Top 10 Green Energy Innovations

Green living is here to stay. It isn’t just about recycling and using compact fluorescent bulbs any more. Advances in green technology are leading the way into a more sustainable future for the planet and the people who inhabit it. From our struggling oceans to the polluted skies, scientists and engineers are developing new ways of dealing with the impact people have on our planet.

Technological advances, green energy innovations, initiatives and products take years to develop and become marketable. With these 10 impressive steps forward, we are making gains on a more sustainable future. Take a look, and then consider some strategies you can use right now to lessen your footprint on our beleaguered earth.

Concept of SHE (Solar Hydrogen Energy)

The Concept of SHE is put forward in a new research paper to be published in the Journal of Sustainable Design. Author John Andrews of Bundoora, Australia explores the possibility of producing hydrogen with solar and wind power. With water as the supply source and wind and sun as the energy producers, hydrogen fuel cells can be filled without the use of polluting carbon-rich fuels. Thus HE (hydrogen energy) becomes SHE (solar hydrogen energy). Andrews is from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at RMIT University. The hydrogen fuel cells can also be used to store energy for use in cars, electricity grids, and for a reserve supply of energy for emergencies. Andrews calls for a detailed study of the economic, environmental and energy implications of SHE with an eye to national and regional applications.

Inflatable Wind Turbine

On, Philip Proefrock on 6/10/11 wrote that Dean Kaman has filed the patent for an inflatable wind turbine that could be rapidly transported to locations where it was needed. The turbine is used as an animated display with attached LEDs but could provide a basis for developing a more substantial rapidly deployable system for power generation after an emergency.

The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

The new Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid sports wagon can switch between all-electric, plug-in hybrid and diesel operation. In pure mode, the V60 is all electric. Its 70-hp electric motor drives the rear wheels, and the lithium-ion battery pack gives a 30 mile range with a 3-hour charge. Hybrid mode offers a 125 mpg equivalent and range of 745 mi. Switching into Power for better performance lets the driver go from 0-62 in 6.9 seconds. Diesel operation is also available. The car’s navigation technology recommends the best mode for each trip. Volvo expects it to be market ready in Europe in 2012.

Nissan Leaf

Eco Geek also reports that the Nissan Leaf has been given a 73-mile real-world range rating by EPA. The Leaf has a gasoline-equivalent rating of 99 mpg city and 106 mpg highway, double Prius's 50 mpg rating. This is coupled with the report that PhD students at Columbia University have completed a study that indicates 93 percent of driving in the US could be done in electric vehicles rather than their gas-powered counterparts. Meanwhile, the Leaf EV is being tested for its capability to provide emergency power to homes during blackouts in Japan. The battery stores up to 24 kWh of electricity. This could provide power to a Japanese home for 2 days.

Advanced Solar Power

First Solar announced that it has achieved 14.4 percent efficiency in conversion of solar energy to electricity in its thin-film panels. These panels are usually cheaper than silicon solar panels but less efficient. The company, which makes cadmium telluride solar cells, is working to match the efficiency of silicon.

Home Fueling For Hydrogen Cars

In Melbourne, Australia scientists have created a miracle of sorts: a home fueling station for hydrogen cars that is powered by solar panels. The prototype furnishes enough fuel for a range of about 100 miles. They hope to sell their brainchild for a very affordable $500 per unit. Electricity from solar panels runs an electrolyzer to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The small unit fits easily into a corner of an average garage. They hope to have this wonder market-ready within two years.

Networks of Environmental Sensors

Scientists concerned about changes to the environment are putting improvements in nanotechnology and wireless tech to work, creating networks of tiny environmental sensors. They give real-time information on pollution, climate change, and weather developments. Joe Wang of Arizona State University has deployed dime-size wireless sensors in San Diego Bay and Venice canals to detect heavy-metal and mercury contamination levels. Coin-size solar cells developed at University of British Columbia and UC Berkeley could provide power for a network of the little gadgets. A space-age version of the weather balloon is the project of Ensco. The beach-ball-size sensor is powered by thin-film solar panels. It floats in the air to report changes in weather patterns.

Beleaguered Oceans

Matthew Dunbabin has a vision for the future of beleaguered oceans. The CSIRO scientist is developing a 4-foot maneuverable robot that can explore the ocean depths alone to monitor changes in fish populations, coral reefs, and water quality. The robot carries cameras that enable its operators to find and assess pests, damage to reefs, and other critical changes. The first Starbug cost $24,000 to build, and the next generation is under development.

Purify Polluted H2O With Sonar

With 1.1 billion of the world's people lacking clean drinking water, scientists are developing a way to purify polluted H2O with sonar. Ultrasound waves beamed into the liquid destroy cell walls and carbon compounds to purify the water. Rominder Suri of Villanova University is researching a method of using sound waves to break up harmful chemicals in order to detoxify polluted water.

Advancements in Tracking Endangered Species

Saheli Datta and Todd Woody report in Business 2.0 Magazine on advances made in tracking endangered species. Biodiversity is a great concern among scientists who deal with environmental change. Keeping track of endangered species is now easier with a Web 2.0 system. Animals are tagged with radio frequency devices and GPS sensors. Their wanderings are then mapped to design more effective wildlife preserves that take into account the creature's habits.

Living the Green Life

With all the advances from modern science, green living is becoming more and more practical. When the price of solar panels and wind turbines comes down, purchasing your own means of producing clean energy will come within the grasp of more homeowners, commercial and residential buildings and local businesses.

Until then, there is still much that ordinary people can do to keep their environmental impact as small as possible. Most of us are aware of the energy (and money) savings from use of compact fluorescent light bulbs. From the National Resources Defense Council come these other tips for reducing the use of energy in the home or at your business:

Tips For Green Living

  • Unplug any appliances that are not being used. If an extra refrigerator contains only a few items, don’t run it.
  • Keep all chargers unplugged when not in use.
  • Use power strips and turn off devices that have "standby" mode such as tv, stereo and home theater equipment.
  • Set the "hibernate" mode on a computer for times of inactivity lasting 30 minutes or more. (Windows has the settings in the control panel; Mac keeps them under system preferences.)
  • Turn the computer off when finished working for the day.
  • Purchase a programmable thermostat. Set it at 68 degrees during the day in winter and 55 for night or when you're away. In summer, set it to 78 degrees or more.
  • Leave shades and blinds open during the day in winter. Close them at night. In summer, keep shades closed when the air conditioner is running.
  • Set the hot water heater to 120-130 degrees.
  • Set the refrigerator to 38-42 degrees and freezer to 0-5 degrees. Make sure doors seal well.
  • Don't preheat the oven or open the door when it is unnecessary. Reheat or cook small amounts in the microwave.
  • Run the dishwasher only when it is full and let dishes air dry.
  • Set water level in the clothes washer to adjust to size of load and use cold water whenever possible.
  • After each load, clean the dryer's lint filter. Better yet, hang clothes up to dry.
  • Keep lights turned off when the room is not occupied.

Of course, conserving power and using alternative clean energy sources are only part of the story on green living. Purchasing food that is locally and organically grown boosts the local economy, cuts down on fuel use, and encourages sustainable farms. Better yet, try composting vegetable waste to nourish the soil, and grow some of your own food. If we all make small changes in our lifestyle, we will be able to leave a more pleasant and livable planet to our children and grandchildren.

Further information & resources about green energy & construction


Author: Conrad Mackie