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.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.