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  • 12.21.15

Renewable Power Is As Mainstream As Possible: 2015 In Energy

From solar bike paths to the Tesla battery, 2015’s energy innovations show that we can power the world cleanly, if we just make the effort.

Given that we’ll need 50% more energy by 2050–and that, because of climate change, most of that energy will need to be “clean”–it was heartening to see so much energy innovation in 2015. Promising technologies, like small hydro and wave power, got off the ground. There were lots of efforts to expand access to renewables in developing countries. And plenty of new services emerged to change the way we store, buy and sell power

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The big story was solar, which continued its inexorable advance towards “grid parity.” Prices fell so much that, in some places, solar already doesn’t need subsidies to be competitive. Tesla unveiled its PowerWall battery, which promises to mainstream home power storage, particularly power generated from rooftop panels. And there were nascent services to share power, opening up the possibility of a more decentralized, less hierarchical grid.

Meanwhile, solar started to appear in more places: on bike paths, roadside barriers, and windows, to name a few examples. These projects showed that meeting the twin demands of global warming and global energy access is possible, even if we’ll have to rely on fossil fuels for a few years yet.

1. Portland’s New Pipes Harvest Power From Drinking Water
Turn on the tap and you’re getting water and energy for the price of one.

2. This Ingenious $20 Lamp Gets All Its Energy From Gravity
Three years ago, GravityLight raised a ton of money through crowdfunding. Then it was time to actually make it work.

3. With This Airbnb For Energy, Now You Can Buy Solar Power From Your Neighbor
The sharing economy meets renewable energy.

4. These Hilarious Inflated Backpacks Are Actually Delivering Cheap Local Energy To The Rural Poor
The idea could allow villagers to invest in expensive machines that turn manure into energy—and share the results.

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5. Tesla Now Has An Energy Division, And It’s Making Batteries To Power Your House
The PowerWall will store excess solar energy, take power from the grid when it’s cheapest, and provide back-up power in emergencies.

Tony Win for Fast Company

5. You Don’t Need An Energy Company When You Can Buy Power From Your Friends
Utility companies are getting disrupted as people sell each other their energy, without the middleman.

6. The World Could Run Entirely On Wind, Solar, And Hydro Power By 2050
We can fully get rid of fossil fuels quickly, if countries can just find the political will.

7. This Power Plant In Australia Is The First Ever To Send Energy From Waves Into The Grid
Waves are reliable and powerful. But only now is the world beginning to look at their true potential as a source for renewable energy.

8. Why Nebraska Is The Country’s Worst State For Clean Energy
The best and worst states for clean energy investment, policy, and technology.

9. These Beautiful, Translucent Barriers Quiet Traffic—And Generate Power At The Same Time
Driving the Dutch highways just got a lot more colorful.

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10. This Outlet Adapter Lets You Run All Your Gadgets On Solar Power

Now you can power your iPhone from the sun, even if you can’t afford solar panels.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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