The world energy situation is changing, and renewable innovations are speeding up seemly exponentially. With the big storms and terrible fires across the world this year, there is ever increasing discussion regarding climate change and how we source our energy. The rate of fossil fuel usage has stabilised, but carbon is still being pumped into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Parts of Africa could be set to take the brunt, with droughts already causing trouble of the East of the continent.
Renewable energy technology, therefore, is incredibly important for the continents energy source. Renewable energy comes in various forms. Hydro energy has long been seen as the solution for Africa, with dams across the continent providing electricity for many. This system has proven unreliable in many cases, and low water levels at certain times of the year mean many must go without electricity, or only have it occasionally throughout the day. Solar and wind energy production, however, could be more reliable, with and abundance of sun, heat and wind across the continent.
There have already been some major innovations on the continent with regards to renewable energy. A massive solar farm in Morocco is already functioning and off grid solar solutions are being offered with creative payment solutions in rural and urban areas across the continent. There have even been advancements in the storage of renewable energy. And now there are further advancements being made with regards to wind energy.
There is a certain beauty, (although some don’t seem to think so) to the enormous wind turbines adorning hill tops. It is as if these huge alien structures are travelling on a long journey, on behind each other, with their oversized blades calmly spinning with a low humming noise. Each turn of the blade pumps electricity into a system, and lessens the reliance on fossil fuels. It was recently suggested that by placing a wind farm the size of India out in the deep sea would be enough to power the entire planet, but a recent invention from Tunisia suggests that the current models are not efficient.
A Tunisian firm, Saphon Energy, have an invented an odd looking bladeless turbine, which they claim to be over twice as efficient as the current wind turbine solutions. After coming through various different versions of the turbine inspired by the sail boat, the current version looks like a wonky satellite dish which moves in a figure of eight when the facing into the wind. This motion, which is rather more ungainly than what we are use to seeing, means that it can make the most of the wind on its surface area. It makes sense! There are huge gaps between the blades of a wind turbine, and much of the wind much just slip through without effecting its movement.
Current wind farms are extremely costly to set up. Saphon have replaced some of the expensive components with cheaper ones, and there will no longer be the expense of building and transporting the huge blades, which means that their innovation is 45% cheaper to manufacture. When this solution comes to market, wind energy will not energy will be more efficient to produce and cheaper to set up! A win win situation.
And this solution wins in other ways also. It is scalable, so this system could either be used by individuals to power their houses with a small version, or in enormous wind farms. (Maybe now we only need a farm half the size of India to power the world!) And for the environmentalists that are concerned about the effect of wind turbines on the natural environment, for example the deaths of birds and bats, which can fly into the blades, the bladeless version is far more forgiving to our flying friends.
The Saphon innovation is so impressive that Microsoft have got behind them and helped them with funding with their 4Afrika initiative, which supports African ideas that can change the world. This truly is an African innovation that could make a difference to the entire planet. It goes to show that the rule book can be continuously ripped up and reassessed to increase efficiencies and improve on current technologies.
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