With energy-efficient technologies developing rapidly, it’s no surprise that some of them will serve as renewable energy market disruptors. No matter the industry, advancements in technology tend to alter the landscape researchers and scientists operate in.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the renewable energy capacity jumped 45% in 2020, a change unseen since 1999. It’s clear that the market is expected to grow exponentially throughout the upcoming years, and the technology to power these sources of energy will follow suit.
Below are six examples of new technology that will influence the energy industry and most likely change the way researchers work with energy sources.
A key theme throughout renewable energy is finding innovative methods of storing energy. Ultracapacitors do just that and are growing in popularity within the industry. Compared to a standard battery, this technology stores energy electrostatically.
Typical batteries store energy chemically, which has limitations. Two significant benefits of ultracapacitors that make them so attractive in the market are that they release energy more rapidly than a traditional battery and they can be recharged more frequently without facing degradation.
2. Smart Inverters
As more direct energy resources, or DERs, are used to power the world, it’s essential to consider how the energy is being transferred. This is where inverters come into play.
They take direct current outputs and convert them into electrical outputs that power solar panels on residential homes, for example. On the other hand, smart inverters provide more functionality by regulating voltage, frequency support, and ride-through capabilities.
3. Piezoelectric Materials
The word “piezoelectric” describes the energy that comes from the application of pressure and latent heat. Vibrations from piezoelectric materials are gathered and transferred into energy that can be used to power small devices that don’t require much energy in the first place.
Harvesting this type of energy is becoming increasingly common in today’s energy industry. Piezoelectric materials can be designed to handle various forms of energy input, allowing for more efficient and effective harvesting.
4. Triboelectric Generators
Researchers have been working to develop nanogenerators that can be used to power sensors and electronic devices. The triboelectric effect is a phenomenon described as two distinct materials rubbing together to generate electricity.
The simplest example of triboelectricity is when a balloon is rubbed against someone’s head, making their hair rise. Harnessing this form of electricity is eco-friendly and contributes to building wearable technology. In addition, these generators assist in powering sensors that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Short for “rectifying antennas,” these innovations convert electromagnetic waves, similar to how telescoping car antennas work. Direct electric currents formed from rectennas can be used to support infrared sensing and wireless communications.
A benefit of rectennas is that they’re environmentally sound, since they utilize heat that would otherwise be wasted. Due to their size and low power output, rectennas are relatively limited in functionality. With more research, it’s possible that rectennas can be modified to improve energy production and, as a result, become a more prominent DER.
6. Power-to-X Fuels
It’s been a goal of researchers for years to find alternatives to fossil fuels. Power-to-X fuels, sometimes referred to as P2X, may be the best option out there. The term covers any process that turns electricity into heat, hydrogen, or synthetic fuels that can be stored and then used later on for energy output.
Through electrolysis, excess power generated by DERs can be split into hydrogen and oxygen. After processing, this energy can be used to:
- Heat buildings
- Manufacture steel
- Power fuel cells for transportation
There’s a plethora of power electronics at the forefront of the renewable energy sector. These few examples are expected to be some of the most disruptive technologies of the future.
Growth in Power Electronics
Whether it’s finding new applications within an industry or starting new research programs, professionals in renewable energy work tirelessly to improve the nation’s electric grid. Building a more sustainable future is crucial when looking at the current climate change issues the world is facing.
This article was written by Devin Partida.