Breakthroughs for Sustainable Energy Solutions

One of the themes that emerged from our discussions about barriers is that sustainable solutions are not competitive with the established energy industry and fossil fuels across cost, performance, scale, and ease of use.

When we look at what is needed urgently over the next 20 years, what are some of the breakthroughs we can expect (and potentially incentivize with a prize) that could create sustainable solutions that are competitive across cost, performance, scale, and ease of use ?

For our purposes, breakthroughs are solutions to problems. A breakthrough is a discovery, development or disruption that causes significant, sometimes sudden or dramatic positive change in the trajectory of the future. Breakthroughs can be technological, social, political, cultural, economic, or a combination of these.

Hi @carlbozzuto, @Magneto and @SonyaD - What are your thoughts on the emerging breakthroughs for sustainable energy solutions that are competitive across cost, performance, scale, and ease of use?

Hi @Brad, @Jesse_Nyokabi and @agval - Would love to hear your thoughts on the emerging breakthroughs for sustainable energy solutions that are competitive across cost, performance, scale, and ease of use?

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Hi Shashi,
Particularly to ammonia, there is an interesting technology that might be good to keep an eye on. It’s called the “Battolyzer”, a systems that serves as a battery and an ammonia production component at the same time. Energy is distributed to the grid and once that it needs to be stored, the battolyzer starts working as a battery. Once full, any additional energy starts converting the electricity into ammonia. The system is inteded for solar and wind integration systems. Another interesting concept is the development of materials that can produce ammonia without passing through the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen. The chemistry occurs at the surface, where water mixes with air, serving as a depository for nitrogen and hydrogen. Although the technology is in its infancy, further developments could lead to revolution in distribution of ammonia as a hydrogen vector from solar, wind and marine energies.

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emerging technologies

  1. Marine Solar
  2. Static Compensators
  3. Dynamic export cables
  4. Molten Salt reactors
  5. Green Hydrogen.

I expect this decade to see this five emerging technologies becomes more utilized globally.

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Thanks @Jesse_Nyokabi for sharing these technologies. Just wanted to understand a bit more on why you feel these decade could have the said breakthroughs, specially the first four. It is already in use successfully or research is in progress?

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Hi @mikelandmeier and @adventureashr - In your opinion in the next two decade what breakthroughs could we expect for sustainable energy solutions.

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Hi @b0bbybaldi and @KeithDPatch - You might have some inputs to share on the emerging breakthroughs in the next two decades for sustainable energy solutions.

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Hi @salmanzafar, @JimGaston and @RDuffy - We feel you might have thoughts on the emerging innovative solutions for sustainable energy in the coming two decades. Please share your thoughts.

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Hi Jesse, Does your dynamic export cables refer to the HVDC powerlines that can carry renewable electricity efficiently up to more than 10,000km - if so I agree.
I would also like to expand your Green Hydrogen entry to include emissions-free Blue-Green Hydrogen that uses renewable energy to power HiiROC’s plasma torches that split either biogas or methane into hydrogen and nanocarbon products, such as turbostratic graphene. The high-value graphene co-product could be used to bring the cost of hydrogen down below that of green hydrogen, thereby hastening the hydrogen economy.

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Hi @J_Larina, @fusuntut and @Izael - What are the emerging innovative solutions for sustainable energy in the coming two decades? Please share your thoughts.

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@Shashi the implementation of existing technologies (IoT + sensors…) to the energy industry is long overdue and still promises great impact when done at scale.

The biggest current obstacle for the implementation of renewables technologies remains the intermittency of resource and transportability it which still lacks compared to the inherent characteristics of fossil fuels. Therefore, innovations in energy storage for in-situ applications as well as to enable energy transportability on a per unit basis globally are still among those which could have a breakthrough impact on the sector.

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Shashi, Most of the technologies that are being looked at are not really competitive with fossil fuels. In my opinion (and recognize that it is only an opinion), the development of a fusion reactor for power generation will be the real “disruptor”. With substantial potential for sufficient scale and low cost fuel, the fusion reactor could finally provide the promise that fission reactors were supposed to supply. With sufficient electric energy many of the things that we want to do ( electric vehicles, electric building, substitute fuels, etc.) will be possible.
Next, within the century, someone will figure out what dark matter and dark energy is. That will lead to a truly new source of energy for the future.

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Hi @gyyang and @erinnvw - What according to you are the emerging innovative solutions for sustainable energy in the coming two decades? Please share your thoughts.

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Okay, I will tell you what is needed. Fossil fuel generation, using heat engines (we call them power plants) are dispatchable–can be adjusted to match the demand. We need the same quality in renewable generation. Here are two ways to accomplish this.

  1. Use heat engines that burn renewable fuels. (Many fuels are available, H2 is one. But they must be used wisely because they have limited supply.) We need new heat engines (power plants) that are designed for renewable fuels and that are much more efficient than what we have today. Efficiencies up to 70% should be achievable.
  2. A room-temperature superconductor would allow us to link together conventional renewables–wind and solar–over vast distances, over continents, so that loads and power sources would be smoothed out and always available. This is a tough problem, but worthy of more effort.
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Thanks @ErnieRogers for sharing these insights. We would like to further understand if you have come across any ongoing research / emerging solution in the said two areas?

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Good morning, Shashi,
My first solution to the variability of renewable power, a more efficient power plant burning renewable fuel, is a problem I am working on. I will give details when I can. In the meantime, here is an on-line item on engine efficiency that I wrote:
“Calculating Engine Efficiency with the General Cycle Equation” available at researchgate.net
The second solution, to find a room-temperature superconductor, is a tough problem and one that I have not worked on. I may have an idea to share with someone that wants to pursue it.

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Thank you @ErnieRogers! Regarding room temperature superconductors, considering the recent development from the University of Rochester, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/10/after-decades-room-temperature-superconductivity-achieved – How far, in your view, is the field from having ‘real-world conditions’ superconducting materials? i.e., the can superconduct in everyday pressures (in addition to room temperature).

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It’s frustrating that we’ve essentially been ignoring all the power contained in our oceans. We tried briefly many years ago and the experiments failed. It’s time to reinvigorate investment into wave and tidal energy: massive amounts of clean energy, 24/7/365, that could add to our baseload capacity.

One company I’m aware with relatively mature technology, atargis.com, estimates they could power ALL of California’s energy needs with systems right off the coastline, just below the surface, not harming marine life. These types of companies need our support because right now we’re placing all our bets on just solar and wind and the CA offshore wind programs won’t even begin until 2030.

We need to diversify our portfolio so we are more resilient.

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Thank you so much for the reply. Yeah I refer to HVDC powerlines for renewable energy! The part of hydrogen is great. Had not thought of it that way. Thank you very much.