6 innovative technologies that can fight the climate crisis

6 innovative technologies that can fight the climate crisis

By Jorge Hurtado

Amid growing concern about the increasingly negative impacts of the climate crisis, innovative technologies need to demonstrate their efficacy and efficiency in stopping and/or neutralizing greenhouse gas pollution. Fortunately, we are experiencing faster technological changes that could support a rapid transition towards the use of renewable energy sources. Wind- and solar-produced energy have become the classic examples of alternative energy, and recent technologies have helped to revolutionize the way solar cells and wind turbines convert abundant energy into “clean” electricity, for example. These advances have catapulted the global production of renewable energy to almost 2000% from what was produced two decades ago. Below are six additional and exciting technologies that can also help to reduce climate change and address the climate crisis. 

Converting biogas into hydrogen:

The company Hazer Group Ltd is the patent holder of a novel low-cost hydrogen and graphite production technology developed at the University of Western Australia. The Hazer process is innovative because it enables the conversion of any natural gas feedstock (e.g., sewages) into renewable hydrogen and high-quality synthetic graphite, with the help of iron-based catalysts. 

The hydrogen can be utilized as a clean energy source for different applications and chemical process industries, whereas the synthetic graphite can find commercial applicability as energy storage sources and where black carbon, activated carbon, and battery anodes are required.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is funding the construction and operation of a large-scale plant, which will be located in Munster, Western Australia. The plant will have an initial investment of $15.8 million USD and aims to deliver an annual amount of 100 tons of clean hydrogen when it starts its operation in 2021. 

Source: Hazer Group

C-Capture carbon capture and storage technology:

C-Capture, initially conceived at the University of Leeds Department of Chemistry, defines itself as a “clean energy” tech company that makes “cheap” energy through a unique process of decarbonization. The process is based on the use of chemical solvents designed and patented by C-Capture and that can capture carbon molecules from sources of biogas producers. The company is currently targeting power plants and fermentation facilities along with steel and cement production companies that emit large amounts of carbon to adopt a technology that can generate electricity using an affordable and environmentally friendly process.

C-Capture is working with the Drax Group to pilot a program that aims to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce renewable electricity. The Drax power station supplies almost 7% of total UK electricity, generating more than 18 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The pilot program is being implemented as part of the power station Bioenergy Carbon Capture Storage project. 

Drax Carbon Capture pilot scheme
Drax Carbon Capture pilot scheme. Source: Wikipedia – The Joy of All Things

Dielectric liquid submersion cooling:

High-performance computing (HPC) generates large amounts of heat. To maintain HPC functioning, processors require energy to keep them cool. The communication industry uses an estimated 6% of global electricity, which will become 20% within the next 6 years. This amount of energy used by data servers (e.g., data centers and cloud providers) will contribute to increasing the world’s total carbon emissions by 3.5% by the end of 2028 and by 14% by 2040.

Submer Technologies, a Spanish data center immersion cooling company, has developed the latest liquid immersion cooling system to maintain HPC within the right operating temperature and to mitigate HPC’s power demands. A commercially launched operation is already part of the satellite communications innovator and space gateway Goonhilly Earth Station (GES). With the adoption of Submer’s cooling technology, GES has gained more efficiency and better performance while consuming 50% less electricity generated by fossil fuels.

Liquid submersion cooling requires the immersion of computer components in a thermally conductive liquid. Submer uses a patented nonmineral-based, dielectric cooling fluid, which is also nonvolatile, nontoxic, and biodegradable. 

Bifacial solar modules:

Although the first patented bifacial solar modules (BSMs) date back to 1966, the technology is gradually becoming popular due to the dramatic increase in solar cell output (performance and optimization) and reduced manufacturing costs. Indeed, the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic predicted that the global market share for BSMs will fluctuate between 35% and 40% by 2019.

What makes BSMs special is that they can absorb solar energy from both sides, especially diffuse and albedo light (i.e., incident light reflected by a surface). This process significantly increases the overall output of the module. BSMs can increase total energy produced by up to 35%, but energy gain depends on system design, location, and installation. For instance, ground-mounted BSMs can only offer a 10% gain in annual electricity when compared to regular solar modules. If the same BSM is elevated by 1 meter, the output gained can be near 30%-35% in terms of energy produced in kilowatt-hours. This output gain is near to what Prism Solar’s BSM is designed to harvest. Others such as the Biku BSM are being advertised to reach up to 370W on the front side, with an additional daily bifacial yield of 5%-20%. 

Source: Civic Solar

Hydrogen as combustion fuel:

Hydrogen, for combustion purposes, is considered to be a zero-emission fuel that can be used to power combustion engines. Although hydrogen as a fuel has already been in use for years, there is a lack of technology that can facilitate its wider utilization. This is why the HySpirits project is being advertised as the first of its kind around the globe. The HySpirits project aims to develop a thermal fluid heater system that will use hydrogen as fuel and that will become operational at the Orkney Distillery. The HySpirits project will test whether hydrogen can be effectively used as an alternative fuel to kerosene and liquid petroleum gas. If successful, it will allow replicating the technology to other energy-intensive industrial processes. The project brings together the European Marine Energy Centre (provider of the hydrogen fuel) and the Edinburgh Napier University (developer of the hydrogen-based thermal fluid heating system design and specifications). Funding for the project ($182,000 USD) is being provided by the British Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. The project claims that the adoption of a clean energy source by the distillery will aim to reduce carbon emission by 86 tons per year.

Increasing use of high voltage direct current transmission lines:

High voltage direct current (HVDC) is a highly versatile technology used to transmit electricity over long distances. The HVDC system is ideal for interconnecting grids, improving network performance, supporting already existing systems, and enabling the integration of renewable-produced energy into the system. The prominent vendors providing the necessary services for the installation of HVDC technology (i.e., HVDC transmission systems and components) across the world are ABB, GE Grid Solutions, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Siemens. Technavio reports that there will be an increase in the global demand for HVDC transmission systems. The market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of almost 16% by 2021. 

These six technologies represent a snapshot of some exciting developments in a much wider field of innovation being fueled by the climate crisis. Check back in future months as PreScouter profiles even more!

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