2013 clean energy breakthroughs

2013 clean energy breakthroughs

AS WE head into 2014, let us take a look back into what 2013 had to offer the clean energy industry.
1. Vehicles that power buildings: We have all read or heard about the electric car owner who drives to work, plugs his car in and by the end of the work day his battery is fully charged to take on whatever after work activity he has. Nissan has taken it one step further by pioneering a new system that allows the flow of electricity to go both ways. This innovative technology is called vehicle-to-building. Basically what it does is reverse the flow of energy during peak hours in which the building draws energy from the vehicle’s battery. When the energy consumption slows, the energy then flows back to the vehicle. The U.S. military is also trying out this technology with their vehicle-to-grid pilot program. Because of the capability to store energy in the car’s battery, the car can be a source or power during power outages. Imagine turning your car on instead of running a generator. As more renewable energy is added to the grid, battery storage is a necessity and this innovation is helping bridge that gap.

2. Battery power: As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, being able to store the energy created for a time when it is most needed is the key to renewable energy. Batteries of the past are bulky, costly, have low storage and are not very safe. The renewable energy industry has been working hard to make batteries more efficient and more affordable. Last year saw the use of nano-technology that yielded a higher level of conductivity in a smaller, lighter, lithium-sulfur battery. Tests are still undergoing if the battery is safe enough to be used. The year 2013 also saw a solar plant in Arizona come online, but this was no ordinary plant. For the first time in the United States, this plant has a battery that will keep generating power even after sunset. The battery uses a thermal energy storage system made of molten salt and can produce energy up six hours after the sun sets. This breakthrough is a huge step for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology that is dependent on the sun. 

3. Solar cells: In March last year, Alta Devices set a new record of 30.8 percent conversion efficiency. Conversion efficiency is the measurement of the amount of light that hits the solar cell and is changed into electricity. The industry standard is usually 18.7 to 24 percent. To achieve this record, the solar cell was made with a smaller thinner surface area. These cells are perfect for mobile phones, tablets, watches and more.

4. Wind turbines: Last year was a big step in wind energy. A Norwegian-based oil and gas company started work on floating wind turbines that is taking advantage of the offshore wind. The traditional wind farm requires a lot of construction and cannot be put in water over 195 feet. The floating wind farm simply needs a few cables to moor with and can be placed in water up to 2,295 feet

GE has also done some innovations with its line of wind turbines. They have turbines that calculate wind availability and the demand for power. When used with a grid-scaled energy storing battery, it will smooth out power fluctuations to the grid and will have power available during peak hours