With warnings about climate change firing from all directions, it is about the right time we all start considering alternative technologies to generate energy. Needless to say, it would be best if we roll up our sleeves and get on with building our own wind turbines or solar panels in the back yard, but if this is not an option, then there is quite a number of technologies that have the potential to completely transform the world as we know it. Governments should invest quite a lot more in order to implement these into their strategy to combat the raise in temperatures, but well, what other alternative is there? Here is a list of the winning energy technologies, each belonging to one of the three categories: electricity generation, smart grid, or energy storage.
Electricity Generation. In this category, I include some technologies that differ from commonly known and currently used ones, and could generate power in a much more efficient way.
1. Tidal Turbines. The technology is essentially a type of hydropower, which makes electricity out of tidal energy. Although it is currently implemented on a very small scale, it has great potential to expand in the next few years.
2. Solar Panel Robots. These could either be solar panel positioning robots, which change the direction which the panels are facing according to the weather conditions, or they could be little gadgets that remove dist accumulated on the surface. Either one of the two has a great potential to boost the efficiency of solar energy production.
3. Micro-nuclear Reactors. These are tiny power generators, that not only transform energy, but could also be 3D printed, just when and where they are needed. The idea is still conceptual, but experts believe that it could be fully developed by 2030.
4. Space-based Solar Power. You probably know all about it now. The idea is to collect solar power before it reaches Earth, and transmit it to receivers as microwaves, greatly increasing the amount of collected energy.
5. Second- and Third-generation Biofuels. The former refers to new technologies based on cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel made of algae, that produce energy without any emissions. Many companies are already investing in it, meaning that energy produced in this way could well hit the market in the next five years. The latter, however, is a bit more adventurous. Third-generation biofuel refers to generating electricity using genetically modified organisms, which are specifically designed to produce new, much more efficient fuels.
Smart Grid. The technologies listed under this category are these that combine moving electricity with information in order to boost efficiency of energy generation and usage.
6. Distributed Generation. This technology suggests that if power is produced by many small energy sources, the waste power will be drastically reduced.
7. Smart Energy Networks. These networks can channel energy and heat from various sources depending on demand. The networks not only connect the infrastructure, but they also incorporate various standards.
8. First Generation Smart Grid. These are electrical meters that could measure energy consumption and send records to the utility companies in real time. Their purpose is the provide a fast and efficient mean for monitoring energy consumption.
Energy Storage. Here is a compilation of cost-effective methods to store energy that are a huge improvement to what is currently available.
9. Fuel cells. If there is a constant supply of fuel and oxygen, fuel cells can work forever, eliminating the need of gas turbines. These are perfect for large passenger vehicles or trucks, as well as for stationary power generation.
10. Lithium-air Batteries. These are super high-energy batteries, which have five times higher energy density than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries. These hold a huge potential for being used in electric vehicles.
Image (c) NASA