No Limits, Total Abundance: Transparent Solar Windows
Written by Heather Rushworth
Our modern world is consuming energy at insatiable rates. The high-tech complexity of contemporary society has created a demand for energy resources that are both easily accessible and infinitely available, and unfortunately the energy sources of yesterday simply do not hold up to the rapid evolution of the times.
Perhaps the major flaw in our previous approach to discovering a renewable energy source was not the narrowness, but the broadness of our scientific focus. Yesterday’s Energy Market looked towards monumentally visible energy sources like Oil, blindly clinging to the notion that material visibility equated to energetic abundance.
However, the energy sources of yesterday--and today--fail us in cruel and destructive ways. Not only are the energy resources we intimately rely upon so tragically limited, but they create major harm to the balance of our natural world—resulting in pollution and a fearful belief in planetary scarcity.
Recent breakthroughs in the previously underestimated field of nanotechnology appear to have reconciled the infinite appetite of our society, with a steadfastly renewable and comprehensively sustainable energy source: the basic electron. Recent discoveries may prove that the limitless abundance we seek is right beneath the visible surface of reality—in the unchartered dimensions of the nano-world.
Yes, the scope of science has changed--in many ways becoming braver—as leading-edge researchers search for answers in materially-microscopic planes.
One of the main pioneers in nano-based energy is entrepreneur Justin-Hall Tripping of Nanotech technologies, whose October Ted Talk detailed an exciting and practical new technology: Transparent Solar Panel Windows.
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The invention focuses on utilizing electrons to store vital energies from the sun. In essence, windows would be covered with a clear film made up of scientifically engineered electrons, which would harness solar energies traditionally lost to thermal processes. Such a feat would not only supply energy to run household utilities, but it would regulate temperature, storing excess heat in hot times and distributing it during cold temperatures.
While the discovery superficially appears thrilling—it could be used in buildings, cars, homes—the epically slow development process of technology in the Solar and Nano industries have many skeptics wary of Tipping’s overt optimism. Many experts expect delays of up to twenty years in releasing the product to the market, and such a slow delivery could be too late into today’s rapidly destructive world.
So ultimately it seems these globally expansive products need to harness another element in order to secure their success: speed. While hopeful projections and exciting ideas seem great in theory, they do nothing for our current energy crisis until they move to market at the speed of light.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly