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Energy solutions and more as close as 'every street corner

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Donald YATES's picture

As the head of the R&D COLUMBUS Group for more than 30 years, I have applied my engineering qualifications to a blend of power generation and renewable energy system configurations, in a...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Mar 23, 2021

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-03 - Power Generation, click here for more

So many of us think of energy source as needing to be massive structures located at remote locations or out to sea, because the areas needed are large and the cost of such large areas can be expensive.

Well, as important to the renewable energy mix as these expansive projects are, we sometimes forget the immediate power sources available as close as under our feet. Those hot asphalt treatments like roads and parking areas can be a rich and cheap source of energy, that can still deliver when the sun sets and the wind is not blowing. In that regard, the technology can also be regarded as a geothermal battery.

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Enter the world of smart and shallow geothermal energy derivatives.

Starting with the technologies of solid state electronic chip cooling, for smart and shallow geothermal energy collection, it is just a case of reversing the
processes and thinking. Well, that is the starting philosophy!

In changing your thinking, you also need a paradigm shift in what form that the energy is to be extracted. Is it always necessary to collect, store and use
the energy source as if you would use electricity? Have we seen the proposed uses of 'green' and 'blue' hydrogen as a pathway to new ways of collecting, storing and using energy? Has basic chemistry got a part to play in this whole mix? Are there new uses of old products that could be the stimulus for a whole new world of opportunities?

I am reminded of an old traditional baking powered company in the USA called Arm and Hammer. Like many in the late 1970's, they were almost dead on their feet. Who was at home baking? Demand had fallen through the floor. So they set about a campaign of all the 'new' things you could do with good old traditional
baking powder. It did not take long to discover that it could take the smells out of fridges for about 3 weeks. After this time, you could also clean your drains with baking powder, so take the baking powder out of your fridge. pour it down the drain, and go buy another container of baking powder and put it back in the fridge. Sales boomed! And then more uses were discovered from cleaning your dog's teeth to battery terminals.

So now back to 'Power under your Feet' I am sure that there are candidates in the expansive chemistry collection that if applied to energy collection, storage and use could be as equally as stunning as the Arm and Hammer Baking Powder story.

And yes, we are working on a couple of solutions at this very time. They are cheap and plentiful. Energy collection from under your feet is truly achievable, as to is its long term storage and use. I could say more but the patents are pending!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 23, 2021

Love the baking powder analogy-- one of the key questions is that as this transformation happens and the way we look at and interact with energy generation changes, will the utilities appropriately adjust their models with it? What do you think, Donald? 

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Mar 30, 2021

Electricity can be generated by many things and processes, from very large to very small. What matters are how much electricity they can generate; how much of the electricity they generate can be harnessed; and whether generating electricity significantly shortens their lifespans. This CleanTechnica story mentions systems for generating electricity from walking, body heat and bodily functions that I won't name here. The question is will any of these systems prove useful.

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