Note: These are just my favorites… if your favorite isn’t on the list, leave a comment…
The muscle car of energy efficiency. Combined heat and power isn’t sexy… it’s just using the “waste” heat from your powerplant for some useful purpose. Like cooking your lunch on you car radiator, but using every bit of waste heat you can… Combined heat and power can use 90% of the power in your fuel source for useful work. And now you can have it in your home.
They’re tall, they’re low-tech, and they’re baseload power. They don’t pollute, and the fuel is free. What’s not to like?
It’s cheaper to store heat than electricity, and molten salts can store a ton of BTu’s very cheaply. And concentrating solar power can produce a ton of heat… without pollution or fuel.
7. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
More lumens per watt… now that’s energy efficiency.
Our energy efficient cars can make the electric grid work better.
The two technologies that have real hope of replacing gasoline and diesel as liquid fuel for our cars… We’ll still need massive efficiency gains and Plug-in-Hybrids to reduce our total fuel use, but even with those, corn ethanol and biodiesel from traditional oil crops just can’t produce enough volume.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. To make the best use of wind power, we can store power until it is needed, or we can give people incentives to use it when it is available.
Time of use pricing is also a great boon for solar, because solar energy tends to be available near times of peak demand.
Finally, time of use pricing shaves peak demand, which means that we can delay building new fossil fired generation, while renewables get cheaper by the year.
2. Terra Preta
Discovered by aboriginals in Brazil, thousands of years before Columbus, mixing carbon into unproductive soils can make them much more productive… and the carbon stays there for thousands of years. Using charcoal dust as a fertilizer not only holds the hope of a replacement for fertilizer based on fossil fuels, but it is also an easy way to sequester carbon.
Where else can you get a 1000% payback with little or no risk?