Governments and individuals have been working on taking care of the environment through alternative energy and becoming more efficient in energy consumption. The driving force for making greener communities have been new technologies that help to automate processes and discover new methods to create energy. Here are five innovations that can help make our communities greener.
Regular electric meters on our homes only tell us and the electric company basic information, and electric companies are often completely unaware of power outages until they start to get calls from customers. A smart meter connected to a network, however, can relay how much power is being used and when in real-time to the power company and the homeowner. Smart appliances can also be networked into the meters, so we can program our washing machines to run only during times of low energy demand. What does this mean for communities? Using power plants at full capacity instead of building more to satisfy energy needs during peak times.
The first bio-fuels created were expensive and lacked efficiency, mainly because cars had to be adapted in order for the fuels to work. Now, biotech companies are working to adapt biofuels to fit our current car infrastructure instead of the other way around. The companies create custom microbes in a lab that can produce biofuels to order that work in the cars and trucks we already have, including “green crude” which acts similar to petroleum without the drawbacks. Still in development, this technology could dramatically decrease pollution and oil dependence in our communities.
One of the biggest problems with using solar energy is the sun isn’t always shining. After all, the sun goes down at night and we get rainy or just cloudy days, and there’s no way to store up the sun’s rays for future use. This means that electric companies can’t rely solely on solar because they wouldn’t be able to consistently provide enough energy to meet demands at all times. However, solar companies are working on a way to store the energy they produce on the brightest days through molten salt.
Solar thermal uses powerful mirrors to focus the sun’s heat to create steam that drives an electric turbine. On extra sunny days, the excess heat created can be used to heat up massive amounts of salt. Then, when the sun isn’t shining, the heat from the salt can be used to generate steam.
The ability to maintain a utility-scale solar power plant would significantly decrease the cost of generating electricity and decrease a community’s carbon footprint.
Home automation has come a long way, and many of the innovations can make homeowners more energy efficient. Automated thermostats allow homeowners to program when to lower and raise the temperature in the home, so the thermostat does it automatically whether the owner remembers or not. Automatic lights that you can turn on and off with a smartphone can allow parents to switch the lights off from work when the kids forget to, or to make sure everything is shut off when they leave for a vacation. These revolutionary systems are becoming increasingly available because the amount of competition in the industry has grown fast and driven down the price. Companies like Vivint, and Smart Home USA, have given the power to the people, offering DIY systems, or elite, extensive set ups, all Eco-friendly. Research is a necessary step when shopping to make sure you patronize earth-friendly businesses.
An individual’s ability to create his or her own energy has been fairly limited. The only tool available for getting off the grid was solar panels, which only worked if you lived in a sunny area. Now, a start up is working on bringing wind power to individuals, as well, with a 6 foot turbine and silent generator. The system can generate, on average 1,500 KW/h a year.