Renewable energy is trending: thanks to governmental targets to reduce carbon emissions and many big businesses embracing environmental responsibility, many renewable sources are frequently overtaking their traditional cousin, fossil fuels.
With community-owned renewables growing in popularity in the UK, huge renewable projects being completed across the globe and the arrival of self-driving electric cars on the horizon, there are loads of things to be excited about. Google even announced that they would reach 100% renewable in 2017, so there’s plenty to be positive about.
However, while solar, wind and wave technologies are well-known and widely documented, there are plenty of other more innovative energy solutions that are exploring electricity generation which may be more widely available in the near future.
The power of dance
One of the most jaw-dropping solutions is presented by Energy Floors. A Dutch company based in Rotterdam, Energy Floors opened the world’s first sustainable club, WATT.
From their simple vision of sustainability – People, Planet, Party – they developed a floor tile which generates electricity when walked on. By installing these across their dancefloor, they managed to reduce their energy bills by 30%, as well as making substantial savings across the club thanks to other sustainable solutions.
The technology that powers the dancefloor is called piezoelectric. Each tile on the dancefloor flexes slightly when pressure is applied (when people walk or dances across them), which drives a generator and produces electricity.
This video shows how it works:
The company have since moved forward, installing energy-generating floors across the world to educate people about the importance of renewable energy as well as suitable applications for their technology
The technology has interesting potential applications when scaled up; how many commuters would be able to power the lights in a London underground station?
Sowing the seed
Another Dutch organisation, Plant-E, hope that we will one day be able to generate electricity by making use of natural biological processes which take place in soil near plant roots. This opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, with individual plants producing enough wattage to power small-scale installations such as phone charging or WiFi facilities; a roof garden could generate electricity for internal and external lighting while also insulating an office or shop.
Florists and garden centres are the sort of business that could really benefit from this, but really there are no limits for this type of technology. Every business could cut their electricity bills by installing a live electricity network of plants; this would also have the additional benefit of carbon sequestration, as the plants would naturally process carbon and produce oxygen in turn.
Potentially, all businesses could help to reduce their environmental impact and lower their electricity bills by creating a green space inside or outside of their office.
Wake up and smell the coffee
From bean to cup to electricity generation, coffee grounds are the next big thing. From powering sleepy humans to powering homes and offices, caffeine might be a surprising source of energy.
However, Bio-Bean is a UK organisation which has found a brilliant solution to combat the amount of waste that gets sent to landfill by turning used coffee grounds in biomass fuel, marrying sustainability with entrepreneurship.
Bio-Bean collects used coffee grounds from retailers, undercutting the costs of traditional waste solutions. The bean grounds are then transported to the company’s facility in Cambridgeshire.
The coffee grounds are then treated and compressed into either pellets or briquettes, and then sold – the finished product burns for longer and at a higher temperature than wood logs, and is carbon-neutral.
The fuel comes in two forms: there are coffee biomass pellets, which can be used as a source of fuel for large-scale energy generators, as well as coffee briquettes which can be used in wood-burning stoves in homes.
Because the production process is cheaper, the end product is cheaper – meaning that cheap, carbon-neutral fuel is cheap, widely available and almost unlimited, considering that coffee has become a staple of the UK lifestyle.
The company hope there are numerous potential applications for coffee-based products, and are currently carrying out research and development into biofuel derived from coffee grounds.
Buses, cars, shops and offices running on coffee? Yes please!
Stranger than solar
This Californian start-up has developed a new type of solar panel, which uses rays from the sun to generate electricity.
The innovation at the heart of the concept is intriguing, as these solar panels don’t use visible sunlight. Light from the sun is composed of visible light (which we see), ultraviolet light (which is what helps to tan), and infrared light (which has some scientific applications).
These new solar panels convert infrared and ultraviolet light into usable electricity, making use of resources we can’t see. Traditional photovoltaic solar panels can only convert visible light from the suns’ rays.
By making the modules transparent, the company mirror the functionality of the product with the concept behind it.
The product is a thin, transparent module which opens up new possibilities for photovoltaic solar. The transparent solar cells can be overlaid on roofs and walls with almost no alteration to the appearance of the building. Alongside this, the transparency means the module can potentially be used in a whole new range of uses.
The panels could potentially be overlaid on traditional windows and mirrors to create internet-connected smart glass; they could also be used as protective covers on computer, laptop and mobile phone screens, providing a source of charge.
These are just a few of the innovative solutions that are already in practice on small-scale, and the growing popularity of renewable energy sources means that we will be looking for new ways to power our day-to-day lives , and these intelligent, clean solutions offer a great alternative to traditional renewable energy sources like wind and biomass.