Amsterdam Uses Living Plants to Generate Electricity

1) The Technology In Use === literal definition: power plant; harvesting electric power from living plants.

Dutch scientists have come up with a way to harness electricity from living plants and use it to power street lights, cell phone chargers and WiFi hot spots. These small-scale applications use a byproduct of photosynthesis in plants.  Think of it as solar energy.  The unused energy produced by plants is excreted as excess sugars through the root system and consumed by micro-organisms. This consumption frees electrons.  In a process patented by Wageningen University in 2007, carbon electrodes are placed close to the roots to generate electricity.

2) The Sustainability Problem ===

  • Clean and green approach
  • Renewable form of energy; generates power day and night (unlike solar or wind)
  • Uses resources from the natural world
  • Future application: electrifying poor or inaccessible locations

3) The Technology Stakeholders ===

  • Businesses (producers of technology and business consumers)
  • Suppliers of component parts
  • Individual residents/consumers
  • Utilities
  • Governments (developed & developing countries)
  • Multilateral institutions: civil society organizations (CSOs)

4) Process for Technology Implementation ===

  • Identify needs of consumers/population
  • Determine economic efficiency/profitability; cost of tech vs ROI
  • Involve consumers in planning projects
  • Start with pilot project, then replicate
  • Monitor results; adjust or abandon initiative
  • Foster collaboration between nations under multilateral organization
  • Share new technology and best practices

The ultimate goal is to perfect the process and reduce cost so that plant electricity can be deployed in rural and difficult to reach areas, typically found in poorer countries where an estimated 25 percent of the world’s population is without power.


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