Renewable energy is the future, there’s no doubt about it at this point. Even though fears over Peak Oil and high oil prices are so 2005, renewable energy infrastructure is growing at such a fast rate that just last year, Costa Rica was 100% powered by clean energy for 285 days. Hell, Germany is generating so much renewable energy that it actively has to pay people to use it.
Sure, windmills and solar panels don’t have the same sort of sex appeal as open pit mines or a geyser of fire popping out of an natural gas well, but if you think renewable energy isn’t badass then you know nothing Jon Snow. Just check out these insane clean energy projects that just might be powering your home as we speak.
Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant
Despite being the only country in history to be attacked by nuclear weapons, Japan was one of the world’s biggest users of nuclear energy. Before the Fukushima disaster in 2011, 30 per cent of the country’s energy was provided by nuclear reactors. After the earthquake, and the tsunami, and the radioactive devastation unseen since Chernobyl, well, Japanese faith in nuclear power was understandably shaken.
This led to a greater interest in other sources of renewable energy, such as solar. The issue is that solar power farms need a lot of flat, even ground which is at a premium on a small, densely populated island with a history of natural disasters. The solution Kyocera TCL came up with was instead of putting their solar panels on the ground, they’d put them on water.
The aptly named Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant was built off the coast of Kagoshima City, near the active volcano of Sakurajima standing in the middle of the bay. The whopping 290,000 solar panels produce up to 70 megawatts of electricity which goes to powering more than 20,000 homes in the area. The project has been so successful, that Kyocera is working on a couple of similar farms built in reservoirs, one of which is set to produce double the electricity of the Kagoshima plant when it opens in 2018.
Tidal Power Barge
Generally speaking, tidal power uses the ebb and flow of waves to push generators. The benefit of tidal power over other sources is that it’s predictable. With wind and solar, you’re SOL if it’s raining or if there’s no wind on a given day, but those tides are going to come in and out fairly regularly unless a pissed-off Namekian blows up the moon.
However, in days past there were very few areas with the right sort of conditions to build tidal power plants, but that’s changing very quickly. Hell, one company in British Colombia is working on one that can move. Water Wall Turbine and Meridian Marine are currently building a barge with a turbine inside that’s turned by the tide and can produce enough electricity to power 500 homes. Best part is, WWT says the power could be as cheap as 15 cents per kilowatt hour (and that’s in puny Canadian monopoly money too.)
For context, tidal power plants usually look like this. The barge is going to look like this. In addition to being a lot smaller and can, y’know move, it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper to manage. While 500 homes isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, one megawatt is easily enough to power the coastal communities and fishing villages that can’t exactly justify building wind turbines .
Three Gorges Dam
When it comes to the China, say what you want about its atrocious human rights record, it’s bad habit of currency manipulation, and its diplomats’ apparent rudeness, but no one can claim that the Chinese don’t know how to build ‘em big. Spanning the length of the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges dam is a massive, 7,661 feet long marvel of hydroelectric power.
With 32 generators, each weighing about 6,000 tonnes, pumping out more than 20,000 megawatts of power, it produces ten times more power than the Hoover dam. Now, before you start congratulating China on being such a progressive beacon of hope, you should probably know that damming the river displaced more than a million people after their towns and villages were flooded.
Hornsea Project One
In addition to offshore solar farms, offshore wind farms are popping up as well. Just this February, a (hilariously named) Danish company, Dong Energy announced that they’re going to build the biggest wind farm ever off the coast of Yorkshire, England. Set to complete in 2020, Hornsea Project One will have gigantic, 190 metre tall turbines. That’s taller than the Gherkin building in London (the ugly, round, super-phallic one). More importantly, it’ll be the first offshore wind farm able to produce more than one gigawatt of power, enough to power a million homes.
Still think renewable energy isn’t badass? What if I told you one of the most successful renewable energy projects in the States uses the fiery wrath of the Earth’s mantle to power 750,000 homes in the Bay Area? Just north of San Francisco is the largest field of hot springs and geysers in the world. Up until the ‘80s, these volcanic hotspots were mostly used by rich old people to treat their hemorrhoids, but then some enterprising folks figured how to use the reserves of superheated steam to drive turbines.
Fast forward a couple of decades and The Geysers has evolved into the number one source of geothermal energy in the world. Comprised of hundreds of wells and more than 14 power plants, the operation spans three counties and provides 20 per cent of all green energy in the great state of California. While the facilities were damaged in a fire last year, it’ll take a lot more than a little fire to takedown a place that’s powered by geothermal heat.