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10 Clean Energy Innovations

clean energy innovations

by Melanie Pahlmann

Clean energy technologies are here now. Personally, I think they are vastly under-reported in mainstream media.

Whether we see it or not, know it or not, a renewable energy revolution has begun. Literally hundreds of non-fossil-fuel technologies are in various stages of development right now, many of which are already being implemented on small and large scales. These technologies harness energy from natural, non-polluting sources that are virtually limitless in supply.

Here are 10 emerging renewable energy technologies:


Photovoltaic Solar Power
Solar cells convert sunlight into direct current. The first solar cell was conceived in 1883, but not really developed for use until the 1940's. The 1973 oil crisis spawned an increase in this technology, and since that time, there has been a great proliferation in solar energy plants, initially in the US and more recently in Japan, Germany, France, Italy and South Korea.


Solar Thermal Energy
Instead of gathering energy from sunlight, solar thermal collectors harness energy from the sun's heat. This is achieved by reflecting sunlight onto a single collecting source, where heat then concentrates. One of the more common techniques uses parabolic mirrors (see image right).


Wind Power
The simple windmill has been replaced by the equally beautiful 3 bladed turbine we see cropping up in wind farms. By the end of 2007, wind was producing about 1% of all electricity in the world. 19% of Denmark's electricity comes from wind; in Spain and Portugal 9% is wind-produced; in Germany and Ireland 9%.


One of the most simple renewable technologies. The force of moving water turns turbines which then generate power. People of many cultures have been using hydropower for centuries. Today the largest hydroelectric plants are found in Brazil, Venezuela, Washington state, Russia and Canada.


Biofuels are renewable liquid fuels made from plant matter rather than fossil fuels. Today’s primary biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuels can help reduce toxic air emissions, greenhouse gas buildup, and dependence on imported oil, while supporting United States agriculture.


Wave Power
Energy can be produced from the powerful current of ocean surface waves. This is a relatively new but quickly developing technology. California is currently in planning stages of America's first commercial wave power plant. A wave plant is under construction right now in Portugal, and will be operational in 2009. Scotland, England, Australia and Canada also have committed to building wave power plants off their shores.


Tidal Power
A cousin to wave power, tidal energy is generated by the movement of water as it is affected by the gravitational pull of lunar phases. There are two ways this can happen: kinetic energy of the moving water can power turbines, or energy can be harnessed from changes in the water's height between high and low tides.


Ground Source Heat Pumps
This is still a small-scale technology, but one that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available. Heat is transferred from the ground into a building to provide heating and, in some cases, to pre-heat domestic hot water. The use of a ground source heat pump in a home can save anywhere from 30% to 70% annually on utilities.


Some are calling hydrogen "the perfect fuel". Hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier. When combined chemically with oxygen electricity is produced (and clean, pure water as a by-product!). Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe (found in about 93% of all atoms). Tremendous research efforts from private and public sectors are seeking efficient ways to extract hydrogen. Water is a favorite source, and so too is methane gas. Converting methane gas into hydrogen would displace it's polluting carbon content.


Green Algae
Over a dozen US companies are exploring algae as a biofuel source. Amazingly, the algae can grow in waste water, where it feeds on carbon dioxide. This means the algae offers a double benefit: it eats up excess CO2 while it matures into a non-polluting fuel source. Algae may one day be the preferred feedstock for biofuels. Because it's not grown in soil and isn't edible, algae doesn't compete with food crops.



Melanie Pahlmann
with news from the growing edge of the renewable energy revolution

Melanie Pahlmann

Bill Georgevich
reporting on the war between big oil and renewable energy technology

Bill Georgevich


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Architecture 2030

The 2030 Challenge:
A global initiative stating that all new buildings and major renovations reduce their fossil-fuel consumption by 50% by 2010, incrementally increasing the reduction for new buildings to carbon neutral by 2030.
learn more about the 2030 Challenge


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