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Green innovations go head to head

It’s been a while since we had a round-up of the more offbeat energy ideas looking to make a breakthrough into mainstream consciousness. In the past we have had solar trees and kinetic energy-harnessing footballs and dance floors, so with that kind of creativity as a precedent, the stakes are high.

High stakes, in fact, are a good place to start, as this year’s James Dyson Award shortlist of twenty has just been announced – with some notable renewable energy presence.

First up, Xarius - essentially a portable wind turbine on a rope, suitable for recharging electrical devices. A deceptively simple idea, but also one which could have a really promising future with both people who live off-grid permanently, and outdoorsy-types who like to do so on a temporary basis.

We’ve taken a look at Scotland’s huge oceanic renewable energy potential on the blog before, but another of the nominees for the engineering and design prize looks to tap this in a more significant way with their technology. The multi-axis wave energy converter was developed in the Orkneys, and its focus is on making the most of the peaks and troughs of wilder seas.

One of the great energy inefficiencies of the kitchen is the heat lost in refrigeration. Oltu, Spain’s entry for the overall prize, looks to harness all that waste heat from the back of your fridge and use it to cool vegetables in a container on the top via evaporation.

Elsewhere, the English football team may have to wait a little while before they get to jet off to Brazil, but an English start-up company is setting off now, touting its slightly leftfield addition to the field of wind power as part of a UK trade mission.

Kite Power Solutions unsurprisingly offers to harness the wind using, yes, you’ve guessed it, kites – two of them, to be specific - attached to a generator on the ground. They think it might be of interest to outdoor workers in some of many remote Brazilian locations. We have touched upon turbines on tethers before (Google's bought into the idea) so it looks like this idea faces equally tough competition to those vying for the £30,000 Dyson Award.

While money is tight in many countries, it’s good to know that innovators are still looking to flourish – and crucially, are pointing their creative gazes at more efficient and sensible ways of doing things; whether that’s off-grid, on-grid, at sea or in the kitchen.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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