Sustainable Energy

From chewing to coffee: Ways to power the planet

Digital Light Source | UIG | Getty Images

Since the start of the year, Sustainable Energy has looked at new and exciting ways to energize the world's economy. Here, we select nine of the most innovative projects that are transforming the way we think about energy today and offering a glimpse into the future.

By Anmar Frangoul, Special to

Solar Kiosk:

MOVE Systems

An NYC company has developed a food cart that could revolutionize the mobile catering industry. MOVE Systems' cart, the MRV100, has a hybrid system that uses solar, natural gas and battery power.

"MOVE is built around a vision of greening the urban environment and creating a platform for small business success," James Meeks, President and CEO of MOVE Systems, told CNBC via email.

The company says its cart cuts down generator noise by half and decreases climate change emissions by two-thirds.

M-KOPA Solar:

M-KOPA Solar | Georgina Goodwin

Nairobi-based M-KOPA Solar uses the cell phone to offer people solar power on a "pay-as-you-go" basis. In May, the company announced that 200,000 homes in East Africa had been "powered up" using its technology.

"We are pushing hard to grow even faster and reach our goal of one million homes by the end of 2017," Jesse Moore, co-founder and managing director of M-KOPA, said at the time.

Celtic Renewables:

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

A Scottish start-up is using the by-products of whisky to create a cutting-edge biofuel.

The process was developed by Celtic Renewables, which uses the draff and pot ale from whisky production to produce three main products: acetone, ethanol and butanol.

"Biobutanol is on a par with petrol, it's energy equivalent virtually to petrol," Mark Simmers, CEO of Celtic Renewables, told CNBC in February. "A liter of butanol would take you pretty much… the same distance as a liter of petrol."

Solar Puff:

Solight Design

A flat pack, foldable, solar-powered light, the Solar Puff was conceived and designed by New York City's Solight Design.

Weighing just under three ounces and water-resistant, the Solar Puff is designed for off-grid communities and can also be deployed in disaster zones.

"There's a button that gives off a low setting of light, a high setting of light, and a blinking setting, which is also a distress signal," Alice Min Soo Chun, co-founder and chief product officer of Solight Design, told CNBC in February.


Wessex Water | Julian James

In England, the Bio-Bus - sometimes dubbed the "poop bus" - is causing something of a stir.

Seating up to 40 passengers and powered by biomethane produced from human sewage and food waste, the bus highlights the potential of biofuels.

"People think it's a really wonderful idea: this thought that you can do something positive with human waste," James Freeman, managing director of bus operator First West of England, told CNBC in February.

"The thought you can do something with all that sludge really appeals to people."


Joe Raedle | Getty Images

London-based company bio-bean is turning something that many of us can't live without – coffee – into a sustainable, renewable biofuel.

"We've industrialized the process of turning waste coffee grounds into a bio-diesel and a biomass pellet product," bio-bean Co-Founder and CEO Arthur Kay told CNBC in January.

He went on to add that the bio fuels produced by his company were 100 percent carbon neutral.

Mobile Hydro:

Mobile Hydro

Hydropower is described by the International Energy Agency as, "the largest single renewable electricity source today, providing 16 percent of world electricity at competitive prices."

Germany-based Mobile Hydro have developed Rotor, a low-cost kinetic hydro-power plant that uses the flow of rivers to generate electricity.

"Our goal is to provide the cheapest available source of energy for these off-grid regions," Andreas Zeiselmair, a member of the Mobile Hydro team, told CNBC.

Chew and generate electricity:

nyul | Getty Images

Researchers in Canada have found that chewing can be turned into a source of electricity. The result? A headset and chin strap that harvests energy whenever we move our jaws.

Aidin Delnavaz, research associate at Montreal's École de Technologie Supérieure, told CNBC that the strap could eventually generate around seven milliwatts, which, "in the scale of the small electronic devices is really huge."


Wolfgang Kaehler | LightRocket | Getty Images

London-based Desolenator has developed technology that uses solar energy to turn salt water into clean, drinkable water.

William Janssen, founder and CEO of Desolenator, told CNBC in May that the device will cost less than £500 ($767).

"This device is affordable and it can be installed for any family… (who) would have enough water for their drinking and cooking needs on a daily basis," Jansenn told CNBC.

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