On Nature: Energy Innovation

David Voigts.

I am convinced that the way out of our climate mess is through the development of new technologies and processes that may be aided by the government providing funds for research and development.

For example, I have read about a couple of emerging technologies that may help reduce our need for fossil fuels. In the online pv magazine (https://www.pv-magazine.com), there was an article about a floating “artificial leaf” that uses solar energy to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. So far, only small, prototype devices have been tested, but they have the potential to be scaled up for commercial fuel production. The advantage of using a floating device to produce hydrogen fuel is that land use is minimized.

In another study, researchers at Arizona State University are evaluating the fast-growing miscanthus grass to produce aviation fuel. They have shown that enough miscanthus can be grown on marginal farmland to meet the U.S. aviation’s liquid fuel needs. Additionally, since miscanthus is a perennial that would be grown on marginal land, it would be more profitable than existing uses.

Both of these technologies are a long way from commercial deployment, but they are examples of how innovation may save the day.

David Voigts is a retired ecologist and the current Conservation Chair for the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society. He is a Tama County native, graduating from Dinsdale High School, and lives in rural Jesup on his wife’s family farm.