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What's on the horizon for generating greener electricity?

Engineers, designers and innovators are constantly developing new, green ways to generate electricity. Their sustainable ideas often take inspiration from natural resources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

In the future, these technologies will significantly reduce electricity prices, not only being kinder to everyone's pockets but also the planet. 

Spherical sun power generator

Conceptualised by German architect Andre Broessel, these generators are designed to work even at night and in low-light areas. Drawing on the mathematical rules of spheres in geometry, large round spherical globes with a Ball lens and dual axis tracking system have been formed as an alternative to the flat, rectangular solar panels. 

Called a beta.ray, the sphere rotates and uses a modular collection system to use moonlight as well as sunlight to produce electricity. The Ball Lens soaks in the solar heat, and then sends it to a PV panel and hybrid collector for conversion to electricity.

It also functions as a night lamp to illuminate its surroundings using minimal energy from LED lights. It is easily installed in a variety of locations, including the walls of buildings and placed on inclined surfaces. 

Flat, rectangular solar panels will have a rounder, spherical alternative as new forms of harnessing energy from the sun are invented. Flat, rectangular solar panels will have a rounder, spherical alternative as new forms of harnessing energy from the sun are invented.

Solar-wind hybrid towers

Back in 1975, an idea for constructing hybrid towers that use the natural heat of the sun with wind turbines and water was patented, and an illustrated in the journal Popular Science. Now, 40 years later, this idea is coming to fruition. 

The design for these large towers is simple. A tall structure with an upper lip running along the top edge is to be built, and thin, fine mist from water is to blown along the top. The water will heat up from the solar rays and evaporate, however, the cooler, denser, heavier air will form a downward draft and flow to the bottom of the tower. Here, it will meet with wind turbines and be converted into electricity. 

Hot, arid climates are the most suited for this idea. Due to this, the first of its kind is under construction in Arizona, USA, expected to be finished by 2018 and capable of generating up to 1,250 megawatts in the summer months. Other hot sites worldwide are also being scouted, such as Mexico, Chile, India and the Middle East. Perhaps one day even the Australian Outback will see these towers erected to continue its renewable energy efforts.

In windy areas, the towers can also have vertical wind wind vanes along the facade to capture the power of the strong breezes and convert them into supplementary electricity. As a result of all these design choices, the tower has minimal waste production, carbon footprint and fuel consumption. 

In the future, the tall thin shape of wind turbines might change to wider, rounder hybrid towers in hot climates. In the future, the tall thin shape of wind turbines might change to wider, rounder hybrid towers in hot climates.