minesto:
Above is Minesto’s Video for their ‘Tidal Energy’ System.-YouTube.com
Using a different approach than Minesto, FINAVERA RENEWABLES has created a system that utilizes the up-and-down motion of the waves to drive turbines in a modular system that they believe is easily scalable and highly durable. They claim their buoys can survive extremely harsh wave conditions, and can be scaled from hundreds of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts. Below is their video:
This is Finavera’s Video for their ‘Aqua Buoy’ System called a ‘Wave Park’.-YouTube.com
Current ENERGY-EFFICIENT solar power plants can produce significant amounts of electricity, but consistency is a major hurdle. Earth based solar power does not work in unfavorable weather conditions and cannot harvest electricity at night. Solar Satellites on the other hand, have the advantage of being above the weather conditions, and would be able to harvest electricity from the sun 24 hours per day. The technology is in very early stages with scientists at NASA, and in conjunction with private companies, they are working on making the technology feasible. While potentially an excellent solution, the issues with the technology reside in the prohibitive costs of getting materials in space, and the technology required to send the collected energy back to earth for consumption. Below is a TED presentation about the technology by one of the first companies looking at this technology, SPACE ENERGY INC.
The video above, is Peter Sage’s ‘TED Space Energy Presentation’ Part 1 and it is located for public viewing on Ted.com
Creating solar power plants that produce a large amount of electricity requires a great deal of space for the mirrors and solar cells. Additionally, solar power plants need to reside in areas of the world that have sunlight for the majority of the year. In the United States, places like this are abundant, but in other regions of the world, other solutions must be used. CSEM, an energy and technology company from Switzerland has pioneered a solution by conceptualizing the first “Solar Island.” These solar islands could be placed on land or in the ocean, and would have the capability of generating up to One Gigawatt of electricity. The concept has gone over so well, the UAE has commissioned a pilot program from the company. Below is a video explaining the solar island in greater detail.
In this video, ‘Solar Islands’, envisioned by CSEM are showcased on YouTube.com
A solar updraft tower is a unique type of solar power plant that relies on older, proven technologies instead of newer technologically sophisticated (and expensive) solar cells. Solar updraft towers utilize the chimney effect, the greenhouse effect, and traditional wind turbines to produce power. In this model, air is heated by the sun, then contained in large greenhouse type structure at the base of a VERY tall chimney. The resulting temperature difference causes air to rise up the updraft tower which drives the turbines that generate electricity. There have been several companies proposing solar airflow prototypes including ENVIROMISSION who has provided the video of their concept below.
The video above, from YouTube.com user Brettrodli’s Channel, shows how the ‘Solar Updraft Tower’ would convert heat into wind energy.
One of the major problems with solar energy is cost. Solar cells, mirrors, and rigging equipment are expensive and reduce the value of solar technology as a viable alternative energy solution. To address this problem, the company COOL EARTH SOLAR has developed an inflatable solar collector that is cheap, lightweight, durable, efficient, and can be repaired with tape. According to Cool Earth Solar,
“One solar power plant using Cool Earth’s technology (covering 150 miles by 150 miles) would generate enough power to meet all the electrical needs of the United States through 2030.” – SOURCE
Below is a video of the Video of Cool Earth’s technology (Posted on YouTube.com by user PeakPixels) in action:
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or OTEC, is a novel approach to renewable energy that exploits the natural temperature gradients in specific locations in our oceans. The system is relatively simple. The power plants consist of an all weather, hurricane proof platform that is located in the ocean where warm and cold ocean currents meet. Warm surface water is used by the plant to heat propane, which boils to turn turbines that generate electricity. The propane is then condensed through cold water harvested from lower ocean currents. The propane is then recycled, evaporated and condensed, forming a closed system that can generate up to 100 megawatts. Below is a video describing the system in greater detail:
This video was posted on YouTube.com by user TJPlocek regarding ‘Renewable Energy From the Deep Ocean’ – YouTube.com
The amount of energy contained just below the earth’s surface is nearly limitless and if tapped could provide a singular solution to the world’s energy needs. The concept has such great potential that it has caught the attention of GOOGLE, who is privately funding its research and development. The system works by drilling a well several kilometers into the earth’s crust. Water is then injected into the well where it fractures the deep rocks, creating pockets from which steam is generated as additional water is pumped into the well. The steam is then extracted through pipes where it turns turbines to create electricity. The water is then recycled back into the well where it is reheated and reused. The video below provides additional details on this exciting new technology.
Above is Google.org’s Video for their ‘Enhanced Geothermal Systems’ which they have placed on YouTube.com