Renewable energy, once the jargon of environmentalists and dreamers of a green world, is rapidly becoming mainstream as governments and citizens across the globe reach the zenith of their ability to tolerate the effects of climate change and toxic pollutants in the atmosphere. What was once perhaps a luxury or experiment is now becoming a necessity as municipalities deal not only with the pollution but also the costs of a fossil-fuel based energy sector. According to a report in Futurism, as of last year, solar energy has become more affordable than fossil fuels for the first time.
The year 2016 witnessed an impressive string of renewable energy accomplishments, such as the first offshore commercial wind farm installed by the United States, solar roof tiles by the icon Elon Musk and a new invention by a young adolescent that would harness vibrational energy from wind, sunlight and precipitation to create power that not only is clean but affordable. Even Google is going renewable, targeting 2017 as the date by which all of its data centers will be powered by renewable energy.
All of this is very good news not only for the future of the renewable energy industry but for the planet. Here is a brief look at some very interesting renewable energy projects underway or on the drawing board.
Europe’s largest solar-powered irrigation system came on line in 2016 in Croatia. A total of 363 photovoltaic modules are powering six water pumps that are bringing water to agricultural land in Knezevi Vinogradi. Previously the water pumps were powered by diesel fuel. It is estimated that approximately 48.44 tons of carbon dioxide will be saved each year by the solar system. After six months of operation, the results are already very positive, not only reducing carbon emissions but also improving water management.
In the Negev, Israel, renewable energy developers are constructing what will be the tallest solar power tower in the world. The tower will be 820 feet high and will sit in the midst of a 121 megawatt power complex that will, when completed in 2017, provide clean energy to around 120,000 homes. The project has a few mega-partners, including General Electric, Bright Source and Megalim Solar Power Ltd. More than 50,000 mirrors, or heliostats, controlled by computer, will track the movement of the sun, collect its rays and bring that power to a boiler that will sit at the top of the tower. The boiler will take that energy and turn it into extremely hot steam which will be fed into a turbine which will generate electricity.
The Renewable Energy Traction Project is a network of scientists, activists and private businesses who are creating a unique project of utilizing solar energy to power UK’s vast railway network. Currently, UK rail operators are working vigorously to meet a 2050 goal of massive carbon reduction through the implementation of electrified power grids. But there are parts of the vast UK rail system that run through Wales, England and Scotland, where there is sufficient sunshine to perhaps install solar collecting panels on the side of rail cars to power the trains. The idea would be to replace the third rail electrified line currently connected to the electric grid with a line that would draw power from the solar panels. The Project is slated to begin next month, February 2017 and should have its findings by the end of the year.