When discussing climate change, renewable energy is usually the first and most important topic that comes to mind. With a list of changes that could be implemented to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures, obvious renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don’t emit greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming. Renewable power discoveries are on the right track since they bring down costs while delivering on the promise of a greener future, exploring energy storage possibilities, and monitoring the existing renewable energy. This means that renewables are rapidly displacing fossil fuels in the power sector, which lowers emissions of carbon and other types of pollution. However, keep in mind that not all sources of energy “marketed as renewable” are beneficial to the environment; large hydroelectric dams for example create difficult trade-offs when it comes to their impact on climate change, wildlife, and other issues.
What is Renewable energy?
Renewable energy comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. For example, and even if their availability depends on time and weather, sunlight and wind keep shining and blowing! Entire rural communities are now relying on renewable energy for heating and lighting! As these methods continue to grow, the key goal will be to modernize the world’s electricity grid, making it smarter, more secure, and better integrated across regions.
Types of Renewable energy
Here is what you should keep in mind about the seven different types of renewable energy sources:
Solar energy is resulted by capturing radiant energy from sunlight and converting it into heat, electricity, or hot water. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are made from silicon or other materials that transform sunlight directly into electricity.
Wind energy can be considered a form of solar energy. Also called wind power, it describes the process by which wind is used to generate electricity. Turbines can be placed anywhere with high wind speeds, and although we started with old-fashioned windmills, current turbines are as tall as skyscrapers!
Hydroelectric Power, or Hydropower, is a form of energy that harnesses the power of water in motion to generate electricity by spinning a generator’s turbine blades. It’s one of the largest renewable energy sources in the world, though wind energy is soon expected to take over the lead
Geothermal energy is heat within the earth, and it’s considered a renewable energy source because heat is continuously produced inside the earth. The earth’s core is about as hot as the sun’s surface, due to the slow decay of radioactive particles in rocks at the centre of the planet, and this heat is captured and used to produce geothermal energy.
The ocean can produce thermal and mechanical energy: While ocean thermal energy relies on warm water surface temperatures to generate energy through a variety of different systems, ocean mechanical energy uses the ebbs and flows of the tides, which are created by the earth’s rotation and gravity from the moon. Unlike other forms of renewable energy, it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced because wave energy is predictable.
Hydrogen is an energy carrier and can be produced from a wide variety of sources, with the most established being the use of renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolyzer. Hydrogen needs to be combined with other elements and does not occur naturally as a gas on its own. When hydrogen is separated from another element, it can be used for both fuel and electricity.
Daily life applicability of methods to produce renewable energy
Technical terms and concepts may be confusing, and may even insinuate that the ability to produce renewable energy is limited only to theoretical simulations and experiments, or exclusive to large-scale or commercial use, at best! However, recent breakthroughs in renewable energy technologies show that an individual can actually participate in a greener future, and it can be easier than we think. More details about the different technologies of how renewable energy can be used and incorporated into daily life.
Use in sports stadiums and Arena for Events
Stadiums and arenas are known to hold major events including sporting events, concerts, and other large functions. Throughout the facilities, significant amounts of waste are generated, which makes producing renewable energy a great opportunity for appropriate wastewater reuse and power regeneration. The innovative PEE POWER technology, which converts wastewater into electricity, can turn organic matter such as urine into enough electricity to power lighting or charge small electronic devices. It has already been used to provide lighting for toilet blocks at schools in Africa. From stadiums to Arenas, this technology could also be installed and used in refugee camps, slums and hospitals. Similar technologies made the headlines recently, like a researcher at a university in South Korea who invented a toilet that can transform a pound of solid human waste into cryptocurrency, as well as 50 litres of methane gas. Microbial fuel cell, or MFC, was found to be feasible and appropriate for generating electricity during the process of wastewater treatment, which might be promising to solve wastewater reuse and power regeneration issues.
Use in elevator shafts and ventilation systems in large buildings and halls
Among possible environmental energy sources, wind energy can be an ideal source for the energy-harvesting system due to its absolute abundance. Some techniques have been developed to scavenge wind energy, but making use of lower flutter velocity while maintaining high conversion efficiency remains challenging. Meanwhile, there has been considerable research on the basic dynamics of flexible structures like flags, which can be bent, folded, twisted, or waved in the air, hence the flutter-driven triboelectric generator and nanogenerator, enabling an effective work wind velocity. In addition to having small dimensions of 7.5×5 cm at a wind speed of 15 ms−1, the generator showed high-electrical performance, which makes it a promising technology to drive electric vehicles in a sustainable manner.
Use on roofs in regions with lots of rain and on Cargoships
Energy harvesting technologies reflect and experiment on how to draw power and energy from unexpected places. Water is one of the abundant sources from which energy can be exploited for different purposes. Until now, different techniques are already exploring electricity generation from flowing water, but recent studies have even found a way to generate energy from the previously untapped idea of falling raindrops! The principle is straightforward; raindrops fall onto the ground with a significant amount of force in the form of mechanical energy. When these falling raindrops hit the ground, the impact causes tiny perturbations, which can then potentially be harvested and converted into usable electrical energy. Scientists have overcome the unique purpose of solar panels, by allowing them to be hybrid and collect energy in both the rain and sun. Now, almost any home can install solar panels, even if you live in a rainy area, you can use solar panels to produce electricity for your home!
Using Solar in snow areas
Usually, snow and solar panels don’t go well together. In order to offer possible backups for solar panels in snow-prone and remote regions, a new silicone device was thought of in order to preserve the power flow, despite unfavourable meteorological conditions. A group of researchers, based at the University of California, has developed a new solar photovoltaic cell that can continue to generate electricity even when covered with snow. In fact, they confirmed that snow actually has a power-generating potential all of its own.
Usage in buildings/houses and greenhouse/city farms
The idea of turning glass panels into photovoltaic modules that can be integrated directly into buildings, both for decoration and to look through, is already waiving the way for developing widely differing approaches to solar windows. As the solar market evolves and expands, companies are looking into new solar technologies aimed at spreading solar energy generation beyond traditional rooftop and ground-mount solar panels. On the other hand, solar roof tiles are a relatively recent development, stirring the curiosity of many homeowners considering solar installations. These solar tiles can also be integrated and used along with traditional roofing material. Glass-like solar panels could even help greenhouses become completely energy neutral.
Agrivoltaics – Synergies of solar energy harvesting and agriculture
The need for new sources of renewable energies and the rising price of fossil fuels has induced the hope that agricultural crops may be a source of renewable energy for the future. Agrivoltaics -a term for land that combines agriculture and solar farming- also aligns with the goals of the Green New Deal. Agrivoltaics allow a given area to harvest the sun twice, as fuel for crops and as a source of renewable energy. The modular system of the Dutch startup SOLHO, which developed a special energy storage system for greenhouses, does not need access to the electrical grid and instead supplies greenhouses with all the energy they need. Solar fencing is another interesting technology, considered to be the best option for providing security as it is both effective as well as efficient, not only does solar fencing guarantee the safety of one’s property, but it also uses renewable solar energy for its functioning.
A classic application for houses
The system combination of solar thermal collectors and heat pumps is a very attractive option for increasing renewable energy usage for heating and domestic hot water preparation. These combinations usually need energy storage, and for this, the hot water stratified storage tanks are the most frequently available on the market.
Application in communities
Because of the intermittent nature of both renewable energy production and energy demand, an integrated system approach is required that includes energy conversion and storage. Proposed in the Netherlands, a concept for a neighbourhood where locally produced renewable energy is partly converted and stored in the form of heat and hydrogen, accompanied by rainwater collection, storage, purification, and use.
Walks, roads, and ways
Harvesting Energy stands alone as one of the most promising techniques for approaching the global energy problem without depleting natural resources. Solutions to convert highways into solar-energy harvesting systems have been in the works for quite some time already. Energy harvesting from pavements has been a topic of extensive research in the recent past, this domain has attracted not only the research community but also the industry and governmental authorities. The various sources exploited for energy harvesting from pavements and roadways are solar radiation, mechanical energy dissipated due to moving vehicles and pedestrians, geothermal energy, rainwater, and wind, in a process where the energy is captured, stored, and reused. Recent discoveries allowed harvesting energy from passing cars and footsteps.
Usage in traffic, metro, train tunnels, high volume environments
Scientists believe that it should be possible to generate that mystical electromagnetic energy from any material in the future. Researchers in Japan and Germany have converted energy from soundwaves into electromagnetic energy, trapping a magnetic “spin current” between metal layers. Batteries are routinely used to power tiny devices, but there are other options. Piezoelectricity, the technology that converts mechanical energy into electricity, is gaining attention these days because it can scavenge energy from movement or vibrations. A paper published back in 2017 Studied the characteristic of piezoelectric for sound wave energy harvester, which achieved a better performance in terms of output power or voltage.
Harvesting energy from electronic devices
Harvesting electrical energy from stray magnetic fields is appealing for the development of a sustainable power source for Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are being implemented in the smart infrastructure. By exploiting the harvested power near a home appliance, sustainable powering of sensors and a wireless communication system is already demonstrated.
The dawn of wireless electricity is upon us! Wireless charging has seen some major advances over the past decade, and this trend has continued faithfully into this year. Tesla’s vision of wireless power transmission looks like making a comeback. Emrod, a firm based in Auckland, has collaborated with Powerco, New Zealand’s second-largest electricity distributor, to develop a prototype system for use in an enclosed test facility.
Energy harvesting from Waste heat/usage in industry and in vehicles
While energy recovery is not recycling and does not benefit from multiple reuses of regenerated materials, it’s a crucial part of attaining sustainable development goals. The majority of thermal energy in the industry is dissipated as waste heat to the environment; this waste heat can be utilized further for power generation. Two promising technologies that were found to be useful for this purpose were thermoelectric generators and heat pipes. Waste-heat-to-power technologies convert various sources of energy into power including waste heat generated by internal combustion engines, small geothermal, biomass, concentrated solar, and process heat.
Application in city water infrastructure and in the water pipe systems of huge buildings
As cities focus on renewable energy sources while mapping out a resourceful urban future, some cities take resourcefulness to a new level. Portland-based Lucid Energy leverages additional capacity from municipal water systems, generating hydropower from the water running through urban water infrastructure systems. Their system applies the same principles of hydroelectric dams to urban water systems, generating power from the movement of water through the city’s pipes.
Usage from city centres and other areas with temperature changes
Green energy harvesting aims to supply electricity to electric or electronic systems from one or different energy sources present in the environment without grid connection or batteries. These energy sources are solar (photovoltaic), movements (kinetic), radio frequencies, and thermal energy (thermoelectricity). Back in 2011, an engineering team from England developed a new way to convert small temperature differences into electricity using sold-state-thin-film technology. This new technology, named Thermobility, will let engineers develop wireless and battery-free sensors powered by electricity harvested from plumbing.
Alternatives to single rotor standalone windmills and hydrogen production
Wind power certainly has the potential to become a cornerstone of a renewable energy future. The hydrogen production technology by wind power is an effective method to improve the utilization of wind energy and alleviate the problem of wind power curtailment. On the other hand, in Norway for example, a new type of floating wind turbine is also being tested because chains are an attractive option for the open sea, overcoming the need for consistent and appropriate winds.
Usage on fields, gardens, highways etc.
Wind turbines’ massive size and moving parts make them challenging to roll out because of the space they take up, as well as maintenance, this is where solid-state wind power arrives on the scene. In 2013, researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands removed the need for moving mechanical components and created EWICON, which stands for Electrostatic Wind Energy Convertor, kicking off the development of the ion wind generator concept. Vortex Bladeless is also an alternative and innovative way to harness energy from wind, with different and exciting characteristics that make it a revolution in wind power generation.
Dessert coastline designs for desalination plants
The future of energy in the United States is described as a weird and massive concrete tower! Up to 2,250 feet tall, it was thought of in 2014 to generate electricity, potentially powering up to 1.6 million homes in California and Arizona, by spraying water on hot desert air at the tower’s top.
Usage in small rivers
The oceans, seas, rivers, and channels store abundant renewable low-velocity flow energy but without large-scale exploitation. Founded in 2011, Waterotor Energy Technologies Inc. has designed a water turbine that can harvest energy in rivers and slow-moving water. Its technology is the first to economically and affordably harvest electricity from slow-moving water, which covers 71% of the planet, and it plans to supply affordable electricity to the 1.2 billion people without power.
Harvesting of ocean wave power
The worldwide resource of coastal wave energy has been estimated to be greater than 2.1 TW. Generating renewable power from this constant source of energy hasn’t been easy, but research suggests around 5% of wave power can actually be readily harnessed. A team at the University of Edinburgh, working with researchers in Italy, has shown encouraging results regarding the matter; both wave and tidal energy harvesting remain incredibly important methods for generating renewable energy from sources that don’t stop at night or need wind to work.
Energy from gravity
The alternative energy industry just dramatically expanded beyond wind, solar, wave, and hydro with the introduction of primary gravity harvesting, which became a new alternative energy source. We’ve all learned to respect alternative energy derived from secondary gravitational energy, like wind or hydro, but primary gravity is a long-neglected energy source, that can overtake municipal solar by 2050 according to experts.