LiquiGlide: A Non-Stick Solution to Waste

by Alex Elder

LiquiGlide, a company founded by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a new technology that enables sticky substances to flow easily across the surface of any container. This technology works by coating the container’s interior with a specialized lubricating liquid which then makes the surface permanently wet and slippery. This technology was initially marketed towards commercial uses such as glue and ketchup bottles as well as paint cans. Applying LiquiGlide’s technology to these sorts of containers would greatly reduce the amount of waste involved when remnants of these products are left over, unable to be used by the consumer due to their viscosity. Widespread implementation of this technology could have major environmental payoffs by reducing waste. In a few years, LiquiGlide expects this technology to be ubiquitous. Continue reading

Energy Kites: An Airborne Wind Turbine

by Alex Elder

Makani Power, acquired by Google X in 2013, is seeking to improve the modern wind turbine design in order to make wind power more efficient, cheaper, and less intrusive. Makani has developed an innovative new system of utilizing wind as a source of energy by using an “energy kite.” These kites are actually carbon fiber gliders which fly in circles while remaining tethered to the ground. This design allows the energy kites to reach higher altitudes than traditional wind turbines while significantly reducing the cost of materials for construction. Due to their lightweight design, the kites are more aerodynamic, and thus more energy efficient, than ground-based wind turbines. Because higher altitudes allow access to stronger and more consistent wind speeds, the kites can generate about 50% more energy than traditional wind energy technology. Continue reading

An Off-Grid Renewable Energy Generator

by Alex Elder

Although solar energy is an appealing form of clean and renewable energy, not all areas of the world have the technology or the infrastructure to utilize it. Most modern solar panel installations require a connection to the existing energy grid in order to function properly. Many remote communities, however, do not have this grid infrastructure in place and thus cannot use modern solar technology at a large scale. SunEdison, a major player in the energy world, recently developed a new piece of technology called the Outdoor Microstation which aims to make renewable energy in rural and off-grid areas sustainable. The Microstation is a standalone power generator that can provide a renewable energy source to remote areas of the world. The unit includes photovoltaic solar panels to harness clean and renewable energy from the sun as well as a battery system to store unused energy. The 3,500-volt ampere model can power a rural community of 25 homes for 5 hours each night, including street lighting (SunEdison 2014). It is even scalable and modular, which provides consumers the ability to connect several systems. All Microstations are monitored remotely by SunEdision. The unit can also be installed quickly (in 4 to 6 hours) and is very low maintenance. The Microstation is also extremely durable and able to withstand extreme weather conditions, with a lifetime estimation of over 10 years. The low maintenance and durability aspects of the Microstation are just as important as its ability to generate power since a quick deterioration of the technology would ultimately fail to provide the promised energy source. Continue reading

Solar Power From Space

by Alex Elder

Although solar power is currently a popular source of renewable energy in the United States, it has several drawbacks. The biggest problem with relying on sunlight for energy is the disruption of solar absorption when there is a lack of sunlight. Thus, in areas of the country that often experience cloudy or overcast weather, solar power is not a reliable source of energy. Furthermore, solar power is not typically available at night without a sophisticated energy storage system. One solution to this problem is to establish solar farms in space. Although it may sound like science fiction, colonies of solar panel satellites in space would circumvent the major disadvantages associated with using solar panels on Earth. Additionally, sunlight in space is about ten times more powerful than what we experience on Earth, making this system more efficient in both its reliability and its strength. Continue reading

An Upcoming Method of Energy Storage

by Alex Elder

California is currently in the forefront of clean energy production, not only in the United States, but in the world. Although their rising production of wind and solar energy yields many benefits for the state and its residents, it also produces some unprecedented problems. Specifically, the increase in energy generation results in complications for managing the electric grid which has to maintain the balance of energy supply and demand. The strain on the grid has resulted in a technological movement to improve energy storage systems which would help relieve some of the issues associated with increased energy production. Because energy storage systems are designed to store and then quickly release energy onto the grid, they are able to prevent a potential supply imbalance which can sometimes be caused by the sporadic influx of solar and wind energy. Battery-based storage systems in particular can store energy from the grid when electric rates are low and discharge it for use during the day. This kind of system is especially useful for banking solar energy, which can then be used at night or when power from the grid is more expensive at certain times of the day. Continue reading

The Benefits of Offshore Wind Energy

by Alex Elder

In the past decade, the use of wind energy has increased dramatically. Wind farms that provide energy for millions of homes have popped up all over the country. However, the current energy market still relies heavily on the production of oil and gas resources as a main source of energy. The two biggest downsides of fossil fuel dependency are the lack of renewability and the environmental and economic consequences. For these reasons, renewable energy sources like wind power have become more appealing in recent years as the negative impacts of using fossil fuels become more salient and serious. In particular, offshore oil rigs are one of the most controversial sources of fossil fuel because they are notoriously dangerous for those working on them and result in frequent oil spills and fires which negatively impact the ocean through pollution. Continue reading

The Cost of Solar Power to Electric Companies

by Alex Elder

Solar panels have long been touted as a simple source of renewable energy. The have even become widely available to average energy consumers; a homeowner can simply attach solar panels to their roof and gain access to solar power energy. Utilization of solar panels has increased greatly over the past several years, with one rooftop solar system being installed every four minutes in 2013 (Than 2013). However, despite the availability of solar panels and their ease of use, some people have raised concerns about their impact on the energy market. Continue reading