New Technology and Other Factors for a Brighter Renewable Energy Future

Remarkable advances in renewable energy are being made in the U.S., as researchers and engineers continue to improve and expand technologies while companies continue to step up to address climate change.


Energy storage showing up in unconventional places

Imagine a solar panel: flexible and the size of a piece of paper. Researchers at Virginia Tech have been developing tile-sized panels using titanium oxide paste to create portable energy sources. These small solar tiles may be used in homes on multiple surfaces, including walls and window blinds, as they are designed to gather energy from LED and florescent lighting inside a building.


Is the next step for these flexible solar tiles to be placed on the outside of a car for more energy production, thereby extending the battery life of the vehicle? At this time the answer appears to be “no”; the surface of the car is not large enough, and the panels are not yet efficient enough to generate a meaningful difference. Other promising applications for this emerging technology is on the horizon, and includes military backpacks and cell phones.


Comments made by Elon Musk on the probability of cars having rooftop solar panels or being "wrapped" in flexible panels becoming a reality were shared in an interview with Inverse, where he stated that this was not expected in the near term but will be a reality in the future.


However, electric car manufacturers are beginning to expand in other areas. Tesla, Jaguar, Nissan and others are starting to develop new ways to maximize the mileage of their electric cars.  Nissan is currently manufacturing more affordable electric cars, such as the Leaf, using sleek exterior designs to draw the eye. Some of these cars can get anywhere from 220-310 miles on a full charge.

More widespread usage of renewable energy

Studies are being conducted across the country to discover how information is spread within communities, and how to make the future of the U.S.’s clean energy more affordable and accessible to everyone.

Virginia Tech was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative (a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity) and has begun research in rural areas to determine what factors play a part in the adoption of solar power. The results will shape policies in other rural areas across the U.S.  MIT also received a SunShot Award to evaluate the driving forces behind reductions in PV system costs. Its findings will inform engineers, policymakers and stakeholders of the potential for future cost reduction.


In addition to the innovation and research that will help advance renewable energy expansion, a growing number of companies are committing to clean energy and procuring electricity from renewable sources such as solar, hydro, and wind. 

More public companies are taking on leadership roles, promoting renewable energy and a sustainable environment. Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, Facebook and others have made a commitment to go
"100% Renewable".


All of these factors - new technologies, initiatives driving innovation to make solar energy cost competitive along with companies integrating sustainability into their core business strategies - work in tandem in the promise of a brighter renewable energy future.



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