Three Unlikely Sources of Renewable Energy

12

Everyone’s heard of solar, wind, and hydro power, but that hasn’t stopped alternative energy researchers from thinking (way) outside the box for more ways to produce heat and electricity.

Even though the world is still trying to wrap its head around the fact we don’t need oil, coal, or gas to stay warm, light up cities, and power our vehicles, many are looking beyond known sources of renewable energy in their search for a cleaner future.

Here are 3 of the most unlikely sources of energy to watch for in the coming decade.

MuckBuster Anaerobic Digester Generates Energy from Poop

Built inside a re-purposed shipping container, the MuckBuster uses animal poop, grass clippings and other stuff bound for the septic tank to generate renewable energy.

Using bacteria to break down the organic materials, the digester produces methane, a gas which can later be burned to produce electricity. SEaB Energy claims that the MuckBuster can generate 2KWh of power from 100 gallons of organic waste, which is about half of what a typical home consumes.

Mushrooms and Lichen Turn Plant Waste into Biofuel

A Danish company called Novozymes A/S has scientists in China, Brazil, Denmark and the U.S. working to find an affordable alternative to gasoline made from corn cobs and sugarcane stalks. If successful, they could put an end to concerns that global hunger for energy is driving up food prices worldwide.

Fungi like mushrooms and lichen make enzymes to eat rotting logs and decaying leaves. Biofuel producers use the proteins to break down the complex carbohydrates in plant cells into a soup- like mixture of simple sugars that yeast can eat. In a process much like making beer, yeast ferments the mixture, producing ethanol. Enzymes now on the market can’t break down the tougher parts of plants effectively enough to be affordable (Bloomberg.com).

Harnessing the Power of Lightning

You only have to see lightning crack across the sky once to know that this is an awesome display of natural energy. Researchers in Brazil now say they have come a step closer to harnessing the power of the ambient electricity responsible for lightning and believe that it has the potential to become a source of clean energy.

Early research has indicated it may be possible to develop devices that can capture ambient electricity, much as solar panels capture sunlight, while also preventing lightning before it can discharge, researchers said at a recent National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Know of another weird source of renewable energy? Share it in a comment!

Article by Beth Buczynski, appearing courtesy Crisp Green.

About Author

12 Comments

  1. I don’t think that harnessing the methane from animals’ dejections is such a ridiculous idea.

    The New York Times ran an article on the very topic recently. To Hewlett Packard, the waste produced by a cow can light a 100 W bulb. (or five energy efficient 20 W bulbs as efficiency matters !)

    As I wrote on my blog, I believe that one day this waste will be a good source of natural gas to replace coal when there is no sun or wind.

    I wonder how much we could reduce greenhouse gases emissions this way (coal being replaced by locally produced natural gas)

    • Not wasting the energy to grow food for a cow in the first place, though, would be far better energy policy than trying to recover a little energy from the cow’s waste. Simple, but irrefutable rule of thermodynamics.

  2. Pallav : instead of calling something “ridiculous” you should perhaps read my blog post, the New York Times article and if you are still not convinced, Hewlett Packard’s works on this very topic. (linked on my blog)

    It CAN be done and I believe we SHOULD do it. As soon as possible.

    To me, the United States are a perfect candidate for such a technology as they have millions of cows and as they rely heavily on dirty coal.

  3. I’m looking forward for the day when our own poop will become renewable energy right in the toilet… But till then it’s good to know that animal poop is being used. Together with the process of turning waste into oil, as does, Global Energy Inc. we can all look forward for a cleaner better world with less poop and waste and more energy resources.

  4. The septic tank is nothing more than a wide place in hte sewer pipeline and has always been a source of methane gas and a number of light, water soluble alcohols. It has been, in the past we did not recognize the value of aerobics digestion, venting the methane to the atmosphere or burning it at sewer treatment plants, and dumping the alcohols into our streams and rivers along with the rest of the effluent. Come to think of it, though, some of us have collected the slug for our gardens, it grows great tomatoes. WHy not work to convert ALL our waste into usable products, including energy?

  5. Anaerobic digestion is not a viable option for large scale energy production, i.e. powering a city. However, that doesn’t mean its not an excellent spoke in energy revolution’s wheel. Ultimately we need to build an infrastructure where homes, businesses, and farms are self powered and not on a traditional grid system. This technology can go a long way to develop farms which do not need to be supplied with power, but generate their own. Not to mention it can aid in waste disposal. For a city, this technology can be adapted to its water/sewage treatment facilities which can power the facility itself along with adding another layer of purification. This is great technology which is ready to be deployed immediately….so where is it?

  6. Prof. Dan Zaslavsky on

    You mentioned 3 sources for renewable energy and at the end you call people who are aware of other “weird” sources of renewable energy to share it with you. I dare send you a brief note on 3 other renewable source which are very likely if those interested in getting out of the fuel age would listen to others, this 3 may be applied starting tomorrow morning.

    1. A revolutionary solar collector for heat – it has been developed by an Israeli company “Tigi”. Prototypes have been installed and tested both in Israel, in Fraunhoffer laboratories and leading institute in Switzerland. It has been proven that the collector reaches over 60% efficiency of the solar radiation. It has been estimate mated by the Europeans that it can reduce the use of fuel for heating and for cooling directly or through electricity production by 30%. The are needed is about 1: compared with photovoltaic cells. It has been estimated that the cost of replacing 1 kWh from standard source would be 1-2 cents.

    2. A technology to handle city garbage- it has been developed by “Arrow Echology”. A company from Haifa, Israel. First it recycles mechanically into 4 separate pile: glass, ferous metals, non ferous metals and finally plastic materials.

    Next, it ferments un-aerobically the material left and produces bio-gas wit about 70% methane. The experience so far was to built 2 projects, each near 100 thousand tons per year. One near Tel Aviv and the other in Sidney Australia. They managed to get from the bio-gas about 100 kWh electricity net per each ton of garbage. It is possible to get several times this result if the remenenace are being burned and not used for fertilizing the land.

    There are other by products:

    (1) Elimination of one of the worst pollutants of ground water by the leachate that come from garbage.

    (2) Prevention of one of the main sources of greenhouse gases by about 25%.

    (3) Reduction of the wasted area.

    (4) Reduction of transportation load.

    3. “Energy Towers” which is using hot and dry air producing wind by cooling the air with water spray. This revolutionary technology has been developed to perfection in the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. ) see attachment.

    All 3 become very unlikely because it is found to be extremely difficult to overcome the readiness of states to waste huge sums of money on solar energy for electricity methods that cost nearly 10 times more, need over 50 time the area and offer no byproducts

    Prof. Dan Zaslavsky

    Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

    Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering

    Technion City, Haifa 32000, ISRAEL

  7. @ Dan and others:

    It is good to hear about such activities, one day,

    they will be “normal” in our daily life.

    I hope, that this will sonn happen (and not too late).

    Thank you all for your engagement is these matters.

Join the Conversation