Solar energy has been around for decades, but in recent years it has been receiving more funding and interest than ever. That attention is coming from both the public and private sectors. In September, the U.S. Department of the Navy made its largest renewable investment to date through a solar farm partnership with Sempra and the Western Area Power Administration, while massive private companies across various fields from Apple and Cisco to Kaiser Permanente are investing in solar to the tune of billions.
That increased interest in solar means increased interest in making solar better. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) launched the SunShot initiative in 2010 with the goal of making solar energy cost-competitive: five years in, the initiative has made significant strides forward and is funding further advancements. In January 2016, the DoE assigned $18 million in funding to six projects across the country developing more scalable and cost-efficient solar energy storage technologies as part of its Grid Modernization Initiative (a sector of the SunShot Initiative).
Wherever there are wide open spaces, there are opportunities for wind power. It’s a rapidly growing field—wind power provides 4.2 percent of Australia’s overall electricity, and approximately 5 percent of energy needs in both Canada and the United States. But as those numbers aim to increase, engineers are searching for ways to maximize power generation in finite space.
One potential breakthrough is high altitude wind power, harnessing the more forceful winds of the upper atmosphere to generate energy. Startups like Altaeros Energies are experimenting with methods like turbines built into helium-filled industrial blimps, with the claim that these high-altitude methods could generate twice as much power compared to conventional wind turbines.
The thought of nuclear energy often gives consumers pause. But in fact, it’s much more common than the average consumer would think. According to the DoE, 20 percent of the country’s power generation in the last two decades has come from a nuclear power source, making it by far the largest current source of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power generation. The energy community is also working hard on initiatives to expand the capabilities of this alternative energy source while also making it safer and more secure.
As a result of research by Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC), nuclear energy will continue to provide clean, affordable, and secure energy while supporting the administration’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by introducing advanced designs into new energy and industrial markets,” states a recent report from the DoE’s office of nuclear energy. This research includes the development of “next generation” nuclear plants, from safer accident-containing sites to “recycling” reactors that turn previous nuclear waste into new fuel to power the future.
From conventional oil exploration to offshore wind farms, the ocean is home to myriad energy projects. It is also the very source of a progressive generation approach called tidal power. Referred to as a “sister resource” to wind power, tidal power uses floating hydraulic pumps and the perpetual motion of ocean currents to generate energy.
While tidal power has raised some concerns and detractors are still unconvinced of its potential, the method is gaining significant traction as a viable option in coastal regions, especially industrial regions where other forms of energy production are falling out of favor. In these areas, populations are looking to tidal power as a source for both renewable energy and a refreshed job market.
Environmental issues like climate change have long been linked to an accumulation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But what if that carbon could be captured and repurposed as something beneficial? Researchers are currently looking into ways to recapture carbon from fossil fuels like coal and reuse the resource as a cost-effective energy source. Unlike some other forms of renewable energy, these researchers recognize that carbon capture may not be the greenest solution immediately—but with time its effects can be unlocked.
"In the short term, in order to develop the technology, we probably will enable more use of hydrocarbons, which makes environmentally conscious people uncomfortable,” Chris Jones, a chemical engineer studying CO2 capture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told David Biello in a report for Yale 360. “But it’s a necessary thing we have to do to get the technology out there and learn how to make it more efficient.
Source: Energy Digital - http://www.energydigital.com