Four Renewable Energy Solutions That Are Driving Innovation

Meghan French Dunbar April 4, 2015

4 Blade Dynamics

Ever wonder why utility-scale wind turbines are so big? It turns out that increasing the length of the blades exponentially increases the energy output of the turbine. The only problem is transport – most large turbine blades must be shipped to their final destination on trucks with extra-long beds, which have trouble turning corners in small towns along the route and often need special permits to travel along the rural roads that lead to the wind farm’s location. These obstacles increase costs and reduce the overall cost effectiveness of many wind energy projects.

With locations in the UK and Louisiana, Blade Dynamics is designing modular wind turbine blades that can be shipped in segments on standard-length trucks and assembled on-site. The blades are also lighter than conventional blades, which means they can be even longer without increasing the size of the turbine they are installed on, further decreasing costs and increasing total energy production.

3 The Copenhagen Wheel by Superpedestrian, Inc.

Long before there were solar panels or diesel fuels made from algae, there were bicycles. In a twenty-first century twist, Cambridge-based startup Superpedestrian is upgrading the humble bicycle with the Copenhagen Wheel, an invention of nearby MIT. This plug-and-play addition to any commuter bike automatically provides a boost to your pedaling when you need it without the need for a throttle, preserving the normal biking experience while making hills and long distances much easier (and less sweat-inducing). Much like a hybrid car, the wheel uses regenerative braking to help charge its battery, and it even connects to your smartphone so it can learn your route and calculate how many calories you burn, among other statistics. By making biking just a little easier and just as much fun (if not more!), its creators hope that more people will opt for bikes over cars for their daily commutes.

2 LuminAid

LuminAid was founded on the idea that victims of natural disasters, in addition to food, water, and shelter, typically need a reliable source of light. LuminAid’s solar light is incredibly compact for easy transport to disaster areas and it inflates, turning it into a lightweight lantern with diffuse light that is also waterproof and floats. In addition to disaster relief, the lights are ideal for outdoor activities such as camping and backyard barbeques and they stow easily in emergency and first-aid kits.

Through the company’s Give Light, Get Light program and its partnerships with several international NGOs, LuminAid has also distributed over 10,000 of its clean, affordable light source in areas around the world without access to electricity. Shortly before we went to press, founders Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and struck an investment deal with famed investor Mark Cuban. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

1 Enessere

The Enessere Hercules Wind Generator marries innovative renewable energy generation with aesthetic design. While generating electricity with wind is appealing for many businesses and homeowners, traditional wind turbines are typically too large for onsite applications and their efficiency is greatly reduced when they are installed in urban areas where the wind tends to be gusty, rather than in rural areas where the wind is more constant.

With a design so appealing it might be mistaken for a dynamic sculpture installation, the Hercules Wind Generator is a vertical-axis wind turbine that produces about the same amount of electricity as an average family uses over the course of a year. Its shape, which is rather mesmerizing when it is spinning, is designed to produce electricity regardless of the wind’s direction. Its handcrafted wooden “wings” are lightweight and complement any type of architecture. Designs like this could go a long way toward integrating more renewable energy sources into urban landscapes and living spaces.

Climate Action / Leadership
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