The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
What's growing in your garden? Whatever it is, it's more likely to be powering your dinner than your cell phone or your lights. But you could be doing that, thanks to a startup company in Wageningen, Netherlands that's discovered a way to utilize energy from plants that's renewable because the plant isn't consumed in the process.
Plant-e was founded in 2009 by David Strik, an assistant professor at Wageningen University, and Marjolein Helder, who serves as its CEO. The idea for the business—which develops and markets products that turn energy from living plants into usable electricity—came as Helder was researching plant energy for her masters degree in environmental technology at the university.
"The technology enables us to produce electricity from living plants at practically every site where plants can grow," says Plant-e's promotion. "The technology is based on natural processes and is safe for both the plant and its environment."
As you probably learned in elementary school science class, plants produce organic matter via photosynthesis which they use for food, excreting the excess into the soil where microorganisms break it down into energy. It's that energy that Plant-e's technology harnesses by providing an electrode to harvest it. Their research has shown this doesn't impact the plant, which continues to grow.
And Plant-e's concept isn't just some pie-in-the-sky dream. It's already got products available to charge your cell phone or create a WiFi hotspot with a modular system containing both the growing plants and the technology to collect the energy. And it's developed a system you can put on your roof to generate electricity for your home, although that's not commercially available yet.
"You can reduce the electricity costs of your building by delivering the electricity to the grid or use the generated electricity directly to provide a charging station for mobile phones on your roof terrace with green, clean energy," they say.
Plant-e also markets what they call their "DIY-Box," an educational kit intended for classrooms to demonstrate how the technology works. The class can assemble the plant batteries and hook them up to power an LED light. That's bound to be more exciting that the average school science fair experiment.
There are drawbacks, of course. The technology is still too small-scale to produce large amounts of energy so it won't be competing with solar or wind anytime soon. And it won't work when the ground freezes, creating some obstacles in colder climates. But they're working on a tubular system they hope will be the next generation of their technology for use in wet areas such as peat land, mangroves, rice paddies and delta areas, making it feasible to bring electricity to off-the-grid areas in developing countries. They expect to install pilot projects this year and have the system in production in 2016-2017.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Europe is gearing up for another extreme heat wave that could set all-time records for several European countries.
Micro-Naps for Plants: Flicking the Lights on and off Can Save Energy Without Hurting Indoor Agriculture Harvests
By Kevin M. Folta
A nighttime arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport flies you over the bright pink glow of vegetable production greenhouses. Growing crops under artificial light is gaining momentum, particularly in regions where produce prices can be high during seasons when sunlight is sparse.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) former head of the Office of Air and Radiation who was instrumental in drafting policies that eased climate protection rules and pollution standards is under investigation by a federal watchdog for his dealings with the fossil fuel industry he was supposed to be regulating, according to the New York Times.
It's no secret that the Trump administration has championed fossil fuels and scoffed at renewable energy. But the Trump administration is trying to keep something secret: the climate crisis. That's according to a new analysis from the watchdog group Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) who found that more than a quarter of the references to climate change on .gov websites vanished.
By Adrienne Hollis
Climate change is a threat multiplier. This is a fact I know to be true. I also know that our most vulnerable populations, particularly environmental justice communities — people of color and/or low socioeconomic status — are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the adverse effects of climate change. Case in point? Extreme heat.