12 Remarkable Innovations in Renewable Energy Tech

It is no secret that a complete pivot towards renewable energy benefits everybody.

Over time, new developments have made this shift more accessible. Many years remain until most industries use primarily renewable energy. However, every day, new innovations bring us one step closer.

1. Geothermal Power

Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland
Image Credit: Gretar Ívarsson/Wiki Commons.

There’s plenty of geothermal energy, but converting it into usable power has been a struggle. In 2009, however, Irish scientists made a great discovery: They discovered a way to create geothermal power from super-hot molten rocks. After continuous efforts, work on creating magma chambers near the volcanoes has begun. This will help expand its potential. Regions that don’t have accessible geothermal resources will benefit greatly.

2. Thorium Nuclear Reactors

Early thorium-based (MSR) nuclear reactor
Image Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Traditionally, nuclear reactors run on liquid uranium. Chinese scientists have found a way to replace this with thorium. This causes less radiation to spill into the environment, making the reactors much safer. Most importantly, it requires no water, so it can work even in desert regions. The first prototype reactor has already been completed. By 2030, the world will witness the construction of the first commercial reactor.

3. Solar Windows

Image Credit: Anna Grishenko/Shutterstock.

What if buildings’ windows could provide electricity? Solar windows convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic cells in the glass are responsible for this. The glass then allows light to pass through it while also absorbing it. So far, these windows can generate 30% of the building’s power. This percentage will slowly increase with more innovation.

4. Lithium-ion Batteries

Nokia Li-ion Battery
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Being able to store energy is as much of a problem as creating it. This makes lithium-ion batteries a game changer. These batteries allow the merging of sustainable energy into the grid. Meanwhile, they offer constant backup power. Recent work aims to make these batteries more accessible. They can be used for larger applications if they become more cost-effective.

5. Nuclear Fusion

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5/Wiki Commons.

Nuclear fusion has the power to create energy with no carbon emissions. Boundless clean energy can be produced. This would completely change the lives of humans as we know it. This always seemed like a far-fetched dream until now. The National Ignition Facility made this reaction possible in recent years. There is much work still left before fusion can actually be utilized. However, knowing it’s possible has invigorated the renewable energy industry.

6. Perovskite Solar Cells

A perovskite solar cell
Image Credit: Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In the past, solar energy was always considered expensive. With perovskite solar cells, it has become affordable. Their lightweight, flexible nature makes them great for mobility. These cells have slowly entirely replaced traditional silicon cells. Despite their low cost, they offer much more efficiency. Any building material can make use of these cells due to these qualities.

7. Floating Wind Farms

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Wind farms were permanently restricted to land. But with floating wind farms, they can extend to water as well. Since they need no fixed foundations, they are used in deeper waters. People can harness wind energy that was unattainable before. They can be used at any location due to their flexible adaptation. This includes offshore areas as well.

8. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Bird's eye view of Khi Solar One, South Africa
Image Credit: HP Baumeler, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

It is hard to imagine solar energy without the sun shining, although that’s precisely what CSP made possible. It makes sure no sunlight is wasted. Focusing the light onto the receiver with the help of lenses helps achieve this. Recent technology allows CSP to store this energy more efficiently. This results in creating power even if the sun isn’t out.

9. Hydropanels

Fog collection in Alto Patache, Atacama Desert, Chile
Image Credit: Nicole Saffie – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Water covers about 71% of the earth, but water scarcity is one of the most significant issues the human population faces. Source, an American startup, has managed to create off-grid hydropanels. These panels use vapor from the air and turn it into liquid. The water can then be treated for drinking. The distribution of these panels could be a solution to water scarcity.

10. Grid Integration

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Energy distribution is just as crucial as energy creation. Providing better control of the flow of electricity requires grid integration. It helps merge renewable energy into the existing power grids. For the grid to work reliably, this seamless transition is necessary. Electric vehicles have also started using grid integration, which has helped with the progress and optimization of these vehicles.

11. Airborne Wind Energy

Wind turbines
Image Credit: Jesus Martinez – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The higher the altitude, the stronger the wind. It’s hard for traditional wind turbines to reach that height. The discovery of attaching wind turbines to flying devices has changed that. Now, generating electricity with more robust and consistent winds is possible. It has made the utilization of wind energy at higher altitudes possible. Since these turbines are smaller, they use less material. Due to this, it lessens the impact on the environment, too

12. Hydrogen Production

Nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder developed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory
Image Credit: David McNally/Wiki Commons.

Hydrogen has the potential to act as a clean fuel for the industry. It can be used for almost everything, from transportation to heating. This eliminates the need to rely on carbon-emitting fuels. Green hydrogen is made without fossil fuels. The process of water electrolysis makes this possible.

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