9 Ways smart cities can use renewable resources
Imagine a place where the streetlights automatically illuminate your path and turn off as you walk away, or where ghostly-quiet buses produce no emissions. Smart cities make the most of technology to run as efficiently as possible. By using solar and wind energy, they can power everything from air quality monitors to driving apps that help people park. Here are nine ways smart cities can use renewable resources and why it matters.
Why Should Cities Use Renewable Resources?
Cities account for almost 80% of the world’s energy usage and produce over 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, making the switch to renewable energy in cities would have an enormous positive impact on climate change.
Smart cities measure their energy output to help determine supply and demand. This way, energy is produced, stored, and distributed more efficiently. They use solar panels and wind turbines to power things like:
1. Smart Street Lights
Adjusting their brightness at specific times, these automatic lights save money and create a more comfortable atmosphere. Instead of staying bright all night long – which contributes to light pollution and wastes energy – smart lights change based on current conditions.
They can get brighter as needed, such as when people walk underneath or when cars are approaching. Police departments and traffic officers can even turn the lights up during an emergency to improve visibility. But these lamps use the least amount of power necessary to do their job. Solar panels and wind turbines power smart streetlights, which saves money on wiring and infrastructure costs.
2. Garbage Sensors
Garbage trucks spend a lot of time and energy picking up half-empty dumpsters. What if, instead, they knew exactly which dumpsters to empty at a given time? Trash sensors can tell how full the cans are, which reduces wasted time, fuel, and carbon emissions. It also makes neighborhoods quieter, since the trucks won’t have to spend so long in one part of town at a time.
3. Driving Apps
Instead of driving in circles looking for an elusive parking spot, drivers can use apps connected to parking lot sensors that detect empty spaces. The apps can then guide drivers to a vacant spot. Other types of apps tell drivers where electric vehicle charging stations are, reducing electricity usage and helping traffic flow more smoothly.
4. Weather Sensors
Many sprinkler systems run on a timer that doesn’t take weather factors into account. They often end up watering plants in the heat of the day, leading to burns on the leaves and massive water loss through evaporation.
But smart weather sensors attached to sprinklers and hoses can adjust watering schedules according to temperature and precipitation. By automatically watering plants at the ideal times, these sensors can reduce water usage and optimize plant health.
5. Smart Utilities
Energy and water utilities connected by devices across the grid can gather more info than traditional meters. Such devices include smart meters and solar instrumentation. This helps them deliver services more reliably and in a way that saves energy.
These smart utilities can help make cities more sustainable, healthier for the people who live there, and more responsive to man-made and natural events. They allow people to make energy purchases in real-time, monitor energy usage day-by-day, save power, and rapidly connect or disconnect from the grid. Meter readers will no longer have to physically travel to a meter to get a reading, since it will always display the current electricity usage.
6. Smart Charging Stations
Smart charging stations share a data connection with the electric vehicles that use them. The charging station is also connected to a smart charging operator and the whole system is connected to the cloud.
This allows the person overseeing the charging station to manage and restrict the use of the station remotely, with the goal being to optimize energy usage. They can encourage charging during periods of low electricity demand.
Smart chargers can also lower the charging cost for EV drivers. Coupled with more widespread charging infrastructure, this makes it easier and more reliable for people to drive electric vehicles. This is a crucial component of decarbonization efforts.
7. Smart Heating and Cooling Systems
Because buildings use so much energy in the form of heating and cooling, they’re an important piece of the sustainability puzzle. In the United States, commercial buildings alone account for 35% of the country’s electricity. That doesn’t include homes.
That’s where smart HVAC systems come in. Using sensors that collect data in real-time and send it to a cloud-based platform, energy suppliers can assess energy usage at different times of the day and throughout the year. This can play a key role in reducing costs and preventing energy waste.
Another feature of smart heating and cooling systems is the ability to detect excess vibration, drops in efficiency, or other problems before people even notice. This allows technicians to quickly identify and solve issues with the HVAC system. Over time, this saves a lot of money in the form of reduced energy and replacement costs.
Smart HVAC systems can also automatically adjust the temperature based on whether the building is occupied and which rooms are in use. AI technology can learn and improve its heating and cooling programs over time.
8. Electric or Biogas-Based Public Transportation
Smart cities powered by wind and solar energy can charge electric buses and trains for public use. As opposed to combustion engine vehicles, EVs produce no emissions and they’re virtually silent. Some cities have even adopted electric garbage trucks.
Biogas is another eco-friendly way smart cities can power vehicles. In Sweden, for example, smart cities use biogas as fuel for cars, trucks, and buses. Biogas can come from slaughterhouse waste, manure, sewage, or the food industry.
9. Air Quality Monitors
Smart air monitors installed in various spots in the city allow city planners to make infrastructure and policy planning decisions. These monitors can detect several environmental conditions, such as air pollution, dust, odors, and weather. Authorities can then look at the data to determine trends.
For example, if a certain traffic intersection is severely polluted, city planners might decide to build an alternate route to relieve congestion and improve air quality. The monitors also allow officials to quickly put out advisory messages suggesting people stay indoors or wear masks on a very dusty day.
Renewables Are Powering the Future
Wind, solar, and biogas-based energy enable smart cities to advance technologically. By tapping into renewable resources, these connected, data-driven cities can improve the lives of everyone who lives there and help the planet in the process.