Generally when someone says renewable energy, solar power and wind farms are first things that come to mind. Hydropower and geothermal energy might sometimes get a bit of attention, but many are not aware of the many other vast sources of renewable energy currently being utilized around the world.
While none of these sources are going to save the world from carbon emissions on their own, the continuing development and research to improve their efficiency will help communities break free from fossil fuels in the long run without sacrificing necessary power sources.
Liquid underground magma
One of the most ambitious (and a little crazy) renewable energy projects in the world is currently underway in Iceland. The small nation is bringing geothermal energy to another level and utilising liquid magma found deep under the Earth surface, a place where temperatures of up to 1000 degrees can be found.
It’s thought that this burning hot magma can produce 10 times the amount of electricity of general geothermal sources, so the Iceland Deep Drilling Project is favourable cost-wise.
Using an gigantic drill with the nickname “Thor” the magma will be sourced from five kilometres under the ground.
Dirt batteries and Bacteria
Havard university scientists have constructed a battery basically powered by dirt, an idea sprung from energy-producing bacteria.
Microbial fuel cell batteries (MCF) were a breakthrough in energy storage and aimed to help people from countries with unstable or no power grids, such as Africa for example. These batteries are extremely low cost and have be created with local resources that do not remotely resemble traditional looking batteries.
The battery is made in a give-gallon bucket filled with salt water contained a chicken-wire cathode, and graphite-cloth cathode, manure, mud and finally a layer of said which acts as the ion barrier in the electrolyte salty solution.
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Tree wind energy
This might not make sense originally, but sourcing wind energy is an interest concept. This renewable energy is generated by how trees sway in the high winds.
At the start of this year, a study was published by researchers showing how tree movement vibrations could successfully be converted into energy to be used as power.
Polyvinylidene fluoride-wrapped L-shaped beams resembling tiny-trees illustrated how the concept works- and whilst the power generated was only small, when implemented to a life-size scaled piezoelectric array (the polyvinylidene material) that could work on fully grown trees in forests, the output would be significantly magnified.
Living bricks (I know…what?!)
Your house could be an energy-generating device and you don’t even know it!
These ‘Living Bricks’ developed from the Living Architecture (LIAR) project are converting air, wastewater and sunlight into clean, usable energy by using the metabolic power or microbes.
It’s a similar concept to the MFC batteries- using natural resources to our advantage to benefit those who need it.
Initial prototypes created small levels of electricity, just enough to power small device such as a LED lamp.
It’s hoped that the tech can be developed to stage where whole structures can be created with “bioreactor walls” which could potentially give out their own light.
Trash! (specifically Sweden’s)
As the population of humans continually increases, our waste production increases alongside.
This is creating a doubly-difficult challenge for urban planners who are seeking efficient processes for waste management as well as renewable energy sources.
Sweden has successfully combined these efforts and are sending 99 per cent of their garbage away from landfills and towards waste-to-energy (WTE) plans that process it and convert it into power.
Approximately half of Sweden’s 4.4 million tonnes of annual household waste going through this process, which harvests energy from the steam of burnt waste. These processes are so efficient that the country imports around 800,000 tonnes of trash from neighboring countries to their 32 WTE plants.
Kinetic streetlights from Las Vegas
Clean renewable energy can be generated from the footsteps of millions walking the streets of Las Vegas each year.
EngoPLANET, a New York-based company is harvesting free kinetic energy usually lost by implementing special streetlights that run off energy pads installed onto the walkways.
This is a world first and proves that even tiny measure can effectively help combat climate change by decreasing fossil fuel dependence for energy needs.
The street lights are just one element in Las Vegas’s big plan to be net-zero emissions city run completely using renewables.