The future of renewable technology

Renewable technology is continually evolving to meet the ever-growing demand to achieve net zero.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential renewable technologies that will innovate the way businesses generate energy.

Underground Energy Gravity Storage (UEGS)

Solar and wind generation are considered the frontrunners in renewable energy generation. However, both of these technologies are variable when subjected to less favourable weather conditions such as bad weather, low light and periods of low wind flow.

Excess energy is typically stored in lithium-ion batteries, which is highly flammable and can contaminate water supplies if leaks occur. They also have limited storage times.

UGES offers a solution to this, as it enables excess energy to be stored and discharged for future use. The process involves packing large quantities of sand into containers and lowering them into mine shafts via a central cable for storage deep underground. As the sand is sent deeper into the mine, the cable spins a series of rotors, generating electricity. To store the electricity, sand is elevated from the mine and deposited in upper storage sites on top of the mine.

With the current rise in energy demand, this is especially important to sustaining a consistent renewable energy supply, preventing blackouts or energy shortages.

Space-based solar power

This sounds like science fiction, but could actually offer a very real solution. It involves positioning solar panels on satellites, enabling them to receive energy from the sun and transmit this energy to Earth via either microwaves or lasers. Receivers on earth take this energy and store it in battery plants, where it can be supplied to homes and businesses.

These space-based solar farms could generate energy 24 hours a day, resulting in 40 times more energy than Earth-based solar power.

Solar windows

This ingenious innovation involves integrating photovoltaic cells into the glass, allowing sunlight to pass through and converting it to electricity. The photovoltaic cells can be either transparent or semi-transparent.

Airborne wind energy

Turbines are mounted onto flying devices, such as kites or drones, leveraging the stronger and more consistent winds found at higher altitudes. The electricity is generated onboard and transmitted down a specialized tether to the ground.

They offer a more dependable source of wind generation in locations with limited land availability and overcome the issue of low wind speeds.

Floating solar panels

The concept of floating solar panels relates to panels mounted on platforms that float above bodies of water. These platforms are anchored to the bottom of the seabed. The first floating solar system was launched In Japan in 2007 and has gained significant traction since then.

They reduce the space taken on land and reducing water evaporation from reservoirs (avoiding disruption of the view).

Wave power

Wave power exerts enormous energy. With oceans making up 70% of the Earth’s surface, it makes sense to utilise this energy on a large scale.

A test facility— known as PacWave – has been set up in the US and is due to be operational in 2025. It will be used to convert the power of waves into onshore electricity.

Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC)

This involves drawing up colder water from deeper parts of the ocean. As it meets the warmer surface water, this flow of water goes through a heat exchange process, which drives a turbine to generate electricity.

The technology is expensive so there is currently only a small OTEC plant operating in Hawaii, but climate concerns could generate more funding.

Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

Noor Ouarzazate in Morocco - the largest solar farm in the world - uses half a million curved mirrors to direct sunlight towards tubes full of synthetic oil, converting it to vapour. A turbine uses the vapor to generate electricity, providing power for 1.3 million people.

We will be covering more on this technology next month.

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