What has three blades and floats?
A Norweigian company called Statoil is set to build the first floating wind warm in the world. If the construction goes according to schedule, the revolutionary Hywind Pilot Park should be up and running off the coast of Scotland by the end of 2017.
Statoil has been working on floating turbine technology for years. It built its first prototype in Norway in 2009. Following successful tests, it made plans to grow the tech into a full-scale commercial wind farm. Scotland leased the ocean land to Statoil in 2016.
The Scotland project will consist of five six-megawatt wind turbines. The turbines will be tethered together, sharing infrastructure like power cables and transmission facilities. Once its up and running, the project should power about 56,000 Scottish homes each year.
Offshore wind energy is one of the fastest growing areas of renewable energy. It is particularly big in the UK, where shallow shorelines and powerful coastal winds make for perfect conditions for offshore turbines. Recently, New York State also announced plans to auction 33,000 hectares of ocean land for an offshore wind project.
The benefits of offshore wind turbines are many. Offshore turbines are more than double the size of their landlocked cousins. With nothing around to slow them down, sea winds are far stronger and more consistent than on-shore winds, so harnessing their power can generate even more energy. Offshore turbines also solve the NIMBY problem that plagues wind advocates.
However, putting up a wind turbine in the ocean is no simple task. The turbines are huge, and bolting one to the seafloor is no easy task. It’s costly and time-consuming. Since seafloor mounted wind turbines can only go as deep as 260 feet, they aren’t suitable everywhere.
Floating wind farms would solve many of the challenges that come with traditional offshore wind farms.
The floating wind turbines can be installed in waters up to 1,000 feet deep – more than double that of regular offshore turbines. This means they can be used in areas surrounded by deeper ocean waters, like much of Japan and the eastern United States. This could help countries meet their renewable energy goals.
Rather than anchoring the turbines to the ocean floor, Statoil will tether them together to an anchor and stabilize them with floating steel tubes. Since the eliminates the need to build a large foundation, floating wind turbines will likely be easier and more economical to install.
Countries all over the world are embracing solar power as a clean, renewable energy source. But despite its awesome potential, the traditional solar panel has its flaws. Most solar panels are big, heavy, and easily breakable, which limits where they can be used.
Solar glitter could be the solution.
Murat Okadan, CEO of mPower Technology, has developed a new kind of solar cell called Dragon SCALEs – aka solar glitter.
“Our technology makes it virtually unbreakable while keeping all the benefits of high efficiency, high reliability silicon PV,” Okadon explains. “It allows us to integrate PV in ways that weren’t possible before, such as in flexible materials, and deploy it faster in lighter-weight, larger-area modules.”
Made from high-efficiency silicon, these tiny solar cells can be printed onto just about any surface like an ink. The cells are lightweight, portable, and extremely flexible. This means they can stick to objects of all shapes and sizes, and come out of harsh conditions without a scratch. They’ll bend, but not break.
“By making our cells small and then interconnecting them we’re able to make them almost unbreakable,” says Okadon.
Try flexing a traditional solar panel. You can’t – it’ll simply shatter under the pressure.
If solar glitter works as Okadon describes, the applications are nearly limitless. To start, who wouldn’t want a personal solar panel to charge their devices on-the-go? But the potential reaches far beyond consumer use.
Drones could use the cells to recharge its batteries literally on the fly. Solar glitter could lighten the load on star-bound satellites. Not only could it be used on wearable electronics like smart watches, but solar glitter could be integrated into clothing and accessories.
Okadon’s invention could have old-school applications as well. Since solar glitter is lighter and easier to transport than traditional solar panels, it could also be used on rooftop and large-scale solar systems on buildings.
Solar power is on the rise, with large-scale operations taking place in countries across the globe. Solar glitter could take that progress to the next level.
In a few short years, shipping containers have become the basis of a new, ultra-sustainable style of architecture (aka cargotecture, a portmanteau of cargo and architecture.) It’s not hard to see why.
Shipping containers are tough, durable, and widely available for very reasonable cost. Used shipping containers sell for as little as $1,000. And repurposing an old shipping container saves over 7,000 pounds of steel from landfills.
There are other benefits to using a shipping container as building blocks. Since all containers have the same width, and come in standardized lengths and heights, you can easily apply a design across multiple homes. Builders can easily stack and combine them into a larger structure.
These homes are also easy to move from place to place. This gives homeowners the freedom to live just about anywhere – in the deep woods shrouded by trees, at the edge of an ocean-side cliff, or nestled in a valley.
Designers are already doing amazing things with shipping containers. Now, one group of builders is taking this form of architecture to the next level with a sustainable, ultra-green, off-the-grid home.
Sustainer Homes, a start-up company from the Netherlands, has developed a prototype for an innovative shipping container home that runs exclusively on environmentally-friendly resources.
The completely self-sufficient house fits a bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen and living room into just 323 square feet of space. The interior is lined with wood-free ECOboard panels, which are made from recycled farm waste like grass and straw. All the walls and ceilings use a non-toxic, plant-based paint.
What makes the Sustainer Homes model remarkable is the fact that it is completely self-reliant. There is no need to connect to the energy grid, water, or sewer system. Instead, miniature wind turbines and solar panels power the entire house from top to bottom, and a series gutters gather rainwater. Wastewater from the sink, shower, and toilet runs through a plant-based filter six times before being sent back into the ground, where it dissolves naturally.
It may exist off-the-grid, but the home is far from being low-tech. Sustainer Homes plans to rig their houses with an onboard computer, smart thermostat, and 4G LTE modem for high speed internet.
A single home, complete with all the amenities, costs just $112,700 CDN.
Sustainer Homes sees their sustainable shipping container homes as the answer to the housing crisis. Like young Canadians, young people in the Netherlands are struggling to pay rising rents or enter an exorbitant housing market. Shipping container homes could provide an affordable and environmentally-alternative.
Not only are they less expensive to build, but the homes save the homeowner money. After all, a self-sustaining home has no water, electricity, or heating bills.
“Independence and sustainability define the home of tomorrow,” say the Sustainer Homes team. “We’re pioneering in all aspects of future living: modular, mobile, smart.”
Currently, the Sustainer Homes are only available in the Netherlands, as they’re built to match the Dutch climate and comply with Dutch building codes.
It’s only the size of a waste bin, but this mini power plant has the potential to turn household waste into ready-to-use fuel.
The Home Energy Recovery Unit (HERU) was developed by researchers at the Brunel University in London, England. Using a process called pyrolysis, HERU turns household waste into energy-rich liquid, char, or synthesized gas fuel. The unit connects to the water and drainage system of a house and uses the fuel to heat water. The resulting gas is then cleaned before being vented into the atmosphere, creating a sustainable renewable energy source.
Not only can HERU eliminate waste, it can help the homeowner cut energy bills. The unit uses just 1 kWh of power for every 2.5 kWh of energy it produces. According to the inventors, this could save families up to 15% in fuel.
What makes this tech truly green is its potential to address two pressing environmental problems at once: waste management and fuel production.
“Waste management is one of the most crucial challenges developed countries face,” said co-inventor, Dr. Hassam Jouhara. “Rising fuel costs leave so many households with the difficult decision of whether to eat or to heat their home and countries worldwide are being urged to cut carbon consumption. The vision is to solve this global problem and slash energy bills while producing energy for heating from waste that is otherwise a burden on local authorities and households.”
Installing a waste-powered generator would cut down on landfill waste and reduce reliance on other energy sources. The creators, who are based in the U.K., believe it could cut the U.K.’s carbon footprint for waste disposal by over 70%. While the tech hasn’t hit the consumer market, HERU could be a hero for green energy.