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Nine green tech projects that could transform how we generate and consume energy

In the move towards cleaner energy, numerous green tech are embracing new technology that could change the way electricity is generated, used and stored - from electrified roads and hydrogen-fuelled electric vehicles to solar pavements and solar window panels

From start-ups working on ways to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to more established companies exploring ways of producing environmentally-friendly energy that will power homes, cars and more - green tech is definitely in right now.

Numerous large and small green projects are being built, trialled or operated around the world that could transform the renewable energy sector.

The processes are different but they all have share a common goal to reduce pollution, make industry more sustainable, make energy bill savings and generally improve lives.

Here’s some of the exciting new green tech schemes that could help us take important steps forward towards protecting the environment.


Converting CO2 into gasoline

Credit: Carbon EngineeringCarbon Engineering (CE), a Canadian company co-owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, says the “direct capture process offers a cheaper way of converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into gasoline.

The Squamish, British Columbia-based firm spent three years researching the direct air capture process.

It has now found a way to make liquid fuel that is carbon neutral by combining the CO2 with hydrogen from water.

The process begins with industrial cooling systems and solution that draws carbon from the air.

The carbon is then combined with hydrogen to make jet fuel, which will soon be able to produce gasoline and jet fuel from limestone, hydrogen and air.

Carbon Engineering CEO Steve Oldham said: “This can help eliminate carbon emissions from transportation without having to replace vehicles and infrastructure.

“Our direct air capture process can also be used to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, accelerating the shift to a ‘net zero’ world that avoids the risks of climate change while affordably delivering clean energy.”


Caledonia Clean Energy Project

Caledonia Clean Energy Project (CCEP) aims to address Britain’s need for flexible and predictable low-carbon power with green tech.

The project captures carbon dioxide using an affordable method of removing harmful gases from the air.

A gas-fried power plant in Scotland may be able to engineer CCEP to strip the carbon emissions from the flue of a gas-fired power plant.

It could be developed through a Government contract worth £80 and £90 per megawatt-hour.

Similar to Carbon Engineering, it would be a lower cost to the consumer, while also producing just a tenth of the carbon emissions of a traditional gas-fired power plant.

Stephen Kerr, from CCEP, said: “The project could serve as the anchor tenant for infrastructure that makes carbon capture and storage possible for some of Scotland’s largest chemical plants and refineries.”


Solar pavements at the Qatar World Cup

Solar pavement, Qatar 2022 World Cup
A solar pavement created by Glasgow Caledonian University like the one that will be piloted at the Qatar 2022 World Cup (Pic: Glasgow Caledonian University)

Organisers of the Qatar 2022 World Cup have backed the plan to equip host cities with solar pavements, an innovative method of powering cities.

It will use a cooling mechanism to allow the tiles to work in Qatar, where surface temperatures can go as high as 80°C.

The panels will be lined in the streets of Qatar and will help absorb sunlight to power a number of municipal essentials.

The organisers have provided $100,000 (£74,000) in funding towards a Scottish-based project to lift off the solar pavement technology.


solar panel windows
Polysolar panels allow natural light to pass through while generating solar energy

Windows could soon be a source of energy for heating and electricity in homes and offices soon - after a Cambridge-based solar glass architectural firm Polysolar, owned by Hamish Watson has developed new solar window panels.

The new solar window panels will work by replacing traditional glass windows and this will provide enough solar energy to contribute to the world’s energy problems.

A 1200mm x 600m Polysolar glass panel would be able to generate on average five kilowatt-hours of power each month – equivalent to half a day’s power consumption for the average home.

Polysolar CEO Hamish Watson said: “The inspiration for the technology came when I was watching the Hollywood sci-fiction film Minority Report and I saw the transparent technology idea.

“From that moment, we began work on our solar panels and now we are aiming to cover as many buildings as possible and make them zero-carbon in order to solve the world’s energy and environmental problems.

“We are now at a point where we are rapidly expanding and we need more funding to maintain our growth and to deliver our vision.

“Our ambition is turning the next 500 new high-rise buildings planned to be added to London into zero-carbon skyscrapers.”


Tidal lagoon power plant

Tidal lagoon power
Artist’s impression of the tidal lagoon power plant in Swansea Bay

Despite the UK Government’s indecision on whether to support the Swansea Bay, Tidal Lagoon Power Plant project due to the cost it would require from the British taxpayers, there are hopes the £1.3bn project could still go ahead.

To date, £35m has been spent on project development through mainly private financing.

The power station would work by generating electricity from the natural rise and fall of the tides.

The project involves a six-mile horseshoe-shaped seawall with underwater turbines producing energy on the outgoing tide.

It would be beneficial as it generates electricity from the natural rise and fall of the tides, producing enough energy to power 155,000 homes with a maximum output of 320 megawatts (MW).



Creating fuel 

Hellisheidi Power Plant
Photo by: Arni SaebergSwiss firm Climeworks is a direct air capture company based in Zurich.

It has nine plants around the world, including two that sell CO2 to greenhouses and drink producers.

At the other, the green tech firm creates methods to produce fuel.

One is in Iceland, which captures and keeps up to 50 tonnes of CO2 gas underground annually.

The company, which was founded by Christoph Gebald, opened a plant last year that can capture 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year for use in greenhouses.

In May 2017, it made history when it launched the world’s first commercial direct air capture plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

It now supplies the captured CO2 to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables.

Climeworks co-founder and co-CEO Christoph Gebald said: “Once the test phase of our pilot project in Iceland is complete, our goal is for larger amounts of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere and made available for purchase by individuals, organisations and companies.

“In order to achieve climate goals we need several carbon dioxide removal schemes working together on a giga-tonne scale.”


Solar-diesel hybrid tech

The next generation of power technology will be developed in Scotland by Aggreko, a global provider of modular and mobile power.

The Glasgow-based company announced a three-year Future Technology innovation programme, which will cost about £33m.

The programme will focus on solar-diesel hybrid solutions and energy storage, more efficient engine technology and the introduction of waste heat recovery.

The green tech initiative will cover 15 individual projects, such as expanding the company’s solar-diesel hybrid plant and energy storage offerings.

It will also invest in control systems and automation to improve engine efficiency.


Hydrogen-fuelled electric vehicles

A new 26m euros project will manufacture hydrogen-fuelled vehicles such as taxis, private-hire vehicles and police cars across three European capitals - Paris, Brussels and London.

It’s known as ZEFER - Zero Emission Fleet Vehicles for European Roll-out - and tests for the project will be carried out in the named cities to try out the feasibility and business case for adopting hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles - which all run on renewable sources.

The hydrogen-fuelled vehicles would run on hydrogen gas, which is transformed into electricity by a fuel cell, powering the vehicle at the cost of no emissions other than water.

Environmentally-friendly private taxi service Green Tomato Cars, in London, is involved in the project.

Managing director Jonny Goldstone said: “This is a truly unique project where investors in hydrogen technology, manufacturers of hydrogen cars and Green Tomato Cars as the end users, have come together with a commitment to make hydrogen transport work for the good of the people and the environment.”


Electrified roadsElectrified roads

Electrified roads, such as the one being trialled in the eRoadArlanda project in Sweden, use electric rails embedded within the road network

The eRoadArlanda project is working to make electrified roads of the future a reality and a part of the Swedish Transport Administration.

Electrified roads could help transform the electric car market by allowing vehicles to recharge while driving, according to a group of behind a pilot project in Sweden.

The project, named eRoadArlanda, is the first of its kind and will cost an estimated 50 million crowns (£4.3m).

The state-funded green tech scheme is being tested on a 1.25-mile road near Stockholm.

The project will utilise existing infrastructure to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

It will also mean cars won’t need to be recharged while parked.

The innovation estimates two thirds of truck transportation in Sweden could be carried out on electrified roads by 2030.

If this happens, it could reduce energy consumption by about 10 terawatt hours (TWh).