Guest post by Kate Harveston*
Scientists and researchers are working diligently to develop alternatives to fossil fuels and reduce the impact of climate change. Fortunately, their efforts are paying off. New exciting technologies are showing promise as more sustainable ways to meet our energy needs.
Green Solar Panels
Researchers are using a combination of organic and inorganic materials to replace the silicon traditionally used to coat solar panels. The substance, perovskite, can be applied in a much thinner layer while still absorbing the same amount of light. Although perovskite loses structural integrity quickly, scientists are making progress with developing longer-lasting versions. Perovskite is cost effective and easy to manufacture, though it has a long way to go before it is widely used in commercial applications.
Researchers in Iceland are taking carbon storage to a new level. Emissions are captured at the source and injected deep into the earth where they can’t react with the atmosphere. Icelandic scientists are experimenting with injecting carbon into volcanic rock beneath the earth’s surface, which reacts with the trapped carbon, causing it to mineralize.
Solar Powered Vehicles
Pennsylvania is working to position themselves as a leader in promoting the usage of electric and solar powered vehicles. The state boasts 723 electric charging stations to meet the demand of their 2,300 registered electric vehicles. EV advocates are pushing to add more charging stations along major highways throughout the state to meet the needs of drivers wishing to travel longer distances. New electric vehicle owners are also eligible for state rebates up to $1,750.
Methane is the less discussed yet equally dangerous greenhouse gas impacting the environment. The oil and gas industry, cattle farms and wastewater treatment facilities all release methane into the air as part of their daily operations. Researchers are developing new harvesting technologies which can convert methane to electricity for localized usages. For example, the methane generated by cows can be captured in backpacks, which then can operate household appliances or be used for cooking.
Recycling Carbon Dioxide
University of Texas professors created technology that breaks down carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which in turn can be used to make carbon-based fuel sources. If this technology becomes economically viable and makes it mainstream, it may be possible to close the carbon loop and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Eventually, the research team hopes to convert carbon dioxide directly into usable fuel.
Bladeless Wind Turbines
Environmentally friendlier wind turbines are hitting the market with one significant change – no blades. Bladeless turbines are less expensive as they require less material and fewer moving parts. Fewer moving parts also means lower operation and maintenance costs as less lubrication and part replacements will be needed. Increased affordability and usability may encourage more communities to implement wind technology.
The new turbines come with another perk— they’re bird friendly. Each year, the rotating blades on conventional wind farms kill thousands of birds. The removal of these blades can lower the bird mortality rate as fewer moving parts are involved.
Increasing Usage of Alternative Energy
Interest in renewable energy resources is growing and with it, so is its usage. Over two thirds of the energy capacity added in 2016 came from environmentally friendly sources. India and China, two of the larger producers of carbon dioxide in the world, are making strides in decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels and increasing their renewable energy capacity. Their focus is primarily on wind and solar technology.
Solar energy is leading the renewable energy sector internationally. Over the next five years, experts estimate 1000 gigawatts of solar energy capacity will be added to the existing energy system, which is an increase of 42% above the current solar energy capacity. The improvements in solar panel technology and reduction in cost are some of the factors driving solar energy’s rising popularity.
*Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger from Williamsport, PA. Her writing tends to focus on politics and social justice. To follow her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.