The world is running out of energy options quickly and this is fuelling the drive for technological innovation in the power and energy sector. With fossil fuels being a finite resource, an attitude of urgency has crept into the race for new energy solutions. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention – and since the world’s energy crisis was identified decades ago, the development of new technologies to create fresh energy answers has been relentless.
It seems that the majority of technological innovations in the energy field are focused towards harnessing the natural gifts from mother earth for cleaner and cheaper production outcomes. So, which are the energy areas receiving the biggest boosts from timely technical innovation?
The energy crisis has pushed environmental energy scientists into a race for renewables. Mother earth is generous with her gifts and freely gives us solar power. First discussed and outlined by Albert Einstein back in 1905, over the last forty years the technology underpinning this energy resource has been refined and improved, making for far more efficient energy production today. Photovoltaic cells are seen today powering anything ranging from satellites to hot water tanks via rooftop panels. It is a widely used, understood and trusted technology that is renewable and has a minimal impact on the environment.
Turbines that convert wind into electricity are becoming a more mainstream energy option as new designs evolve. Turbines with blades are being replaced by quieter models with circular dish-shaped silhouettes that have less impact on the immediate environment yet generate equivalent levels of energy. The global wind industry is shifting its base to the oceans where offshore winds are stronger and the environmental effects are lessened. As a clean, green supplier of energy, wind power is set to move towards center stage globally, with investments in large-scale wind farms and eco-technology being embraced by a growing number of countries.
The exploitation of natural shale gas found in rock formations underground has been one of the biggest energy-tech stories of the last thirty years. The existence of shale gas had been known about for generations, but the technology for extracting it just was not there. Step forward to 2003 and experiments and developments in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling had arrived at a solution that enabled shale gas to be extracted on a commercially viable basis. The potential for shale gas as a low cost energy product for the US has serious economic implications; however, concerns still remain over its environmental impact. Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and global expert on energy, talks about the history of climate change in his book, The Quest, and about shale gas being a game changer that will give the US increased energy independence by 2020.
Taking into account the way that we live today, it is unlikely that energy demands are going to fall. With emerging modern economies such as India and South America beginning to use more power, the constant push to satisfy demand will be irresistible. Fortunately, with many cutting-edge technological innovations in the energy sector, we can expect the most efficient, low impact solutions to be championed. That’s got to be good for you, me and mother earth…
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