If the world seeks to prevent the climate crisis from worsening in the next few decades, we need not only a joint global effort, but also many innovative solutions. Along with the statements from various world leaders and the many discussions and panels, the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow also presented a diverse collection of solutions in the field of renewable energy and green technology programs. Let's take a look at five particularly intriguing innovations:
1. This Smart Green Submarine Helps Clean the Ocean
The shipping industry accounts for 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and our oceans are only getting more and more polluted. Esmerelda, an innovative maritime transport, could be a groundbreaking solution in the long, challenging net-zero journey to cleaner waters.
Oceanways, a London-based startup led by founder and CEO Dhruv Boruah, is developing this self-driving hydrogen-powered small submarine, which can deliver goods in shallow waters. Not only does it run on 100% clean energy, but it can also help remove plastic waste from the ocean.
Just one thing though, it hasn't been built yet. Oceanways was awarded £380,000 by the U.K. Department for Transport, as part of a £23 million competition to lower the shipping industry’s carbon emissions. Esmerelda is the first model that is being developed by the startup.
According to Oceanways, this green submarine will be able to ship goods and maneuver in waters which reach maximum depths of 50 meters, where container ships can't operate. What’s more, it will also be able to collect micro-plastic from the water column and supply the data to researchers.
“These submarines are superior to a cargo ship in almost every way,” the startup claims. “Not only are they weather independent, can reach hard to reach areas and a lot cheaper to build and operate, but it’s also quieter, secure, more stable, and cleaner, with zero fumes or pollutants.”
Oceanways aims to work directly with manufacturers, retail brands, e-commerce merchants, ship owners and shipping operators “to help you decarbonize your shipping and accelerate your NetZero journey.”
2. Lighter, Better, Faster: The Next Generation of Electric Vehicle Systems?
The global electric vehicle (EV) revolution is underway, with sales surging in various markets, including China, the U.S. and Norway. Now, a new innovative technology from Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, has the potential to dramatically improve the driving system of electric cars.
At the Glasgow Summit, Hitachi and its joint venture, Hitachi Astemo (short for “Advanced Sustainable Technologies for Mobility”), presented a new compact, lightweight in-wheel driving system for electric vehicles. The system, which is in development, combines a motor, inverter and brake in one unit. Hitachi Astemo, a mobility solutions provider, plans to use the driving system in its EV products.
According to Hitachi, “the inverter, motor and brake are to be combined into one unit that fits into a 19-inch rim.” The new in-wheel system is intended to make the motor lighter, as well as reduce energy loss by 30% and increase the range on a single charge, compared to existing electric cars. Additionally, the direct cooling technology was designed to further save installation space.
Hitachi Astemo intends to apply the new system to its already extensive electric cars product lineup.
3. Tracing Emissions Around the Globe
How can we know the exact scope and scale of greenhouse gas emissions around the globe? Using satellites, artificial intelligence and ground truth measurements, the international research-tech coalition, Climate Trace, tracks and monitors emissions from corporations and countries around the globe, in real-time. The main goal is to help governments reduce emissions, especially in countries that have little data on their most polluting sectors.
Climate Trace is a technology and academic coalition backed by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. The coalition originated from a Google.org grant, with satellite data providers including Planet Labs Inc., NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploratory Agency.
“With more and more information streaming in from space and sensors around the globe, our emissions estimates are continuously improving,” indicate the project's representatives. “We combine many sources of information because the more we know about each emissions source, the better we get at finding and accurately measuring them.”
Ahead of COP26, Climate Trace unveiled data showing growing pollution from the shipping and aviation sectors. It also showed that oil and gas firms in developed countries may emit over a billion tons of carbon dioxide, with these emissions currently going unreported.
"As the old cliche has it, you can only manage what you can measure," said Al Gore in a news conference ahead of COP26.
4. Virtu: Hit Me with Renewable Heat
Heating and cooling generation account for nearly 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and the energy used to produce them represents the second largest expense for businesses, after labor. Heavy industry and large companies both necessitate huge amounts of heat and cooling to maintain daily operations. Considering these factors, it is in both the interests of saving the environment and lowering operating costs to develop alternative means of on-site energy production.
One promising development in the field of renewable heat is VirtuPVT - an innovative hybrid solar collector platform by Naked Economy. The British startup, led by CEO Christophe Williams and CFO Nick Simmons, produces heat and power from combining solar photovoltaic and solar thermal sources.
The startup helps organizations, businesses and property owners improve energy efficiency standards by reducing on-site CO2 emissions, while enhancing financial outcomes.
With its vacuum tube technology, VirtuPVT can deliver peak efficiency of 80%, converting 20% of the sun’s energy captured to electricity and 60% to heat. According to its website, VirtuPVT provides heat of up to 80°C, in addition to electrical power for on-site consumption.
VirtuPVT won the CIBSE Building Performance Award 2021 for Product Innovation in Thermal Comfort, and has been awarded the prestigious Efficient Solutions label.
5. Zero-Carbon Economy? Enter Bill Gates
A zero-carbon world in 2050. This is the main agenda set in Glasgow by a coalition of world leaders, as a reachable and reasonable solution to the global warming crisis. But what will a zero-carbon economy look like without fuel, gas and coal? One ambitious program could answer this question. With billions of dollars in funding and one Bill Gates as the driving force, the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst program is paving the way to a net-zero economy.
"Catalyst" for short, is an innovative model designed to build the foundation of a net-zero economy. It brings together businesses, governments, philanthropies and individuals across the world to invest in critical decarbonization technologies that will help solve the climate crisis. In the first stage, Catalyst will focus on four critical clean technologies for decarbonization, including direct air capture (DAC), green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage (LDS) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
These technologies have proven their potential on a small scale, but there’s still a long way to go until they reach full commercialization. According to Catalyst, these four innovations are at a critical juncture at which an influx of capital can turn them into viable commercial products much sooner.
The main mission of this initiative is to address the early deployment funding gap of clean technologies and to provide a clear and stable structure through which the companies that develop them can accelerate their commercialization.
In Glasgow, a joint project between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and Bill Gates’ venture fund Breakthrough Energy, was officially launched in order to mobilize $1 billion in investment over the coming years to help green innovations reach market maturity more quickly.
“This is going to be the most difficult challenge humanity has ever faced. But we can meet the task if we act boldly and with purpose, and start right now,” says philanthropist and billionaire Bill Gates.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.