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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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5 Clean Energy Innovations That Could Transform Our World

Solar Farm

Innovations in energy storage, smart grid, and electricity generation technologies will affect every part of the source-to-consumer supply chain for powering the planet. Energy storage tech improves the viabilities of wind and solar power – two energy sources that remain cost prohibitive due to expenses related to batteries that would store generated energy. Smart grids will regulate the movement of energy throughout a city or state, insuring the areas from crippling blackouts. Developments in electricity generation make sure we make the most out of fossil fuels and other energy sources to improve efficiency.

What follows is a survey of progress in the development of five different technologies that promise to change the face of the energy industry in the next 20 years.

1. Fuel Cell: Truck manufacturers Kenworth, Toyota, and UPS have begun investing in fuel cell technologies, which would allow transport vehicles to run on hydrogen and oxygen, releasing only heat and water as emissions. Modern hydrogen production still requires copious fossil fuel use, but the process could soon be powered by renewable energies, making fuel cell vehicles extremely clean alternatives to current trucking solutions.

In Europe, fuel cell production facilities will begin pumping out 50,000 fuel cell stacks by the year 2020, making United Kingdom-based Intelligent Energy the market leader in bringing the green technology to the masses. “Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles are available now, but to continue to drive customer adoption, we need to ensure future fuel cell stacks are robustly industrialised and remain cost competitive in the future,” said the company’s Manufacturing Head Richard Peart. Related: Will Hedge Funds Drive Oil Prices Even Lower?

2. Lithium-air batteries: These storage units, also known as Lithium-oxygen fuel cells, have been gestating in scientific labs all over the world since the beginning of electric vehicles. Science Daily says two instabilities in the technology’s current form have prevented it from hitting mass markets: unpredictable short circuiting and speedy loss of battery power. Cornell University recently tackled the second capacity face problem, meaning we could be just one witty solution away from long-range electric cars.

3. First Generation Smart Grid: The first step in making a reliable and responsive smart grid system requires the installation of smart meters in every household and building. The new meters will send usage information in real time to your energy provider, allowing adjustments in availability to fluctuate according to the area’s latest needs. So far, countries like the United Kingdom are having trouble adjusting the technology to fit the national infrastructure and business norms. The United States jumped on the smart grid bandwagon in 2007 and set up a taskforce to ensure a synchronized adoption of the new technology. The process has been slow, but small communities have begun “microgrid” projects that will allow consumer demand to drive implementation.

4. Tidal turbines: Much like wind turbines, these underwater pinwheels harness energy from wave movement. This green energy has had small-scale success so far, but objections from fishermen, as well as accidents, have set the technology back in California – tidal energy Ground Zero – in recent months. But the science behind tidal energy continues its march forward. Scotrenewables Tidal Power announced the launch of a new low-cost turbine off the coast of Scotland. It’s also the “largest and most powerful” turbine of its kind in the world with a power generation capacity of two megawatts, according to its manufacturers. A retractable arm gives the facility a separate transport mode and an operation mode, which allows easy portability and an impermanence that would please local fishing industries.

Related: How Much Further Could Oil Prices Fall?

5. Space-based Solar Power: Solar power captured from-the-beyond has been a sci-fi concept since the 1970s. The high cost of transporting the panels and other equipment into space has prevented the idea from becoming fruitful for commercial energy production. In addition, the transfer of generated energy back to Earth has been a concern. Solar power panels installed on the ground connect to the local power grid to deliver their harnessed goods, but it is comical to imagine a satellite in space hooked to the planet via cable for efficient energy delivery, prompting scientists to develop wireless energy transfer technologies akin to the iPhone 8’s anticipated wireless charging feature. None of the existing methods have proven to be feasible on a massive scale. Suggestions are welcome.

The advances mentioned above are inter-related: progress in the lithium-air battery efforts will pave the way for the success of electric cars, which could be recharged with energy hardheaded from the tides or space-based solar power. It's one small step for science, one giant leap for green energy-kind.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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  • citymoments on May 09 2017 said:
    If I invest my 100K saving to open a restaurant tomorrow, unless I can generate enough revenue to pay my staff and all other expenses . otherwise I will have option but shut down the restaurant and declare bankruptcy. This is called true capitalism : Wealth only can be created unless you can produce a bigger output with a smaller input. When you are talking about most renewable energies ( solar wind and battery), they all derives from the application of fossil fuels - without coking coal, there is no way we could refine sand into silicon ( which requires 1900 c high temperature ), without cobalt which need to be mined out in copper mines there is no way you can make battery. The reason why most renewable energy are heavily subsidized by tax pay money - it needs more input to produce less output. In an economic term, it takes more energy to produce less energy, this is not advancement or innovation, this is the most hideous tax funded scams peddled by the most corrupted socialist political gangsters.
  • Steve C. on May 09 2017 said:
    Still waiting for these technologies to mature........still
  • Josh Gregner on May 09 2017 said:
    Honestly, I don't think any of the above 5 will make it. Maybe smartgrids will play a role but that's it.

    But good old-fashioned on-shore and off-shore wind, solar and then some batteries (take them from Tesla or any competitor as you see fit) will continue to win over the coming years: Price curves for all these technologies point downwards, in many instances the wind and solar are the cheapest options for new power available today and batteries will not only stabilize the grid but also play a role in making use of power cost arbitrage opportunities and further kill fossil fuel revenues. And at financing costs where they are today, the high upfront costs of renewable energy is not that bad at all...

    This doesn't take a genius to figure our and it doesn't take no voodoo technology, this is the cold harsh reality in the energy market today. Wanna compete? Build renewables to scale and get them online asap. Simple as that.
  • Dr. Nabih Nabih on May 09 2017 said:
    I believe that all renewable energy sources could be used mainly in generating electricity, so fossil fuel could be used in geochemical industries. This is the ideal use for fossil fuel and no way to replace it.
  • James H. Rust on May 09 2017 said:
    These projects were batted around in the 1970s after the Arab oil embargo scared Americans about oil shortages. They didn't work then and look no better today. Our abundant, inexpensive, geographically distributed, revenue creating due to severance taxes and royalties coal, oil, and natural gas will be around for years.

    James H. Rust, professor of nuclear engineering (ret. Georgia Tech)
  • Andi on May 11 2017 said:
    Ha ha ha 'wireless energy transfer technologies akin to the iPhone 8’s anticipated wireless charging feature'. LMAO
    Anticipated for Iphone because Google with LG introduced it back in 2013 and Samsung in 2017 but I guess you had to mention Iphone somehow.
  • EdBCN on May 15 2017 said:
    Any one of these technologies might, possible come to something. Who knows? But I feel like I'm reading a 1985 pie-in-the-sky clean energy article that's trying to paint 'clean energy' as some sort of maybe-in-the-future thing a long ways off. Right now there are a bunch of real life clean energy innovations that are transforming our world, and snowballing by the force of market economics. I'm all for any subsidy that would accelerate green energy, but it's pretty clear at this point that none is needed.
  • John Branscombe on May 16 2017 said:
    The last option should be a non-starter from the outset. It is a case of something being technically possible but very undesirable. Importing energy from space can only make global warming worse in the long run. It would add to the energy budget under the guise of avoiding greenhouse gas production. It would be like turning on an electric blanket under a thick warm quilt when we are already thinking the bed is too hot. I truly hope this common sense notion is apparent to everyone before it gains much credence. There will always be charlatans out there to promote it as a solution to the problem only for their commercial benefit rather than the purported reason of saving the planet from greenhouse gas production. The only true way to solve the problem, in the long run, is to get rid of the blanket that is making us hot in the first place.

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