There are flags everywhere — outside of homes, businesses and government buildings. Some even have dozens fluttering in the breeze. They look pretty and can declare someone’s loyalties to the casual observer, but other than aesthetics they don’t have many different functions — until now. Manchester University students have come up with a way to turn flags into something that can generate power while it flaps in the breeze.
A Combination of Photovoltaic and Piezoelectric Cells
Flags respond to the wind around them, flapping and fluttering in even the smallest breeze. Students at Manchester University wondered how they could translate that movement into something useful. The answer came in the form of a combination of piezoelectric cells to capture motion and flexible photovoltaic cells to capture sunlight.
Wind and sun don’t often happen together, at least not at levels that could be used to generate power. A solar panel by itself might not create a lot of energy on a windy day because the wind brings cloud cover, while a turbine might not see any movement on a sunny, clear day.
Combining the two helps to create an overlap — on a still day, a solar flag can generate power from the ambient sunlight. On a stormy day, the solar cells won’t create much energy, but a breeze can cause the flag to flap, allowing it to continue to generate power.
These power-generating flags aren’t ready for mass consumption quite yet, but this is just one example of green energy innovation that is changing how we look at power creation.
Green Energy Innovation
Solar-powered flags aren’t the only green options that are taking the energy-generation world by storm. Solar panels for homes and businesses are becoming more popular and affordable in areas that get a lot of usable sun during the day. Solar-powered chargers for small devices like phones and tablets make it easy to charge your phone even if you’re out in the wilderness.
There’s even a small device you can plug into an outlet in your home that allows you to purchase solar energy credits and request power from your utility providers. Many utility companies are already offering green energy cooperatives, where you can ask that your power comes from green sources instead of from traditional coal or fossil fuel-burning power generation.
Creating energy by burning fossil fuels is one of the most significant sources of CO2 and greenhouse gases in the country. In 2017, the power industry generated more than 1,700 million metric tons of CO2. Every kilowatt of power that is created by green innovations lowers that massive number a little bit more.
We all rely on power to charge our phones, heat our water and light our homes. That demand isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with traditional power generation that creates so many greenhouse gases. These green innovations are the first step in the right direction to move us away from fossil fuels and into a greener and eco-friendlier future.