We are amidst a profound energy revolution. Advances in technology mean it is now possible to harvest and store more energy than we could possibly use from ocean-waves, rain, wind and of course sunshine.
Very soon, the need for oil, coal and gas will be a thing of the past. But it’ll take innovators and entrepreneurs to extend this transition to energy consumers across technologies and around the world, and to help make important decisions about implementation. This is a huge opportunity for citizens to propel a process to ensure rapid and informed decision making that can foster a clean energy revolution that’ll displace causes of war and environmental destruction.
We’ve all heard of solar energy. It has been in around for a very long time indeed; since the 1860s – would you believe! So what’s been holding us back from powering everything with this omnipotent source of power? One forbidding challenge has been energy storage. See, the electricity powering cities is always on the move. Once produced in the power station it is making its way to our homes, office buildings and factories; or it is on its way back to the grid where it is again redistributed. This means that civilisations powering up with solar would risk having no power at night, and that wouldn’t work. It also means that energy-guzzlers like planes, boats, cars and industrial equipment have little chance to exploit solar.
Batteries, up until now, have been too inefficient to offer an effective energy use-on-demand solution. But now companies like Tesla have developed batteries efficient enough to solve the storage problem. This changes everything.
Energy storage sorted, take a deep breath and consider this: only a fraction of Earth’s surface would need to be used for collecting solar energy in order to provide energy for the entire planet. According to the LAGI (Land Art Generator Initiative) an area the size of Spain, distributed in key locations around the globe, could do the trick.
Ocean-wave kinetic energy
Oceans covers 70% of planet earth. Every second of every day, trillions of water particles interact with the wind and each other resulting in a body of water that is constantly moving: waves. Ever wondered how the weight of that all that water sloshing about must equal huge amounts of energy? You wouldn’t be alone. There has been a lot of research into oceanic power. Now, with the help of a couple of sailors, Danish company Wave Star Energy has overcome the main challenges and developed a working solution for harvesting the ‘kinetic energy’ from waves. It arrives on the market next year!
It is believed that just 0.02% of kinetic energy available for harvesting from ocean-waves could meet the world’s energy demands entirely.
In practice, it is easy to imagine how this solution could be implemented. Relatively small areas of the sea can be turned into wave/wind farms which could power entire countries and even continents. Because a critical factor in this technology is protecting the wave harvesters from violent waves, perhaps these areas could even be cordoned off in order to create controlled wave environments. It blows the mind. All that energy sloshing about, just waiting to be harvested by clever little machines that we are inventing and deploying today.
When it rains it pours – pours energy! Yes, it turns out that solar energy is trapped in raindrops which can be released using graphene – a material you’ve probably heard of by now for its many other uses, like bendy mobile phones. But the energy harvesting use alone is astounding. Buildings can be covered with solar panels which use graphene so that, come rain or shine, energy is being constantly collected. Heck, thousands of micro wind turbines could be added into the mix meaning that in virtually all weather conditions energy bouncing into buildings is harvested.
A brave new world
The energy sector is about to be transformed in an historically unparalleled energy revolution. As this article shows, renewable energy sources can power the world’s energy requirements countless times more than current and any foreseeable requirements. But the transition from oil, coal and gas to electricity will take time, will need to overcome challenges and could go in several directions that lead to varying outcomes. For example, will we have centralised power stations in cities or will self-sufficient homes be the future? This is why it is imperative for innovators, entrepreneurs and citizens/communities to engage early on in the process.
Communities need to become informed and engaged to help innovators deliver on what communities want and need, and entrepreneurs can help champion, guide and implement that process whilst ensuring equity for all.
The faster communities engage, the more rapidly decision makers will come on-board, the more equitable an energy future we forge and the closer we get to fostering a world within which energy consumption is no longer the cause for environmental degradation and military conflict.