Renewable energy is moving quickly, with new developments and breakthroughs occurring each year. This past year was no different. 2018 brought dozens of advancements in the science and development of renewable energy, including new uses for this type of fuel and improvements in old methods. Here are some of the most exciting things to happen in the world of renewable energy this year, with wide-ranging implications for future research.
Wind Hot Spots
Wind turbine installations have been increasing steadily, with several hotspots worldwide. China had installed nearly 20 gigawatts of wind power as of June 2018, with the European Union closely behind at 15.6 gigawatts of new wind power potential. China has been a driver of global wind power growth for 10 years, consuming the most wind-generated electricity worldwide out of any other country. As others realize the importance of renewable power, more and more countries are installing densely-packed wind farms to maximize their capacity.
As waste management techniques improve, communities are better able to save space in landfills and regulate the amount of pollutants entering the atmosphere. A refinery in Belgium uses garden, fruit, and vegetable waste to create a biomethane gas that can be injected into the grid and used to produce electricity. Not only does this endeavor limit waste, it also provides a source of renewable energy and reduces dependence on fossil fuels.
Cooking oil has also been used to create biofuel. In South Australia, researchers developed a technology that allows recycled cooking oil from fast food restaurants to capture mercury pollution from mines and industrial plants. This development makes it possible to limit the amount of dangerous pollutants entering the air and waterways. An Italian refinery, meanwhile, is now converting used vegetable oil into a biofuel that is used to power 30 waste collection vehicles in Rome, Turin, and Venice. The biofuel reduces emissions by up to 40% and fuel consumption by about 4%, representing significant strides in limiting air pollution.
In 2017, all-electric vehicles reached more than 100,000 annual sales for the first time. Since then, sales have continued to rise, with more consumers interested in making the switch. Car makers have responded to the demand. There are more than 20 electric-only models of car on the market today, ranging from the affordable to the luxury.
Tesla, one of the largest players in the electric vehicle industry, has made great strides in technology within the last year. Its cars now feature some of the lowest probabilities of injury of any vehicle, and the company has installed more Supercharger stations throughout the country to make charging electric vehicles easier. These features make electric cars more appealing to consumers and encourage increased purchases of cars that run on renewable resources in the future.
Solar power used to be an expensive form of renewable energy. Consumers had to install a large number of costly photovoltaic panels to successfully power their homes, and for many, the expense was prohibitive. Now, however, solar panels have become cheaper. In 2018, an MIT study concluded that the cost of solar panels has fallen by 99 percent in the last four decades, making them more accessible than ever.
The decrease is the cause of several factors. Government policies were put in place to encourage the production and purchase of solar panels. In addition, scientists have developed more efficient panels, allowing buyers to receive more power from a single panel than before. Improved production methods have also contributed to the decreased cost of solar panels.
Energy storage has been a common problem in the renewable energy sector. Unlike traditional forms of energy, there has been no reliable way to store solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy. In 2018, however, the cost of lithium-ion and flow batteries began to decrease. This, coupled with increased demand for electric vehicles and sustainable businesses, has led to strong growth in research and development of energy storage devices and other technology. With these advancements, it will be easier than ever to use and store energy from renewable resources for dark nights and windless days, making it possible for communities to truly run on 100% renewable energy.
Hydrogen power is possible, but it has historically been expensive and difficult to safely store and transport hydrogen. In August 2018, Australian scientists revealed a membrane technology that separates hydrogen from ammonia while blocking other gasses. The technology makes it easier to store and transport hydrogen in the form of ammonia, then separate it when it reaches its destination. The breakthrough not only made it cheaper to transport hydrogen, it also opened the door to widespread adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity, and more.
Keeping Up With Renewable Energy
Consider contributing to renewable energy initiatives in your daily lives by making a few adjustments to your routine. These can include switching your electricity source to renewable energy if possible, installing solar panels in your home, and purchasing an electric or hybrid car when you need a new one. Staying updated on the current news in renewable energy developments can help you become an early adopter of the latest technologies, making an impact on the environment by supporting renewable energy initiatives.