Top 5 Innovations of the Decade in Renewable Energy

Currently, around 16% of the global final energy consumption is derived from renewable energy sources. Until a few years ago, the major contributors of renewable energy in the world included traditional biomass and hydroelectricity.

However, groundbreaking technologies introduced in the last few decades have resulted in wind, solar, and geothermal increasingly contributing to the renewable energy sources segment. Let us look at the top 5 promising innovations witnessed in the renewable energy field in the last 10 years.

The 5 Most Promising Innovations in Renewable Energy So Far

Direct Energy Conversion Method – Hydrokinetic Power (2005)
Ocean tidal power is a potential goldmine for renewable energy generation. According to a report published by an Electric Power Research, there are 2,100 TW of total wave energy off the coasts of U.S., with over 50% potential in Alaska due to its 44,000 miles of coastline. Another study has estimated that a barrage across the Severn River in western England has the potential to supply around 10% of the country’s electricity requirement.

Tidal power is produced via the use of tidal energy generators. These turbines are placed in zones that have high tidal movements. These turbines capture the kinetic motion of the ebbing and surging of ocean tides and convert it into electricity. However, the patented Direct Energy Conversion Method (DECM) by Trident Energy is a breakthrough innovation in the sea wave renewable energy sector. This technology rather than using air or hydraulics as a part of the conversion train, directly converts wave energy to electricity using a new, low-cost linear generator. Tests performed at U.K.’s New and Renewable Energy Centre show viability for this technology. According to Trident Energy, this innovation is a major step towards uncomplicated and cost-effective production of energy from sea wave power.

Reflective Dishes – Solar Power (2007)
Silicon is widely used to manufacture numerous solar-energy-related products. However, the increasing demand for solar energy worldwide has in turn led to a growing demand for silicon. Hence, scientists are seeking other feasible substitutes for silicon. A team at Israel’s Ben Gurion University has developed a material which is more expensive than silicon, but more effective when it is combined with a reflective dish.

The dish can be placed in a sunny backyard and is capable of generating the majority of utility needs of a household. This innovative renewable energy equipment is made of a reflector made of mirrors, which collects and amplifies the light a thousand times over.

Multi-megawatt Wind Turbines – Wind Power (2008)
The global onshore wind energy market will demonstrate a healthy growth in the coming six years with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.6% during 2014-2020, according to Transparency Market Research (TMR), a U.S.-based market intelligence firm. Wind energy is a relatively mature source of producing renewable energy, and one of the most preferred ones in several nations.

“5M” offshore wind turbine by RE Power is the King of wind turbines. It is a single unit which produces 5 megawatts of electricity at full output. The rotor diameter of this turbine is 126 meters with a hub height of around 100 meters. 5M represents the next generation in large scale wind, since, with these types of turbines fewer towers are required and efficient wind power can be generated offshore.

Green Crude – Biomass Power (2008)
Clean energy can be derived from algae. Certain types of algae contain over 50% oil and are a zero-emission renewable energy resource. Around an acre of algae is grown by pharmaceutical industries to produce around 5000 gallons of biodiesel each year. In addition, the growth rate of algae is high and it needs few resources to grow algae on a large scale.

A U.S.-based company called Sapphire Energy is cultivating green-colored fuel-using algae. According to Sapphire Energy, this green crude is identical to light, and its oil can be used to manufacture heating oil, jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline. Biofuel produced from algae shows great potential, and once it is known as a viable alternative which is both green and affordable, it will replace other less effective substitutes such as corn and soybeans.

Flat Tower – Solar Power (2011)
Flat towers are a breakthrough in both architectural and renewable energy sectors. With increasing population, skyscrapers have become common in most cities. In the 2011 Skyscraper Competition, a Flat Tower designed by Yoann Mescam, Xavier Schirr-Bonnans, and Paul-Eric Schirr-Bonnans from France was awarded the second place. This winning skyscraper features a dome-like structure which incorporates green technology seamlessly.

This dome is perforated using cell-like skylights which provide direct sunlight to agricultural fields and to interior spaces. The large surface area of this dome is perfect for harvesting solar energy and collecting rainwater.

The year 2015 will witness more such innovations come to the fore, as favorable regulations from government and support from major corporations is fueling the growth of the global renewable energy industry. According to TMR, the global green energy market will reach a value of USD 831.99 billion by 2019. Increasing green energy initiatives around the world will help to support environment safety, and generate cleaner, sustainable energy.

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by David Walkar (few years ago!)

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