A new year full of exciting new discoveries in the field of commercial energy lies ahead, and after making plenty of headlines in Germany, Australia and the United States in 2014, it looks like there will be little to slow solar down in 2015.Whilst subsidies might be being tailed off for solar commercial energy generation here in the UK, there are dozens of exciting new developments in the field waiting to break through over the next twelve months.We’ve picked five of the solar technologies we think are going to prove to be game changers – or at the very least, get people talking – by this time next year.
When it comes to batteries, reducing the size is almost as important as increasing the storage capacity.
Now, scientists have come up with a new nanosize battery that is 80,000 thinner than a human hair. The impact on industries such as green energy, which currently requires huge batteries to store the energy for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind does blow, and electric vehicles, that have limit range due to battery capacity, could be huge.
The latest breakthrough in reducing battery size is known as a “nanopore”. It is a microscopic hole in a ceramic sheet that is about as thick as a grain of salt. This sheet contains all the components required for a working battery and for electric current production. One billion of these holes could fit into the size of a postage stamp.
Scientists have developed a mirror that could see air conditioning units becoming obsolete. Placed on the roof of buildings, the mirrors are designed to reflect light and heat back into the subzero temperatures of space.The researchers believe that the mirrors could dramatically reduce the amount of commercial energy used by business and shopping centres to keep their buildings cool.In the US, around 15% of energy used in commercial buildings goes towards air conditioning, but the scientists are optimistic that in some cases the mirrors could completely remove the need for additional cooling.
Anyone with a laptop more than a year old, knows that the battery in most units can barely run Microsoft Excel and a web browser for than 40 mins without demanding a charge – so it might come as a surprise to find out that most old laptop batteries could soon be powering communities in the developing world.
Computer hardware giants IBM have this week released a study that says old lithium-ion batteries such as those found in laptop computers could have enough life in them to power homes in rural slums.
The study found that 70% of laptop batteries tested were capable of keeping an LED light array on in a home for as much as 4 hours per day for an entire year.
A new report by two Google engineers, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, claims that climate change cannot be solved by renewable energy technologies like wind and solar energy.
The two engineers had previously worked on an ambitious renewable energy project for Google known as “RE<C”. The project failed however, and prompted them to release their claims that renewable energy is too costly to combat climate change.
Sceptics say the release of the paper shows that the promise of green energy has been overstated.
“The promise of green technology is often so great that it becomes almost an emotional dream, yet engineers, who are tasked with making dreams a reality, often run into… reality. This is one of those cases,” Anthony Watts, owner of a high profile climate site, told FoxNews.com.
Certification body BM TRADA has warned that a “significant proportion” of the largest companies in Britain do not know about the government’s Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme ESOS and therefore risk the £50,000 penalty for not having registered in time.BM TRADA also pointed out that ESOS is mandatory and requires businesses to carry out energy assessments of their industry, transportation, and buildings to see if improvements need to be made.The scheme applies only to large businesses with over 250 employees or 50 million euros or more in turnover per year.Companies that fail to register can receive fines between £500 and £50,000 and also risk being shamed by the Environmental Agency.
New “black box” device manages household energy usage to reduce cost
A new device has been developed that is said to cut energy bills by a fifth each month. The new device, dubbed the “black box”, will turn household appliances off and on throughout the day in response to fluctuations in the cost of electricity.
The devices are to be sold to home owners starting next month and are produced by the firm Tempus Energy, which claims that the boxes will help people save 20 percent on their electricity bills using what they call “demand response” technology that manages home appliances remotely.
When installed, the black boxes communicate with “smart” products in the owner’s home, such as dishwashers, fridges and storage heaters. The box receives instructions on when to switch off or turn on the appliances from energy companies, who use complex methods to work out energy cost throughout the day.
On its second anniversary the UK Green Investment Bank has been congratulated by British Prime Minister David Cameron for contributing more than £5 billion to new green energy infrastructure projects.
The bank is the first of its kind and raises money for the development of the country’s green energy industry. Since it was created two years ago, it has benefited over 200 UK communities as well as raising the £5 billion it directed to the UK’s green energy sector.
Low commodity prices continue to influence
Oil prices saw further declines through November as OPEC nations continued to keep supply volumes high – despite forecasts indicating lower demand for 2014-15. The resulting oversupply in the global market pulled oil prices to a new four-year low of $78.1/bl and filtered through into long-term UK gas and power prices.
Research by the New York Times has suggested a new era in energy has started to dawn for energy in the United States as renewables are finally equaling conventional fossil fuels in price.
Following a trend over the last five years, the last twelve months have seen the cost of providing electricity from wind and solar plummet – so much so that in some markets renewables are now cheaper than more conventional sources such as oil or gas.
The harbinger of these lower costs has been new power purchase agreements being signed arose the country, but particularly in central and southwestern states like Texas and Oklahoma. This April saw a deal for 20 years of output from a solar farm at less than 5 cents a kilowatt-hour in Austin, whilst the Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma saw a similarly competitive deal arranged with a wind farm due online next year.