It has become common knowledge that the rate at which we are currently using the earth’s resources is not sustainable. Fortunately, this realisation has spurred many individuals and companies to think broader and look for effective ways to secure a green future. Here are some initiatives causing a stir in eco circles:
Imagine a world where 75% of greenhouse gases are cut and the electricity in your home and business is paid for by nothing else than your driveway and parking lot. This is where Solar Roadways
steps in – a modular paving system made from solar panels, able bear the weight of trucks up to 250 000 pounds. The panels can be designed to be installed on any large outdoor surface, from roads to parking lots,driveways, bike paths or playgrounds.
Besides paying for themselves through generating electricity, they promise other helpful features such as LEDs to light up street signage and an added Cable Corridor to treat and store storm water.
The solar panels will allow electrical vehicles to charge when they are in parking lots and while driving, once a roadway system is set up.
The project has stirred massive excitement through the ‘Solar Roadways’ campaign
Indiegogo hosted. During the campaign, which ran from 21 April to 20 June 2014 , 210% of their goal money was raised - $2 098 797 of the aimed $ 1 000 000. The money will go towards the set up for the production of the solar road panels. The YouTube clip promoting the solar roadways was uploaded in May 2014 and at the time of writing had already received over 16 m views. The future for sun charged road surfaces does, indeed, seem bright.
Image: Artist's impression of Sandpoint, Idaho – the Home of Solar Roadways. Source: http://bit.ly/1iv9hub
Norwegian energy solution company EnSol AS
has developed a way around bulky solar panels – transparent solar spray for windows. The spray-on solar film gives windows the ability to generate solar power through the metal nanoparticles found in the medium.
The solar cells can be ‘sprayed’ onto more than just windows – the rest of the house and even car roofs can be potential surfaces. EnSol AS aims to make the spray commercially available at an affordable price by 2016.
Science City Heating System
A revolutionary way to store the excess heat energy produced during summer is in the process of being piloted in Science City
. Science City forms part of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich campus. The mastermind behind the plan is Gehrard Schmitt, who has set an innovative plan in motion to pump natural heat produced during summer underground, to be pushed back into the building during winter.
The completed storage fields will consist of approximately 800 pipes of 200 meters each, laid 5meters underground. The completion date for the project is 2020, by which Science City plans to rely on electricity for only one-twelfth of their temperature adjustment needs. Now that sounds like turning up the heat for a green future!
Most current electric meters give users very limited information. Bring in the Smart Meter
and you’ll be able to get a real-time picture of how much power is being used at a given moment and what it is costing. But it gets a whole lot more practical: the meter can be used to help you use your electricity as efficiently as possible by networking appliances into the Smart Meter and programming them accordingly.
This will mean you could, for example, programme your washing machine to run only during times of low electricity demand. Both gas and electricity smart meters are now available. However, since governments have rolled out programmes to install them, there has been controversy surrounding its effectiveness
Image: Joule Unlimited
Nature has a way of getting things right – photosynthesis is a prime example. Scientists are now taking clues from this process where the sun’s energy is captured and turned into useful chemical fuel to create artificial photosynthesis.
One potential outcome of artificial photosynthesis is hydrogen which can be used in fuel cells. Companies like Joule
are working on making it commercially viable and JCAP
is dedicated to developing the technology.
Biofuel made from algae instead of the traditional corn ethanol is making waves in the green energy field
. The environmental perks include the fact that algae won’t need farmland to grow – tanks in sunlight are perfect. The algae will also grow much faster than other crops and the possibility to use wastewater or even saline for their growth is feasible. U.S companies such as Sapphire Energy and Algenol have been forerunners in this development.
These projects may only be in their beginning phases but they point us towards a sustainable future we can be proud to be a part of. Sustainable.co.za
offers a wide range of products which will help you build towards that future, starting today.