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This Month in Renewable Energy History - October Edition

Throughout history, the month of October has witnessed commendable achievements, innovations, and milestones that have left an enduring mark on the renewable energy industry. Let’s journey through time and celebrate some key events.

  • 2022: Two Intergovernmental Organisations Awarded Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity

The Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity was jointly awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

These two organisations were chosen from among 116 nominations representing 41 nationalities across 5 continents. Their recognition stemmed from their significant contributions to the generation of scientific knowledge and their invaluable role in advising policymakers on addressing climate change and losses in biodiversity.

The IPCC, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, is a United Nations body established in 1998. Its primary mission is to facilitate the generation of scientific knowledge related to assessing the impacts of human activities on the climate. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in assisting governments in their decision-making processes and in implementing measures to combat climate change.

IPBES, established in 2012 as an independent intergovernmental organisation, focuses on bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and political decision-makers. Its core objectives revolve around issues related to biodiversity conservation, ecosystem protection, human well-being, and sustainability.

  • 2016: Researchers Improve Hydrogen Electrolysis Process

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU), led by professors Yuehe Lin and Scott Beckman, achieved a significant breakthrough in hydrogen production through electrolysis, developing an affordable catalyst that often-outperformed precious metal catalysts typically used in the process.

The WSU team’s catalyst, which incorporated nanoparticles of copper into a cobalt-based framework, exhibited superior electrical conductivity compared to its commercial counterparts, demonstrating excellent oxygen production capabilities and comparable rates of hydrogen production.

Widespread adoption of water-splitting technology had been hindered by the costs associated with precious metal catalysts, such as platinum or ruthenium, and many electrolysis methods consumed excessive amounts of energy or suffered from rapid material degradation. Consequently, industries leaned toward fossil-fuel-based hydrogen production methods, contributing to harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Green hydrogen, as opposed to fossil fuels, utilises surplus renewable energy during the electrolysis process, resulting in the emission-free production of oxygen and hydrogen. The WSU catalyst contributed to conversations concerning the viability of green hydrogen as an efficient energy storage solution to address the intermittency of renewable energy generation.

  • 2014 - Researchers Behind Blue LEDs Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura for inventing energy-efficient and environmentally friendly blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs.) Although red and green LEDs have been available since the 1960s, the development of blue LEDs proved to be a significantly challenging task, with the difficulties stemming from the need to create high quality gallium nitride crystals and combining them with other elements to increase their efficiency.

Blue LEDs have since been integrated into the displays of most touchscreen devices and are used to activate a phosphor that emits white light in the camera flashes of most modern smartphones.

  • 1974 - Energy Reorganisation Act Signed

U.S President Gerald Ford signs the Energy Reorganisation Act, abolishing the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and establishing the Energy Research and Development Administration (now known as the Department of Energy) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  • 1941 - World’s First Megawatt-sized Turbine Is Built

The Smith-Putnam wind turbine was built and connected to the grid in Castleton, Vermont, U.S, generating power for thousands of U.S citizens living in Champlain Valley. The turbine operated intermittently for 5 years, enduring wind speeds of up to 115 miles per hour. In March of 1945, a blade weighing 8 tonnes broke off from the turbine, flying a distance of 750 feet and landing on its tip.