Renewable power is still the scrappy newcomer in the energy space – untested, green, and a minor presence overall, but exciting and shaking up the world nonetheless. Nothing reflects that reality like the following five weird clean energy innovations. Each of these is bizarre and by no means a realistic way to generate a major amount of electricity. But they do represents an important truth – mankind has always advanced by thinking outside of the box and trying to find new and better ways to do things. Sometimes the result of that out-of-the-box thinking is a major breakthrough, other times it’s just an unorthodox method of heating a shopping mall.
1. Space Lasers:
Space-based solar power is the least far-fetched idea on this list. It is unambiguously true that solar power can be very effectively generated by satellites operating from outer space. By avoiding collection of solar power through the diffusion of the earth’s atmosphere, energy collection becomes much more efficient. The problem is that the power has to get back to the ground somehow. The solution? Laser beams! As crazy as it sounds, Airbus, one of the world’s largest aviation and defense manufacturing firms is working on the technology. Who knows – perhaps in the future solar power will be beamed from space by laser – just be careful not to wander into the path of a stray beam! Related: The Consequences Of $50 Oil
2. Body Heat
The Mall of America is located in Minneapolis, MN – a state not generally known for being warm and toasty most of the year. Yet the second largest mall in America actually has no central heating system. Instead it is heated by the body heat from shoppers, the sun’s rays coming through skylights, and heat generated by in-mall lighting fixtures. That definitely saves the landlord a pretty penny on the energy bill at the end of each month!
Before gasoline became the dominant form of fuel for motor vehicle transportation, alcohol was a leading competitor. Those days have passed now, but distilleries still produce large amounts of biomass waste. Scottish distilleries have partnered with energy companies and begun creating natural gas from the waste mixture. The process is similar to the natural gases produced from landfills, which can also be turned into fuel sources, a process that is an important contributor of future profits to waste management companies. Related: OPEC Head Calls for $65 Oil
OK, texting itself doesn’t actually produce any usable energy, but the process of piezoelectricity does. Piezoelectricity occurs when certain metals come under kinetic pressure. Piezoelectricty can be harnessed, and in principle it can be used in a variety of different applications like roads and sidewalks. While there are no large-scale piezoelectric power generation systems that are commercially viable today, the technology might be useful down the road. Some cities are starting to experiment with footstep-powered electricity after all.
5. Dung and Garbage
Waste to power systems are in place around the world in a variety of settings, and dung in various forms has been used (and continues to be used in the third world) as an energy source for centuries. Today though, some companies are producing generators that are meant to use dung as a form of feed stock. Given the low energy content of dung, it’s very unlikely that sewers will be converted to power plants anytime soon, but the concept does make for an amusing what-if scenario.
By Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com
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