While the development of so-called green technology has attracted more than its fair share of controversy over the years, the pipedream is now headed well and truly for the mass market.
We now live in an age where climate change, recycling and renewable forms of energy are taking center stage. Some would argue it has taken far too long to reach this stage but let’s not forget the development of this technology has taken many years and required billions of pounds of investment. So, what are the major developments in the world of green technology and what does the future hold?
The electric car industry perhaps reflects the advances in green technologies more than any other. Back in the 1990’s General Motors produced the EV1 which was the first real electric vehicle of the era. It seemed to be successful, seemed to have a good future but overnight General Motors changed its mind, recalled all the vehicles and destroyed them. This led to suggestions that the company had been “leaned upon” by the oil industry and forced to effectively kill the electric vehicle market overnight. However, the public perception of electric vehicles had changed and the genie was now out of the bottle.
Elon Musk and his team at Tesla Motors have taken the world by storm creating a multibillion-dollar company which currently stands on the brink of the mass-market with the Tesla Model 3. In some ways this has forced the likes of General Motors and other leading car manufacturers to follow suit and confirm their electric vehicle credentials going forward. This technology more than any other perfectly illustrates the pipedream to mass-market – and the challenges faced along the way.
The technology associated with solar power has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Many people are comparing the improvements in technology to that of the microchip which doubled in capacity every few years and halved in cost. Interestingly, billionaire Elon Musk is also heavily involved in solar power via his Solar City operation.
There are several developments that have pushed solar power to the fore such as a general acceptance by the public of roof panels, the significant reduction in home energy costs and the ability to sell excess power back to the National Grid. When you also consider the significant government tax rebates available to those installing solar power in their homes and businesses, in simple terms, money talks. There’s also been significant government pressure on local authorities to increase their renewable energy ratios compared to traditional energy sources. Experts are forecasting further improvements in solar power technology which will only strengthen the case going forward.
It is fair to say that wind power has been one of the more controversial renewable energy sources in recent years. The position and the size of some wind turbines has caused concern amongst many local communities as well as the subsidies required to fund the sector. The situation is changing with wind power production costs slashed in recent years, leading to reduced subsidies, and hopefully a slowdown in the number of new wind turbine approvals.
Wind power, like solar power, is something which is all around us and because of this the public and the business community can relate more to this form of energy production. It is also worth noting that the wind power industry has grown significantly in recent years, creating many jobs, and while still requiring government subsidies to survive, the level of government funding is falling. As the specific cost of offshore wind farms continues to fall we may well see more focus on this area which will help alleviate public concerns about the location of onshore wind farms.
If there is one area of green technology/renewable energy which has perhaps disappointed it would be the wave energy sector. The significant power of the oceans has yet to be harnessed in a cost-effective manner and while, in tandem with offshore wind farms, the cost and efficiency of wave energy has improved of late, there is still much work to be done. There are some parts of the UK where the choppy waters of the sea create enough power to make a viable business but maybe further government funding is required?
The likes of electric cars, solar power, wind turbines and to a lesser extent wave energy have made great strides in recent times. There is still much work to be done, especially around wave energy, but in many ways green technology and renewable energy forms are now more accepted by the public than ever before. The fact that subsidies are falling, having a reduced impact upon household energy bills, is always a positive because money talks.
There are other areas of green technology which are perhaps not as well covered by the mass media including biomass, green computing, hydroelectricity, hydrogen fuel cells and photovoltaic to name but a few. It is fair to say that if we were to harness all renewable energy sources available to us today, although not all are commercially viable, carbon emissions would fall dramatically and this would positively impact climate change. However, that is another controversial subject for another day!