Renewable Energy in 2014: A Look Back at Exciting Innovations

It seems that every year Green Mountain Energy is in business, the renewable energy industry grows bigger faster. When we were founded in 1997, the percentage of renewable power sources in the United States’ electricity system mix was at 2 percent – today that percentage us up to 6 percent.

Over the last 17 years, our customers have avoided more than 30.6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, and helped develop more than 85 new solar and wind facilities through their demand for cleaner electricity and contributions to Green Mountain Energy Sun Club®.

Our industry is constantly changing, and we’re excited to go into 2015 with new innovations and ideas. Here are five of what we think are the most exciting developments in the renewable energy industry that we witnessed in 2014:

  1. Solar Roadways™
    Though their idea hasn’t quite swept the nation yet, this husband-wife team’s dream of covering all asphalt and concrete surfaces in the U.S. with solar technology tiles is ambitious and innovative. Just think – our highways and parking lots could soon be generating 100% renewable solar power! Similar to the Solar Roadways concept, Pavegen tiles are designed to be easily installed in areas with lots of foot traffic. Every time someone walks over a Pavegen tile, renewable energy is harvested from the footstep. The energy can be stored in batteries, or used to power applications.
  1. Stella, the solar-powered family-size car
    This four-seated vehicle is believed to be the first solar car that can comfortably transport four people, and it made its debut trip in California this year. The car can reportedly last about 21 miles on sunlight alone!
  1. Flying Turbines
    Anyone who has climbed a mountain, a tower, or even a tall tree knows that winds get stronger at greater heights. Airborne wind energy pioneers have found that high-altitude wind power extracted by these flying turbines could reportedly extract more than 1,800 terawatts – about 100 times greater than the world’s current power demand!
  1. Nanoleaf Bloom
    Touted as a “dimmable light bulb that doesn’t need a dimmer” on their Kickstarter, the LED doesn’t need any additional hardware or fixtures and can work with any on/off switch. A standard 60W bulb produces about 800 lumens, and 90 percent of its energy is given off as heat. The Bloom reportedly reaches 75W with only 10W energy usage, glowing up to 1200 lumens — and it doesn’t get hot like standard bulbs!
  1. Goal Zero® Portable Solar
    Goal Zero’s mission is to empower people, which they accomplish by putting reliable power in the hands of people on-the-go. Their portable solar technologies use the power of the sun to recharge your devices and store clean energy whether you’re on a long trek through the mountains or sitting in your backyard. You can check out some of their products at Green Mountain’s Specialty Products store.

Thirsty for more green knowledge from 2014? Check out Harvard Business Review’s article, “The 10 Most Important Sustainable Business Stories From 2014.”

Image credit: Solar Roadways™, Nanoleaf™