The need for renewable energy innovation has never been greater. In its 2022 report Fostering Effective Energy Transition, the World Economic Forum warned that progress towards net-zero had slowed over the previous decade and called for urgent action to hold back the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the rise in greenhouse gas emissions must be halted by 2025 and levels need to decline sharply by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects of the climate emergency.
So, it’s encouraging that innovators continue to pioneer fresh approaches that are making the goal of switching the world to renewable energy more achievable. Here are four interesting energy innovations.
Solar and wind power working together
These turbine-solar panel units can be used on rooftops. Image: Unéole
It’s tempting to think that renewable energy installations need to be either solar or wind powered. But French startup Unéole has come up with a small-scale, easy to install solution that uses sun and wind power in a single unit.
Designed to be used on the flat roofs of offices and apartment buildings, the platform uses multiple wind turbines under a photovoltaic roof to create a silent solution that produces 40% more energy than a pure solar system and can generate power round the clock.
These turbines never turn
Small can also be powerful. Image: Aeromine
Wind power doesn’t have to mean huge turbines. A US start-up has invented a system that uses three-metre tall wind generators with no external moving parts. Sitting on the edge of roofs, Aeromine uses the natural airflow up the front of the building to generate power.
The system’s aerodynamic fins guide fast-rising air past an internal turbine, which the company claims produces 50% more power than other sustainable options. Combined with rooftop solar and battery storage, it can meet 100% of a building’s needs, the company says.
Solar canals could save water and generate power. Image: Solar AquaGrid
California is prone to droughts. The first 22 years of this century were the state’s driest period since the year 800, prompting fears of a megadrought. The problem has been made more acute because the state’s water distribution system uses open canals.
Start-up SolarAquaGrid is trialling a scheme to roof over the canals with solar panels generating power and cutting evaporation. If all 6,400 km of the state’s canals were fitted, it’s forecast to save 283 billion litres of water a year and generate power for 9.4 million homes.
Solar power windows
See-through solar. Image: Ubiquitous Technology
The windows in the image above are also solar panels. This transparent renewable energy source has been developed by California-based Ubiquitous Technology which says it could revolutionise solar power.
The glass is treated to allow visible light, what we see, to pass through it while absorbing and converting invisible ultraviolet and infrared light into electricity. The company says the solar windows can generate up to 30% of a building’s power needs.