by Jeff Roberts |
“Do you want to use your green roof to power your house? Would you like to see each wetland and rice paddy field in the world turned into a power plant without harvesting the plants?“
These are the questions to which Dutch start-up company, Plant-e, have the answers. Founded in 2009as a spin-off from the sub-department of Environmental Technology of Wageningen University, the company is headed by CEO Marjolein Helder, PhD., and assistant professor David Strik, a team aiming to provide renewable energy to areas of the world that have no access to electricity, which is about 1.4 billion people currently.
Their concept is simple yet incredible, and this is how it works:
When a plant creates food using photosynthesis, a large portion of the organic matter generated is actually excreted by the roots into the soil. That same organic matter then gets consumed by microorganisms living in the soil, which release electrons as a byproduct of this consumption. By placing an electrode near the roots, it then becomes easy to harvest this waste energy and turn it into electricity.
In addition, the plants are left unharmed during the entire process. In fact, tests show that the plants will continue to grow normally in the presence of electrodes, providing a constant source of power day and night. Combined with lamps powered by salt water, off-grid locations may have access to sustainable energy sooner than predicted, and areas unsuitable for growing crops could be repurposed as a power source!