Clean and green technologies are nothing new, but their adoption is increasing as municipalities seek to improve air quality and businesses seek to improve their stewardship of the environment. Technology advances and the Internet of Things are driving massive improvements in environmental practices today, supporting initiatives that contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable world. But what is clean technology, and how does it help improve our world?
Clean Technology In A Nutshell
Simply put, clean technology, or “cleantech,” utilizes sensors, embedded radios, gateways and cellular routers to optimize process efficiencies that would otherwise require fossil fuels and manual intervention – such as a person in a truck driving from site to site to check on remote processes. Because of this, cleantech reduces the use of natural resources. Examples of cleantech include renewable energy systems, like wind, solar and hydro. They can also include smart electrical grids, smart cities, and agriculture, as well as sustainable products, services, and infrastructure in a broad range of industrial applications.
Green technology also supports consumer applications like electric vehicles and charging systems, as well as smart home systems where sensor-driven IoT solutions help make everyday activities more convenient and cost-effective. Beyond improving quality of life, clean technology also helps people save money by optimizing home energy consumption.
Cleantech is not only driven by a desire to improve environmental practices. Today, there are major incentives for business and government in terms of time efficiencies, cost savings, and reduction in the use of costly resources. Meanwhile, product developers serving this market are well positioned to gain market share. There is significant evidence today that green technologies can improve the bottom line. We are entering a cleantech boom.
The Eco-Advantages of Process Improvement
IoT in agricultureClean technology commonly refers to environmentally-friendly tools and technologies, but also extends into process improvement. For example, you’ll find cleantech applications in manufacturing, logistics, agriculture, and just about any large-scale industry that can benefit from process automation.
Using technologies like IoT, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, entire industry sectors have revolutionized their processes from end-to-end. In agriculture, green tech optimizes water usage to minimize waste. It also helps farmers improve production yield with less human intervention. The result is higher-quality products that consume fewer fossil fuels to grow and process, which can therefore deliver better margins and reduce costs to the consumer.
City infrastructure is another excellent example of clean technology. Whether it’s street lighting, waste management, snow removal, or road maintenance, cleantech works around the clock to ensure residents are safe by monitoring conditions and triggering service as needed. Public transit relies on cleantech to reduce emissions, along with providing other benefits, like predictive maintenance and automated fare collection. This results in a reduction of the required tools and supporting infrastructure required for transit communications and backhaul – creating a value chain that resonates with transit agencies and city managers.
Even in the financial sector, banking apps we leverage every day are rooted in cleantech. Reducing the need for customers to physically visit a bank branch, clean technology is helping to keep cars off the road, which can help to minimize our overall carbon footprint. What’s more, the more intelligent these apps become, the faster customers can obtain the answers and information needed to make sound financial decisions. Rather than eliminating financial personnel, this technology is actually making their jobs more valuable because they can dedicate more time to customer service and improve their customer relationships.
The bottom line is that any process that can be automated is a candidate for clean technology. With a combination of sensors, software, and intelligent data analysis, cleantech powers our world. The food we eat, the way we get around, home climate control and safety on the job all benefit from better environmental practices every day.
Here’s what the future of Cleantech will look like in the next five to ten years and beyond.
1. Clean Technology and Its Relationship to IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a critical element in cleantech. It enables sensor-based solutions that minimize the need for human intervention and provide a data-rich environment to help service providers constantly improve.
Safety is always a major concern in most industries. For example, mining can be extremely dangerous for workers, but cleantech stands to make significant positive changes for safety while also supporting more sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
Autonomous equipment can now go places that could be deadly for humans. We can more precisely monitor conditions and assets, allowing operators to respond more quickly to issues and minimizing environmental impact — capabilities that would be impossible using manual processes. Additionally, automating data collection dramatically improves accuracy by helping eliminate the possibility of human error.
Relatively cheap sensors are now available to collect environmental data which can then be analyzed, and with the help of machine learning accurate predictions can be made which can reliably manage entire systems. Streamlined and efficient, these systems can reduce the unnecessary use of non-renewable energy and can manage the functionality of entire renewable energy systems. This not only comes at a low cost to cleantech companies, but the partnership of the IoT and clean technology provides a feasible solution to earth-damaging non-renewable energy use. In this way, the IoT is making a fully autonomous and clean energy process entirely possible.
In terms of transforming the energy sector at a global level, the IoT is being leveraged in order to collect and analyze data from a diverse set of sources in all industries. This use of big data will have a huge impact on the energy sector, as it will allow for monitoring and predictions of factors influencing renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy. Further to this, the concept of smart cities is rapidly transforming from concept to reality. The key to this actualization is due to the IoT making clean energy a potential reliable source of power to all components of the smart city. The ability to analyze data in real-time allows the use of renewable energy to be planned for and used efficiently and reliably. Industries and enterprises can then expect uninterrupted power from these clean energy sources.
2. Cleantech and the Future of Renewable Energy
The renewable energy market is changing thanks to falling prices and increased demand for cleaner energy sources. Here are five technologies that will impact the industry in the near future.
The emergence of renewable energy has revolutionised world markets, and renewables-driven change continues with unprecedented speed. Even several years ago, few would have guessed the scope of the new technologies that have been developed to help countries begin the process of decarbonising their economies or predicted that household names like Google would be investing large sums in solar energy projects.
Some of these changes have been gradual, some sudden. Others are only just beginning, and their significance is not yet widely understood. Here’s a look at five of the most important trends and technologies in renewable energy — some have radically reshaped the energy market over the last decade, while others are set to make waves in the years to come.
Wind And Solar – It is wind turbines and solar panels that represent, for most people, the onward march of renewable energy. The two power sources are visible in many rural landscapes and have transformed the market.
Electrification – Experts agree that the advance of electrification in the coming decades will super-charge the shift to renewables. The renewables-based electrification of European industry, buildings, and transport will allow the continent to reduce its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent by 2050, according to some predictions.
Power-to-X – One of the game-changing new technologies, Power-to-X is an umbrella term that covers different processes that turn electricity into heat, hydrogen or renewable synthetic fuels. It offers a significant opportunity to speed up the shift to renewables by ramping up synthetic fuel production, and rapidly reducing fossil fuel emissions.
Distributed Generation – A quiet revolution in the field of renewables is the increasing affordability and popularity of so-called distributed generation. This means local power generation either in the retail or commercial sector: from solar panels on private homes to factories using combined heat and power systems.
Energy storage – the potential of energy storage to accelerate the shift to renewables has been widely discussed in scientific circles and looks set to be key in the years to come. Some of the solutions that are likely to expand in the coming years include hydro-reservoirs, batteries, Power-to-X fuels, and seasonal thermal energy storage
3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
So, we all know that renewable energies like solar power are the need of the time. But, how does Artificial Intelligence (AI) help in improving renewable energy supply? Let’s see.
Global energy demands are growing every year. And, fossil fuels won’t be able to fulfill our energy needs in the future. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels have already hit an all-time high in 2018 due to increased energy consumption. On the other hand, renewable energy is emerging as a reliable alternative to fossil fuels. It is much safer and cleaner than conventional sources. With the advancements in technology, the renewable energy sector has made significant progress in the last decade. However, there are still a few challenges in this sector that can be addressed with the help of emerging technologies.
Technologies like AI and Machine Learning can analyze the past, optimize the present, and predict the future. And, AI in the renewable energy sector can resolve most of the challenges. How AI Technology Can Improve the Renewable Energy Sector
“AI is taking on many new roles in society — becoming our coworker, serving as a virtual assistant in our homes, operating our cars and more”, says Rana el Kaliouby, a pioneer in AI. The electric grid is one of the complex machines on Earth. However, it is evolving rapidly with the addition of variable renewable energy sources. Due to the inherent variability of wind and solar, the current grid faces many challenges in accommodating the diversity of renewable energy. The utility industry needs smart systems that can help improve the integration of renewables into the existing grid and make renewable energy an equal player in the energy supply.
Here’s how AI technology can improve the reliability of renewable energy and modernize the overall grid.
Smart, Centralized Control Centers – The energy grid can be interconnected with devices and sensors to collect a large amount of data.
When coupled with AI, this data can give new insights to the grid operators for better control operations. It offers flexibility to the energy suppliers to cleverly adjust the supply with demand.
Improved Integration of Microgrids – AI can help with the integration of microgrids and managing distributed energy. When the community-level renewable energy generation units are added to the primary grid, it becomes hard to balance the energy flow within the grid.
Improved Safety and Reliability – While the biggest goal of AI in renewable energy is to manage the intermittency, it can also offer improved safety, efficiency, and reliability.
Expand the Market – The integration of AI can help renewable energy suppliers expand the marketplace by introducing new service models and encouraging higher participation.
Smart Grid with Intelligent Storage – The integration of artificial intelligence with Intelligent Energy Storage (IES) can provide a sustainable and reliable solution to the renewable energy industry. This smart grid will be able to analyze a vast amount of data collected from several sensors and make timely decisions on energy allocation.
4. Cleantech and Car Technologies of The Future
The world of sustainable technologies is not a stagnant one. In fact, the automotive industry – which has pushed forward so many technological advancements – is one arena in which green technology is thriving. Over the past several years, this industry has made significant strides towards more effective and environmentally-friendly electric and hybrid cars.
Why? It’s become simpler to pair smart cars with the Internet of Things. It’s also more in vogue to pursue vehicular automation. As these connections and ambitions become normalities instead of luxuries, a normalisation of environmentally-conscious vehicles seems imminent.
What technologies, specifically, are set to take the automotive industry by storm in the next few years, though? How, too, will these technologies benefit the environment where behavioural changes can’t?
Battery Body Panels
Electric cars in 2019 struggle with a number of factors, the foremost being drive time. Without additional places to store energy, electric cars’ functionality is significantly reduced. They serve as excellent city cars, yes, but it remains difficult to get an electric car from one side of the country to the other.
Thus, auto manufacturers have been working to find new areas to store the energy an electric car would need to make such a trip. At the moment, energy-storing body panels seem to be the way to go. By utilising polymer fibre and carbon resin to both reduce a vehicle’s weight and to collect energy from regenerative braking, manufacturers intend to prolong an electric car’s battery life.
These panels are also set to retain energy pumped into an electric car during its standard charge time. Combine that extra fuel with the lightened body, and electric car drivers may be set to take the motorways by storm.
Tyres serve a two-fold purpose, when it comes to the sustainability movement. On one hand, increased tyre functionality will allow for electric cars to generate more of their own power while on the road. On the other hand, rubber is difficult and unsustainable to produce, on an environmental level and on a labour one.
The automotive industry has also always been fascinated with the ways rubber tyres can be converted into something more environmentally-friendly. Right now, Goodyear is leading the charge towards what may be the first photosynthetic tyre.
Rubber tyres, to start, are broken down via a vulcanisation process – one which, through exposure of the rubber to sulphur, hardens the tyre and makes it functional. By forgoing the vulcanisation process in favour of a planet-friendly alternative, environmentally conscious manufacturers can lessen their carbon footprint.
The current, proposed solution involves the cultivation of living moss inside operational tyres. This moss, without compromising the integrity of the tyre, will absorb water from the road and consume the carbon dioxide that the car produces. While cradled in tyres made from rubber powder, this moss will pull double-duty to keep the tyres inflated and lessen their vehicle’s overall toxic output.
Even though this technology is a few years off from production, the idea of it becoming mainstream is fascinating and promises to bring a revolutionary change to the way drivers think about their tyres.
IoT, V2V, and V2I Technologies
That said, not all environmental solutions are physical ones. The Internet of Things – a connective network which exists between systems of Internet-compatible devices – offers new ways for vehicles to communicate with each other and with their surroundings. With this communication comes improved vehicular functionality, and a greener future.
At the moment, there are two types of vehicular communication being researched: vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure:
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication would allow cars or fleets to communicate with one another while on the road, assessing proximity and speed.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication would allow vehicles to communicate with IoT compatible elements of infrastructure such as stop lights, side rails, and buildings to better assess proximity and weather conditions, among other safety factors.
The integration of these types of communication into cars is said to reduce the number of car accidents the UK sees a year by up to 81%. However, there are also environmental benefits to these forms of communication.
By communication with the road, vehicles can more effectively adjust their driver’s driving styles to conserve energy. They’ll be able to lessen the amount of fuel that individual trips require, and as a result, lower petrol consumption on a national level.
It may seem as though such green automotive technologies exist in a Jetson-friendly future. That future is closer than you think, however. As the automotive industry interweaves sustainable ethics into its functionality, the motorways of Europe and beyond will become greener – as will drivers’ wallets.
5. Future of Smart Cities
The concept of smart cities is not new. Originally thought up in the 1970s (and perhaps imagined as a real life version of the Jetsons), smart cities were perceived as the answer to the increasing needs of a growing population in large urban cities. While smart cities are composed of a variety of elements including smart healthcare, smart infrastructure, smart building, and more, cleantech was never one of those elements, despite the tremendous impact it could have on smart cities.
As more people move into urban areas and environmental issues become more pressing, cities will have to rethink their systems and their environmental impacts. Many cities around the world have already begun to adopt more eco-friendly practices, and some trends are starting to emerge. The Smart cities of the future will build on these, taking today’s environmental practices a step further.
Smart cities in the future could turn out to look nothing like today’s. Given current trends and developments, though, here is what they could likely involve.
Transportation contributes more to carbon emissions than any other sector, generating almost two metric tons of greenhouse gasses in 2018. In response, green cities will make emissions-free transport a priority. Lowering emissions is already a focus today, but in the future, this could extend towards eliminating them entirely.
Copenhagen, Denmark, reorganized its road system to prioritize and encourage bicycle traffic. Now, 62 percent of their residents ride their bikes every day, and only 9 percent drive daily. This shift has helped them transition into favoring zero-emissions traffic before electric vehicles have become standard.
Electricity is the second-largest contributor to carbon emissions, and 40 percent of U.S. energy goes towards buildings. From lighting to HVAC systems, buildings use a considerable amount of energy, and cities feature a huge number of buildings. Sustainable cities will have to find a way to accommodate more residents while maintaining low emissions.
The immediately apparent solution, and the most popular today, is to turn to renewables. The cities of the future will go a step further, though, considering energy conservation in building design itself. Designs will allow for things like easier airflow and natural lighting so that these structures will use less energy in the first place.
Energy conservation is especially crucial for the advent of smart cities. As these areas increase technology and connectivity, they will use more electricity to support them. For smart cities to be a viable option, the same areas will have to adopt energy-conscious habits.
With more residents, the cities of tomorrow will produce more waste. Recycling initiatives are already popular, but sustainable cities in the future can do more in waste management. Instead of just reducing and removing waste sustainably, cities will use it to help in other areas.
The Smart Cities that Survive Will Be Sustainable Ones
Large-scale urbanization is all but inevitable. Nations do not need to avoid expanding cities but should instead focus on making these areas sustainable. In the face of growing environmental concerns, tomorrow’s cities will have to go green to support technological and population growth.
The smart and sustainable city movements are not opposed to one another. Instead, green practices will make smart cities a possibility.
There is a global drive to adopt clean technology solutions due to the current climate emergency being declared by governments globally. This is a direct result of our reliance on fossil fuels for energy since the Industrial Revolution. Governments are adopting regulatory regimes that require industry and individuals to reduce their environmental impact.
In order to use less and cleaner energy in power plants, buildings, industrial facilities and transport systems, many energy-efficient enabling technologies are applied. These technologies could slash costs by up to 80 per cent, ensure energy savings by up to 30 percent and help to slow global warming in the future. Thus, the countries could stay cost-effective and make sustainable progress.
All clean technology solutions seek to positively impact anthropogenic climate change. It is also important for clean technology solutions to be economically viable and have the potential to become profitable enterprises to attract investment and further development.
Clean technology solutions are therefore considered profitable against a wider variety of criteria compared to other types of technology investment. Market, as well as climate forecasts, are brought to bear on clean technology investment, and the ultimate cost to life on earth of doing nothing can outweigh risks and outlays for some investors and funding agencies.
Clean Technology and Its Relationship to IoT – https://www.digi.com/blog/post/what-is-clean-tech-and-how-is-iot-enabling-it
Cleantech and the Future of Renewable Energy – https://www.wartsila.com/insights/article/5-technologies-changing-the-future-of-renewable-energy
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – https://www.imaginovation.net/blog/artificial-intelligence-in-renewable-energy/
Cleantech and Car Technologies of The Future – https://www.greenjournal.co.uk/2019/08/green-car-technologies-of-the-future/
Future of Smart Cities – https://proov.io/blog/cleantech-smart-cities/