The Future of Renewable Energy: Breakthrough Innovations to Watch in 2023

The renewable energy sector is booming with innovation and breakthroughs, and 2023 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for sustainable technologies. From transparent solar panels to cutting-edge fusion power advancements, these developments hold the potential to revolutionize our energy landscape. Let’s explore the breakthrough innovations to watch in 2023, poised to make a significant impact on the future of renewable energy.

1. Transparent Solar Panels

A New Dawn for Solar Power

Solar power has long been a staple in the renewable energy sector, but recent innovations are set to take it to new heights. Transparent solar panels, which can be applied as a film over windows or other surfaces to harvest energy, are one such development. Two companies pushing this technology forward are Ubiquitous Energy and Solar Windows.

These transparent solar panels are designed to partner with businesses rather than selling directly to consumers. They are likely to be offered as an upgrade option for installing new windows in homes or offices or as an add-on for electric vehicles.

Solar-Powered Electric Vehicles

Speaking of electric vehicles, several models are incorporating solar panels as a key feature. Although these solar EVs still need to be plugged in for long-range trips, they can potentially cover short trips of up to 40 miles a day on solar power alone, depending on the car, parking location, and solar package.

Some solar cars, such as Aptera, Sono Sion, and Lightyear 0, are engineered to be lighter, maximizing the benefits of their installed solar power.

2. Fusion Power Breakthroughs

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

Fusion energy aims to replicate the sun’s power by fusing elements together to generate energy, akin to reactions occurring within the sun’s celestial furnace. Recently, a breakthrough at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory saw a fusion reaction generate slightly more energy than what was used to start it, marking a first in the field.

Fusion reactors still have a long way to go and will likely need to generate ten times the input energy to become a viable energy source. However, with massive fusion projects like ITER on the horizon, this technology is one to watch in the coming years.

3. Ocean-Based Energy Technologies

Wave Swell Energy’s Artificial Blowhole

Wave Swell Energy’s artificial blowhole, the Uniwave200, recently completed a one-year test off the coast of King Island, Australia. Inspired by natural blowholes, it directs waves into a central chamber, where air is compressed, spinning a turbine and sending energy to the grid. The company is now working to improve its artificial blowhole, making it more reliable and affordable.

Eco Wave Power’s Floaters

Eco Wave Power is another company harnessing the power of ocean waves. Their floaters sit on the ocean’s surface, using the rising waves to push them up, creating fluid pressure in the system. This pressure spins a hydromotor, which in turn generates electricity that is sent to the grid via an inverter.

The floaters are designed to recognize upcoming storms automatically, lifting out of the water to prevent damage during bad weather. Eco Wave Power has already installed floaters in Gibraltar and Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv, Israel, and is working on an installation in Los Angeles.

AWS Energy’s Underwater Buoy

Efforts are also being made to harvest wave energy from below the water’s surface. AWS Energy has deployed a massive underwater buoy called the Archimedes Waveswing, tethered to the ocean floor. As it moves up and down with the waves, a generator turns that motion into electricity.

4. Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES)

The Key to Renewable Energy Integration

LDES is crucial for integrating renewable energy sources into the grid, ensuring a stable and reliable power supply. As the adoption of wind and solar power grows, so does the need for efficient energy storage solutions. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the U.S. is expected to boost funding for LDES technologies, including hydrogen, pumped hydro storage, thermal batteries, and various electrochemical battery technologies.

5. Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)

Tackling Emissions Head-On

CCUS technologies capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial processes, either storing them underground or converting them into valuable products. The IRA is set to provide significant funding for CCUS projects, accelerating their development and deployment.

Major initiatives are already taking place, such as the partnership between ExxonMobil and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to use MHI’s CO2 capture technology for ExxonMobil’s end-to-end carbon capture and storage solution.

6. Clean Hydrogen Production

A Versatile and Sustainable Fuel

Clean hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen produced by renewable energy, is gaining traction as a versatile and sustainable fuel. The IRA includes a hydrogen production tax credit, which could make green hydrogen profitable at scale.

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage hub in Utah, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Power Americas and Magnum Development, is leading the way as the world’s first utility-scale renewable hydrogen hub.

7. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

A Greener Way to Fly

SAF, produced from renewable biomass and waste resources, is another technology benefiting from the IRA. Although its use has been limited in recent years, increased funding and innovation are set to make widespread adoption more feasible.

JetBlue has announced plans to increase its use of SAF in 2023 and convert 10% of its fuel to SAF by 2030. Meanwhile, Airbus is on track to test a passenger airliner fueled by liquid hydrogen by 2026, with plans to put it into service by 2035.

8. Energy Affordability and Security

Balancing Decarbonization with Real-World Challenges

As the world seeks to strike a balance between decarbonization, affordability, and energy security, countries are adjusting their priorities in response to market disruptions and global crises. In the near term, energy security and affordability will likely be immediate priorities for countries impacted by events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

9. Renewable Energy Incentives

Driving Adoption and Innovation

Strong demand, falling costs, and a host of new clean energy incentives are contributing to the continued proliferation of renewable energy. The IRA’s unprecedented funding is expected to catalyze projects that decarbonize the energy sector, empowering companies to take risks on new technologies while driving momentum and economies of scale.

10. Collaboration and Commitment

Shaping a Decarbonized Energy Future

The challenges of transitioning to renewable energy are vast, but governments and companies are collaborating and making commitments to deliver a decarbonized energy future. As these breakthrough innovations unfold in 2023, we can expect to see significant strides toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy landscape for generations to come.