- India Solar Market Could Hit 33.4 GW by 2022
- Fuel Cell Bus Fleets for Brazil & Europe; Fuel Cell Buses in British Columbia Hit Milestone
- Coffee-Processing Plant to Produce Energy Too
- China & BYD Launch Largest Battery Energy Storage Station in World
- Scottish Utility Now Has Over 1 GW of Wind Power Capacity (& 2 New Wind Farms Planned)
- Silicon Solar Cell Efficiency World Record Set in Analytical Test by Solar3D
- How Mint.com Can Save the World and Turn Me Into a Walking Mint Billboard
- Government Scientists More Efficient at Splitting Hydrogen
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 10:08 AM PST
As mentioned in my 2012 solar energy expectations yesterday, I think India’s got a good chance of shooting onto the solar power map this year. Following up on solar in India, a recent report by Bridge to India estimates that the country will have 33.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar power installed by 2022, far more than the 20 GW that are targeted by India’s National Solar Mission (NSM).
The report projects that 14.15 GW will already be on the ground in 2018, and it also projects that solar will hit grid parity in India at that time, which would make it a far more attractive energy option for those who care only about the market price of solar (not the health, environmental, and energy insecurity costs of relying on fossil fuels).
The report projects that a combination of economies of scale and technological improvements will continue to bring solar’s costs down in the coming few years.
However, the report notes that there currently isn’t enough government support for small or off-grid solar power applications. Government subsides too heavily focus on utility-scale solar PV projects.
“40 percent of the population does not have access to the grid,” says Kadampat Punnan Philip, manager of the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). ”But even the villages connected to the grid can benefit from solar power because the Indian grid is so unreliable.”
Solar panels in India by fredericknoronha
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:53 AM PST
Sau Paulo, Brazil getting fuel cells to power 25 buses; Europe getting fuel cells for 21 buses; British Columbia bus fleet hits fuel cell milestone.
“Ballard Power Systems has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with The City of Sao Paulo, Brazil for 25 FCvelocityTM-HD6 fuel cell modules to power 25 buses in that city,” a Ballard news release last week stated. “Delivery of the modules is planned for 2012. A final agreement with The City of Sao Paulo is now in negotiation.”
Brazil is looking to green its transportation sector significantly to combat global warming and climate change, and to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games (both of which will be held in the country). “Sao Paulo is Brazil's largest city, generating significant emissions of particulate matter together with 3 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, 85% of which are created by vehicles.” The city intends to decrease fossil fuel use of its buses 10% annually over the coming several years.
British Columbia Bus Fleet Hits Fuel Cell Milestone
This announcement follows an announcement earlier in the month that a 20-bus fleet operated by BC Transit in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia and powered by Ballard’s fuel cells, “the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus fleet in operation anywhere since it went into service approximately 2-years ago,” had become the first such fleet to hit (and surpass) one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of revenue service. “The buses went into service in January, 2010 prior to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and have been an effective showcase for clean transportation alternatives.”
Here are some more statistics on this fleet from the end of November, 2011:
• The 20-bus fleet had operated a total of 80,000 hours;
Europe Getting Fuel Cells to Power 21 Buses
Ballard also made an announcement in December that it would be supplying Van Hool NV, Europe's fourth largest bus manufacturer, with 21 of its latest-generation FCvelocityTM-HD6 fuel cell power modules.
“The 21 FCvelocityTM-HD6 modules will power zero-emission buses to be deployed in several European cities, which will be named following completion of the associated contracts between Van Hool and public transit authorities in these cities,” Ballard noted. “It is expected that the majority of the modules will be shipped in 2012.”
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:05 AM PST
We’ve written about coffee-roaster technology being used in new renewable energy applications, we’ve written about a record-breaking car that ran on coffee grinds, and we’ve even written about efforts to turn coffee grinds into ink, but this story is about something completely different. The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota announced just at the end of 2011 that it is “leading a project to develop an efficient renewable electricity technology for coffee-processing plants.”
EERC and Wynntryst — an energy solutions company based in South Burlington, Vermont — are going to develop “a gasification power system to utilize the waste from a coffee-processing plant to produce energy.”
“The project specifically focuses on the waste from the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) plant. ” (Yep, that’s the same Green Mountain Coffee Roasters that installed 530 solar panels on the roof of its distribution center in 2009, the largest solar installation in Vermont at the time.. and maybe still.)
The company, which provides coffee products to multinational corporations around the world (such as Starbucks and McDonald’s), has a decent waste stream that includes coffee residues, plastic packaging, paper, cloth or burlap, and plastic cups.
One super interesting thing about this project is that it continues the work performed for NASA regarding space stations in lunar bases.
“This project is an extension of work performed by the EERC for NASA, which explored the conversion of waste from a space station and future Martian and lunar bases into heat and power,” said Deputy Associate Director for Research Chris Zygarlicke. “This project will similarly utilize a mostly renewable and bio-based waste and convert it into electricity for the coffee industry.”
More details from the news release follow (everything below except the photo credit is reposted from EERC’s site):
“The first step of the project is to demonstrate that we can gasify the complex mixture of waste and produce clean synthetic gas, or syngas, by utilizing the EERC’s novel advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG) system on the biomass-residue mixture,” said Project Manager and Research Scientist, Nikhil Patel.
The syngas will then either be utilized in an internal combustion engine (or a fuel cell) for efficient production of electricity and heat or be converted to high-value biofuels or chemicals. The pilot-scale tests will evaluate the quality of syngas that can be produced from the Green Mountain waste. EERC researchers will fine-tune the technology to meet the highest environmental standards possible.
“Over the years, the EERC has developed and tested numerous small gasifier systems like this on a variety of biomass feedstocks,” Zygarlicke said. “The EERC system has already produced power by gasifying forest residues, railroad tie chips, turkey litter, and other biomass feedstocks and burning the produced syngas in an on-site engine generator. The coffee industry residues will be similarly tested.”
The EERC will use the outcome of the pilot-scale efforts to propose a full-scale commercial demonstration system for installation at various Green Mountain sites.
“The EERC is developing smaller-scale distributed gasification technologies as a means for converting biomass to renewable energy,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold. “This project is a perfect example of the EERC’s ability to adapt to changing market needs, as more and more industries, manufacturers, and municipalities look for ways to utilize modest quantities of available biomass residues for energy.”
Coffee photo via shutterstock
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 07:25 AM PST
China, going big in another cleantech category? Who would’ve guessed it?
BYD, a large Chinese manufacturer of automobiles and rechargeable batteries, has teamed up with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and constructed what they think is the world's largest battery energy storage station.
“This large utility-scale project, located in Zhangbei, Hebei Province, combines 140 Mega-Watts of renewable energy generation (both wind & solar), 36 Mega-Watt-Hours (MWh) of energy storage and a smart power transmission system,” the news release notes.
“BYD's battery energy storage system provides a solution for the realization of energy storage in the smart grid that improves renewable energy efficiency by 5%-10%.”
BYD provided “energy storage batteries in arrays larger than a football field” for the project and state that the entire project is worth over $500 million USD.
"This State Grid project demonstrates a solution and will be the model of development for China's new energy resources," Xiu Binglin, Deputy Director of the National Energy Administration, said.
I think we’ll see more and more news of large energy storage projects like this in 2012 and wonder if this one will even hold the title (largest battery energy storage station) for long.
Of course, other than energy storage, a good mixture of different energy options and smart grid technologies (and proper use of them) can help us to put a lot more renewable energy on the grid without any service reliability problems (and can even increase energy security). In fact, two utility company CEOs (from Florida and Texas) focused on the importance of those solutions rather than energy storage in a roundtable discussion at the Solar Power International conference in Dallas last October. They also mentioned the help the roll-out of electric vehicles, which can, naturally, act as storage mechanisms, would provide. Nonetheless, suffice it to say, energy storage projects like this one in China will play a role as well.
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 06:21 AM PST
Scotland-based utility SSE revealed today that it now has over one gigawatt (GW) — 1,000 megawatts (MW) — of onshore wind power capacity installed and in operation. Pretty astounding, given the size of the country, but it fits Scotland’s tremendous renewable energy ambitions, which include getting 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
“Good progress made at sites such as Clyde, Griffin and Gordonbush in Scotland and Slieve Kirk in Northern Ireland means that more than 300MW of onshore wind farm capacity has been commissioned by SSE in the first nine months of this financial year,” the company stated. “SSE’s onshore wind farm capacity has increased from just 40MW six years ago, and now exceeds its conventional hydro electric capacity of 1,150MW for the first time.”
This is why claims that renewable energy only accounts for a small percentage of our energy are so ridiculous — 1) such claims have nothing to do with the future, or clean energy potential; and 2) we’ve seen how fast clean energy options like wind can shoot up and become a major portion of a country’s or location’s energy supply.
Scotland Approves Construction of Two More Wind Farms
The world-leading country continues its clean energy march forward, of course — the Scottish government approved two more, large wind farms last week. According to UK green energy site BusinessGreen, “it has approved plans for the 177MW Dorenell wind farm on the Glenfiddich estate, near Dufftown in Moray, while also rubberstamping a proposed 21MW extension of the existing 104MW Muaitheabhal wind farm on the Eisgein estate in Lewis.”
For anyone not familiar with wind farm sizes, 21 MW is large, and 177 MW is absolutely gigantic.
The two projects combined are projected to provide enough electricity for 93,000 homes.
“These two projects will provide a significant boost to the economy and to our efforts to become a green energy powerhouse,” said energy minister Fergus Ewing.
“Once up and running, the Dorenell wind farm will produce enough green electricity to power double the number of homes in Moray, creating new jobs and cutting emissions… The Muaitheabhal extension will see extra capacity added to the existing plans and both developments will play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand coming from renewables by 2020.”
Scotland wind farm via shutterstock
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 05:08 AM PST
UPDATE (January 3, 12:40 EST): I contacted Solar3D to get more clarity on what exactly achieved this 25.47%. Here’s Solar3D CEO Jim Nelson’s response: “The test is on a design–it is an analytical test, not a test on a developed prototype.”
Solar 3D brings silicon solar cell efficiency record up to 25.47%, but no independent tests have been conducted yet.
Solar records are set several times a year these days, and quickly dropping solar power costs are good testament to that. In the past year, First Solar set a cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency world record, Q-Cells set a thin-film solar module efficiency record, SCHOTT Solar set a conversion efficiency world record, and I imagine other records were set as well.
Now, to start off 2012, Solar3D claims that it has set a new silicon solar cell efficiency record, with an efficiency of 25.47%. The previous record was 25%, achieved by researchers at the University of New South Wales in 2008.
Solar3D’s 3-D solar cell design is projected to “dramatically change the economics of solar energy," according to the company, of course. As Andrew reported back in September:
“The solar cell's three-dimensional design traps sunlight ‘inside micro-photovoltaic (PV) structures, where photons bounce around until they are converted into electrons,’ the company explains. The 3-D structure significantly reduces electron loss, which hinders 2-D solar cells' conversion efficiencies. The idea for the design was inspired by light management techniques used in fiber optic devices.”
New Silicon Solar Cell Efficiency Record
As the company projected back in September, its newly completed technology is super efficient. "Our recent tests involve a larger design that contains multiple micro 3D photovoltaic structures that will make up a complete Solar3D cell. The results have exceeded our expectations," said Jim Nelson, President and CEO of Solar3D. "If the results of the simulations hold up in fabrication, as we expect, our cell's performance will be the highest conversion efficiency achieved in silicon solar cells."
Going on: "Our objective has always been to change the world by providing affordable solar power. At this level of conversion efficiency and expected manufacturing cost, we intend to do just that."
Let’s hope they really can, and do.
Solar3D isn’t actually done creating its prototype yet. It completed the design several weeks ago and is nearing completion of the prototype. Next, “management will seek a fabrication partner, most likely in the semiconductor industry, who will participate in bringing the product to market,” a news release that went out today noted.
Note that these 3D solar cells are not the same thing as the 3D solar structures MIT researchers are working on.
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 12:02 PM PST
I hope this idea is good because I don't have many better.
If you've been in cars with real-time fuel efficiency readouts, you've seen the powerful effect of feedback on behavior. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can ignore the things. Even those who don’t care about efficiency try to keep the readout high because it feels like a game and we want a high score. Even my father, a man whose other car gets nine miles per gallon, does it when he straps into my mom’s Prius.
I was thinking: wouldn't it be great if I got feedback like that about my whole carbon footprint?
I can, sort of. There are online carbon footprint calculators for that, but they take work. Before I use one, I have to find it and then input my data, which takes time and motivation few have.
In contrast, fuel efficiency readouts don’t take work. I get in the car and it just fills me in, like magic.
So let me rephrase: Wouldn't it be great if my carbon footprint appeared out of the blue, without effort or interest on my part, and then updated me automatically through time?
I think there's a way to make it happen for a bunch of people, and it's a big deal because:
The big obstacle is collecting personal information. How do we get it without bothering people to provide it? Answer: instead of collecting it, go to where it already is. Where's that?
If you don't know, Mint is a popular (and free) online finance-management site for tracking and analyzing personal expenses and investments. It collects your financial information in one place and automatically labels and categorizes it.
It has millions of users, and it has enough data about them that it could generate accurate, continuously updated estimates of their carbon footprints. I want to persuade Mint to implement this. Some development has already been done on the kind of computations needed to infer carbon footprints from financial information, so the project wouldn’t have to start from zero.
If it happens, one day soon, a Mint user will open her financial dashboard and will see a new number, her carbon footprint. If she clicks on it, she'll get to a page explaining what it is, and which shows a breakdown of her footprint's various sources and how it's changed through time. Perhaps she can add additional information, if she wants, to make the estimate more accurate. The persistence of this number in her life will prompt her to pay more attention to the way she uses energy, and maybe even Climate Change, and will provide a guide for modifying her behavior.
Maybe one day she'll look at her footprint trend line and see a spike. She'll click on the day of the spike and see that it's due to a flight she took, and she'll see for the first time that air travel has a giant footprint. It's a perfect forum for exactly the education that we urgently need, targeting a big group of influential people.
It should be possible to sell Mint on the project, because:
Perhaps users could compare their footprint trend lines with those of other users, and maybe even compete to reduce their footprints for prizes. Possibilities abound for social interaction, but I’m keeping this post short, so use your imagination.
P.S. If you’d be willing to become a walking Mint billboard along with me to make this happen, say so in the comments and I’ll contact you. It’ll help if Mint sees that there’s more than one nutter who cares enough to make that pledge.
Mint Logo via Mint.com
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 10:52 AM PST
Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory have just made a breakthrough in bringing the hydrogen economy closer, by splitting hydrogen ten times faster.
Hydrogen will become more useful in a carbon-constrained future, because it can store energy. But the most difficult part has been isolating a single hydrogen molecule in the first place so it can be worked with. Normally, hydrogen shows up only in pairs of atoms – as H2.
Separating it out into single atoms is currently such an energy-intensive and expensive process that it is not cost-effective for energy storage. That is why the much touted future “hydrogen economy” has always remained “just around the corner”, despite hydrogen’s great promise as an important energetic element. Only small amounts are needed to make semiconductors. Today’s hydrogen fuel cells are very expensive.
As Nenad Markovic, a senior chemist at Argonne, noted, "People understand that once you have hydrogen, you can extract a lot of energy from it, but they don't realize just how hard it is to generate that hydrogen in the first place." Markovic led research at Argonne that has resulted in finding a cheaper, cleaner way to produce pure hydrogen.
But by adding adding clusters of a metallic complex; nickel-hydroxide to the platinum catalyst currently used, the team was able to split single hydrogen atom out of water molecules much more easily than doing so with only the platinum catalyst.
Their research was reported in the December 2 issue of Science. How much faster and easier was it?
The new catalyst combination drove the reaction at ten times the previous rate, saving both energy and money. Chalk one up for those “Big Government” scientists – who this year escaped narrowly escaped defunding by the Tea Party/GOP.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science that includes Argonne National Lab, where this breakthrough was made, escaped a cut that the Republican House funding level threatened.
“We won’t have to shut down our facilities,” Eric Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory told Science Insider in April when a compromise was hammered out. “We may have to adjust how we operate them, but we won’t have to shut them down.”
Researchers had expected as much as 20% in cuts when the first House budget was proposed, and were relieved when it looked like just 6% cuts earlier this year.
But after Senate Democrats were able to put back some science and renewable energy funding in December for FY2012, the final Office of Science budget for next year wound up having a small increase to $4.9 billion, below the Obama Administration’s request for $5.4 billion, but a slight increase of $46 million.
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