The mind-blowingly innovative use of renewable energy continues to make headlines. Last year, there was the well-documented round-the-world flight of Solar Impulse, a plane powered completely by solar energy. Upon its return to Abu Dhabi at the end of July, the pilot memorably said: “The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further.”
With the pressure to reduce our carbon emissions mounting as countries across the globe set ambitious climate change targets, governments and businesses are doing everything they can to be greener. If you’re looking for some inspiration, whether you’re thinking of utilising renewable sources for your home or business’ energy, or you just want to make subtle changes in order to become more efficient, then we can help you out.
Love Energy Savings has scoured the globe to bring you four innovative and incredible projects that you didn’t know could be powered by renewable energy.
A cycle path
European countries have always aimed to be pioneers in renewable energy development, and in 2014 the Netherlands took their work a step further. A 70-metre path between the suburban towns of Wormerveer and Krommenie was installed with solar panels built in.
But how exactly does it work? Well the project, nicknamed the SolaRoad, is highly technical. It has been made using rows and rows of crystalline silicon solar cells which have been embedded into the path’s concrete. They are then covered with a thick layer of tempered glass, treated with a non-adhesive coating, and the path itself is even slightly tilted to prevent the buildup of dust and dirt.
More than 2,000 people use this path everyday, and it is thought to produce 3,000 kWh of electricity, which is enough to power a small house for a full year. If expanded to 100 metres, as the local government plans to this year, that number could rise to three households.
The Netherlands aren’t the only ones to take this kind of approach. France has followed suit by announcing ambitious plans to build 1,000 kilometres of solar roads; a German company called Solmove is considering a similar project, whilst American companies are currently testing the technology.
It’s an incredibly bold and clever move; the roads and pavements are there anyway so why not transform them into something that can actually help us? It may be a long way down the line, but we could eventually be living in a world where we’re walking on energy as it is being created!
The human body expends a vast amount of energy and if we were able to harness it then we could power all sorts of things. This has been achieved in the past, with hand-cranked radios and torches, but the collective movement of dozens of people could create enough kinetic energy to power something much bigger. And where do people move the most?
In 2008, a company called Energy Floors opened up the world’s first sustainable dance club. Using their specially designed floors, every step, whether it’s walking or dancing, generates electricity which is then used to power the LED lightbulbs throughout Club WATT in Rotterdam.
The effects of the scheme have been outstanding. Thanks to the Club’s efforts, the city was able to meet its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50% before the year 2025. Through the scheme, several sustainable initiatives have been put in place such as flushing toilets with rainwater, and the club has cut its water consumption by 50%, while also reducing its carbon dioxide and waste output by the same amount.
A chocolate factory
How do we, as humans, get our energy? Well it’s simple. The food we eat gets digested and broken down into energy and other by-products. What a Nestle factory in Fawdon, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne did was take the concept of anaerobic digestion, the natural process of biodegradable material being broken down by bacteria, and use it to produce clean water and renewable energy.
Using waste sugar, chocolate and sweets that are not suitable for sale, which are broken down by bacteria in an airtight tank, the Nestle factory produces a renewable source of energy called biogas. Comprised mostly of carbon dioxide and methane, the biogas actually helps to provide 10% of the factory’s energy requirements.
The new scheme doesn’t just help with generating cleaner energy for the factory to use; it also helps to clean up the waste that they produce. A big problem that factories face is trying to avoid pumping out huge amounts of contaminated and polluted water, which can then find its way back into our rivers and reservoirs. Thanks to the new system put in place, the water that is produced as a by-product is now virtually completely clean.
An entire small country
It’s impressive enough when a house or a whole building manages to source at least a percentage of their energy from renewable sources, and it’s the standard that many people now aim for. But the country of Costa Rica has set the bar even higher. Between the dates of January 1st and December 17th in 2015, Costa Rica ran entirely on renewable energy. That’s 350 days without relying on fossil fuels for electricity.
So where did all of their energy come from for almost an entire year? The vast majority of Costa Rica’s energy comes from hydropower, thanks to its four major dams, abundant rainfall and huge river systems. A decent amount of the country’s energy also comes from geothermal projects that utilise a number of active volcanoes, along with biomass, wind and solar power.
What does the future have in store for Costa Rica now they have been thrown into the environmental limelight?
- They want to focus less on hydropower and more on wind and geothermal methods
- This year they want to shut down their heavy fuel oil-powered Moin plan
- Move their entire transportation system away from a dependence on fossil fuels
- Place a greater emphasis on electric transportation, including trains, buses and cars
Renewable energy is doing incredible things across the world, and it is starting to have more of an impact within our own homes and businesses. More people are choosing to install solar panels on their roofs or to switch energy providers to one that makes a concerted effort to source its power from renewables.
Our friendly team here at Love Energy Savings are always on hand to discuss the different energy providers out there, helping you to save an average of 40% on your business electricity and gas bills. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today!