The Alternative Energy Sources of the Future
Despite the hype around the progress of renewable energy, many people don’t realize that solar and wind have only made a tiny dent in the energy mix thus far. The good news is that costs are coming down and many people are starting to adopt green technologies, but there is still a mountain to climb if we want to truly get off of fossil fuels on a large scale.
To accomplish this, we’re going to have to think outside the box to come up with new ways to tackle the energy challenge. Luckily, the folks at Futurism have put ten of the most promising alternative energy sources of the future in a handy infographic. Some of these may be long shots, but some may also play a crucial role in the energy mix of the future.
Most solar energy doesn’t actually make it into the Earth’s atmosphere, so space-based solar power makes a lot of sense. The challenges are the cost in getting a satellite to orbit, as well as the conversion of electricity into microwaves that can be beamed down to the planet’s surface.
There’s over seven billion people walking around the Earth each day, so why not generate power from the movement of people? Many experts believe that we can harness this energy, and that we could use it to power our devices.
Five countries around the world are starting to operate viable wave power farm operations, but the potential is far higher: the U.S. coastline alone has a wave energy potential of about 252 billion KWh per year.
Hydrogen is a clean and potent source of energy, and best of all – it accounts for 74% of the mass of the entire universe. The only problem is that hydrogen atoms tend to only be found in combinations with oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen atoms. Removing this bond takes energy, which ends up being counter-productive. As a result, many people around the world are working on making these processes more economic.
The center of the Earth is very hot, so why not try and get closer to it to tap into some geothermal heat? People in Iceland are already doing this with red-hot magma after accidentally striking a pocket of it during a 2008 drilling project.
Only 5% of uranium atoms are used in a traditional fission reaction. The rest end up in the pile of nuclear waste, which sits in storage for thousands of years. Researchers and companies are trying to tap into these leftovers for a viable and economic energy solution.
Embeddable solar power
What if every window could be easily turned into a solar panel? Solar window technology turns any window or sheet of glass into a photovoltaic solar cell that harvests the part of the light spectrum that eyes can’t see.
Algae grows practically anywhere, and it turns out these tiny plants are a surprising source of energy-rich oils. Up to 9,000 gallons of biofuel could be “grown” per acre, making it one of many potential energy sources of the future.
Flying wind power
Winds are much more powerful and strong at higher elevations. If wind farms could be autonomous and flying, they could go to where the winds are strongest and deliver double the energy of similarly sized tower-mounted turbines.
Fusion has been the dream for some time – but scientists are making baby steps to achieving the power process that is harnessed in nature by our own sun. The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is currently being built in France, and it’s one of the most complex scientific and engineering projects in existence.
Mapped: The World’s Nuclear Reactor Landscape
Which countries are turning to nuclear energy, and which are turning away? Mapping and breaking down the world’s nuclear reactor landscape.
The World’s Changing Nuclear Reactor Landscape
View a more detailed version of the above map by clicking here
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl, many nations reiterated their intent to wean off the energy source.
However, this sentiment is anything but universal—in many other regions of the world, nuclear power is still ramping up, and it’s expected to be a key energy source for decades to come.
Using data from the Power Reactor Information System, maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the map above gives a comprehensive look at where nuclear reactors are subsiding, and where future capacity will reside.
Increasing Global Nuclear Use
Despite a dip in total capacity and active reactors last year, nuclear power still generated around 10% of the world’s electricity in 2019.
Part of the increased capacity came as Japan restarted some plants and European countries looked to replace aging reactors. But most of the growth is driven by new reactors coming online in Asia and the Middle East.
China is soon to have more than 50 nuclear reactors, while India is set to become a top-ten producer once construction on new reactors is complete.
Decreasing Use in Western Europe and North America
The slight downtrend from 450 operating reactors in 2018 to 443 in 2019 was the result of continued shutdowns in Europe and North America. Home to the majority of the world’s reactors, the two continents also have the oldest reactors, with many being retired.
At the same time, European countries are leading the charge in reducing dependency on the energy source. Germany has pledged to close all nuclear plants by 2022, and Italy has already become the first country to completely shut down their plants.
Despite leading in shutdowns, Europe still emerges as the most nuclear-reliant region for a majority of electricity production and consumption.
In addition, some countries are starting to reassess nuclear energy as a means of fighting climate change. Reactors don’t produce greenhouse gases during operation, and are more efficient (and safer) than wind and solar per unit of electricity.
Facing steep emission reduction requirements, a variety of countries are looking to expand nuclear capacity or to begin planning for their first reactors.
A New Generation of Nuclear Reactors?
For those parties interested in the benefits of nuclear power, past accidents have also led towards a push for innovation in the field. That includes studies of miniature nuclear reactors that are easier to manage, as well as full-size reactors with robust redundancy measures that won’t physically melt down.
Additionally, some reactors are being designed with the intention of utilizing accumulated nuclear waste—a byproduct of nuclear energy and weapon production that often had to be stored indefinitely—as a fuel source.
With some regions aiming to reduce reliance on nuclear power, and others starting to embrace it, the landscape is certain to change.
Connected Workers: How Digital Transformation is Shaping Industry’s Future
This graphic explores the role connected workers play in achieving successful digital transformation and identifying new growth opportnities.
Connected Workers: Shaping the Future of Industry
Digital transformation has upended businesses on a global scale, and no industry is immune from its powerful effects.
New technologies and enhancing customer experience are key drivers for companies investing in digital transformation, but the most important reason for prioritizing this shift is that it will allow them to leverage entirely new opportunities for growth.
However, with the speed of digital transformation accelerating at a furious pace, companies need to quickly adapt their working environment to keep up. This graphic from mCloud unearths the origins of the connected worker, and explores the potential applications of connected devices across industries.
The Rise of the Connected Worker
The mass adoption of smart devices has sparked a new wave of remote work. This type of working arrangement is estimated to inject $441 billion into the global economy every year, and save 2.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 by 2029—the equivalent of 1,280 flights between New York and London.
However, flexible or remote working looks different depending on the industry. For example, in the context of business services such as engineering or manufacturing, employees who carry out different tasks remotely using digital technologies are known as connected workers.
The term is not a one-size-fits-all, as there are many different types of connected workers with different roles, such as operators, field workers, engineers, and even executives. But regardless of an individual’s title, every connected worker plays a crucial role in achieving digital transformation.
Real Time Data, Real Time Benefits
When workers are connected to assets in real time, they can make better, more informed decisions—ultimately becoming a more efficient workforce overall. As a result, industries could unlock a wealth of benefits, such as:
- Reducing human error
- Increasing productivity
- Reducing dangerous incidents
- Saving time and money
- Monitoring assets 24/7
While connected workers can enhance the potential of industries, the tools they use to achieve these benefits are crucial to their success.
Connected Worker Technologies
A connected device has the ability to connect with other devices and systems through the internet. The connected worker device market is set for rapid growth over the next two decades, reaching $4.3 billion by 2039. Industries such as oil and gas, chemical production, and construction lead the way in the adoption of connected worker technologies, which include:
- Platforms: Hardware or software that uses artificial intelligence and data to allow engineers to create bespoke applications and control manufacturing processes remotely.
- Interfaces: Technologies such as 3D digital twins enable peer-to-peer information sharing. They also create an immersive reflection of surroundings that would have otherwise been inaccessible by workers, such as wind turbine blades.
- Smart sensors and IoT devices: Sensors that monitor assets provide a more holistic overview of industrial processes in real time and prevent dangerous incidents.
- Cloud and edge computing: Using the cloud allows workers to communicate with each other and manage shared data more efficiently.
Over time, connected devices are getting smarter and expanding their capabilities. Moreover, devices such as wearables are becoming more discreet than ever, and can even be embedded into personal protective equipment to gather data while remaining unobtrusive.
Real World Applications
With seemingly endless potential, these devices have the ability to provide game changing solutions to ongoing challenges across dozens of industries.
- Building Maintenance and Management
Facility managers can access real time information and connect with maintenance workers on site to resolve issues quickly. Building personnel can also access documentation and remote help through connected technologies.
- Task Management
Operators in industrial settings such as mining can control activities in remote locations. They can also enable field personnel to connect with experts in other locations.
- Communications Platform
Cloud-based communication platforms can provide healthcare practitioners with a tool to connect with the patient, the patient’s family and emergency care personnel.
By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and analytics, connected workers can continue to revolutionize businesses and industries across the globe.
Towards a More Connected Future
As companies navigate the challenges of COVID-19, implementing connected worker technologies and creating a data-driven work environment may quickly become an increasingly important priority.
Not only is digital transformation important for leveraging new growth opportunities to scale, it may be crucial for determining the future of certain businesses and industries.
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