High power energy harvesting (HPEH) is the clean part of off-grid renewable energy and its main potential lies at kilowatts to megawatts. Few things are genuinely new in this world but newly important aspects of energy harvesting really matter. Unfortunately, they are expressed in unfamiliar acronyms. You have to know you TARA from your RAS, your EIV from your BIPV but it is worth the effort. This next round of technological advance will be transformative for all of us.
Over 30 years ago we were correctly told that computing would disappear into the fabric of society: now we see electricity production doing the same. Structural electronics, as explained in the IDTechEx report, Structural Electronics 2015-2025: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts, is replacing components-in-a-box with smart load-bearing materials taking no extra space at all because they replace dumb structures. For example, following a solar boat and a solar plane going around the world, many boats, aircraft and land vehicles are being offered or proposed with "unlimited" speeds of up to 70 kph - providing the sun is out. Their solar cells replace dumb structure just as they do in the new building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Both will benefit even further from conformal, rollable and spray-on solar panels now being developed.
No vehicle refuelling or recharging
That solar power is beginning to be boosted in many ways -replacing brakes in the vehicle with kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) flywheels, conventional shock absorbers with energy harvesting ones and with regenerative active suspension (RAS) for example. In addition, the external capture of ambient energy just got cleverer with boats creating electricity by capturing wave, tide and wind power not just sunshine. Affordable energy independent vehicles (EIV) will run in bad weather and good, at night and in the day. That is of profound impact on all of us including the third world and remote regions. The new IDTechEx report, Energy Independent Vehicles 2016-2026 gives the full picture. It forecasts what will be truly amazing.
This technology even feeds back into modernising the traditional vehicle with torque assist reversing alternators (TARA), thermoelectrics on the exhaust and RAS. In addition, whether it is houses, vehicles or other facilities, the possibilities are being widened greatly by old technologies reinvented such as wind turbines potentially replaced by kites, tethered drones and turbines in balloons that use one tenth of the materials while accessing the much stronger and more consistent winds just above the noisy expensive rotating blades we see today. Call it airborne wind energy (AWE).
IDTechEx analyst, Franco Gonzalez comments, "Of the host of new HPEH technologies now arriving we like the idea of magnetostrictive 1MW wave power from Oscilla Power with virtually no moving parts. If they pull that off it will be in sharp contrast to what goes on in most electrodynamic wave power devices. We are a bit sceptical that the work on triboelectric power from car tires will produce viable energy at 500 watt level. However, reversing propellers for boats and small ships already capture tide when moored or motion when under sail, giving up to 3kW. Optimising designs and compromises will certainly take that further. The miracles with woven smart fiber planned for sails, kites, balloons and so on will take longer. They include combined piezo and solar fiber from the University of Bolton in the UK and the combined solar harvesting and supercapacitor storage in the fibers being developed by the European Powerweave project. They are impressive nonetheless. We travel intensively to learn and interpret what is going on but it is a sheer pleasure to see such progress. Unusually, Europe is doing most in many aspects of HPEH from AWE to KERS but remarkable advances are being announced all over the world".
Energy harvesting technologies and some of the interesting companies, power targets and systems involved.
Source: IDTechEx Research report "Energy Harvesting: Off-grid Renewable Power for Devices, Vehicles, Structures 2015-2025" (www.IDTechEx.com/energy)