Will Snow Be Used in the Future for Renewable Energy?
Winter can be a beautiful season. There’s nothing like cozying up indoors while you watch the snow come down outside. Whether or not you love the cold, we can all agree that our electric bills can be downright ugly when chilly weather arrives.
It turns out that we might be able to use snow for energy. This feat would allow homes and businesses to generate clean power from a previously overlooked renewable resource — and save some money in the process.
Scientists Make a Discovery
In 2019, University of California Los Angeles scientists created a device called a snow TENG, or snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, made from silicone. This technology relies on static electricity, which occurs when a material gives electrons to a material that receives them. It’s usually triggered by friction.
How does snow come into play? This substance has a naturally positive charge. Therefore, you can pair it with anything with a negative charge to create electricity — such as silicone. The snow TENG pairs these two items to generate power.
There are other advantages to the snow TENG, too. It can calculate weather conditions, like snowfall and temperature averages. Those features will help users gauge how much electricity the system can generate in any given timeframe.
These scientists hope to install the snow TENG inside solar panels so houses and businesses can save money on energy in the summer and winter.
Benefits of Snow as a Power Source
It’s unclear how long we’ll have to wait until devices like the snow TENG are mass-produced. Currently, it can’t generate enough energy to power entire buildings. It’ll take continuous innovation to build a scalable system.
However, we should still celebrate such an accomplishment. Researchers have discovered a way to 3D-print a cheap yet durable renewable energy solution. This feat, alongside other clean power initiatives worldwide, offers a glimpse at a healthier environment.
If you consider that yearly global snowfall levels amount to over 17 million square miles, you can clearly see why the snow TENG makes sense. It’s a renewable resource exactly like sunlight, water and heat. Though atmospheric temperatures are on the rise, we can still expect to experience snow across the U.S. and around the world for the foreseeable future.
What New Possibilities Would Mean
There’s a significant need for alternatives to fossil fuels. Possibilities like wind, geothermal and hydropower currently exist as methods to generate clean energy. That said, we should strive to make discoveries. If we have various choices, we won’t be as limited — and as a result, we can move away from gas and coal quicker.
There are obstacles in creating renewable energy — from cost to location to infrastructure. That’s why we have to find solutions that are affordable and accessible. Clean power isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Let’s say you live in the rural Northeast. If you wanted to switch to renewable energy, you might be able to choose between solar and geothermal sources — but geothermal systems are costly and labor-intensive. Therefore, you might decide on solar panels, which can be negatively impacted by heavy snowfall. That’s when you’d need the snow TENG.
If we can keep making scientific progress, we should be able to increase how many households and businesses can realistically utilize clean power.
Innovation Requires Every Resource to Create a Healthier Planet
As scientists make discoveries, we can look toward a better future for the Earth. Climate change will remain an issue for years to come. However, we have a better shot at making renewable energy more widespread due to innovations like the snow TENG.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of
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