DIY Powerwalls and power plant houses: the best green innovations of the week

As a flood of warnings arrive during World Water Week, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could help to accelerate the global shift towards a prosperous low-carbon future.

The floods in Houston and across South Asia serve to highlight the growing impact that climate change is having on the planet. New research released from CDP notes that these types of weather events could become the norm, with 103 cities now at “serious risk” from flooding.

If these events highlight the need to combat climate change then the renewables revolution will play a big role in the battle. A new report found that the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) windfarm off the Fife coast could be worth more than £800m to the Scottish economy, while industrial automation specialist ABB will provide a 2MW battery storage system to support the use of renewable energy at the 90MW Burbo Bank offshore windfarm near Liverpool.

In fact, it’s been a relatively positive week for the UK green economy. The green finance market has been buoyed by news that British energy company SSE has issued the biggest ever green bond by a UK company.

All that new finance will be ploughed into green technologies, and with all of that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package for you to enjoy.

Carbon’s circle of life

Carbon productivity, or reuse, is growing in popularity and is considered an under-explored market for the circular economy. Now, British firm Econic Technologies has unveiled a new method to convert carbon for use in a polyol market estimated to be worth £15bn.

Polyols, a key building block of polyurethane plastic, is commonly used as a component in cars, bedding, furniture, footwear and numerous other household and industrial products. Thanks to Econic’s new tunable catalyst, these products could be made from an abundant source of carbon.

The technology could save more than 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually, and this number can be dialled up or down depending on performance requirements of each product. Manufacturers now have a way to use their own carbon emissions as a raw material and reduce the use of oil-based inputs, further reducing emissions.

Orange is the new Black Birch

Around 20 years ago Costa Rica’s Área de Conservación Guanacaste national park struck a deal with orange juice manufacturer Del Oro to dump 12,000 metric tonnes of orange peel and pulp on the park.

Now a new study published in the journal Restoration Ecology has uncovered the unexpected benefits of the deal, which was made under the condition that Del Oro would donate part of their own forested land to the national park.

The barren part of the park where the oranges were dumped has transformed into a dense woodland. The research team found that the orange peel had enriched soil nutrients, and the now-fertilized land could offer a greater variety of tree species. It is hoped that the learnings could be applied to create partnerships that used food waste to boost soil productivity.

The town that dreaded sundown

The town of Neath in Wales is currently acting as the “Frankenstein’s monster” for a 21st Century exploration on the limits of electricity and power; although for entirely positive reasons. A new trial will see 16 homes in the area act as “power stations” to test whether buildings can replace local power plants.

As part of a programme between the UK energy innovation specialists at Swansea University, Specific, and social housing group Pobl, a number of two and three-bedroom houses and one-bedroom apartments will be fitted to benefit from solar roofs and battery storage.

Solar energy generated from roofs cam be stored in battery systems and even used to charge electric vehicles. Each building will be fitted with perforated steel skin to create natural heating. If successful, the pilot could be rolled-out to build another 1,200 homes in the Swansea Bay area.

Sunstroked cures for Myanmar’s health ambitions

While Neath residents are exploring the advanced uses of solar technology, the Myanmar Ministry of Health is using solar power for more basic human needs. British solar refrigeration manufacturer Dulas is carrying out a training programme for Myanmar technicians to bring them up to speed with using solar devices to keep vaccines at the right temperature.

With the country’s Ministry of Health aiming to achieve 100% immunisation nationally, Dulas has offered a supply package for the World Health Organisation (WHO). The deal sees Dulas supply 25 solar-powered vaccine refridgerators to health workers and first-hand training of cold chain storage use.

As the country consists of numerous remote locations, solutions for keeping cold chain powered needs to be off-grid, hence the use of solar energy to keep the vaccines at optimum temperatures. In total, Myanmar has invested more than $156m in vaccination programmes since 2001.

Powerwall’s power to all

Tesla Powerwalls may have revolutionised how homeowners interact with energy, but they do come at a cost. However, new forums that show people how to create their own energy storage systems from scratch could open the storage market to the masses.

Videos across FacebookYouTube and in forums are providing step-by-step learning guides on how to create energy storage systems safely, and for much less than commercial systems. So far, several users have created systems that can even store more energy than a Tesla version.

The users recommend using 18650 lithium-ion batteries in most projects, and can be found in electronic devices like laptops or purchased from computer stores for less than £10. If these batteries are obtained second-hand from old, but high-performing laptops, the cost of the project could help consumers save thousands of pounds.

California remains in the loop for futuristic travel

Speaking of Tesla, it appears that founder Elon Musk’s vision of high-speed travel is one step closer to reality. Musk has championed the Hyperloop project, an underground, supersonic train that is able to reach speeds of 700mph, for some time.

Earlier this week, the City Council in Hawthorne, California approved an application for Musk’s Boring Company to begin construction on a two-mile-long underground testing tube for the train, which will be located 44 feet below Musk’s SpaceX headquarters.

In fact, SpaceX’s senior director of facilities and construction Brett Horton has confirmed that residents near the area won’t notice construction or testing. However, the Boring Company still need a variety of permits before they can actually start digging the tunnel for testing.

Matt Mace

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