Flying solar carpets and energy-stealing cars: the best green innovations of the week

After one of the titans of the fossil fuel industry buckled to its knees this week, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that look set to usher in the "new clean industrial era" that green groups are clamouring for.

In normal cases it is usually curiosity that killed the cat, but for oil giant Peobody it was an apparent reluctance to account for a booming new energy market. And with the cat now indefinitely away, the mice will come out to play – including Mickey, who unveiled a new solar array this week.

Last week’s innovation round-up brought you solar smartphones and edible packaging. This week, herbs grown in an old World War II bunker surfaced to the streets of London in one stand-out news story, and here edie has pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

A world that runs on flying carpets

No longer exclusive to Aladdin and Abu, flying carpets could soon be orbiting the earth, collecting solar energy to be beamed back down to provide renewable energy across the globe.

The Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI) has proposed that 2,500 football pitch-sized solar panels – dubbed ‘flying carpets’ – be constructed and shuttled into space to collect energy, which would then be beamed back to earth in the form of microwaves, before being transformed into electricity.

If anyone spots a sultan with a goatee named Jafar, please tell him not to harm these carpets.

Volvo and its great highway robbery

Thief is a strong word, usually saved for burglars and tricksy hobbitses, but Volvo’s new XC90 T8 hybrid vehicle is most certainly a thief, as it steels the energy produced by other cars in order to generate electricity to charge itself.

As part of a two-day demonstration, the hybrid was fitted with a peristaltic pump and ‘road-mat’, which allowed the vehicle to harness momentum from traffic on a busy roadway in Southern California.

Volvo was even blasé about the whole ordeal, installing billboards thanking other cars for the extra miles.

A sunny disposition, rain or shine

Imagine being able to turn your worst nightmare into your greatest achievement. While using an army of moths to fly us to Lanzarote is still some way off, solar photovoltaics have turned the old enemy of rain into an energy-capturing harness.

Chinese scientists have introduced a solar cell with an atom-thick graphene layer which can generate energy from raindrops. Ignoring the issue of whether this is actually ‘solar power’, the ability to generate energy when the sun isn’t shining is potentially game-changing.

Unfortunately, for the notoriously dry-but-grey summer months of the UK, this innovation is probably unlikely to generate anything substantial.

When solar got stuck up the chimney

Seeing as chimney sweeps became obsolete outside of the Victorian era, and Santa only works one night a year, the concept of cramming thousands of people into a chimney seems a bit pointless.

But for Vienna-based architects Heri & Salli, a chimney provides the perfect place to fit the entire population of a city the size of Cleveland and get the surroundings to generate solar energy.

The architects have introduced this skyscraper-esque design which could house up to 400,000 people while simultaneously converting solar energy to electricity which can keep the chimney charged through the night.

A shelter from the green policy storm

In years gone by, shelters were used to, well, shelter people. But not anymore, thanks to technology company Polysolar and the Canary Wharf Group, shelters around London will soon be used to absorb the elements rather than deflect them.

The UK’s first fully-transparent, solar-powered bus shelter is able to generate 2,000 kWh a year – which can power one London home for the same time period. Finally, the UK is one step closer to its lifelong ambition to power a hydrogen bus through the shelters it stops at.

And to think some said this wasn’t the greenest Government ever.

District divine

South Africa – the country that gave us Nelson Mandela and those weird prawn aliens from the District 9 film – could be set to introduce another landmark to the world, in the form of this $900m cleantech village.

Designed by architecture firm Swisatec, Cape Town will soon be home to a village filled with on-site renewable generators, LED lighting and zero-emission cars. Whether or not it will better edie’s nearby village, which is fitted with three pubs, a weird cheese-grater playpark and Piers Morgan, remains to be seen.

Matt Mace

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