Solar power and wind power are becoming more common and are the current shining stars in the renewable energy field. Costs are now lower than most fossil fuel energy and the industries are creating jobs directly and indirectly. However, the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow all of the time, so storage solutions are being innovated to keep the excess energy created by the sun and wind available all the time.
Innovation can provide a way out of our climate crisis. The Department of Energy is putting $45 million on the line for projects that will integrate clean energy sources onto the grid. They have awarded money to groups who are working on integrating solar power into the energy grid, groups working to tweak current solar technology by changing materials and construction processes, and a group doing pilot scale testing on solar heat to dry municipal sewage sludge to turn it into fertilizer, among other projects.
Projects involving hydrokinetic energy are innovating, too. While solar and wind will depend on storage solutions to make them more relevant to the grid, ocean waves are constantly on the move. A research team led by RMIT University in Australia has created a wave energy converter that is twice as efficient at harvesting power as anything else that has been developed. They also think that the technology could be used to power desalination plants to provide fresh water for agriculture, an increasing concern with the changing climate.
A building on the campus of Michigan State University has installed transparent solar glass panels in an experiment with Ubiquitous Energy. The panels are indistinguishable from windows once installed and the 100 square foot installation will generate enough electricity to power the lighting in the atrium.
Green hydrogen is on the innovative front lines with the announcement of the “Hydrogen Shot” program from the Department of Energy. The goal is to reduce the price of green hydrogen by about 80% by 2030. According to Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Secretary, This program is “an all hands on deck call for innovation, collaboration, and acceleration of our clean energy economy.” Private companies are already working on innovations involving innovation and production in the United States and globally.
The innovative ideas that are coming from various individuals, groups, or companies will propel the carbon-free future we need if we are to win against climate change. And, as we have seen with solar power and wind power, innovation is just the beginning of the process. Once an idea has shown its potential to work, innovation will continue to improve it and make it less expensive. In the process, new industries will be created and new careers will be born.