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5 Ways the Renewable Energy Industry is Evolving with New Innovations

by Busines Newswire
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The oceans are warming, the ice caps are melting, and severe weather events are getting more intense. As the climate continues to change, there’s more risk to animal species, crops, and ultimately human life. Minus a few less ambitious (and less well-off) countries, the world is working hard to fight ongoing climate change and prevent further damage. Several countries have already set legally-binding net zero targets for greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 or 2050.

One way many countries, organizations, and startups are tackling climate change is through revolutionary new tech and trends. They’re developing better ways to harness energy from natural and renewable resources, while minimizing human impact on the planet. As an individual or homeowner, you too can take advantage of new tech and trends to help save the planet and your cash. Here are some of the ways new, innovative offerings are reshaping renewable energy. 

Solar Savings

Solar panels absorb light from the sun and turn it directly into electricity you can use to power your home. Many people have them installed on the roofs of their homes, and more and more companies and government buildings are using them as well. Solar panels reduce society’s dependence on greenhouse gasses, mitigating their impact on global climate change. Over time, they can lower your utility costs by reducing how much energy you pull from the grid.

While solar panels themselves aren’t a new technology, they’re becoming more flexible and ubiquitous in their usage. Advances in solar technology are making panels cheaper and more efficient at capturing energy from the sun. Innovations in solar panel cell technology are leading to lighter weight panels, for use on all types of surfaces. Finally, revolutionary solutions, like leasing solar panels, are making solar panel installation much more accessible to the average person.

AI Automation

You might think of AI as just that mysterious force that powers annoying chatbots, but AI is also a power house for renewable energy. Energy planners can use it, for instance, to forecast demand for power and understand local energy needs in new locations. AI can predict demand for power based on weather events, holidays, historical usage and other changing variables. Then, planners can use that data to make better decisions as they plan renewable energy projects in these areas.

Another use case for AI in renewable energy is in the development and management of smart grids. These are energy grids that use sensors and smart meters to open a two-way line of communication between customers and utility companies. Smart grids can automatically adjust how much power is generated and where it’s distributed, based on real-time data. They may also be designed to forecast, detect, or address disruptions to the power supply.

Better Batteries

Electric vehicle infrastructure is constantly expanding, giving drivers more opportunities to charge their cars as they go. Meanwhile, electric and hybrid vehicles are getting more affordable and the number of models continues to increase. Still, the most innovative change in EV technology is probably the development of lighter, more efficient batteries. The distance an EV can go on a single charge has more than tripled over just the past decade.

Traditional EV batteries rely on a liquid solution that limits just how much charge they can carry. However, manufacturers like Toyota are developing new, solid-state batteries with a longer range and faster charging capabilities. Meanwhile, some luxury car markers are working on improving the design of EV motors, with a technology called axial flux. These smaller, more efficient motors could reduce an EVs total weight, increasing its range, power, and efficiency.

Carbon Capture

Carbon capture and storage technologies fight climate change by collecting CO2 from burnt fossil fuels before it can go into the atmosphere. In carbon capture, huge scrubbing machines suck exhaust from the air and separate CO2 from oxygen and other gasses. Then, they compress the CO2 into a more condensed, liquid-like state. Next, CO2 is pumped through a pipeline into a storage site, or injected into deep underground rock formations for more permanent storage.

This CO2 can be buried indefinitely, so it can’t get out into the earth’s atmosphere and cause more damage. Or, it can be repurposed, for instance, by using it in greenhouses to grow plants or in oil reservoirs to extract more oil. In the future, this CO2 could be used to develop other useful chemicals, materials, and processes. For example, researchers have explored using it to grow algae-based biofuels, a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

Tiny Turbines

There’s a long way to go before this technology becomes practical for most modern homes. However, researchers and companies are working on ways to turn old-school wind turbines into a more compact technology. Traditional wind power relies on massive structures with enormous rotor blades, in wide open spaces. But some private home owners are now installing small wind electric systems to reduce their energy consumption and lower their bills.

Another application of new turbine technology is on the roofs of commercial and industrial buildings. Technology companies are developing smaller, rooftop turbines that are placed on roofs, like solar panels. These systems don’t have the large rotors of traditional wind turbines, so they can be installed even in tightly-packed urban areas. The main drawback is they may still not produce quite enough energy to be comparable with solar panel technology.

Building a Better World

It may be too late to undo many of the lasting impacts of centuries of unsustainable energy practices. Still, new and recent breakthroughs in renewable energy could mean real hope for better global climate outcomes. At the individual and local level, people can make choices to power their homes in more sustainable, eco-friendly ways. At the societal level, politicians can prioritize systems and policies that help further advance new solutions and innovations.