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Development and mastery of renewable energy technologies is one of biggest challenges of this century. Humankind is focusing on reducing its carbon footprint and limiting emissions of gases that harm the environment in order to protect the planet for future generations. Work in the renewable energy sector is very exciting these days. Investments such as Bill Gates’ $2 Billion to boost renewable energy research are boosting innovation and technological deployments in this sector on a daily basis.
As further proof of the rapid expansion in the renewable energy industry, here are three examples of recent projects and inventions moving us toward a sustainable tomorrow.
Viaducts with Wind Turbines
A European research team has determined that wind turbines could be installed underneath some of the largest bridges on the continent to produce electricity. A viaduct in the Canary Islands, the Juncal Viaduct, was used as a reference case in simulations. Long bridging structures are high off the ground and can contain a series of wind turbines within the arches below. The team ultimately determined that two medium-sized turbines would be the most viable combination for the overpass in Gran Canaria. The combination of two 0.25 MW turbines would have an output equal to the annual energy use of about 500 homes, based on average consumption in the area, and avoid the emission of 140 tons of CO2 per year. This study could help launch a huge expansion in wind power as turbines are neither as easily installed nor in as many locations as solar panels.
Powerwall, Tesla’s Battery for the Home
Recently announced by CEO Elon Musk, Tesla’s new Powerwall is a smart battery designed to power your home. By recharging itself from nearby solar panels or during the evening hours when utility rates are low, the batteries are designed to help residents and small businesses save on their energy bills. Additionally, it provides a secondary power supply should the grid go down, especially important for any businesses that need to operate continuously, even during severe weather. Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup. It is even more ideal for those who have already put in solar panels and are looking to disconnect from the grid entirely.
Eva, the First Evaporation-Powered Car
Developed by Columbia University, Eva is the world’s first evaporation powered car. It has a turbine that rotates as water evaporates from the wet paper lining the walls of the engine. Basically, just by adding water, the “invisible force” of evaporation makes the car move. To delve a bit more into the science, researchers discovered a type of bacterial spore that expands in the presence of water and contracts when it dries up. By attaching these to thin films of tape, they were able to create artificial muscles that contract and relax in regular patterns. When many of these strings are attached together they form a water-powered piston able to turn an axel and power Eva. This innovation is the first brick in a path towards a new form of renewable energy using evaporation.
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