Unexpected Clean Energy: Four Sources That Might Surprise You

According to a recent report, consumers are more than ready for a clean energy revolution. In fact, 81% agree that

According to a recent report, consumers are more than ready for a clean energy revolution. In fact, 81% agree that reducing the amount of pollution created by power plants should be a top goal. In addition, 76% agree there should be strides made toward renewable energy innovation and 70% expect that electricity will become cleaner over the next few years.

 

Yet, where will this power originate? We’re already on track to sophisticate and expand the residential and commercial solar realm and researchers are likewise fine-tuning ways to mine as much energy as possible from hydropower and wind turbine sources. Yet, are these the only avenues to discover?

 

The answer might surprise you. In their effort to find alternative energy sources, scientists have discovered creative and innovative ways to harness unlikely materials into conduits. Today, we’re taking a look at four recent findings that have the potential to get us that much closer to the kind of clean energy future we’re all expecting.

 

Ready to learn more? Let’s get into it!

 

  1. Liquid Magma

 

You’ve heard of geothermal energy, but this project is taking it to an entirely different level. Researchers in Iceland are digging deep into the Earth — we’re talking five kilometers — to reach fire-hot liquid magma. They’re focusing their efforts in Reykjanes, an area replete with old lava flows.

 

Known as the Iceland Deep Digging Project, this effort intends to culminate in the creation of the hottest hole in the world, reaching temperatures of 400 to 1000 degrees Celsius. The drills are expected to penetrate what’s known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which separates the tectonic plates that comprise the planet.

 

At a depth of that capacity, it isn’t only temperatures that rise. Pressure mounts too, reaching a level of more than 200 times the normal atmospheric rate. The result? Water turns into a specialized stream that is a hybrid of liquid and gas, with a heat energy that exceeds the capacity of both.

 

If a well can tap into that stream, it could produce up to 50 MW of energy and power 50,000 homes. To compare, a typical geothermal well only produces around 5 MW and powers 5,000 homes.

 

  1. Household Waste

 

Scientists in Sweden aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They’ve found ways to leverage our world’s rising population rate and its subsequently rising waste consumption rate, into an unexpected form of clean energy.

 

To date, 99% of the Scandinavian nation’s waste is diverted from landfills, repurposed instead into recycling centers and waste-to-energy (WTE) program. The latter transform 50% of Sweden’s waste into renewable energy. Considering that the nation produces 4.4 million tons of trash annually, that’s 2.2 million tons used for clean power.

 

How does it work? Workers burn the garbage designated for WTE plants, creating steam. This steam then powers nearby turbines, which serve to create electricity. The system is so efficient that the WTE actually seeks out waste from neighboring countries to help supplement it, importing around 800,000 tons of outside waste each year.

 

There are currently 32 WTE plants in Sweden, and the solution could serve as a model for other countries, including the U.S., moving forward.

 

  1. Footsteps Near Streetlights

 

Have you visited Las Vegas lately? Permanent residents notwithstanding, an estimated 42 million people make the trip to the city every year. Now, they could be helping the city embrace clean energy, simply by walking the infamous strip.

 

A New York-based initiative known as EnGoPLANET is working to design street features that can convert movement into energy. To date, two of the most promising and buzzed about innovations are smart solar benches and solar street lights.

 

In the areas where they’re installed, these street lights are activated by kinetic energy pads that are embedded in the underfoot walkways. These pads harness clean energy during the day, then store it to provide power when the sun goes down.

 

They are designed to illuminate sidewalks, streets, parking lots, campuses and more. With a solar efficiency of up to 24%, the cells within these systems are the most efficient on the market. And, equipped with 160 lm/W LED bulbs, the lights are also some of the brightest.

 

  1. Home-Powering Bricks

 

What if your home’s physical structure could be used to power it? With Living Bricks, this concept is slowly becoming a reality. Though the innovation is still under development, researchers are looking for ways that a new form of brick can leverage air, sunlight and wastewater to create electricity.

 

A part of the greater Living Architecture Project, a collaboration between Newcastle University and other academic leaders in the industry, the design for these bricks is based on Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology, which uses the metabolic power present within natural microbes to generate power. To date, the prototypical bricks have created enough energy to power a small laptop, but as research deepens, these building blocks have the potential to change architecture for the better, forever.

 

Finding Clean Energy in Unexpected Places

 

Around the world, researchers are hard at work seeking out new and exciting ways that a 100% clean energy future can shift from being a wistful daydream into a reality.

The good news? We’re only scratching the surface. As we continue to learn more about what works and what doesn’t, new opportunities and possibilities are arising every day. To stay up-to-date on the latest findings and how they could impact your home and business, follow our energy news updates.

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