5 Breakthroughs In European Green Energy From First Half of 2022
From a wooden skyscraper to long-term solar energy storage.
2022 has already been an exciting year for innovative green energy technologies, especially in Europe - and we’re only six months in!
This year, European scientists, researchers, and students are inventing creative solutions to current environmental concerns, including climate change and sustainable energy.
These solutions go beyond our wildest dreams in both scale and imagination. Some of their innovations are so outlandish or futuristic in concept, they seem to have jumped straight out of a science fiction novel. So far in 2022, Europe has brought us a wooden skyscraper that can store as much carbon as 10,000 forests, a method to store solar energy for up to 18 years, and much more.
But how do these incredible innovations impact our environment? Let us explain as we take you through our top 5 innovations in European green energy technologies in 2022… so far.
1. Thermal Energy Storage System That Stores Solar Energy For Up To 18 Years
The sun is one of Earth’s best forms of renewable energy. But one of the challenges of trying to use solar energy long-term to power our electric grid, is that it can’t be stored for very long. A typical solar battery will only hold a charge for 1-5 days.
In 2017, however, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden announced that they can now store solar energy for up to 18 years using a system called molecular solar thermal energy (MOST).
Then, in 2022, scientists in Sweden published a study in which they sent the MOST system to their colleagues in China, who converted the solar energy into electricity using a thermoelectric generator. The generator was in the form of an ultra-thin chip.
The scientists who worked on the project hope that the storage solution and the chip will allow people to charge their cell phones and other electronic devices using solar energy.
This is an enormous breakthrough in green energy technology. It means that one day, after a lot more research, humans will be able to use solar energy long-term to power their daily activities and significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
2. World’s First Net Zero Surgery
The global healthcare industry, including hospitals, is responsible for 4.4-4.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK alone, the National Health Service (NHS) produces 6% of the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
Greenhouse gas is produced as a result of several different common medical practices. Some of them include administering anesthesia to patients as a gas and using non-renewable energy sources for power.
It’s no surprise, then, that researchers are looking to healthcare for ways to help reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. In early 2022, we took our first big step toward that lofty goal when doctors in West Midlands, UK, performed the world’s first net zero surgery.
They accomplished this feat through a number of small but significant changes, such as injecting a liquid anesthesia into their patient’s veins, planting trees to offset CO2 emissions, switching to energy-efficient LED lighting, and wearing reusable scrubs.
Consultant surgeon Aneel Bhangu believes it is the NHS’s responsibility to the future health of patients in the UK to reduce hospitals’ carbon footprint:
"We may not see that [6% CO2 emissions impact] directly in an operating theatre,” says Bhangu, “but I think we have a responsibility to our patients, and their families and their children and their grandchildren to make sure that we are planning for their future and a healthy future for them."
3. Floating Houses That Save People Who Live In Flood Risk Zones
In 2022, students in the UK invented a floating house which will protect people from dangerous flooding for up to 6 weeks.
The project was inspired by the severe flooding that’s been occurring recently in Vietnam. The students who worked on it hope that it will help people in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world who live in seasonal flood-risk zones.
The floating house was one of the top 6 winners in the HUMLOG Global Disaster Preparedness Competition. It is designed with plastic recyclable barrels attached underneath the ground floor. These barrels will cause the house to float during a flood.
This green energy technological innovation is important because it can help people survive crushing floodwaters. It’s a wonderful example of using our natural resources and technology to help people in immediate need.
4. Wooden Skyscraper In Sweden That Captures As Much Carbon As 10,000 Forests
In 2021, the city of Skelleftea, Sweden officially opened the newly constructed Sara Cultural Centre to the public. This skyscraper has 20 stories, is 75 meters high, and is built out of 12,000 cubic meters of wood.
Why construct a skyscraper out of wood? The answer is that wood stores carbon dioxide, while the more common building material, concrete, is the single largest industrial emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.
The entire skyscraper is projected to trap as much CO2 as 10,000 forests.
It makes sense for Sweden to use wood for large-scale construction, as they have wide swaths of forest to draw natural building materials from.
This innovation is also great news for humanity at large, since it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and leads to cleaner, healthier city air.
5. Marble Sculptures That Sink Illegal Trawlers’ Nets
Since 2013, fisherman Paolo Fanciulli of Tuscany, Italy has been sinking illegal trawlers’ nets with marble sculptures.
When illegal trawlers lower nets to capture fish, they are not just illegally killing off sea life for their own selfish gains. They are also destroying the ecosystem that allows the creatures in it as well as humans to exist in harmony.
The nets take up plant life on the seabed, including Posidonia. This seagrass absorbs 15 times more carbon dioxide every year than a similarly sized area of land in the Amazon rainforest. As such, it’s essential for the quality of the environment.
To combat these illegal trawlers, Fanciulli started a non-profit called House of Fish and started sinking marble sculptures into the sea off the coast of Tuscany. These sculptures, now an underwater art installation, sink nets and invite marine life to thrive.
It’s true that the House of Fish is important because it preserves sea life and a natural resource which absorbs CO2. But it’s also important because it shows what humans can do for their planet using renewable, sustainable resources.
Europe Is The Now Of Green Energy Technologies Innovations
Our most breakthrough green energy technologies in 2022 have come from European researchers and scientists. That’s why it’s important to support green investments in Europe, so that similar innovations can come to light and change the whole world.