Top 10 Smart Energy Ideas
1.) Enhanced Geothermal Systems
Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) is a type of geothermal power technology that does not require volcanic or tectonic hydrothermal resources. EGS technologies enhance and create geothermal resources in hot dry rock.
Water is pumped through fractures in the rock, capturing the rock's heat until forced out of a second borehole as extremely hot water. The water's heat is converted into electricity using either a steam turbine or a binary power plant system. The water is then cooled and injected back into the ground to heat up again in a closed loop.
EGS technologies, like hydrothermal geothermal, can function as baseload resources that produce power 24 hours a day, like a fossil fuel plant. Unlike hydrothermal, EGS appears to be feasible anywhere in the world.
2.) Waste to Energy
The average person generates about 4.5 pounds of waste per day. No wonder landfills are bursting at the seams across the globe. Transforming all that waste into clean, renewable power is an inspired idea. Currently there more than 450 waste-to-energy plants in U.S., Canada, and Europe that use incineration, but cleaner technologies are on the horizon.
Thermal technologies such as gasification, which produces combustible gas, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels; and plasma gasification process, which produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide usable for fuel cells. There are non-thermal technologies such as anaerobic digestion, fermentation production, and mechanical biological treatment.
Energy-to-waste plants using these emerging technologies that are more environmental friendly are scheduled to open in the U.S. and Canada this year.
3.) Biofuel from Algae
What makes algae a potentially important alternative fuel choice? Lipid oil. Scientists are studying this oil, which is produced naturally by algae, and trying to convert it into algae biodiesel – a fuel that burns cleaner and more efficiently than petroleum.
Algae, under optimal conditions, can be grown in massive amounts. An Australian company is taking advantage of that in a huge way. Algae.Tec recently signed a deal with Australia’s largest power company to build an algae carbon capture and biofuels production facility beside a big coal-fired power station near Sydney.
The resulting algal oil, a form of vegetable oil, will be converted to biodiesel and hydrogenated to Grade A jet fuel at the new biofuels production facility, while waste vegetable matter will be converted into pellets for cattle feed.
4.) Tidal Power
Tidal power is produced through the use of tidal energy generators. These underwater turbines are placed in areas with high tidal movements, and are designed to capture the kinetic motion of the ebbing and flowing of ocean tides in order to produce electricity.
It’s not a new source – France’s Rance Tidal Power Station opened in 1966 – but advances in technology give tidal energy tremendous potential for clean power and electricity generation, and more plants are scheduled to open around the world.
In New York City, 30 tidal turbines will be installed by Verdant Power in the East River by 2015 with a capacity of 1.05MW. The United Kingdom and Russia have three tidal energy plants each in the pipeline as well as South Korea, India, and Philippines with one each.
Check out other Top 10 lists in renewable energy:
5.) Thin Film Solar Panels
Thin film solar panels are the latest technology in solar energy that is efficient and cost-effective. Unlike silicon-wafer cells, which have light-absorbing layers that are traditionally 350 microns thick, thin-film solar cells have light-absorbing layers that are just one micron thick.
Thin film solar panels are commercially available for installation onto the roofs of buildings, either applied onto the finished roof, or integrated into the roof covering. The advantage over traditional PV panels is that they are low in weight, are not subject to wind lifting, can be walked on, and are more malleable for specific locations.
6.) Small Modular Nuclear Power
Small Modular Reactors offer the advantage of lower initial capital investment, scalability, and site flexibility at locations unable to accommodate more traditional larger reactors. They also have the potential for enhanced safety and security. The U.S. Department of Energy believes that SMRs may play an important role in addressing the energy, economic, and climate goals of the U.S.
In 2012, the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program advanced the licensing and commercialization of domestic SMR designs that could be constructed in the next decade. But so far, none of the existing SMR concepts have been designed, licensed or constructed.
7.) Electric Vehicles
From the Tesla Model S to the Nissan Leaf to the Toyota Prius to the BMW i3, car manufacturers in Europe and North America have finally embraced the electric vehicle as an essential piece of their product lines. Unfortunately, the general public is still in the middle of the road on these electric cars.
As gasoline prices at the pump creep toward $5 a gallon in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before everyone will have a car parked in their driveway plugged into an outlet. Electric cars certainly make sense, as vehicles are the source of 60 to 70 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases.
8.) Solar Power Tower
Solar energy towers are central towers in the middle of a field of movable mirrors. The mirrors rotate to focus the reflected sunlight on the tower. Concentrating solar power systems can be sized for village power (10 kilowatts) or grid-connected applications (up to 100 megawatts).
Some systems use thermal storage during cloudy periods or at night. The solar-to-electric conversion efficiency makes concentrating solar power an attractive renewable energy option in the Southwest and other sunbelt regions worldwide, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
9.) Smart Meters
These meters for the home or business monitor energy usage in real time with in-depth details of energy consumption. Smart meters are connected to a utility company for two-way communication between the customer and energy provider. In addition, most can be monitored by an app on a smartphone so consumers know times of high usage and may adapt their usage to lower electric bills.
Utility companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, began installing smart meters in homes about five years ago. In the United Kingdom, the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced its intention to have smart meters in all homes by 2020.
10.) Fuel Cells
A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction. Every fuel cell has two electrodes, one positive and one negative, called, respectively, the anode and cathode. The reactions that produce electricity take place at the electrodes.If the fuel cell is powered with pure hydrogen, it has the potential to be up to 80-percent efficient.
They generate electrical power quietly and efficiently without pollution, which is why the U.S. government is encouraging more development for fuel cell technology and believes it will play an important part of the country’s energy needs in the future.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere