The Importance of Innovation in Renewable Energy

As exciting new inventions come out every day and technologies continue to be improved upon annually (there’s a reason everyone seems to always want the latest gadgets), there’s no question that we’re entering a new era of progress and scientific achievement for humanity. While some industries – software and computer technology – have seen massive growth and progress, bolstered by investments and commercialization, other essential areas seem to be stalling. Why, in a world where people can pay to go on a space flight, use electric self-driving vehicles, and ask a virtual assistant any question in the world, are we still far behind in renewable energy innovation?

According to Varun Sivaram, this could be due to technological ‘lock-out.’ Lock-outs occur when an industry becomes so entrenched in one form of thinking, one type of technology, that even when new and more efficient advancements occur, they are discarded. In the case of renewable energy, although methods of harvesting solar, wind and hydroelectric energy have been around for almost a century, continuing innovation in clean energy seems stagnant. Much of the world still heavily depends on oil, natural gas, and coal for their energy needs.

Australia’s energy needs are primarily met by fossil fuels, with coal making up 40% of the energy consumption, oil 34%, and natural gas 22%. Of the country’s total electrical energy generation, only 8% is attributed to renewable resources like wind and hydroelectric power.

Despite what many may believe, it’s not necessarily because of the cost that the country continues to rely on fossil fuels. On the contrary, a 2013 report by Bloomberg found that in Australia, wind power is significantly cheaper than electricity generated by coal, even when not accounting for carbon taxes.

But there is great hope and progress being made as new startups are breaking the mold. As the effects of climate change become more severe and gas prices rise due to a global oil crisis, countries and their citizens are beginning to take notice. In response to the threat of losing Russian natural gas, the European Union has unveiled a new plan to roll out large-scale solar and wind projects and provided support for new geothermal startups. This newfound race for progress doesn’t stop in energy harvesting either.

Energy storage, which chemical batteries have long performed, now has a new name in the game – the flywheel. Amber Kinetics, the global leader in kinetic energy storage solutions, is currently working to implement its flywheel design as a method of renewable energy storage in many countries worldwide, including Australia, the Philippines, and the United States.

New advancements in renewable energy harvesting and storage are beginning to take hold, paving the way toward a bright future.

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