The U.S. wastes a lot of energy. The good folks at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab measure just how much is wasted every year. In 2012, the U.S. used 39% of the energy it produced, and “lost” or wasted the rest. Most of that waste comes from 2 sources: electricity generation (power plants) and transportation.

While no one expects 100% efficiency in energy generation, there’s a big opportunity for improvement here. One that will save money, energy, and emissions. We know that energy-efficient buildings and gas-sipping cars are definitely part of the solution.

Seattle sky line at night
Seattle sky line at night – Image courtesy of Brook Ward

But two men– Eugene Dyachkov and Ilya Belov – thought about the problem differently. Rather than focusing on how to prevent the waste energy, they thought about how to capture and use it. They realized that a city has endless sources of “waste energy” – from buildings to auto noise to lights. So they went about capturing that energy and using it to create electricity.

Light energy was captured with solar panels and converted it to electricity. Auto noise was captured with something called “piezo polymer film” and converted to electricity. And so on. Rather than building huge power plants, all these bits of electricity can be combined to create enough power for the city. And “smart cities” are considered by many to be a key part of a clean energy future.

Atlanta skyline at night
Atlanta skyline at night – Image courtesy of Justin Swan

Dyachkov and Belov’s ideas won a semifinalist spot from GE’s “Focus Forward” competition in 2013. Their efforts were captured in a 3 minute video that’s definitely worth a look.

It’s exciting to see what can happen when people approach a problem from a different direction. Yes, it’s good to use less energy or be more energy efficient. But it also pays to think about the energy that “gets away” – and use it. There is no one silver bullet when it comes to clean energy. Messrs, Dyachkov and Belov demonstrate that there are many ways to skin a cat. Kudos to these gentlemen for adding to our repertoire of solutions!

Feature image courtesy of kenmainr

By Alison Lueders

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Content - a green business certified by both Green America and the Green Business Bureau. She offers copywriting and content marketing services to businesses that are “going green.” Convinced that business can play a powerful and positive role in building a greener, more sustainable economy, she launched Great Green Content in 2011.