Friday, September 2, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Mitsubishi Building Green in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 04:28 PM PDT

The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor is an ambitious project, and it's no surprise that Japan wanted in. One of its companies slated to participate in construction projects is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. MHI's angle is the promotion of eco-friendly cities – which it calls "Smart Communities" – built from the ground up. MHI is currently conducting studies on economic feasibility along with India's leading business conglomerate, the Tata Group.

The idea is to proceed with the infrastructure development project somewhere within the massive area between Delhi and Mumbai. MHI submitted its initial report at the end of 2010, which must have been favorable — companies in Gujarat in northwest India became local partners in the venture and accelerated it considerably. MHI will further assess the feasibility of constructing such eco-friendly cities in Japan at the request of the Ministry of Economy.

What will they build? Construction will include such projects as industrial parks, power plants, airports, ports, railways, roads, and other commercial facilities. Research will be conducted on energy conservation and energy management systems for factories, wastewater disposal systems (also for factories), energy storage systems, the construction and use of electric vehicles, and use of solar power. MHI will also look into reducing CO2 emissions. All told, the investment will total about $90 billion USD.

MHI will summarize its study results in March of 2012 — at which point Japan may or may not start building smart communities of its own.

Source: Eco Japan

UrbanTile: Concept Design for Sustainable Energy Inspires

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 03:27 PM PDT

UrbanTile is an exciting concept piece for sustainable energy use

Look carefully and begin counting the hundreds of types of energy that pass by every day, never captured and never used. Put these observational challenges before students and amazing results can sometimes occur.

Case in point: Meidad Marzan, an industrial design student from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Israel, has designed a remarkable concept device called the UrbanTile that would harness the solar energy city buildings absorb during the day for their lighting needs at night.

UrbanTile was Merzan's graduation project for his course in the Industrial Design Dept. at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem

The UrbanTile is a small solar panel that can be flipped to reveal a light-emitting screen. Banded together into rows, the panels become a window blind that forms a light or an entertainment display.

The panels could be made from aluminum and stainless steel, featuring an OLED screen on one side and photovoltaic panel on the other. Incorporating electrical motors to move them, they could be programmed to turn automatically at different times of the day. Designed to be mounted into windows, the panels could be turned to rest at various angles allowing light in during the day whilst absorbing solar energy.

In the evening, the OLED screens would be turned to face indoors to light up rooms and also provide a bank of screens for media playback. At night, the light emitting side could also be turned outwards to produce engaging patterns of light (SEE THE VIDEO) on the sides of buildings.

According to gizmag, the thinness and brightness of OLED screens, along with their low power consumption and brilliant color reproduction would make them a good fit for this kind of display technology.

The video below shows examples of how large scale uses of the UrbanTile on the sides of buildings might look. The servo motors turn the panels into different formations like a fluid canvas of light. Other uses would be for the display of messages, images and video for advertising purposes.

Concept pieces such as this that explore renewable and sustainable energy solutions should be endlessly encouraged, and funded, if possible, providing either grant money, scholarships, or meaningful internships. In the end, we all come out winners.


Photo: shannonkringen

Geothermal Plant Supplies ~20% of Hawaii’s Electricity

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 06:46 AM PDT

Living on active volcanic islands has its downsides and its upsides. When it comes to the plus side, there’s the potential to use geothermal energy to produce significant amounts of cheap, clean, renewable electrical power. And that’s what’s happening on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii, where Ormat Technologies‘ Puna Geothermal Venture is producing about 20% of the electricity consumed on the island, eliminating the need to buy and burn some 144,000 barrels of oil a year.

Puna Geothermal Venture has a contract with Hawaii Electric & Light (HELCO) to supply the utility with 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity through 2030 sourced from the company’s geothermal plant located within Mt. Kilauea’s East Rift zone. Geothermal fluids about 650 degrees Fahrenheit are brought up to the plant through through five production wells where steam is then separated from brine. The steam is used to drive the plant’s generators.

A secondary power generation circuit captures waste heat from the primary circuit using the fluid pentane, which increases the plant’s power output and its energy conversion efficiency, as well as significantly reducing the amount of steam vented into the atmosphere. The geothermal fluids are injected back into the reservoir through injection wells, which lie far below the production zone and the water table.

Puna and Ormat aim to build on the plant’s success. It’s working to increase the plant’s output by 8MW in the near future. The company is also exploring for geothermal reservoirs off the coast of Maui, and it’s discussing building a plant on Hualalai to help meet electricity demand in West Hawaii.

“Modular geothermal power units can contribute a large portion of an island’s electricity demand,” Puna Geothermal plant manager Michael Kaleikini was quoted as saying in this report from West Hawaii Today. “Geothermal energy is environmentally friendly and is cost-effective for islands.”

Wind Lens Triples Turbine Output

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 05:18 AM PDT

Professor Prof. Yuji Ohya of the Kyushu University research institute for applied mechanics (RIAM) has been working with a team to improve the efficiency of wind turbines. Combining an inlet shroud, a diffuser, and a brim into a wind lens, power output has been improved by a factor of 2 to 5 times in several experiments. Turbine noise is also decreased.

The Wind Lens works by creating an area of low pressure behind the turbine that essentially sucks the wind through the turbine, increasing effective wind speed. As wind power is proportional to the wind speed cubed, the wind lens changes the fluid dynamics around the turbine to increase its power.

Karl Burkart of Mother Nature Network walks us through the implications. The US is ranked 3rd in the World for potential wind resources. Using just 20% of that potential and turbines with a wind lens modification, sufficient power could be generated to satisfy 100% of present US electrical production.

The RIAM researchers anticipate the best use of wind turbines is offshore, where winds tend to be more constant and speeds higher. In an effort to promote the Wind Lens applications offshore, they have also designed a hexagon floating platform that could be used in conjunction with the wind lens turbine technology.

Primary Source: RIAM
Photo Credit:


Harvesting the Energy in Intermittent, Gusty Winds

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 05:06 AM PDT

by John Saavedra of Look for the Power

Almost every available article on wind energy has, at its foundation, the assumption that the winds must be relatively strong, constant, and from one general direction.

This closely correlates with the assumption that to generate electricity, a shaft must be rotated within a magnetic field, and that this rotation has to be in one direction (for example, clockwise).

These two assumptions are so universally held and widely believed that they are never explicitly stated, and to question them would be almost heretical, if not anarchist.

So, boldly going where no geek has gone before, let's get in touch with our revolutionary roots, channel some leftover teenage angst, and look at them.

Remember the generator set you had on your bicycle growing up, the one that clamped against one of the tires and generated enough electricity to light a headlight and taillight?  That setup works regardless of the direction of the rotation of the tire.  Assuming you were dare devil enough to ride backwards, the output of the generator and lights was the same as going forward.

Wind atlases of the USA, and the world, are readily available.  When looking at them, one quickly realizes that:

  1. Obviously, preference is given to locations with relatively strong winds (Classes 5-7).
  2. Most of the USA, and the world, has only Class 1-3 winds, not considered viable for the production of wind energy.

Here is a representative statement from the National Renewable Energy Labs website:

          There is little wind energy potential in the Southeast region for existing wind turbine applications (Zabransky et al. 1981)

Is this true?  Does this mean that the Southeast doesn't get wind?  The answer is obviously "No," but rather that using existing technologies, the projected outputs do not have enough promise to recover installation costs.

Let's move a moment from the scientific method to an anecdotal method by taking a simple, four-question quiz:

  1. Have you ever had to change a flat tire beside a busy Interstate highway with regular vehicle traffic and 18-wheelers moving past at 70+ mph?  Feel anything?  I use the word 'fearsome' to describe the turbulence generated.
  2. Have you ever carried a 4 x 8 sheet of 3/4" plywood on a roof?  Did you notice how strong the force of even a light wind was on the flat, rigid surface of the plywood?  It is easy to get blown off the roof by even a moderate breeze.
  3. Ever securely tied a mattress and box springs in the back of a pickup truck for moving, only to have them blow off at 30 mph, which usually correlates to "about halfway up the busy Interstate entrance ramp"?
  4. Ever tried to erect a tent or install an outdoor sign or canopy in a breeze, or wind?

If you scored even a "D" on this quiz by answering "Yes" just once, you'll not be surprised to learn that of the energy contained in a gallon of gas burned by a vehicle travelling at highway speeds, approximately 25% is used overcoming the rolling resistance of the tires, 15% is used overcoming inertia, but the bulk of the energy — 60% — is spent overcoming aerodynamic drag.  This leaves aerodynamic turbulence in its wake — all of which is currently wasted.  None is harvested.

Here is a draftsman's rendition of an electrical generator I built in my backyard that captures intermittent, gusty winds, the types found over much of the surface of the USA, and beside every Interstate highway (click to enlarge):

This is a perimeter frame of 3" DWV PVC pipe, holding a 4 x 8 sheet of ¾" plywood, hanging vertically, suspended from an axle/shaft along its top edge.  In an intermittent, gusty breeze, the panel rocks back and forth, like an old-fashioned gas station sign.  As it rocks, it turns the large central pulley bolted to its axle/shaft.  This drives a V-belt, which in turn drives two much smaller pulleys (44 and 46) at higher RPM's.  These two small pulleys are bolted to permanent-magnet alternators, which generate current whenever the large plywood flap is in motion.

In a constant breeze, or no breeze, no energy is produced.  This system requires intermittent, gusty winds, as it is the reciprocation of the plywood 'flap' that generates electricity.

OK, now that you've let go of some of the constraints you've lived under ever since you were involved in energy, consider this picture, taken near my home in South Carolina (although it could easily represent the signs near you):

Can you just FEEL the turbulence?  Good — it's working.

The horizontal portion of the sign support doubles as a walkway for service personnel to work on the signs.  Federal highway standards require that all such Interstate signs withstand 120 mph winds so as not to fall down during hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, etc.  So, both the vertical and horizontal portions of the support are sized accordingly.  In non-technical terms — big and heavy.

What if we borrowed the basic design from old-fashioned gas station signs and:

  1. Built a perimeter frame around the green signs
  2. Suspended the green signs from an axle/shaft located and fixed along their top edges (again, think of a gas station sign)
  3. Bolted this shaft to a cam or elliptical gears to limit the rotation so the sign would not go horizontal (unreadable)
  4. Designed the cam/elliptical gears so that the stronger the wind, the higher the low-speed torque on the shaft, and the smaller the rotation off of vertical
  5. Bolted the shaft to a gearbox/transmission to convert the high-torque, low-speed rotation of the signs to lower-torque, higher-RPM rotation required by permanent-magnet alternators
  6. Stored the resulting current in either capacitors or deep-cycle batteries
  7. Used the current to power LED lights to illuminate the signs at night/low light
  8. Sold any excess, leftover current to the existing utility (notice the electrical lines along both sides of the picture)…

Careful readers, what am I missing here?

Answer — funding to research materials, sizes, sites, outputs, and to build prototypes.

Here are some immediate advantages:

  1. Take existing signs off the grid for night-time illumination
  2. Address problems with glare by allowing small, constant changes to the vertical/viewing angle of the signs
  3. Reduce signage costs by allowing for lighter materials to be used in the supports.

This idea may have particular appeal to the one in four people on Earth currently living off of any electrical grid, which closely correlates to poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger, unsafe drinking water, infant mortality, and other problems.

My website – – describes this and several other projects in more detail, if you are interested.

Your comments, feedback, reactions, and suggestion are all welcome.


Why Some Think Fossil Fuels are the Only Real Source of Energy (Reader Comment)

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 04:49 AM PDT

In reply to a recent editorial here on CleanTechnica by Bob Higgins, a regular reader and commenter left an excellent comment that I thought should get some more attention. So, I’m featuring it here as a separate post. Why some people think we can only get adequate energy from fossil fuels is the focus of the comment. Check it out:

solar power oil rig global warming

Where the belief started was probably based on the reality of the time at which it originated. If we go back even a couple decades wind turbines were still somewhat crude and we hadn’t grasped the fact that the wind does not rise and fall at the same time over modest geographic areas. Solar was very much too expensive and batteries were not capable of giving us usable electric vehicles. (If you’ll allow me to bring in another antiquated myth.)

Many people have not kept up with the technological advances that have made wind turbines major producers of electricity, solar affordable, and EVs a reality. If one does not know what is possible they will find it easiest to support what worked in the past.

Other people have personal or financial reasons to support ‘old tech’. Clearly fossil fuel interests push the idea that we could not operate our grid without their flaming inputs. Nuclear engineers fight for inclusion of their technology because if we build no more reactors then they are going to have to retool themselves.

Fossil fuels and nuclear energy have very deep pockets. They can flood the zone with inaccuracies and spread doubt about the ability of renewable energy to do the job. They can hire armies of lobbyists and make hefty campaign contributions. They can enlist the aid of their buddies in other industries.

It’s going to be hard to fight through these myths, but it’s starting to happen.

I also recommend checking out the following pages for more on the potential of solar and wind energy:

  1. World Wind Power Info
  2. Solar Power Intro & 3 Key Solar Power Points

Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by PIX-JOCKEY (Roberto Rizzato)

LA Air Force Base Gets Solar Panels and Electric Vehicles, Too

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 04:28 AM PDT

Los Angeles Air Force Base gets 100% EV fleet and new solar power installationSolar powered military installations are nothing new but there is a twist to the solar arrays being installed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, because LA AFB is also booting out its old gas guzzling general purpose vehicles in favor of a fleet of electric vehicles, making it the first federal facility of any kind to replace an entire fleet with EV’s.  The base will be used as a proving ground for new energy efficient vehicle-to-grid technologies that can squeeze the maximum renewable energy potential from both photovoltaic cells and the electric vehicles, too.

Electric Vehicles for LA AFB

The new EV program is relatively modest, with no tactical or emergency vehicles making the switch (the Air Force is testing fighter jet biofuel under another program, by the way).  The base will replace about forty sedans, light duty trucks and shuttle buses with all-electric EVs as well as well as hybrid electric and extended-range EVs. However, the program is serving as a study guide and model that could affect tens of thousands of vehicles in the Department of Defense’s fleets, so its impact could be enormous. Part of the assessment involves costs, of course, and DoD will be looking at the cost of installing charging stations and related infrastructure, and analyzing lifecycle costs of electric vehicles relative to conventional vehicles.

Electric Vehicles and Solar Power

There has been a mushrooming trend of pairing EV charging stations with solar installations, so it’s fair to assume that LA AFB’s solar power plans include EV charging. However, the base also has something a little more sophisticated in mind, a demonstration of V2G (vehicle-to-grid) potential. The idea behind V2G is that electric vehicles spend long stretches of time just sitting around parked, with all that energy in their batteries going unused. In the case of solar-charged EV’s, that’s clean energy going unused. Grid-connected, solar-charged EV’s would provide significant financial benefits to the owner, who could defray the cost of both the solar installation and the EV by selling excess energy to the grid.

Microgrids and V2G Technology

The Department of Defense is also testing smart microgrid technology, including a solar powered microgrid, at military bases. This program is designed to help the DoD achieve energy security by removing its facilities from dependence on the grid. V2G technology comes into play because it could help a facility get the maximum energy potential from its microgrid.

Microgrids, Solar Panels and V2G for All…Not

The Department of Defense has established the position that clean, renewable energy is a matter of national defense that covers the civilian world, not just energy-independent military bases, but the majority party in Congress is not interested investing in new technology for domestic use (heck, they won’t even fund disaster relief here-and-now, let alone investing in our future). Microgrids and locally generated renewable energy sure would have come in handy for at least some of the scores of communities struggling to recover from Hurricane Irene, which are still without power days after the storm.

Image: Solar panels at Los Angeles Air Force Base by Lou Hernandez courtesy of U.S. Air Force.

Tina Casey on Twitter @TinaMCasey

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