10 creative concepts for energy

Urine and excrement

Our physiological needs can be used for much more than filling our bladders and our toilets. Researchers are looking into how to transform urine and other human excrement - let's spare the details - into energy. For instance at refugee camps, this could provide lighting while solving sanitation problems. Despite the negative associations, our corporal waste may one day be our best ally.

Algae farms

It's an incipient idea that needs intense further research - but farming microalgae could be a solution to producing biofuel efficiently and sustainably. Large microalgae farms would transform sunlight and carbon dioxide into bio-ethanol. But even with optimal results, energy production would remain very low.

Harnessing gentle breezes

Moya is a lightweight, flexible sheet that can harvest low-grade wind energy in a variety of locations - that's how its inventor, South African Charlotte Slingsby, describes it. This curtain can be installed into existing infrastructure without a need for expensive facilities or land-clearing. And it doesn't harm birds or bats, like large wind turbines can.

Coconut for coal

Wood remains the main energy source in many parts of the world - and this is leading to deforestation. Coconut shells and husks may be a sustainable alternative in countries like Kenya or Cambodia. Compared to traditional wood charcoal, coconut charcoal burns longer, is cheaper and avoids felling trees. It also eases management of coconut waste - a real problem in some regions.

Fish scales and bones

Fish factories create mountains of waste every day - which could produce energy. The high fat content in the tons of fish innards, along with scales and bones not suitable for the food market, can be used to produce biodiesel. Countries such as Honduras, Brazil and Vietnam have been already experimenting with this new energy source for years - but financial issues may hinder success.

Wind turbine in camouflage

The wind tree is a French innovation imitating nature to create energy. Jerome Michaud-Lariviere, the brain behind this concept, was inspired while observing leaves on trees fluttering in the wind. The tree-like structure has 72 mini-turbines instead of leaves, and can produce enough electricity to power 15 streetlights, charge an electric car or even power a small family home.

Bust a power move

Imagine tapping the energy of every step you take - this is the concept behind smart surfaces located under dance floors, football pitches, and metro stations, among other venues around the globe. The energy harvested can power low-voltage lighting or charge electronic devices in the immediate vicinity. So now there's a new excuse to keep your body moving!

Olives into biofuel

This delicious appetizer is also the source of olive oil that is a basic part of cuisine in Mediterranean countries. But once the olive has been pressed for oil, the leftovers can have a further use: biofuel. Production of olive oil creates four times its weight in waste. The Phenolive project turns that waste into electricity and heat, in doing so completing the product lifecycle.

Mustard plant residues

Power outages are still a daily reality in many areas of the developing world. A lack of resources has pushed people to find cost-effective alternatives - and "trash" from crops stands out as a good option. Incinerating the stems and leaves from mustard plants, for instance, can provide electricity to thousands of rural homes. The ash can then be placed back in the fields as fertilizer.

Solar roadways

Sun not only makes shimmering mirages on roads - it also produces energy. The Netherlands already has a 70-meter solar bike path, and France is now following in the same track. The country plans to install 1,000 kilometers of specially designed photovoltaic solar paneling on its roads over the next five years, with the aim of expanding its renewable energy capacity.

Over the years, DW has reported on creative and sustainable ways of generating renewable energy. Now we've compiled the top concepts - which represent a boost of hope toward a more sustainable world.

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