Below is a list of different types of green technology that are starting to come to the surface in the green energy market. This list is in no particular order and present unique solutions to our energy problems. If anyone has seen the season finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, then you’ll know the importance of renewable energy.
1. The utilization of poo-power
Although most people think poop is gross (and yeah, there is a point to that) it is a low-impact, low-cost sustainable energy source. Places like the U.K. are using poop from all animals (chickens, cows, pooches, and even humans) to power their homes, buildings, parks, or whatever else they fancy. For example, http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2010/10/08/didcot-human-waste-biogas/ reports that human waste is going to be used to power their homes in a closed cycle system. Using anaerobic bacteria over a three week treatment course, waste is transformed into usable methane. This can be used to directly heat a home or used to generate electricity. Either way, everyone poops (or so that book says) and I would like to see more places use poop power, especially in public buildings, arenas, restaurants, and people’s homes.
2. Visualization of the amount of energy you are using in your home
This past month, my energy bill doubled from what it was in the previous month. I called my energy provider and unfortunately they couldn’t tell me anything more than “something in the apartment is using more electricity than it should”. I’m not about to bust out an ohm/am/voltmeter to figure out what’s causing the stir, but wouldn’t it be great if we could all actually see how much energy our home is using in real time? If the smart grid is really smart it would give everyone a user interface, either through a screen in their domicile or using a provider’s website. Either way, it would make people conscious of how much energy their place is using. The more specific the better; data of each wall socket, averages against the community, or even how much energy was used on the same day the previous year would all be helpful to understand impact. As people become more aware of their energy consumption they will be in a better position to make energy conscious decisions as they look to reduce their ever more costly energy bills.
3. Dynamic Braking technology
Oh, Dynamic Braking. If someone told me many years ago that braking would be a catalyst for accelerating, I simply wouldn’t get it. But this video, http://www.ge.com/thegeshow/rails/#ch2 really explains it well. The concept is that when some kind of locomotive uses their brakes, that energy can be transferred and stored to be used later. This technology exists in China with their high speed trains and can also be found in some hybrid vehicles today. But I want to see more of this technology because nothing should be wasted when the energy is a natural byproduct of an inevitable occurrence (vehicles in motion have a tendency to stop when we want to exit them). Beyond vehicles and trains, I want to see this technology in elevators, electric bicycles, or even electric wheelchairs for the handicapped so that their source of mobility is more sustainable.
4. Motion power
A relatively new (although they have used this technology in watches dating back some time) technology for everyday consumers is the idea of powering your electronics as you move. If you live in a city and walk or ride a bike everywhere you go, then this technology may be for you in the not too distant future. At CES, one of the highlighted products was the nPower Peg (http://npowerpeg.com/) because it converts kinetic energy into power for your electronics. I would like to see this type of power in mobile gadgets so that no energy is wasted.
5. Increased battery life
Luckily, for this one, researchers are finding new and innovative ways to make all types of batteries (from lithium-ion improvements to magnesium based batteries [http://inhabitat.com/toyota-developing-magnesium-battery-that-could-reduce-range-anxiety/]). This will make our gadgets and computers work for longer, give our EV cars more range, and make electronics that are usually plugged in, more portable. I would like to see more of our portable electronics and electric vehicles have the capabilities to be used for longer periods of time without needing a charge and the future looks bright for this.
6. More things wireless — more things rechargeable
I have a single thought for this one, but by all means comment below if you think of more electronics that should be wireless/rechargeable. I was getting my monthly haircut when I noticed that all the hair stylists and barbers were tripping over the cords from all of their tools of the trade. If they had all of their clippers, hairdryers, etc. wireless and rechargeable, not only would it look neater, but it would probably reduce the tripping of the circuit breaker and wasted vampire energy.
7. Kill vampire power!
Speaking of vampires, and I don’t mean those silly vampires from Twilight (because what kind of vampire has extra ridiculous powers that belong to X-Men), it really sucks that practically everything that we plug in, regardless of whether we use it or not, will use up electricity. I’ve read that as much as 10% of our energy bills can be attributed to vampire power. As a result, I would like to see new power outlets that can kill the socket when the electronic is not in use. One good example of the technology can be found at http://www.igo.com/green/icat/green/ where some of their products kill the dreaded vampire power. If only we could just throw garlic, silver, and UV light or hire Blade to solve the problem.
8. Tidal power
Now here is a promising technology. I don’t know why people think wind farms are eye sores (at least that’s one of the argument against the Cape Wind Farm), so instead of erecting turbines on our coasts, why not invest in a sustainable source of energy that is hidden beneath in the ocean’s motions. Aquamarine Power (http://www.aquamarinepower.com/) produces the technology of putting an “Oyster” at the bottom of the sea and the motion of the tides generate electricity which can be brought into our grid. I don’t know exactly what the environmental impact on aquatic life would be with the introduction of this technology, but it is a good alternative energy source that can harness the energy of moving water on all of our coasts.
9. Solar powered gadgets (dyes, micro-organisms)
Solar power has become cheaper than using oil and is on the brink of becoming cheaper than nuclear power. But I am not talking about industrial power or those solar powered calculators which have actually been around for decades. I am talking more about everyday gadgets like our smartphones, mobile computers, and so on. Once solar cells become more flexible, lighter, and most important, more efficient, we will likely see more of our gadgets utilizing the power of the sun. It seems that every day there are technological improvements by researchers that increase the efficiency of photovoltaics; layering, the use of dyes, and even microorganisms have all been shown to increase the efficiency and sometimes lower the production cost of solar cells. I would love to see more gadgets that can power themselves on the go by simply being brought outside.
10. Faster chargers
Although this may not necessarily be the greenest technology on the block, New York based company Ioxus (http://www.ioxus.com/) has come up with a solution that uses lithium-ion ultra-capacitors to charge electronics at an enormously incredible rate. If this type of technology becomes introduced into the market, the sky is the limit for its uses. From charging your iPhone in a fraction of the time, to charging your EV at new government subsidized EV station without waiting around the lot for hours on end, this technology can serve purposes that make the “waiting” part for a charge to become irrelevant. I would like to see this technology more so that our fast moving society can become constant.
So here’s the list, feel free to drop a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to expand on any of these technologies on the list. Also, if you have another type of technology that you want to see more of, just say so.