Novel Renewable Technologies That Could Power the Future

Good News Notes:

You’ve heard, of course, of solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric power plants, but did you know there are some other lesser-known renewable technologies currently in the pipeline? From stretchable or paint-infused solutions that can generate electricity from the Sun to ways for you to power your own electronics, the future of energy generation may be a very alien place to live in indeed. 

Some technologies may even, finally, enable us to drop our addiction to fossil fuels. Just perhaps.  

What are some of the most promising renewable sources of energy? 

Before we look at some of the more novel technologies in development, it might be worth spending a little time exploring what more “traditional” renewable power sources have the most realistic potential. 

Wind turbines (onshore and offshore), solar panels, solar thermal, geothermal, hydro, and, yes, nuclear, tend to get the lion’s share of the news, but there are other renewable technologies of equal, if not more, potential.

While existing “green” technologies shouldn’t be dismissed, there are some others that really do deserve more attention. Since these aren’t the main thrust of this article, we’ll only highlight a handful of examples here. 

One of them is hydrogen fuel cells. These devices tap into the chemical energy of hydrogen to produce power efficiently and, most importantly, cleanly. 

Hydrogen fuel cells effectively use hydrogen as a fuel source (instead of, say, gasoline or natural gas), and can do all the things more traditional combustion-based power generators do. You can use them to directly generate electricity, or act as a direct, or indirect, heat source. 

They work in a very similar fashion to a battery but do not run the risk of being drained or require constant daily recharging — obviously.  

These fuel cells can generally be used as direct replacements for more traditional systems like gas boilers in your home (in theory) and have the capability to come in a range of sizes. Such fuel cells could, for example, be used en masse for utility power stations, or be made small enough to power a laptop. 

Another very promising piece of sustainable tech is tidal turbines. Working much like wind turbines, these devices, often very large, use the power of the ocean’s tides to generate clean energy very reliably. While technologically very challenging, these devices can be kept out of sight (unlike wind turbines), and out of mind, while potentially providing enough juice to power entire cities.  

There are, of course, many others, and we’ll highlight some of them below. 

What are some of the most interesting renewable options for homes?

And so, on the main event. Other than the usual solar PV, solar thermal, micro-wind turbines, and ground or air heat pumps, you may ask, what other novel renewable power sources exist (or are in the pipeline)? 

Prepared to be amazed. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order. 

1. Solar paint could be a game-changer for clean energy in the home

One of the newest, and very promising, kids on the renewable energy block is something called solar paint. Touted by many in the industry as the “next big thing” in renewable energy, it is actually quite an interesting concept. 

As the name suggests, this is a special kind of paint that can actually be used to generate electricity from the power of the Sun. What’s more, many of the solutions currently in development are also very durable and keep the elements out pretty well. 

While not a new concept (like many renewable technologies, in fact), our technological capability has only now caught up enough to make it practical.

To this end, various organizations are currently exploring the technology, each with its own spin on the basic concept. 

One example is a synthetic molybdenum-sulfide and titanium oxide paint currently in development by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Their solution enables the paint to generate power from water vapor. This paint effectively absorbs moisture from the air and uses sunlight to break down the water molecules into their constituent parts (mainly hydrogen and oxygen). 

The free hydrogen can then be used to produce clean energy. 

Another interesting example is currently under development at the University of Toronto. Using nanoscale semiconductors called “quantum dots”, this paint is able to capture light and turn it into a tappable electrical current. 

The dots, also called ‘colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics’, to give their full technical name, are very cheap to manufacture and also happen to be more efficient than more traditional PV panels…..”

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