The Consumerization of Clean Energy

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Have you noticed that really cool (and occasionally humorous) applications for renewable energy—designed with you, the consumer, in mind—are popping up all over?

This is great for the renewable energy industry, and my reasoning is simple.  The greater the number of cool or laugh-out-loud energy-related products being developed and marketed, the better the chance that “renewable energy” (or some other, consumer-friendly version of that catch phrase) will become a common household term. And you know as well as I do that once a concept enters the mainstream conscience, the better the potential for the concept to take off.  When that happens, many companies in the field of renewable energy, from solar to biogas, wind and more, should prosper. But let’s get back to the hip and funny stuff.  You may have already seen these inventions, but I thought all of them were pretty cool:

  • A company called Green Revolution has built a stationary bike that converts the energy produced during spin class into electricity. The bikes are hooked up to generators that are ultimately connected to an electrical panel. Green Revolution estimates a rider can produce 70 to 130 watts of renewable energy during a typical class. Now the only question is when can I buy that bike for my own use?
  • I recently discovered Nate Garvis’ blog, Naked Civics. (No, it’s not that kind of naked. Read on.) Garvis recently wrote about what could be the perfect marriage of fashion and science: Clothes that reduce the gasses in the air that contribute to climate change. Yes, that’s right—this line of clothing is “catalysed, or coated with particles that purify the air,” Garvis writes. And while you might not wear this dress to work anytime soon, you’ve got to admit the style is pretty cool.
  • Garvis also blogged about Power Felt, a cool (or should I say hot?) concept designed by students at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. Power Felt turns the heat generated by human touch into electricity. “…imagine an electric car that is powered by your derrière and Power Felt. Now that puts a whole new meaning to being in the hot seat, doesn’t it?” Garvis writes.
  • Cruising around Coolest Gadgets, I discovered two gems—one with very real life-changing application and one that is kind of trivial, but both pretty interesting in their own ways. The We Care Solar Suitcase, produced by We Care Solar, is a solar-based, portable power unit that delivers lighting and power for cell phones, computers or medical devices to health workers in locations without reliable electricity.  Think remote areas of the world—and here’s an innovation that can help people stay healthy (and probably save lives). It might seem silly to mention innovative medical equipment in the same breath as the Jubilee Solar Queen, but this purple lady demonstrates that solar panels can also power campy dashboard ornaments. The miniature solar panels that power the Queen’s waving hand are tucked, out of sight, in her handbag. I love it!

As I stated earlier, I think the “cool” (or funny) factor can play a role in bringing renewable energy, in whatever form it takes, to the forefront of people’s minds. From there the logic is simple: The more familiar the technology, the sooner it’ll become second nature. The sooner it becomes second nature, the more the renewable energy industry will grow—and take off. What cool gadgets and applications have you seen lately?

Barbara Call is Director of Content for Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1