The Next Bets for Renewable Energy
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The Next Bets for Renewable Energy

From underwater turbines to high-flying kites, companies look at innovative ways to harness traditional renewables.

By Aylin Woodward. Illustration by Kevin Hand
Thu, Mar 10, 2022 3:20pmGrey Clock 5 min

With enormous kites that pull shipping vessels across oceans using wind power, floating devices attached to jetties that generate electricity from the motion of waves hitting the shore and other new technologies, companies are looking to diversify options for harnessing familiar sources of renewable energy in innovative ways. Many of these innovations aim to overcome cost and maintenance issues associated with existing technologies.

As world leaders endorse climate goals like reaching net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions within the next 30 years, these companies are pushing to move their projects from research and development to commercial phases. The net-zero objective—balancing emissions produced and emissions removed from the atmosphere—has spurred growth in the business of sustainable energy, which generates fewer emissions than fossil fuels. Some of these possibilities, like satellites that can wirelessly beam down solar energy from orbit, remain experimental, while others, like underwater turbines that harness tidal movements, have progressed from prototypes to commercial demonstrations. Here are some of the newest developments in generating power from the air, sun, water and Earth.

AIR
Stacked Turbines

Norwegian company Wind Catching Systems is developing a roughly 1,000-foot-tall structure consisting of 126 small turbines stacked and arranged together. The plan is for this “Wind Catching unit” to sit atop a floating platform anchored to the ocean floor about 50 miles offshore. The company says the unit will be able to turn 360 degrees to capture wind from any direction and generate electricity sent via underwater transmission lines back to shore.

The unit can produce up to five times more energy using one-fifth the space of typical offshore wind farms, says CEO and co-founder Ole Heggheim. The company expects to start construction on its first commercial prototype in the North Sea in 2023 and plans to market these wind catchers in the U.K.

Kite Power

SkySails Group, a Germany-based power company, is developing kites that fly a quarter-mile off the ground to produce energy. As the kite rises, it unwinds a tether connected to a winch and generator, which convert the force on the tether into electricity.

“High-altitude wind is the largest untapped energy resource on Earth,” founder and managing director Stephan Wrage says. Its largest kites are nearly 1,940 square feet in size—generating about 200 kilowatts of power, and meant to replace diesel generators in remote, off-grid islands and villages. The company has installed several pilot kites at sites including the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, with plans to connect them to the grid. Starting next year, the company plans to start shifting toward commercial rollout, and eventually hopes to increase its kite size and flying altitude.

A French company, Airseas, has developed an 1003sqm kite called Seawing that attaches to a ship’s bow with a cable and pulls the vessel along using wind power. The company’s aim is to help decarbonize the shipping industry, says CEO and co-founder Vincent Bernatets.

WATER
Turning Tides

When placed underwater, turbines can harness kinetic energy from the natural rise and fall of ocean tides to generate electricity. But turbines placed on the seafloor are expensive to build and maintain. So Scottish company Orbital Marine Power designed a floating tidal turbine named Orbital O2.

The 72-metre-long turbine is anchored offshore near Scotland’s Orkney Islands, where a subsea cable connects it to the local grid. It can power around 2,000 U.K. homes and offset more than 2,400 tons of carbon annually. The company is focused on developing sites around the U.K. coastline and Europe, CEO Andrew Scott says, with an aim to deploy flotillas of tidal turbines. Future turbines will be anchored between about a mile and 3 miles offshore.

Wave Energy

Eco Wave Power Ltd. is working on harnessing water power from the shore. The company has designed 10-foot-long floating devices attached to piers, jetties and existing marine structures. These floaters use the rising and falling movement of waves to generate electricity.

The technology requires less than two feet of water to produce energy, “so we can basically install everywhere and anywhere,” says CEO and co-founder Inna Braverman. If waves get too rough, the devices can lock in an upward position above the water line. The company opened a 100-kilowatt facility connected to the grid in Gibraltar in 2016 that will be refurbished and moved to Los Angeles within the next three months. It expects to connect another power station in Jaffa, Israel, to the local grid by midyear this year. Future projects include possible facilities in New Jersey, California and Portugal.

EARTH
Geothermal Energy

Heat left over from when Earth formed and from radioactive elements decaying inside the planet’s molten core permeates toward the crust, creating accessible wells of steam or hot water. Some geothermal power plants pipe that steam or water—between 300 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit—to the surface for use as direct heat. Other plants can also convert that heat into electricity. The hydrothermal resources are injected back into the ground after cooling.

More than 60 geothermal plants operate in the U.S. today, providing nearly 4 gigawatts of electricity, which can power more than one million homes. But the plants tend to be concentrated in areas like California and Nevada with geothermal hot spots like geysers or volcanoes, or where tectonic plates grind past each other and Earth’s heat can move more easily through the crust. The key to making geothermal competitive with other renewables, is “going into regions where nature hasn’t been so generous, and figuring out a way to engineer the system,” says Cornell University professor Jefferson Tester. He is chief scientist for a pilot project at Cornell that aims to directly heat the 30,000-person campus with geothermal resources by 2035.

One solution, Dr. Tester says, is injecting “hot, dry rock”—which lacks the naturally occurring hydrothermal resources needed to generate electricity—with high-pressure water from the surface. That process can crack the rock, allowing a power plant to then collect the injected water after it is heated. The U.S. bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year devoted $84 million to innovations like this, known as enhanced geothermal systems. These systems may enable engineers to expand the geographic range of where geothermal plants can be built.

SUN
Space-Based Solar

The sun’s power can only intermittently be harnessed from the ground due to weather, changing seasons and nighttime hours. But some scientists and engineers say within the next decade solar energy could come consistently from much closer to the source—wirelessly beamed down as microwaves or laser beams from orbiting satellites to receiving stations on Earth connected to the electrical grid.

“The basics are to put a large, very large platform in space, harvest sunlight, where the sun shines, essentially 99.95% of the time, and send it to markets on the ground, where, on average, the sun is shining only about 15% of the time,” says former NASA scientist John Mankins, president of Mankins Space Technology, a company working on developing a 1.6-km wide solar power satellite prototype that will use microwave beaming.

Wirelessly transferring energy across distances using microwave transmission has already been tested: The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory sent 1.6 kilowatts over a distance of 0.6 mile last year. Engineers at the Japan Aerospace Agency have sent about the same amount of energy the length of a football field.

Other groups are also working on the experimental technology: The California Institute of Technology plans on testing prototypes, which can transfer solar power in space via a steerable microwave beam, by the end of 2022. Engineers in Japan, China, Australia and Russia have all either made strides or expressed interest in developing space-based solar power.

The U.K. has integrated space-based solar energy into the country’s plan to reach net-zero emissions. Its Space Energy Initiative is spearheading a plan to send a 500-megawatt prototype that uses microwave beaming into orbit within the next decade, and aims to connect a satellite four times more powerful to the grid by 2035.

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For the Best Interior Design Finds, Take a Guided Shopping Tour to Paris, Istanbul and More

Passionate about both decor and travel? Design industry pros are leading global tours to share their secret shopping sources—and help you score one-of-a-kind pieces.

By ANTONIA VAN DER MEER
Mon, Feb 6, 2023 6 min

WHEN MELANIE BURNS of Oklahoma City first entered the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, she was stunned by its sheer size and the pathways winding through its tented structures like a tangle of yarn. Though well-traveled and an old hand at hunting one-of-a-kind objets, she’d never experienced such an onslaught of potential riches. “The bazaar is intimidating,” she said, “the size of about five football fields.”

She had expert allies, however: Clare Louise Frost and Elizabeth Hewitt of Tamam, a lifestyle brand and Manhattan store specialising in Turkish antiques and their own collections. The duo led Ms. Burns to a shop layered deep behind other shops. “It was no more than about 14 feet square, and stacked high with the most beautiful hand-woven vintage tapestries I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Burns recalled. “I would never have tackled the place without these women. They are walking encyclopedias, they speak the language and when you shop with them, you don’t overpay.”

Ms. Frost, who calls the bazaar “her second home,” lived in Istanbul for nine years, and her business partners, Ms. Hewitt and Hüseyin Kaplan, still live there. Together they host trips to Turkey, capped at 14 participants, all eager to buy décor to take back home. Overseas shopping sprees like this are an increasingly popular new category of travel. Interior-design pros immerse travellers in a country’s culture and guide them to fabulous finds, whether an ornate vintage camel bag from Turkey or a contemporary French sculpture.

Indagare, a travel company in Manhattan, is seeing a growing market for overseas shopping trips. The 30 Insider Journey trips it ran in 2022, including seven design-centred jaunts, drew 540 travellers, twice as many as in 2019. Sicily, Japan and Mallorca are locales Indagare is eyeing for future design trips. Penta, a magazine that, like The Wall Street Journal, is published by Dow Jones & Co., has a partnership with Indagare to organise trips.

“Covid taught us we need to go when we have the opportunity,” said Grant K. Gibson, a San Francisco interior designer who himself has led eight trips to India and two to Morocco and is adding excursions to Egypt, Mexico and Turkey.

Trips are as cultural as they are commercial. Before Mr. Gibson’s group of 10 globetrotters start looking for linens or bargaining for bowls, they tour Jaipur by electric rickshaw and visit a textile museum. “I want them to understand the history and know where design ideas come from,” he said. Cynthia Smith, a biotech exec from San Francisco who traveled with Mr. Gibson to Morocco, came home with pottery in a vibrant green glaze unique to Tamegroute, a village that edges the Sahara. “Everyone asks me about the vase, and I have a story to tell about Tamegroute pottery,” she said. “It gives character to my house.”

The packages don’t come cheap—from around $4,000 to $18,000 (not including flights) depending on location and length—but offer you insider access. Designer Chloe Mackintosh of Boxwood Avenue Interiors in Reno, Nev., is leading her first trip this year to parts of Italy and France she knows well. One focus will be the weekend antique markets in L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in southeast France, but she’ll also introduce guests to local artisans, including a fifth-generation ceramist. Her group will take a pottery-making class to understand the process behind the product.

Known as “the huntress” because of her many years buying and selling vintage furniture, Ariene C. Bethea says people began asking her to lead a trip so they could hunt alongside her. The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a shop and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., teamed with TrovaTrip to create a journey to the Paris flea markets this May. With Ms. Bethea’s input, the Portland, Ore., group-travel managers lined up accommodations, vendors, translators and tickets to museums. “I plan to help my guests shop, give them ideas and help them learn to tell stories in a space,” said Ms. Bethea, known for her playful use of colours, bold patterns and culturally inspired designs.

Lodging on these guided forays offers design cred, too. Ms. Mackintosh has reserved an entire 16-room château in the French countryside for just 12 people. Tamam’s Istanbul guests stay in a marble-floored hotel that was a late 19th-century Ottoman bank—with a vault that doubles as a wine cellar—and for excursions to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, they bed down in a traditional cavelike home carved out of soft rock.

On a trip to the South of France with Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland, visitors stay in Ms. Ireland’s farmhouse near Toulouse. Her trademark fabrics and colourful Bohemian and English-country style are on display in every bedroom lamp shade and living room chair. “Guests shop my house, and then I point them in the right direction to buy similar things,” she said. Ms. Ireland has been leading groups (a maximum of 10 people) for over a decade, taking them to neighbours’ villas, antique markets and out-of-the-way bakeries and bee yards.

Abby Landers first visited Ms. Ireland’s home as a high-school senior, traveling with her mother. Now five years out of college and living in Boston, she recently returned. “Kathryn embraced us, and she has been a mentor for me ever since.” Inspired by that first trip, Ms. Landers earned a master’s degree in interior architecture, and her current boss is someone she met on that trip. “You’re there for a week, and it’s a whirlwind of meeting artists and artisans, all friends of Kathryn’s.”

Kirstan Barnett, a tech investor from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., traveled to Tangier with Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare. Ms. Barnett was particularly moved by dinner at the 300-year-old, whitewashed, riad-style residence of Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani, two of the many designers she met at private events. The home was so richly layered and eclectic, she said, it inspired her to approach her own décor more bravely and reject the notion that a room must adhere to one style.

Some pros who organise such tours offer itinerary planning to folks who don’t want to travel with strangers. Mr. Gibson recently created a program for a group of four going to Jaipur. Though he won’t be joining them, he’s chosen the lodging and booked the restaurants and the experiences.

Travelers laser-focused on in-the-know shopping minus the touring can hire Chicago-based Skin Interior Design in cities such as London, Paris and Milan. The company arranges excursions so clients are shown exactly what they want—whether French midcentury chairs or Venetian-glass chandeliers. “We have an education in art history and antiques, and we help find pieces that keep value,” said Lauren Lozano Ziol, one of the founders. A recent two-day antique-furniture and art expedition in London cost $10,000.

How to get all the booty home? Mr. Gibson advises guests to travel with at least one empty suitcase. Bulky items can be packed and airfreighted home using DHL or FedEx. (Most carriers will pick up at the hotel.) Some vendors ship direct to the States from their stores at reasonable rates. For those who travel with Tamam to Turkey, easy shipping—including having your purchases collected from the vendors—is one of the perks. Ms. Burns, who bought ceramics, four suzani bedspreads and six rugs, said Tamam handled shipping for about $400. “Some of my things arrived before I even got home,” she said.

International Harvest / Souvenirs that guests collected on their design-focused journeys abroad
DESIGN JAUNTS ON THE HORIZON

Five 2023 trips abroad devised and helmed by interiors experts imparting their insider info

Ready to shop your way around the world? Here are just some of the available packages that focus on home design. Prices are per person and generally include accommodations, meals and beverages, guided touring, activities and local transportation.

Flea Market Foraging | May 4-10, 2023

The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a vintage-home-furnishings boutique and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., Ariene C. Bethea takes travellers shopping the Paris vintage markets and art galleries and on visits to lesser-known museums such as the Museum Nationale Gustave Moreau. Also on the agenda: a foray to Versailles and its gardens, a tour of Montmartre street art and a tasting at the Museum of Wine. From $3,649, Trips.TrovaTrip.com

Ciao, Italia | May 15-19, 2023 (wait list only)

Chloe Mackintosh, owner of Boxwood Avenue Interiors, a Reno, Nev., studio and shop, leads a 4-night trip in Florence, Italy. Travelers stay at the five-star Il Salviatino, a restored 15th-century villa that mixes Renaissance and contemporary décor. Along with shopping excursions, antiquing and a workshop at a local artisan’s studio, the trip includes wine tasting and cooking lessons. Florence, from $5,500, Learn.BoxwoodAvenue.com

Turkey Club | May 17-26, 2023

Designer Clare Louise Frost, Tulu Textiles owner Elizabeth Hewitt and carpet dealer Hüseyin Kaplan teamed up to create Tamam, located in Manhattan and Istanbul and specialising in antique and vintage Turkish textiles, rugs and ceramics. Travelers tour Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia, shopping the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar and visiting textiles and antique dealers. Plus: a hot-air-balloon ride and cooking class. Tamam in Turkey, from $3,600, Shop-Tamam.com

English Town and Country | June 11-17, 2023

In London, South African interior designer Serena Crawford guides travellers through Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden (Diana’s favourite) as well as shops such as heritage brand Fortnum & Mason. In the university town of Oxford, architectural highlights range from medieval to modern, and in the bucolic Cotswolds, guests visit private homes and gardens of renowned interior designers. London & the Cotswolds with Serena Crawford, from $15,350, Indagare.com

Joie de Vivre in France | Sept. 9-16, 2023

Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland takes you on private museum tours, flea market hunts and a trend-spotting tour of design fair Maison et Objet in Paris (ticket not included), followed by leisurely days in the French countryside at her farmhouse outside Toulouse. Paris & La Castellane, from $7,900, Paris hotel not included, KathrynIreland.com

India, Indeed | Dec. 11-18, 2023

San Francisco interior designer Grant K. Gibson shares his passion for India with a guided tour of Jaipur and Taj Mahal. Participants stay in a guesthouse once part of a maharajah’s gardens; enjoy traditional Indian feasts; learn the history of block printing; rendezvous with rescue elephants; and conquer the chaotic bazaar, comprising flower and spice markets and rug and textiles vendors. Travel with Grant from $9,500, GrantKGibson.com

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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