Electric lakes and solar paint: The best green innovations of the week

In a week that saw numerous companies update sustainability agendas, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could enable businesses to hit ambitious new corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals.

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

The political backdrop for this week’s roundup is one of murky waters. A new report has outlined the numerous challenges facing the energy sector after Brexit, which won’t have been helped by continued delays to the Government’s long-awaited Clean Growth Plan.

The waters might not remain murky for too long, however. Analysis suggests that wave power can contribute to 10% of global electricity demand by 2050, with the UK primed to act as the marine energy leader.

Innovative solutions in marine energy are already being trialled by the private sector. This week saw numerous corporate giants relay updates to their CSR agendas. While the likes of Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow Airport and Royal Mail are revelling in their respected carbon reductions, delivery firm UPS has set a new science-based target.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) also unveiled its final recommendations for climate-related risks to be disclosed in financial filings. Already, more than 100 business leaders collectively worth more than $2trn in assets under management, have committed to implement the recommendations.

One of the issues raised in the final recommendations report is the raising of capital for low-carbon technologies, and how these should form a thought process as part of a wider boardroom strategy. With that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

Plastic packaging pacs its bags

Issues around plastic packaging, notably plastic ocean pollution, have gained traction in recent years. Driven by high-profile campaigns from the likes of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, companies and consumers are acutely aware of the issues, and are taking steps to rectify.

However, potential solutions are still considered costly, unaesthetic or less durable. Fortunately, Finnish start-up Sulapec has introduced a solution that overcomes these barriers, and is receiving financial backing to make it mainstream – most recently from the Stora Enso Accelerator Programme.

Sulapac uses wood-based, natural adhesives to create biodegradable packaging which can be mass-produced in current facilities and can be used for any type of packaging. It can compete with packaging in price, durability and resistance to water and grease. Targeting the cosmetic sector first – although food packaging is being considered – the company is collaborating with luxury firm Niki Newd by selling licenses of the product in a selective supply chain.

Watching paint dry, and charge

As solar panels integrate into the mainstream market for energy generation, innovators are seeking to push beyond the common rooftop arrays. Tesla is offering solar roof tiles, while solar windows are on the cusp of a market breakthrough.

Now, researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have showcased a paint prototype that can generate solar energy. Although the paint isn’t likely to be commercially viable until at least five years’ time, the researchers claim that the “simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate”.

The paint is a combination of common titanium oxide used in a variety of wall paints and a new synthetic molybdenum-sulphide compound, which is acts similar to silica gel packets used in products to keep them damp free.

See the forest from the city

Architects Stefano Boeri has been featured on these roundups before, for its demonstrations on the potential of green buildings in the city. The firm is set to build two skyscrapers in the Chinese city of Nanjing that will play home to 1,100 trees and 2,500 shrubs across rooftops and balconies. Construction is already underway and the buildings are expected to be completed next year.

It seems the architects are thinking bigger, having started construction of their “masterplan” – a 30,000-person Forest City in Liuzhou. The city will be covered in more than one million plants to hopefully reduce around 10,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, all while pumping 900 tonnes of oxygen into the air.

Scheduled for completion in 2020, the city will utilise geothermal energy for air conditioning and solar panels for energy. Even the transport is rumoured to be electrified, with plans for a central rail link that links the green area to the rest of the city.

Five seats of solar

Electric vehicles (EVs), like solar panels, are presenting themselves as an alternative to a traditional way of life. Price barriers and range anxiety are limiting uptake, but a team of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology are trialling an EV with a range of more than 620 miles.

The Stella Vie car has solar panels on its roof and can reach speeds of 80mph. Smart technology can find parking sports that account for the position of the sun, so it can charge while stationary. Surplus energy generated by the five-seater can also be sent to houses and grids. A smart charging system also tracks real-time energy price fluctuations to find the best times and stations to recharge.

Stella Vie will be tested at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. As part of the competition, an array of solar-powered vehicles will have to travel 3,000km across the Australian outback.

The electric lake

Alessandro Volta, the physicist who invented the first electric battery more than 200 years ago, was born by Lake Como in Italy. Not only is this likely to be a pub quiz answer, but it also holds significance for the Lake’s latest claim to fame.

Lake Como has become the first “electric” destination in Europe, after the Grandi Giardini Italiani (GGI) initiative created a widespread infrastructure project to charge electric cars, boats and bikes. GGI covers 170km around the Lake, and is the first of its kind in Europe.

A total of 19 charging points, installed by the Tesla Destination Charging Programme, are supported by 27 stakeholders on location at the Lake, including hoteliers and heritage administrators. All the companies have vowed to implement green practices to improve air quality and maintenance in the area.

A gym of their own

Earlier this week, WWF suggested that dietary amendments could help the low-carbon transition. Diets are often accompanied by exercise, and a collaboration between Right Guard, TerraCycle and The Great Outdoor Gym Company means you can now exercise to the benefit of the planet.

The gym, located at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, has been visited by the TV show A League of Their Own, where ex-sportsman Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp were spotted using spinning bikes and cross trainers.

Not only was the gym and equipment made from more than 2,500 deodorant cans, but the equipment is fitted with electricity generators, meaning that the more the machines are used, the more energy is created to light-up the gym and charge mobile phones.

Matt Mace


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