It’s difficult to comprehend how quickly our world’s population is expanding. To put things into perspective, there were roughly half the number of people alive in the 1970’s compared to today. At this current rate, of roughly 80 million people being born per year, there will be 8 billion people living on our planet by Spring 2024.
This is a staggering influx and means that our natural resources are being stretched to breaking point. Throughout the world, from South-East England to South Korea, there is now an innumerate demand for clean water, affordable food, and sustainable energy.
As a result, one of the greatest challenges facing scientists and governments is finding clean and renewable energy resources. Money is being poured into research which can solve our eco problems, meaning that technology is now also developing at a phenomenal rate.
With that in mind, here is a guide to 5 of the most exciting and promising technological advances which could change the way to produce and consume energy in the future.
A microgrid is a small-scale version of the centralized electricity systems which are currently located throughout the UK. However, unlike their larger counterparts, these grids work on a local level and provide energy directly to a community. There’s no enormous startup costs and there’s no need to transport the energy over significant distances to reach consumers.
But how will microgrids change the way we produce energy in the future?
First of all, microgrids can help to reduce a community’s carbon footprint. Through harnessing solar energy, for example, a microgrid can produce only the amount of electricity needed by the community. Furthermore, it can capture any residual heat that is wasted and reuse the energy to fuel homes.
Most important of all, however, is that microgrids give communities the opportunity to produce their own energy; thus freeing them from dependence on large grid companies. This is a good example of ‘bottom-up’ consumerism and means that energy production will become an open market for all. Microgrids have already become popular in rural India, for instance.
In the future, microgrids could allow clusters of households across the world to produce their own clean and renewable energy.
4. Pelamis Wave Power
Pelamis is an Edinburgh-based company who have designed and manufactured an incredible piece of technology, the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter.
The Pelamis machine is made up of 5 large inflatable tube sections, each connected together by joints, which is then placed onto the ocean surface. As waves crash against the machine, the movement created within the Pelamis is converted into hydraulic power and then into electricity. This energy is then harnessed and sent back to shore using subsea cables.
The Pelamis machine generates green electricity which can be used for a variety of purposes. It can also be installed across the world, meaning that it’s not just useful in the North Sea.
This technology is still in its infancy, but the Pelamis has already demonstrated remarkable success and will potentially change the way we source our energy in the future.
3. Solar Cells
Everyone knows about solar panels, but it’s certain that this technology will see incredible advancements in the near future. Solar panels are being widely produced in China, allowing consumers in the East and West to purchase them incredibly cheaply compared to in the past. However, these panels are most commonly made from silicone cells. Silicone is cheap but it only absorbs a fraction of the sunshine which it’s intended to convert into electricity. That’s why solar panels are being revolutionized.
John Rodgers, a scientist from the University of Illinois, has devised a new kind of solar cell which is much more efficient at utilizing energy from the sun. Rather than using one cell, he has stacked four on top of another to create a ‘super’ cell. This might not seem terribly clever, but the results are staggering. His new cells are able to improve solar panel efficiency by 50% or more.
As more and more people embrace solar panels, it’s apparent that technology will continue to develop in a way that makes them much more efficient. This may include a gradual shift away from silicone cells to multi-layered cells.
2. Green Concrete
People have been producing and building with concrete ever since Roman emperors ruled the Mediterranean. However, concrete is one of the least environmentally-friendly products humans frequently use. Creating cement involves heating limestone to 1450 C and emitting a frightening amount of carbon dioxide in the process.
Our demand for concrete is unlikely to decrease, but scientists have discovered a way of making cement which actually absorbs carbon dioxide. The blocks are made from magnesium and are actually much stronger than their counterparts. However, during the hardening process, the concrete absorbs carbon dioxide; thus helping to improve our atmosphere.
1. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars
Just as everyone is getting used to electric cars, it seems that hydrogen-fueled cars will become increasingly important in the future. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, so it only makes sense to utilize the element for our energy purposes. You can already lease hydrogen vehicles in California but they are not yet available for public purchase.
The great thing about hydrogen cars is that they run on hydrogen and oxygen from the air. As a result, they don’t send any dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere or consume finite fossil fuels. Some elite car manufacturers have already created hydrogen cars, such as Hyundai and Honda.
If you’re wondering where fuels cells come into this, then here is how the car works. The fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen from the air and uses this to create electricity. The hydrogen and oxygen recombine and is released back into the atmosphere through steam. This means that we won’t ‘use up’ any hydrogen or oxygen.
Electric cars are fantastic, but they are dependent on electric outlets and some consumer report “range anxiety” with battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen cars, however, have a greater range, can be refueled in 5 minutes or less and also have zero emissions.
There are numerous challenges currently facing humanity, and there have been incredible efforts in recent years to solve our energy crisis. In the future, we will produce and consume our energy in an entirely different way. Hopefully some of the technology mentioned in this blog will go some way in contributing to this change.
About the Author
This blog was written by Jennifer Smith for the Green Deal Shop.com the premiere provider for all of your Green Deal assessment and installation needs.