Elk Trout

Dedicating to keeping our sport clean

February 26, 2015
by Elk Trout

Understanding Clean Energy Technologies

Scientists have developed several clean energy technologies that can help the world reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Making these technologies successful, however, will require investments from entrepreneurs willing to look toward the future of energy production.

Understanding what each type of clean energy technology offers could help you find opportunities to support companies exploring this exciting new area of the energy industry.

Biogas Energy

Organic materials produce a wide variety of gases as they break down. Landfills can harvest gases like methane and burn it to create electricity. Burning these gases may raise some concerns among environmentalists, but it is certainly a safer approach than burning fossil fuels taken from the ground.

Farmers can also harness biogas energy by collecting methane and carbon dioxide from manure and compost.

Biogas is a renewable resource that makes up a small percentage of the world’s energy production. It may develop into a useful way for communities to produce more of their electricity locally, which would help reduce the need for large infrastructure that can cost a lot of money and use significant resources.

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy, also called biofuel, is a renewable type of energy generated from living organisms instead of fossil fuels. This has become an increasingly popular option in the United States, where farmers now raise soybeans, corn, sugarcane, and other crops specifically for energy purposes.

Bioethanol is probably the most widely used type of biofuel. Bioethanol is most commonly used as a fuel additive. In its pure form, however, it can power combustion engine vehicles on its own.

Biomass energy is a renewable energy, but it raises some concerns among critics who want to use farmland for raising food.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy uses heat from the earth to generate electricity. There are currently about 24 countries using geothermal energy. The United States produces nearly 30% of the world’s geothermal power.

The availability of geothermal energy depends greatly on location. Harnessing the power requires access to the earth’s heat and protection from seismic activity that can damage equipment. Many geothermal plants are located along fault lines. The world’s largest geothermal energy producer sits about 72 miles north of San Francisco, where a system of natural geysers makes it relatively easy to access heat.

Understanding Clean Energy Technologies


Hydropower can include any technology that uses water movement to generate electricity. In most cases, the term refers to hydroelectric dams. Hydropower is also generated by using the kinetic energy of rivers and ocean waves. Other hydropower technologies include:

  • Pumped Storage – An approach that involves using electricity to pump water to higher elevations. When power demands increase, the water is allowed to flow downhill. This moves turbines to generate more electricity. Some researchers describe this as a natural battery that stores electricity for future use.
  • Conduit – Conduit hydropower relies on turbines placed within irrigation canals and other existing water infrastructures. There are already numerous natural and manmade canals in the world that offer opportunities for generating electricity without damaging the environment.
  • Small Hydro – Instead of relying on large dams that can pose some environmental hazards, small hydro technology relies on minimal infrastructure and redesigning existing dams so that they work in coordination with local ecosystems. Many experts expect small hydro to become one of the fastest growing sectors within the energy industry.

Environmentalists often support hydropower because it uses naturally occurring kinetic energy to generate electricity. The energy is already there in the flow of rivers, streams, and ocean waves. Engineers just have to build efficient turbines to capture that energy and turn it into electricity.

Understanding Clean Energy Technologies

Solar Energy

Solar energy will almost certainly become a significant source of municipal and privately generated energy over the next few decades. The technology has evolved quickly, making it an affordable energy source for people living in places that receive abundant sunlight throughout the year. Improved battery technology could also make solar energy a useful option for communities in a wider variety of climates.

Innovative companies have developed numerous ways to harness the sun’s power. Some of the most promising types of solar panels include single silicon, multi-silicon, building integrated photovoltaic, and solar thermal.

  • Single Silicon – Single silicon panels are extremely efficient, but fairly expensive because they contain such high amounts of silicon. Many of the solar panels installed on building roofs are single silicon designs.
  • Multi-silicon – Multi-silicon panels are slightly less efficient than single silicon panels, but they are less expensive. This makes them a good option for homeowners who value energy independence but do not want to spend too much money on equipment and installation.
  • Building Integrated Photovoltaic – One of the most exciting developments in clean energy technology. Building integrated photovoltaic panels look like regular roof tiles or shingles. This makes them an attractive option. They currently cost more and are less efficient than other solar panels, but that could change soon as more companies invest in research and development.
  • Thin Film – Another exciting option that could benefit from more research. Thin film solar panels are extremely affordable. They are not very efficient, though. Solar farms often use thin film. Some companies have also used this technology to create portable solar devices for powering smartphones and laptops.

The world will almost certainly depend on more solar energy in the upcoming decade. As fossil fuels become more problematic, solar looks like an impressive option that could meet the world’s energy needs without causing much pollution.

Wind Energy

Wind energy converts the kinetic energy of flowing air into electricity. Wind farms have become a popular way to generate low-cost electricity, especially in open spaces where wind can blow freely. The most efficient wind farms are actually located off shore, where the wind can reach high speeds without interference from buildings, forests, or mountains.

Denmark currently leads the world in wind energy production. The country relies on wind turbines to generate about a third of its electricity.

No one knows what types of clean energy technologies scientists will develop in the near future, but they will add to the current arsenal that helps people wean themselves off fossil fuels.

February 6, 2015
by Elk Trout

Aquaculture Taking Steps Toward Sustainability

Some environments want to restrict the number of operating fisheries because they can contribute to water contamination. The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) is taking a different approach by encouraging farmers to use more sustainable processes.

SFP is using funds from the Wal-Mart Foundation to improvement aquaculture around the world, especially in places like China, Thailand, and Indonesia, where loose regulations make it harder for farmers to understand what practices could harm the environment.

Meeting Global Food Demands

While some environmentalists want to give up on certain types of aquaculture, others believe that small fisheries could help solve the world’s growing need for nutritious, high-protein foods. Pushing the industry towards sustainability should create a secure food source that discourages over-fishing oceans.

The SFP programs will focus on improving conditions at existing fisheries. It will also extend the program’s reach to about 2,000 more farmers in Asia. Farmers who receive training will learn how to raise shrimp, fish, and other seafood without damaging local ecosystems. The programs should also give farmers more opportunities to earn money that will sustain economic health in developing countries.

Aquaculture Taking Steps Toward Sustainability

Small Fisheries Benefit Women

Some experts believe that the economic benefits will help women gain equality in underdeveloped countries. About a third of farmers in these areas are women. Financial independence could help them break down some of the barriers that have prevented them from having equal privilege.

Funds from the Wal-Mart Foundation will support existing educational programs while helping SFP develop a Code of Good Practice that will direct farmers to make eco-friendly choices.

January 26, 2015
by Elk Trout

Netherlands Builds the World’s First Solar Bike Path

The Dutch people love riding bikes. Some experts estimate that over 25% of trips in the Netherlands take place on bikes. Now, the country has taken its eco-friendly stance on commuting to a new level by building the world’s first solar bike path.

Resilient Solar Panels

Dutch scientists working on the path quickly realized that they couldn’t use regular solar panels. Bike and foot traffic would destroy them quickly. This presented a small problem that they solved by encasing solar cells inside two layers of tempered glass. The panels also have concrete housings to make them more stable.

Scientists also had to develop skid-resistant materials that would repel dirt, rain, and snow. If sunlight cannot reach the solar cells, then the panels cannot generate useable electricity.

Getting the Most From Solar Panel Technology

The bike path’s solar panels produce about 30% less electricity than standard panels installed on rooftops. The 230-foot bike path should generate enough electricity to power two or three houses per year.

That’s not very efficient, but it’s a step in the right direction. After testing the current design, scientists can improve the technology. Eventually, companies may develop panels that replace sidewalks, roadways, and parking lots. That could generate huge amounts of power for urban areas.

Don’t expect to see solar roads pop up in your neighborhood this year. A decade from now, though, some cities may start to think seriously about whether replacing conventional roads with solar panels could solve pressing problems like heat deserts and air pollution.

January 14, 2015
by Elk Trout

More Fisheries Needed to Meet Demand

Increased demand from consumers has put considerable strain on fish living in open waters. Fisheries make it possible for farmers to meet that demand without harming wild populations. The demand, however, keeps growing. This makes it important for more farmers to explore how they might use aquaculture to grow seafood.

The situation has become so dire that the U.N. recently acknowledged that record-high demands for seafood threaten the health of the world’s oceans. The increased demand is not going to disappear. As more countries become developed, their people want access to nutritious, high-protein foods. Fish satisfies those dietary requirements.

The market can respond in one of two ways. Either the price of fish can go up to make it more difficult for people to purchase fish, or more fisheries can start producing more food to meet the demand.

Letting prices escalate would have undesirable consequences for the health of people and the environment. If people cannot purchase fish, then they will likely turn to other meats, including beef and pork. Raising cattle is an extremely inefficient use of resources that would likely add pollution to the atmosphere and water.

Opening more fisheries could satisfy the need for nutritious food while limiting harmful effects on the environment. Farmers have a lot of control over aquaculture. They can control what types of fish they raise, what types of food they feed they fish, and how they dispose of waste.

Consumers can help push the market in the right direction by choosing seafood raised in captivity instead of those pulled from the world’s struggling oceans.

December 15, 2014
by Elk Trout

Investments in Clean Energy Still Rising

Falling oil prices have raised concerns that investors might turn their attention away from clean energy. Investors, after all, dedicate their money to projects that will turn profits. Lower oil prices could mean that consumers will become more reliant on gasoline than clean, renewable fuels.

Luckily, a recent investigation into renewable energy investments shows that entrepreneurs have not been sidetracked by falling oil prices. Investments in clean energy continue to grow.

Investments in Clean Energy Still Rising

Clean Energy Investments Beating Expectations

Given that the world has had difficulty recovering from a recession that hurt job growth, one would expect to see lower investments in emerging industries like clean energy. The opposite is true. A recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report shows that investments have actually beat expectations. During 2004, entrepreneurs invested about $60.2 billion in clean energy. That amount reached an astounding $310 billion in 2014.

Investments in Clean Energy Still Rising

Investments dip fall slightly during 2012 and 2013, but they recovered by the end of 014. Perhaps most importantly, investments from APAC investors have never been higher. In 2011, APAC investors spent $99 billion on clean energy development. They spent $154 billion in 2014.

Clean Energy Prices Falling Faster Than Oil Prices

Investors have likely devoted more money to clean energy because the prices of solar and wind energies have fallen faster than oil prices. As clean energy technology becomes more efficient, companies are able to sell electricity at lower prices than ever. The lower prices also come from increased interest in renewable energies. As more countries invest public money in green energy exploration, the industry continues to grow.

This creates a unique opportunity for investors to enter the industry without much risk. As long as governments understand the importance of clean energy, entrepreneurs will keep spending money to make the technology better.

Falling prices may seem like a bad thing for investors. The situation could cause them to lose money, but the demand for energy is growing so rapidly that lower prices mean that investors get a faster return coupled with higher profits.

The Future is Green

Developing countries have a collective thirst for energy that will eventually make fossil fuels too expensive, not to mention dirty, to use. Currently, countries like China and India can take advantage of abundant oil reserves. Smart entrepreneurs know that this cannot last forever. The world has a limited amount of oil. That puts a limit on how long prices will remain low. Once oil becomes more scarce, prices will become too expensive for developing countries to afford.

China has already pledge to focus on renewable energy production. The country expects to about 20% of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2030. Investors paying attention to global politics recognize this as an opportunity to make money. Someone has to give China the tools it needs to meet that goal. Those who stake ground in renewable energy now stand to make the most money as even more countries commit to using more energy from renewable sources instead of relying on fossil fuels.