Innovation becomes sustainable

Innovation becomes sustainable

Elisa Maria Giannetto
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More and more companies are becoming technological innovation leaders via the use of renewable energy. Demonstrated by three recent cases

The king of social networks Facebook has taken a further step forward along the path to sustainable innovation and has chosen Denmark as the location for a data center even more efficient than those based in Sweden and Ireland, and powered entirely by renewable energy. The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg has already been working for years in this direction, to the point where Greenpeace's latest report "Who's Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet" puts him atop the leaderboard for the use of "green" resources for its own systems. The new data center at Odense, the city that gave birth to the writer Hans Christian Andersen, will in fact be one of the most advanced and efficient in the world and will bring 150 jobs with it. The project is part of the Facebook Open Compute Project that - as stated in the official page dedicated to Sustainability - has enabled the saving of "enough electricity to power about 127,000 homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing nearly 136,000 passenger cars from roads for a year". Another innovation is taking place in the US to boost the exploitation of one of the richest underground natural resources of the Imperial Valley in California: Ground heat. Currently the area hosts only small geothermal power plants, due to the high concentration of salt from the nearby ocean. Today two Australian start-ups have found a solution to minimize these effects and are planning the construction of a large geothermal park, able to generate power six times greater than that currently produced by existing structures. The drive to attain low carbon emission production and industrial processes though goes hand-in-hand with the growing need to find a solution to the great problem of renewables, their intermittency. Here companies are moving in different directions. Some are working on compressed air while others are designing even more advanced hydrogen batteries. The company Pike Research has published a report on the evolution of storage systems known as Grid Energy Storage, destined to grow substantially over the next decade, with 56 GW of storage capacity installed by 2022. But the list includes new and stranger proposals as well for storing renewable energy including bunkers, underwater bags, energy islands and wind turbines on water basins. Projects still on paper but which could already become reality in 2017.