We are facing an energy crunch, so some brilliant minds have come up with amazing solutions. We can only assume that humans are an inventive bunch, if the following technologies are anything to go by.
You think the world’s largest solar generation plant is a big idea? Try this out for size (and heat!). A crazy but brilliant American scientist called Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer with over 20 years of industry experience, has come up with the idea of having solar roadways.
Having solar roads means that all roads and carparks would get converted into toughened solar panels. And not only that, but because roads go to every home and workplace in the country, the grid would already be in existence. Does this sound crazy to you? Well it sounds crazy to me and very brilliant, and guess what? It’s happening right now.
The ideas don’t stop with just solar power generation. Lights could be installed underneath a clear cover, which means that instead of having to paint the roads, lights would do the job. And they would be safer at night! But also, heating elements could ensure that snow melts away quickly without having to be scraped away by some beast of a machine. So no more school or work closures due to heavy snow.
However the ultimate goal is to store the power on the side of the road to re-charge car batteries and to supply homes. The Solar Roadway is an intelligent, self-heating, secure power grid. It really is a high-tech highway.
We all love to watch the waves crashing onto the shore, especially if they knock over a couple of people in their clothes who aren’t paying attention. But now there is something even better to look out for in the waves! It’s called an Oyster…and it’s not the sea creature that you extract from a shell when people come over to dinner.
Oyster wave power technology has been designed to capture energy found in near shore waves. It then converts it into clean sustainable electricity. And unless the earth stops spinning, or the moon flies off to be more loyal to Mars, then this water power will be around forever.
So how does it work? The Oyster wave power device is a buoyant, hinged flap which is attached to the seabed at around ten metres depth, around half a kilometre from shore. This hinged flap, which is almost entirely underwater, sways backward and forward in the waves. The movement of the flap drives two hydraulic pistons which push high pressure water onshore to drive a conventional hydro-electric turbine.
In essence, the Oyster wave power device is simply a large pump which provides the power source for a conventional onshore hydro-electric power plant. Once commercialised, multiple Oyster wave power devices will be deployed in farms typically of 100MW or more. This enough to power you and your facebooking and your microwave burgers and a whole lot more.
Aquamarine Power has already installed and tested its Oyster demonstration device at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, where it generates electricity which is transmitted to the National Grid to power homes in the local area. It is estimated that a farm of 20 next-generation Oyster 2 devices will generate enough energy to power more than 12,000 homes.
In addition, the Oyster can power desalination plants, delivering fresh water through zero-emission reverse osmosis. The future is wave power!
Solana Power Station
The world’s biggest solar power station has been constructed in Arizona, United States, in conjunction with Spanish Company Abengoa Solar. Called Solana (which translates as ‘sunny spot’) Obama had to fiddle with the country’s finances to make sure funding for the project was guaranteed to go ahead.
The Solana power plant now provides enough electricity to power 70,000 homes. It sidesteps the production of over 400,000 tons of greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to global warming. It cost a total of $2 billion to get started. But construction created about 1,500 construction jobs; and the plant employs 85 full-time workers. While solar power stations like Solana use a lot of water for cooling, it will still use about 15% less water than if the same piece of land was used for agricultural purposes.
So how does it work? Parabolic mirrors track the sun and focus solar energy on a heat transfer fluid. Once heated, the liquid converts water into steam, which turns the plant’s turbines to create electricity. This technology allows the plant to produce more energy for customers than a traditional solar power plant which only produces electricity when exposed to direct sunlight. So as long as the sun doesn’t blow a fuse and go out, it’s all systems go for solar power.
Abengoa Solar’s second 50-megawatt parabolic trough plant in Seville, Spain is made up of 300,000 square metres of mirrors that cover 115 hectares. The plant employs technology which concentrates solar radiation onto a heat-absorbing pipe inside of which flows a liquid that reaches high temperatures. This fluid transfers its energy to the water vapor that reaches a turbo-generator, where it expands to produce electricity.
This is the future of energy people!