Opinion: Electricity from plants

POSTED: 11/26/12 2:25 PM

Good news for citizens with an aversion against utility companies and their relentless tariffs, not to mention their power cuts. A company in Wageningen – Plant-e – has found a way to generate electricity from indoor plants.

On Friday the company showed how plant-generated electricity is able to power a toy-globe. Okay, it’s not your air conditioning system yet, but it is a start that ought to make Gebe nervous. Is this some form of black magic? Not at all.

Micro-organisms that belong to the natural environment of plant roots fire protons and electrons as waste product. Two electrodes at the bottom of a plant container pick up the charged particles and generate electricity that way. The process does not disturb the plant: it happily goes on growing.

Environmental technologist Marjolein Helder, the 29-year old director of Plant-e wishes that the technology will encourage people to think. there are plenty of possibilities to generate sustainable electricity. It is even possible to get it out of indoor plants, she says.

Plant-e brings its technology to market for €59 (around $77) under the name Plant-e Planet.

Hmm, even Helder has to admit that her invention is a gadget, not a sustainable solution. But the young director says that she needs the revenue from her gadget to finance the development of truly sustainable solutions.

One of her ideas is the development of green roofs that collect water, provide insulation and generate electricity.

Our statement at the beginning of this article is maybe a bit over the top. It is good news that young professionals are racking their brains and come up with new ways to do things. The Plant-e Planet may not be the immediate solution for all our energy needs, but it does stand out as a symbol for new developments and for sustainable solutions to the ever growing demand for (electrical) power.

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