Future of Energy Future of Energy

Meet Eight Young Energy Innovators With Ingenious Ideas

From community “solar gardens” to energy pellets made from coffee grounds to a phone-charging device that you plug into soil

David Amster-Olszewski, founder of SunShare, at one of the "solar gardens" his company built in Colorado (Helen Richardson, Denver Post)
smithsonian.com

Inspiration can come from the oddest places. As often as not, the spark may occur during an otherwise mundane moment. But the difference between the truly inventive and the rest of us is that is that inventors zero in on something they've noticed and we don't give that something a second thought.

So it is with these eight young innovators. One man's business was inspired by a comment from his mother. Another developed his great idea after staring into a cup of day-old coffee, a third while standing next to a racetrack, still another while watching how fish swim in a school. Then there are the three Chilean women whose "Aha!" moment came when all of their cell phones ran out of juice. 

Inna Braverman: Catching Waves

(Inna Braverman, Eco Wave Power)

When it to comes to sources of renewable energy, the wind and sun get most of the attention. Ocean waves, not so much. 

Inna Braverman wants to change that. 

She’s the 29-year-old founder and marketing director of Eco Wave Power, an Israeli company that has become a world leader in shaping the technology that allows companies to harvest the power of the sea. There’s clearly plenty of potential in wave power since the ocean is always moving. It's based on converting the motion of waves into pressure, which spins a generator to produce electricity. A wave farm that takes up less than half a square mile of ocean could, in theory, generate enough electricity for 20,000 households. 

But it’s a technology with its share of hurdles, including the cost, and concerns that transmission lines that transport the energy created by waves might harm marine life. There’s also the challenge of designing buoys that can efficiently capture the full power of wave movement.

After developing and testing different designs for several years—a project Braverman coordinated—Eco Wave Power created two devices, called the “Wave Clapper” and the “Power Wing,” which, it says, can automatically adjust to the different height of waves so they can generate energy more consistently. They also have sensors that can detect approaching storms and adjust the height of the floats so they’re out of harm’s way.

In late May, those innovative wave catchers were rolled out in the real world, installed on a small jetty along the coast of Gibraltar. It’s the first wave power station connected to an electrical grid in Europe. The next Eco Wave Power station will likely be installed off the coast of China, where the company is partnering with the Ocean University of China.  

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