Researchers in Belgium have engineered a device that uses sunlight to purify polluted air and, in the process, produces hydrogen gas that can be stored and used for power. Two teams of researchers separately investigating processes for air purification and hydrogen production combined their efforts to create the new device.
Solar panels on the roofs of houses have become a familiar sight in recent years, but utility-scale solar – installations of 10 megawatts and greater – are really booming these days. Throughout the United States, more than 10.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar were added to the electric grid in 2016 – enough to power more than 2 million homes – and at least 8 gigawatts more are scheduled to come online this year.
Despite efforts by the new administration to increase support for fossil fuels, there is increasing momentum towards a clean-energy future. State and local efforts are driving the country to a 21st-century energy infrastructure, with or without the federal government.
From melting Arctic ice to dying coral reefs to rising sea levels, there was no shortage of grim environmental news in 2016. But the news wasn’t all bad. There were several bright spots for the environment last year as well.
Last year was a big year for progress in the U.S. power sector. Renewable energy provided nearly 17% of the country’s electricity, up from 13.7% in 2015. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. opened off the coast of Rhode Island. And most significantly, carbon emissions from the power sector continued to decline and reached the lowest levels in nearly 25 years.
Combating climate change is a bit like treating a disease whose early stage symptoms are not very severe. People are not as motivated as they should be. Businesses have to comply with new regulations and spend money on new technologies, which seems like a losing proposition.
College students have often spearheaded uprisings and revolutionary ideas. A group of BYU engineering students is trying to start a solar-cell revolution.
Ocean energy is still one of the biggest untapped clean energy sources on the planet. There are many studies that have shown that it could provide power for millions of homes in the U.S. alone. But despite this, the technology is still in its infancy and it is unclear when and if it can become a major contributor to our energy needs.
Poor air quality is a serious problem. Exposure to air pollution is linked to the premature deaths of an estimated 6.5 million people every year. This makes air pollution the fourth largest threat to human health. Only high blood pressure, dietary risks, and smoking are a bigger danger.