The 9 Most Electrifying Energy Stories Of 2014

This is the year renewable energy got interesting.


Very soon, it could cost less to install rooftop solar panels than to pay your utility bill in many U.S. states. And so solar panels are becoming boring, and that’s good news.


In fact, Co.Exist’s most popular energy stories this year involved technologists and entrepreneurs who have been looking beyond typical solar panels towards developing the next generation of renewable technologies. (Check out last year’s top energy stories to see how we got where we are today).

Take the startup Ubiquitous Energy. If it has its way, transparent solar cells could one day allow us to charge our phone by simply placing them in the sun or generate electricity from our windows. Another company, Solar Wind Energy, is working to build a colossal tower in the Arizona desert that would generate more energy than the Hoover Dam. Or check out the Solar Roadways project, which wants to repave our road in incredibly strong glass-covered solar panels that could power the nation.

On the other end of the energy spectrum, a growing movement has been racking up small successes towards moving the world off of carbon-spewing fossil fuels. On college campuses around the country, students have been campaigning for their universities to divest from fossil fuels, and this year, they had their biggest success yet at Stanford University. Or read this profile of a woman who has helped cities and towns around the country stop fracking development in their backyards.

Read more of Co.Exist’s most interesting energy stories from this past year below.

1: Totally Transparent Solar Cells Could Turn Our Windows Into Solar Panels


“Ultimately, we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

2: This Giant Tower In The Desert Could Generate As Much Power As The Hoover Dam

The Solar Wind Downdraft Tower will generate huge amounts of power—if it’s ever built.

3: These Solar Roads Could Power The Entire Country

The founders of the Solar Roadways project want to cover every highway in thick, LED-lit glass.


4: A 17-Year-Old Invented This Smart Device That Makes Clean Water And Power At The Same Time

The H2Pro turns dirty water and sunlight to clean water and power. What were you doing when you were 17?

5: See The Devastated Landscape Of The Alberta Tar Sands From 1,000 Feet Above

Hidden in plain sight, the Alberta tar sands fields are an industrial expanse where forests once stood. These aerial images capture the scenes of destruction.

6: These Backpacks For Cows Collect Their Fart Gas And Store It For Energy


Each cow apparently passes enough gas to power a car or a fridge. Imagine the possibilities.

7: How A Former Corporate Lawyer Stood Up To Fracking Companies, And Won

With her innovative legal strategy, Helen Slottje showed upstate New York communities how to head off the dangerous natural gas drilling boom sweeping the region. Now, as she’s honored with this year’s Goldman Prize, her ideas are spreading across the nation.

8: This Algae-Powered Building Actually Works

The BIQ algae-powered building has been operating for over a year. It’s faring well so far.


9: The Growing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Has Its Biggest Success At Stanford

Citing climate change as a concern, Stanford University has vowed not to invest its endowment in coal mining companies. Could Harvard—with the country’s largest endowment—be next?

10: In Two Years, Rooftop Solar Will Cost The Same As Grid Electricity

In most of the country, it could soon pay to ditch your electricity provider.

Read more of our best stories of the year, in these categories: Most-read, photos, infographics, lists, videos, maps, buildings, robots, transportation, bikes, food, collaborative consumption, cities, energy, environment, health, education, crowdfunding, innovative workplaces, and privacy.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire