News / What’s new in renewable electricity?

What’s new in renewable electricity?

2nd May 2019

Innovations in technology are making it easier to generate renewable electricity. This post looks at new products that could make a real difference to your business.

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The days of factories and offices producing the electricity they need by surrounding themselves with acres of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and/or giant wind turbines may soon be over. That’s because it’s now possible to integrate the latest generating equipment into the fabric of your buildings, install a new type of wind-based generator, or take advantage of other technological advances.

Integrated solar – controlling overheads, overhead (and elsewhere)

In the UK, your business can install an integrated solar roof that uses Tesla’s tiles. The advantages include durability – the tiles have a lifetime warranty – and not having to install bulky (and, arguably, unsightly) solar panels on the land surrounding your building. Potentially, this also frees up those areas for other infrastructure development and activities.

Using solar glass in your windows is another neat idea – already being used in greenhouses, bus shelters and barns – that could work in factories and other workplaces too. It lets in light and can also generate electricity at the same time. Along similar lines, ‘thin film’ solar glazing can be retrofitted to existing glazed areas, effectively allowing you to turn roof lights into solar panels. What’s more, unlike conventional solar PV panels, thin film works in ambient and reflected light – ideal for days when the sun isn’t shining.

In the future, we may even see the commercial production of solar cells that use living bacteria to generate electricity, reducing emissions still further.

More power for battery storage?

Battery storage is also moving towards building integration, with wall-mounted batteries on the rise. And scientists have recently developed biodegradable paper-based batteries, although these are currently for one-use only and designed for emergencies rather than to power factories.

Is the answer blowin’ in the wind?

The prevailing trend in wind power is for huge commercial ‘turbine farms’. Global data for 2017 showed that almost 550GW of wind capacity was installed around the world in that year, the third largest figure after 2014 and 2015. The accumulated total of the power produced by wind turbines can satisfy more than 5% of the world’s electricity demand.

However, according to the 2017 Small Wind World Report, only 1GW of this generating capacity is currently provided by small-scale turbines (blades up to 20 meters producing up to 50kW). As the UK and other countries step up their renewable generation, this disappointingly low figure may change. One innovation that could help is the introduction of ‘wind fences’ generating electricity as the wind passes through an array of horizontal panels. It’s quite easy to join the fence panels together to produce the amount of electricity required, and both cheaper and simpler to maintain than a conventional turbine.

Building for a greener future

Changes to building design and construction can also help us use less electricity and produce lower carbon emissions. In The Netherlands, a collaboration between the city council and University of Nantes, plus a local housing association, has led to the completion of a 3D printed home. This is 20% cheaper to build than a conventional building, and more environmentally-friendly too, so we may see the first 3D printed factory or office soon.

Powered by the car park?

If you have on-site renewable generation and a fleet of electric vehicles (EVs), it’s already possible to use the former to charge the latter. You can then use that power later too, keeping your business running when renewables aren’t producing electricity, or when the price of power from the Grid is high.

As the number of EVs rises (and the cost of acquiring them falls), their potential for use as mobile battery storage will expand – potentially enabling your business to reduce its emissions and its energy bills.

Discover how Haven Power can help your business benefit from renewable energy, by getting in touch with our contact form.

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