Saturday, January 28, 2012

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Turbulent Air Reduces Wind Energy

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 09:57 AM PST

Wind results from unequal temperatures. This can be a vertical wind or a horizontal one. Vertical winds are responsible for the sometimes rapid rise or fall of planes. The same turbulent conditions that might require you to “return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt” makes wind turbines less efficient.

Additionally, different horizontal wind speeds at different heights, also known as wind shear, can put stress on large turbine blades. Studies have been measuring horizontal wind speeds and their duration to determine the wind energy potential of an area for awhile. Now, a new study concludes that unstable atmospheric conditions can reduce wind turbine performance by an average of 15%. The research was conducted by Sonia Wharton of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California) and Julie Lundquist from the University of Colorado.


Turbulence can also be caused by nearby obstructions. Mountains, man-made structures, sea cliffs, and even vegetation can cause turbulence. Under such conditions, the wind may shift direction quickly. The wind turbine may not react as fast. This puts stress on the structure, in addition to causing performance issues.

Urban Solutions

A place particularly bad for turbulence also suggests solutions. Cities have many obstructions. It has been found that the air is disturbed long before and after obstructions. But, beyond, the turbulence zone wind speed is increased. It has been proposed that small wind turbines be placed on NYC buildings that could take advantage of the increase in wind speed.

Vertical Axis wind turbines don’t need to change directions to meet the wind, and the pitch of the blades can take advantage of updrafts from below the edge of a building. Buildings can also be shaped to channel the wind flow.


Wind can be an economical source of power with the right location. Due to the lack of obstructions out at sea, offshore wind is less turbulent. It also tends to be stronger and more constant. Avoiding wind turbulence is one way to get the greatest amount of energy while reducing costs. Hence, there is a strong push to advance offshore wind technology and install a lot more wind power over the rushing sea.

Photo Credit: Uairo1 (CC by 2.0 license)

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Startup Invents Peel-Off Solar Cell

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 09:49 AM PST

Solar Cells on Windows

Astrowatt has developed a new manufacturing technique for solar cells that would enable them to attain the comparably high efficiency of traditional silicon wafer solar panels, but while using the silicon raw material much more efficiently.

Thin-Film Solar Cells

You’ve probably heard of thin-film solar cells by now. They are, literally, semiconductor ink that is printed using an inkjet printer on a substrate (surface) such as glass or plastic, and possibly encased in a protective solar panel.

The ink used is usually an electricity-generating semiconductor material such as CIGS and cadmium telluride. This type of solar cell can be printed onto flexible surfaces, while traditional silicon wafer solar cells are brittle and, thus, require a rigid and strong surface to prevent breakage.

But that’s not what Astrowatt’s innovation is about….

Astrowatt’s Efficient Solar-Cell Manufacturing

The Astrowatt manufacturing process is not inkjet-related, because their panels are not thin-film, even though it may sound like they are. Traditional (non-thin-film) solar-cell manufacturing techniques involve sawing fragile wafers of silicon into smaller squares to make solar cells, and, during this process, nearly half of the silicon wafer turns into sawdust and is wasted. Of course, the cost of the wasted material is included in the price of the solar panels, and this is an important issue for the cost of solar panels and solar power (the cost of solar power is mostly the capital cost of the solar setup, and the cost of the solar panels is a major part of such a setup).

The traditional wafer sawing process yields three solar cells from every 1 millimeter-thick wafer of silicon (solar cells are extremely thin), but the new method extracts five or more cells per wafer and, hence, eliminates most of the silicon wastage.

The Manufacturing Process

Astrowatt’s manufacturing process is commenced by sawing blocks of silicon into wafers that are each 1-millimeter thick, as mentioned above. Then, the top of each wafer is modified so that it can act as the back of a solar cell, and this process is completed by depositing a layer of metal onto the wafer.

Next, the wafer is heated. Heating causes stress in the material because the metal and silicon expand at different rates. In case you didn’t know, heating causes materials, in general, to expand (this is a decrease in density and increase in volume/size). A wedge is then applied to the edge of the stressed silicon, which causes a crack that propagates to the other edge. This allows the manufacturers to peel away the metal film mentioned above along with the a 25-micrometer-thick layer of silicon, and they continue to peel off successive 25-micrometer-thick layers until they are left with a thick silicon wafer that is still of adequate quality, unlike sawdust, that they can back into the furnace and recycle into another block.

Finally, the thin 25-micrometer-think layers peeled off are processed to produce complete solar cells.

h/t: Technology Review | Photo Credit: Hotzeplotz (CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

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The Hiriko Project Presents a Foldable Electric Microcar

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 09:29 AM PST

I love two-seater electric microcars meant for city traffic—they’re efficient, adorable, and emissions-free. I’m quite happy to say that another one was unveiled in Brussels this week. The Hiriko is a tiny (and super cute) electric prototype with a little bit of a twist—the little city car can actually be folded to reach a length of just 59" while parked.

What Do You Mean, No Parking Spaces

Anyone who's ever driven anywhere in a major city has had trouble finding a parking spot; the bigger the car, the worse it is. (It doesn't help if you, like me, aren't particularly good at parallel parking to begin with.) The Hiriko solves that problem pretty handily with its nifty little folding feature—at less than five feet long, it can fit into a space half the size even a compact car needs. Check out the picture to see how the folding works: To get in and out of the microcar, the driver can fold up the windshield to climb in and out the front in a move reminiscent of the Italian Isetta. Pushing the four-wheel-drive car to a maximum speed of 59 mph are four electric motors. There's no word on what the range is yet, but the Hiriko isn't exactly expensive for an EV; it's supposed to hit the market at the end of next year for $16,500 USD.

Public Support Goes A Long Way

The Hiriko prototype was funded by the EU, then designed and built by a consortium in the Basque country of Spain. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso endorsed the car at its unveiling, as reported by Auto Motor und Sport:

"This is a successful example of how to combat air pollution while taking business requirements such as city mobility into consideration."

The companies in the consortium, for the curious, include Guardian (glass components), Maser-MIC (electronics), Forging Products (chassis), TMA (structure and front door), Sapa Placencia (drive by wire system and steering wheel), Ingeinnova (providing the assembly plant), and Basque Robot Wheels (wheels, of course).

More information is available at the Hiriko Project.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source: Auto Motor und Sport | Images: Hiriko Project.

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Busting 7 Solar Power Myths

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 08:57 AM PST

Britt Mauriss, an occasional writer here on CleanTechnica, had a great post yesterday on sister site Planetsave on 7 popular solar power myths,… and why they are myths. Check it out:

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GOP’s Mitch Daniels a Lover of Cleantech Tax Credits?

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 08:43 AM PST

This is a wonderful post by David Roberts of Grist on a story that, I have to contend, will not end up on FOX News:

By David Roberts

In a shocking turn of events, Republicans have turned on the very man they chose to speak for them this week in response to Obama's State of the Union address — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He is taking a drubbing in the conservosphere, but what's most peculiar about the scandal that threatens to engulf him is that Republicansdon't seem aware that they're attacking him.

Let me explain.

You'll recall that ever since the Solyndra faux scandal, the right has been on the hunt for a "new Solyndra," another company that received help from the Dept. of Energy and subsequently went under. For a while the New Solyndra was going to be Fisker Automotive, for a while SunPower, but those attempts sank like a stone.

The latest candidate is lithium battery company Ener1, Inc., which just declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a long-term debt restructuring deal. Ener1′s subsidiary EnerDel received a $118.5 million grant as part of the stimulus bill. Rep. Cliff Stearns, the GOP's Solyndra point man, has a characteristically melodramatic statement out on it.

Substantively, Ener1′s restructuring means very little. As DOE spokesperson Damien LaVera pointed out, "This is one of 30 new advanced battery and electric vehicle component plants that the administration has invested in across the country." What matters is the success of the broad portfolio, and more important, the success of the industries and innovations the support is meant to stimulate. Of course there will be failures and setbacks along the way. In fact, Congress itself expected the DOE loan guarantee program to have a much higher failure rate than it has actually had; it set aside $2.4 billion in anticipation. That's the nature of supporting cutting-edge companies.

Nonetheless, it's bound to be embarrassing for those who supported EnerDel. For instance, just last year Joe Biden traveled to Ener1′s factory and praised the company for expanding its operation and creating jobs. Ha ha, Joe Biden!

Who else is going to be embarrassed by this?

Well, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium — including Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors — signed a $6.5 million contract with EnerDel in 2007 (in partnership with George W. Bush's Dept. of Energy). Dummies!

The U.S. Dept. of Defense awarded EnerDel a $4 million research grant in 2008 "(i) to create lightweight, high-performance battery solutions for real-time tracking of vital military assets in harsh climates, and (ii) create high-energy batteries to power miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), increasingly critical to battlefield troops." Bozos!

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) was a key advocate for EnerDel. He visited its factory in 2008 and said, "Fostering research for advanced batteries should receive high priority as part of our nation's effort to develop a diversity of energy sources." Here he is acknowledging the risks but saying that companies like EnerDel represent the future:

Lugar and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) sent a letter to energy secretary Steven Chu in 2009 that cites EnerDel's application for a loan under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, as well as its more recent application for funding under the stimulus bill, and says, "We add our individual voices to urge its favorable consideration." Egg on their face!

Of course everyone knows Lugar's a big RINO. What's perhaps more surprising is the heretofore undetected socialism hiding in the heart of hyper-conservative Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who in 2007 called EnerDel "the wave of the future … cutting edge technology [that] will help relieve our dependency on foreign oil." Here he isbragging on the company's DOE partnership. Whoopsy.

There was also Wanxiang, the largest producer of auto parts in China, which announced a joint venture with EnerDel in 2010. Shows what the largest producer of auto parts in China knows!

Hm … anyone else? Oh yes, here's one. In 2008, the "Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered EnerDel up to $7.125 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $58,000 in training grants." Those tax credits were unveiled by none other than Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels:

EnerDel leaders praised Daniels for his strong leadership in crafting a package designed to bring new jobs and enhanced competitiveness for the state's high tech and automotive manufacturing base at a crucial time in a growing industry …

"Eight hundred fifty jobs of any kind is great news. When those jobs are in a technology of tomorrow, like electric cars, it offers the prospect of even bigger news to follow. Indiana has what it takes to lead this automotive revolution and today is step one," said Gov. Daniels.

Here's how much Mitch Daniels loves EnerDel:

Mitch Daniels L-O-V-Es EnerDel.

Fox News is not going to be happy about this.

Meanwhile, as Michael Grunwald wrote in Time last year:

Before 2009, the U.S. was supplying less than 2% of a tiny global market in advanced batteries. When the stimulus-funded factories are all complete, they'll have the capacity to supply 40% of a rapidly growing global market, about 500,000 batteries a year.

The Obama administration created a U.S. advanced-battery industry more or less from scratch. I feel confident history will view that as a bigger deal than the failure of a single company.

Related posts:

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Forget the Moon Colony, Newt: DARPA Aims for 100 Year Starship

Posted: 28 Jan 2012 06:17 AM PST

DARPA 100 Year Starship goes beyond moon colonyPresidential candidate Mitt Romney had a chuckle over Newt Gingrich's proposal to build a colony on the Moon during last Thursday’s debate in Florida, but before he really busts a gut laughing he may want to check out the 100 Year Starship. The new project kicked off last year under the auspices of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with the aim of launching a manned space craft that will send Earth dwellers way past the moon, to a galaxy far, far away. Now go ahead, laugh at the Department of Defense. We dare you!

First Steps to Interstellar Travel

Last fall, DARPA hosted the 100 Year Starship Symposium with the aim of getting the public to start thinking seriously about interstellar travel, and to that end it issued an open invitation for papers. In its solicitation, DARPA outlined the kind of thinkers it is looking for:

"A century can fundamentally change our understanding of our universe and reality. Man's desire to explore space and achieve the seemingly impossible is at the center of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Ames Research Center (serving as execution agent), are working together to convene thought leaders dealing with the practical and fantastic issues man needs to address to achieve interstellar flight one hundred years from now."

A Leader for the 100 Year Starship

Earlier this month, according to an unconfirmed report on BBC, DARPA  offered leadership of the initial phase of the project, the 100 Year Starship Study, to Dr. Mae Jemison, a former astronaut and science education leader. After leaving NASA, Dr. Jemison went on to found the Jemison Foundation for Excellence and was instrumental in the development of the international youth science camp program The Earth We Share. Last summer's “TEWS – Spacerace” program included challenges like designing a mission to the sun and answering the question, "What are we going to do for food on the way to Alpha Centuri?"

Next Steps for Interstellar Travel

Dr. Jemison chaired the 100 Year Starship Symposium's Education, Social, Economic and Legal Considerations component, and her group was assigned to explore issues such as the education mission of the project, how the spacecraft crew would be selected, what kind of economic structure would operate in space, and other questions dealing with profit, politics, and "legacy investments" for a possible round-trip journey. In addition to addressing those questions, the 100 Year Starship Study will examine ways to foster the research needed to design, construct, launch and fly a spacecraft capable of interstellar travel, and to anticipate the social, political and cultural baggage that human beings would need to carry along for a trip of that sort.

A Business Model for Interstellar Travel

During last week’s debate, Romney dismissed the notion of a moon colony out of hand due to the enormous expense but DARPA has already taken that into account. A central goal of the 100 Year Starship Study is to explore “agile financial mechanisms to sustain innovation” and outline a business model for an organization that would be capable of carrying the project forward through several generations, hence the name “100 Year Starship.” As for Gingrich, his concept for a moon colony falls short in that regard. Apparently he envisions an exclusively American endeavor, but DARPA has already begun reaching out to international partners.

Image: Otherworlds1. License AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by fsgm.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Maryland Offshore Wind Farm Proposal Could Catch A Second Wind in 2012

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 01:00 PM PST

Offshore wind farms could soon sprout off Maryland's coast.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed a major offshore wind energy plan in his state for the second year in a row. But even though the plan has wide backing from environmental groups and the public, it may once again face stiff headwinds of opposition from utilities and the state legislature.

The proposal, entitled The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012, would establish an offshore wind renewable energy credit (OREC) carve-out within the state's 20 percent by 2022 renewable portfolio standard (RPS). This OREC system would help facilitate new offshore wind turbine construction by requiring utilities to buy a certain percentage of their electricity from offshore wind farms.

O'Malley's proposal is similar to a proposal that was ultimately tabled in the 2011 state legislative session. Lawmakers opposed the bill over concerns that consumer utility rates would spike if state utilities were required to sign 20-year purchase agreements at above-market rates.

This year's proposal met with a lukewarm initial reception from state lawmakers, even though hundreds of offshore wind supporters demonstrated outside the state house when this year's legislative session first convened.

Several measures have been added to the 2012 version to protect consumers and make it more palatable to legislators. To start, subsidies for the wind farm would be capped at $2 a month beyond what electricity consumers would have paid. Administration officials would also require independent analysis to ensure the added utility costs would provide expected economic and environmental benefits.

The most unique feature of the new proposal, however, could be the OREC carve-out. Under this plan, Maryland's Public Service Commission would establish a commodities market for the wind farm electricity to be sold at competitive prices and come with renewable energy credits to meet the state mandate. Credit prices would rise and fall with market rates to ensure a stable profit.

If approved, the plan could create an abundance of green jobs. State estimates say it would guarantee construction of at least one 100-turbine, 450-megawatt (MW) project, and would represent 1,800 temporary construction jobs and 360 permanent maintenance jobs.

"Offshore wind has the potential to be a big win for our state," said O'Malley in 2011. "A win for jobs, a win for consumers, a win for business and a win for our energy future."

But the biggest factor in support of O'Malley's proposal may be the general public. In a poll released just as he unveiled his plan, a statewide poll shows nearly two-thirds of statewide voters favor developing offshore wind power even if it would raise rates by $2 a month.

Interestingly enough, the poll specifically surveyed voters in the districts of four Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee who didn't support the 2011 proposal. In these districts, support ranged from 63 to 72 percent, with the highest support in the coastal communities within sight of the proposed wind farm location.

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Cloud-Based Wi-Fi LED Lighting Comes to Japan

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 12:47 PM PST

Japanese manufacturer Net LED Technology Corporation has released the first cloud-based Wi-Fi lighting system. The 40-W light allows users to dim lights and wattage from a computer, smartphone (iPhone app), or RFID device.

The costs of the lighting setup runs 60,000 yen ($781 USD) for the primary server, which supports up to 100 lights; 19,800 yen ($257 USD) for the main tube; and 14,000 yen ($182 USD) for secondary lights.

According to Net LED, the installation of 200 lights will save the average company over 200,000 yen ($2,500 USD) annually, which reflects a decrease in power consumption over standard non-dimming LEDs by half.


Source: Net LED Technology Corporation

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