Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Vestas Hits 50 GW Milestone (Over 46,000 Wind Turbines Installed Worldwide)

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:28 AM PDT

vestas 50 GW wind turbines installed

Vestas, one of the world’s leading wind turbine companies, has reached a major milestone this year. 50 GW of its wind turbines, over 46,000 of them, have been installed around the world. That’s about 1/5 of global wind power capacity and would be enough to power 19 million European homes.

Vestas has been around for about 30 years, ancient for a company 100% focused on clean energy. The completion of the 20-MW Kn√§red wind project in Laholm Municipality in Southern Sweden tipped Vestas over the 50 GW milestone. That project provides enough power for approximately 10,000 Swedish households from its 10 wind turbines.

"When the wind industry kicked off over thirty years ago, no one could have predicted the speed of the tremendous technological breakthroughs which drove the growth of Vestas and the wind energy industry overall," Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel said. "The wind industry today provides a sustainable, reliable and competitive energy source for millions of people around the world. Vestas is proud to have been an industry pioneer, and to have put over thirty years of our knowledge, experience and passion into reaching an installed base of 50GW that are making a real difference for our planet and its people."

30 years ago, who was talking about wind energy? Who thought it would be a major source of electricity around the world within a few decades? Now, it is the cheapest source of new electricity in many places, and it is a key component of a critically important clean energy transition. A big thanks to Vestas, which expanded into its 69th country in 2011, for the important part is has played in all of this.

Source: Vestas

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Reducing Wasted Energy with Nanocrystal-Coated Fibers

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Sooooo much energy is wasted by technology these days, and a ton of it is wasted in the form of heat (a whopping 58% in the U.S.). The good news is, that means there’s a lot of potential to tap/capture that wasted energy and use it for better purposes. Researchers at Purdue University are working on that. Here’s more from the Purdue University News Service:

This image shows glass fibers coated with a thermoelectric material that generates electrical current when exposed to heat. The technology might be used to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components, possibly representing a way to recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars. (Purdue University photo/Scott W. Finefrock)

Researchers are developing a technique that uses nanotechnology to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components to potentially recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars.

“The ugly truth is that 58 percent of the energy generated in the United States is wasted as heat,” said Yue Wu, a Purdue University assistant professor of chemical engineering. “If we could get just 10 percent back that would allow us to reduce energy consumption and power plant emissions considerably.”

Researchers have coated glass fibers with a new “thermoelectric” material they developed. When thermoelectric materials are heated on one side electrons flow to the cooler side, generating an electrical current.

Coated fibers also could be used to create a solid-state cooling technology that does not require compressors and chemical refrigerants. The fibers might be woven into a fabric to make cooling garments.

The glass fibers are dipped in a solution containing nanocrystals of lead telluride and then exposed to heat in a process called annealing to fuse the crystals together.

Such fibers could be wrapped around industrial pipes in factories and power plants, as well as on car engines and automotive exhaust systems, to recapture much of the wasted energy. The “energy harvesting” technology might dramatically reduce how much heat is lost, Wu said.

Findings were detailed in a research paper appearing last month in the journal Nano Letters. The paper was written by Daxin Liang, a former Purdue exchange student from Jilin University in China; Purdue graduate students Scott Finefrock and Haoran Yang; and Wu.

Today’s high-performance thermoelectric materials are brittle, and the devices are formed from large discs or blocks.

“This sort of manufacturing method requires using a lot of material,” Wu said.

The new flexible devices would conform to the irregular shapes of engines and exhaust pipes while using a small fraction of the material required for conventional thermoelectric devices.

“This approach yields the same level of performance as conventional thermoelectric materials but it requires the use of much less material, which leads to lower cost and is practical for mass production,” Wu said.

The new approach promises a method that can be scaled up to industrial processes, making mass production feasible.

“We’ve demonstrated a material composed mostly of glass with only a 300-nanometer-thick coating of lead telluride,” Finefrock said. “So while today’s thermoelectric devices require large amounts of the expensive element tellurium, our material contains only 5 percent tellurium. We envision mass production manufacturing for coating the fibers quickly in a reel-to-reel process.”

In addition to generating electricity when exposed to heat, the materials also can be operated in a reverse manner: Applying an electrical current causes it to absorb heat, representing a possible solid-state air-conditioning method. Such fibers might one day be woven into cooling garments or used in other cooling technologies.

The researchers have shown that the material has a promising thermoelectric efficiency, which is gauged using a formula to determine a measurement unit called ZT. A key part of the formula is the “Seebeck coefficient,” named for 19th century German physicist Thomas Seebeck, who discovered the thermoelectric effect.

ZT is defined by the Seebeck coefficient, along with the electrical and thermal conductivity of the material and other factors. Having a low thermal conductivity, a high Seebeck coefficient and electrical conductivity results in a high ZT number.

“It’s hard to optimize all of these three parameters simultaneously because if you increase electrical conductivity, and thermal conductivity goes up, the Seebeck coefficient drops,” Wu said.

Most thermoelectric materials in commercial use have a ZT of 1 or below. However, nanostructured materials might be used to reduce thermal conductivity and increase the ZT number.

The Purdue researchers have used the ZT number to calculate the maximum efficiency that is theoretically possible with a material.

“We analyze the material abundance, the cost, toxicity and performance, and we established a single parameter called the efficiency ratio,” Wu said.

Although high-performance thermoelectric materials have been developed, the materials are not practical for widespread industrial applications.

“Today’s higher performance ones have a complicated composition, making them expensive and hard to manufacture,” Wu said. “Also, they contain toxic materials, like antimony, which restricts thermoelectric research.”

The nanocrystals are a critical ingredient, in part because the interfaces between the tiny crystals serve to suppress the vibration of the crystal lattice structure, reducing thermal conductivity. The materials could be exhibiting “quantum confinement,” in which the structures are so tiny they behave nearly like individual atoms.

“This means that, as electrons carry heat through the structures, the average voltage of those heat-carrying electrons is higher than it would be in larger structures,” Finefrock said. “Since you have higher-voltage electrons, you can generate more power.”

This confinement can raise the ZT number.

A U.S. patent application has been filed for the fiber-coating concept.

Future work could focus on higher temperature annealing to improve efficiency, and the researchers also are exploring a different method to eliminate annealing altogether, which might make it possible to coat polymer fibers instead of glass.

“Polymers could be weaved into a wearable device that could be a cooling garment,” Wu said.

The researchers also may work toward coating the glass fibers with a polymer to improve the resilience of the thermoelectric material, which tends to develop small cracks when the fibers are bent at sharp angles.

Researchers demonstrated the concept with an experiment using a system containing tubes of differing diameters nested inside a larger tube. Warm water flows through a central tube and cooler water flows through an outer tube, with a layer of thermoelectric material between the two.

The Purdue researchers also are exploring other materials instead of lead and tellurium, which are toxic, and preliminary findings suggest these new materials are capable of a high ZT value.

“Of course, the fact that our process uses such a small quantity of material – a layer only 300 nanometers thick – minimizes the toxicity issue,” Wu said. “However, we also are concentrating on materials that are non-toxic and abundant.”

The work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.

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Air-Breathing Batteries: How Does Recharging Your Electric Car Only Monthly Sound?

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:46 AM PDT

Tesla Roadster - Deskinned

IBM-led researchers have estimated that a recent battery technology under development could enable electric vehicles to travel 800 km (497 miles) per charge. This technology is a lithium-ion battery that utilizes air (partially) to generate electricity.

The lithium-air battery was invented years ago, and researchers have been working on improving it since then, primarily due to the fact that it has a potential energy density of 5,000 Wh/kg (5 kWh/kg), meaning that it has the potential to store extremely large amounts of energy in a lightweight package. (Wh = Watt-hours of energy storage capacity… in this case).

Take this example: 24 kWh is an average size for an electric vehicle battery pack. A 24-kWh lithium-air battery pack could theoretically weigh as little as 4.8 kg, or 10.5 pounds, which is less than some large bags of rice.

How Lithium-Air Batteries Compare to Typical Batteries in Use Today

  • Typical lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries have energy densities ranging from 95 to over 200 Wh/kg.
  • Lead acid-battery energy density ranges from 30-40 Wh/kg (rarely used for commercial electric vehicles — they are popular for DIY EVs, though).
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery energy density ranges from 60-120 Wh/kg. This type of battery is used in older EVs (and recent model Prius vehicles).

How This Benefits Electric Vehicles

  1. Since a higher-energy-density battery is lighter, it weighs down electric vehicles less, translating into greater performance — greater efficiency and/or a longer driving range.
  2. Cheaper electric vehicles (if the battery does not cost more than traditional ones) is also a possibility. When the energy density of batteries improves, fewer batteries can be used to achieve the same driving range and performance, and this has the potential to cut the cost of  electric vehicles. Batteries can account for 40% of the cost of an electric vehicle. Lithium-air batteries’ potential to lower the weight and battery capacity requirements of vehicles is so great that even at a much higher price than typical batteries, they could lower the overall cost of an electric vehicle.


Lithium air batteries are still under development, but IBM, which announced plans to research and develop lithium-air technology about a year ago, says that it hopes to have a working prototype available by the end of the year.

h/t Scientific American
Photo Credit: jurvetson

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Turbine Cowboys is “Cliffhanger” of Reality TV Entertainment

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:21 AM PDT


You knew it was only a matter of time before wind turbine technicians would get their own reality show, given wind energy’s growing importance in the energy sector and economy. Well, thanks to The Weather Channel, it’s come true. Turbine Cowboys, which premiered last week and airs on Tuesday evenings, does not disappoint as a "Cliffhanger" for the renewable energy crowd.

As Tina, when writing about Turbine Cowboys in February, noted, the show focuses on wind turbine technicians who face the various challenges of Mother Nature to fix various problems or get wind turbines up and running.

The first episode focuses on two places. The first place is Fossil Gulch, Idaho.  Two technicians, Brent Berentson and Alex Mulder, must inspect turbine blades ahead of a strong ice storm, with the potential of a further snow storm.

Meanwhile, a crew must battle high Caribbean winds on the Bahamas to install a new wind turbine after Hurricane Irene damaged some of the infrastructure on Over Yonder Cay.

One key feature of Turbine Cowboys is gives you a very in-depth look at the lives of wind turbine technicians, what they do for a daily living. It is very intriguing to see some of the challenges they consistently face. These challenges are clearly shown in the first episode, with Brent and Alex in Idaho in a race against time to fix a blade before an ice storm, and the Bahamas crew struggling to put up the new wind turbine, and how one slip up could cause serious injury.

One thing I thought was particularly good about the show was the superb camera work by the production crew. The Weather Channel seemed to spare no cost in providing some great camera angles, showing how dangerous and exhilarating a job being a wind turbine technician is.

While there maybe some criticism that the show should be more educational about the wind industry, I think Turbine Cowboys, nonetheless, hits an inside-the-park home run for The Weather Channel and reality television. Let's hope we will see something like this for the solar energy sector in the future.

Verdict: 3.5 (out of 5) wind turbines from me.

Photo Credit: The Weather Channel

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Boron Gets a Clean Energy Makeover

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:08 AM PDT

Rice researchers investigate boron for high effiency electronicsThough boron  is better known for the making of bleach, as a sort of metalloid cousin to silicon it also has some intriguing potential in solar energy research. Now a team of researchers at Rice University is exploring the possibility that atom-thin sheets of boron could lead to the next generation of high efficiency, low cost solar cells, possibly leapfrogging over the “It Girls” of the emerging materials world, graphene and carbon nanotubes.

Boron, graphene and carbon nanotubes

Graphene is an atom-thin sheet of carbon discovered just a few years ago, and it has been causing waves of excitement over its potential for use in photovoltaics and electronic equipment. However, the obstacle is to come up with a low cost method for fabricating graphene in large quantities, at a predictable quality.

Carbon nanotubes are another new class of material under development with applications for next-generation clean technology, but they face similar fabrication challenges.

The Rice team is using computer modeling to investigate various configurations of boron sheets, and has found that a one-atom thick boron lattice could be engineered to look exactly like the signature hexagonal, chicken-wire formation of graphene. The sheets could be layered over carbon nanotubes to achieve a uniformity that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Wild dreams of boron

Theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson, who leads the Rice team, sees a great potential for boron-coated nanotubes to serve as high efficiency energy conductors:

"If I dream wildly, I like to think boron nanotubes would make a great energy-transporting quantum wire," said Yakobson, Rice's Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and professor of chemistry. "It would have the benefits of carbon, but without the challenge of selecting a particular symmetry."

Like graphene and carbon nanotubes, though, boron still has to take that giant step from the lab table to the factory floor. Stay tuned.

Image: Some rights reserved by fdecomite.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.




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Cleantech Businesses Remain Bullish Despite Media Perception

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT


As media perception of clean technology sectors has hit the wall hard, a study from accounting and taxation company Grant Thornton suggests the future of clean technology and renewable energy remains bullish.

The 2012 report, entitled "Capturing Opportunity: Cleantech Business Booms Around The World," suggests businesses within the clean technology sector in 2011 were more optimistic  (37% net optimism) compared to 2010 (34%). Meanwhile, all other sectors were less optimistic in 2011 at 22%, compared to 24% in 2010.

"Companies once approached the cleantech sector — as buyers or sellers — because it was a good thing to do, a socially responsible corporate action," said Randy Free, partner with Grant Thornton in the report.

"But today, around the world, cleantech means reducing costs and increasing profits," he said.

The industry has grown leaps and bounds since the early 2000's and significantly cut costs along the way. The solar photovoltaics industry has grown from $2.5 billion in 2000 to $91.6 billion in 2011, according to data from Clean Edge. The wind sector grew from $4 billion in 2000 to $71.5 billion in 2011.

As the sector became more bullish, 64% of cleantech businesses were expected to increase their profits in 2011, compared to 42% in 2010, the report said. That was more than other sectors, 40% of which were expected to increase their profits in 2011, up from 29% in 2010, the report said.

With the cleantech industry becoming bullish, the report also said there is further opportunity for mergers' and acquisitions. The report also suggested that there were likely to have been  more mergers and acquisitions 2011 than in 2010.

Increased returns, along with the increased likelihood of mergers and acquisitions, shows the strength of the industry and also means increased potential for new employment opportunities. Of cleantech businesses surveyed, 42% suggested in 2011 they expected to do more hiring, compared to only 28% of respondents in other sectors.

"I'm quite convinced that in terms of employment, this sector will be one of the very important sectors within the German economy," said Kai Bartels, a senior partner with Grant Thornton in Germany.

However, despite some of the upside for the cleantech sector, some challenges remain, according to the report. Perhaps some of the biggest challenges cleantech business face are: red tape and regulations, the need for more trained workers.

The Grant Thornton report supports the idea that this sector is primed for continued growth and a serious force in the global economy this century.

Photo Credit: Solar Knowledge

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Great Lakes Could be Home to Floating Wind Turbines

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:47 AM PDT

Some residents on the shores of Lake Michigan don’t want turbines cluttering up their views, so they put a stop to the Scandia Offshore Wind project set for the waters of Lake Michigan in Oceana and Mason Counties. Now, however, new floating turbine technology could bring a wind farm to the waters of Lake Michigan without raising the ire of such residents; by placing them beyond sight.

"I get it … I understand how waterfront property owners feel about turbines in front of their houses," said Charles Nordstrom, the senior engineer on the Glosten Associates PelaStar project who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie. "The Scandia project had a chilling effect on offshore wind in the Great Lakes. With PelaStar, we are going to melt that chill."

The PelaStar floating wind turbine platforms are made by The Glosten Associates, a Seattle-based engineering group focused on marine technology. Together with Grand Valley State University and Michigan Technological University, Glosten is seeking federal funding for initial engineering and design of their floating turbine technology.

The technology would allow for wind turbines to be placed on Lake Michigan where they would not be visible from shore.

"With offshore wind, 80 percent of the problem is visibility, which is a big issue," said Arn Boezaart, MAREC director and member of the former Michigan Offshore Wind Council. "This is technology that wants to be in deep water, not near shore."

The PelaStar technology has been in development for six years and has been tank tested, but Glosten want to now install full-scale prototypes to continue testing.

The platform on which the turbine is installed is highly buoyant and is held in place by “tendons” which are attached to the lake or sea bottom with anchors. The buoyant base which wants to rise and the tension created as it is pulled down creates a technology that is good at staying upright. "The wind turbine will always stay vertical and it performs as if it was anchored," Nordstrom said.

An initial letter of intent has been sent to federal energy officials and must now be followed up with a final proposal by May 31. Boezaart said federal decisions on funding should be announced in the Fall.

"The consortium is looking for partners to help finance the project," Boezaart said. "The federal government eventually wants a prototype designed, engineered and in the water."

Source: MLive and Glosten Associates

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Nissan Is Watching You — EV Charge Points Tracked and Shared

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:41 AM PDT

Nissan Tracks EV Charge Points in Real Time, Shares With Leaf Owners

Finding somewhere to plug in an electric car can be a little difficult. Several EV manufacturers have maps of EV charge points (as do we, for the U.S.), but keeping those maps updated as more stations are installed (and some places are perhaps lost) can be a little overwhelming. Nissan has a solution to this potential problem — Leaf drivers know where to plug in their cars, so Nissan is just asking them.

Nissan's new service, which went online April 23rd, monitors approximately 13,000 Leafs (in Japan) and records exactly where the cars are plugged in. The data is then sorted and put online for other Leaf drivers to access. Nissan hopes that it will be able to double the number of charging stations currently available to its drivers while cutting down database update time by a third.

Share the Wealth (of EV Charge Points)

Nissan's Leaf EV ICT (Information and Communication Technology) System is the part that records where drivers charge their cars. The information then goes to the Nissan CARWINGS Data Center where it is analyzed, and then fed back into the Leaf navigation system.

The end result is that — with daily updates — Leaf drivers know exactly where other Leaf drivers have successfully charged their cars, and the navigation system will tell them exactly how to get there (presumably, the system filters out instances of "I charged my car at home," because that's not helpful to the general public). The system is currently available only in Japan, but would potentially be applicable to a much broader market.

There is, of course, the issue of privacy and whether or not Leaf drivers want Nissan watching their cars. I believe it's an opt-in system, but either way I actually rather like it (it's not like my phone isn't tracking where I go every minute of every day anyway). What do you think? Do you want your car tracking where you charge it so other people can use that information, or would you rather maintain your privacy and keep your charging points to yourself? Tell me in the comments below!

Source: Green Car View via Gas2
Image: Nissan

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Hybrid Battery Recycling Works! According to Honda

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:35 AM PDT

Honda to Recycle Hybrid Batteries 1

Reduce, reuse, and recycle — the three Rs of waste management have been applicable for decades. Until now, however, they have not been quite so useful for the large-scale nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in hybrid cars, in part due to the difficulty in recovering nickel and cobalt (rare earth metals). Honda appears to have solved the hybrid battery recycling problem, in conjunction with Japan Metals and Chemicals (JMC) Co., Ltd. — the two companies now have a mass production line for a recycling plant specifically for the hybrid batteries.

The availability of the rare earth metals used in said batteries is a question of limited resources — there's a finite amount of each element on Earth and they’re also not really that easy to dig out of the ground and refine. China has the monopoly on that market for the moment, prompting Siemens to start a research project last year to recycle old electric motors. Now it's time for the batteries to be put back into service.

Stainless Steel Scrap With Extra Bits

The current recycling standard involves treating Ni-MH batteries with heat and using the results as stainless steel scrap metal; a much lower value per pound for the recycler and also not a source of the rare earth metals essential for battery production. Honda and JMC have developed a new technology that lets them get the stainless steel back, but after successfully extracting the rare earth metal from the batteries in question for reuse. The recovered metal is even equivalent in purity to that mined and refined in China. Check out the chart below for how it works:

Honda to Recycle Hybrid Batteries Chart

Getting any of the rare earth metals back out of the batteries at all would be cause enough for celebration, but Honda and JMC have actually been able to extract upwards of 80% of the rare earth metals put in the battery in the first place. Honda plans to use their fabulous new resource (gathered from both domestic and international dealers) to not only make new batteries but a wide range of other products as well.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source: Kankyo Business via Gas2
Images: Honda

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Q1: 46,000 Green Jobs Announced in 42 States – Can It Continue?

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:30 AM PDT

Green jobs announced in 2012

Nearly 140 clean energy projects were announced in the first quarter of 2012, and these projects could create up to 46,000 jobs across the United States. These findings come from a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and show green jobs contributing to the U.S. economy across a wide geographic and industrial base.

The analysis is based on 300 separate project and job announcements from companies, cities, and organizations. E2 is a national coalition of business leaders who promote environmental policy, and the group is affiliated with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Diverse Project Announcements

New clean energy projects were announced in 42 states, with two or more projects in more than half of those states. Roughly two-thirds of the jobs announcements came from 10 states that have seen significant overall job and manufacturing losses during the economic recession. Connecticut led all states in total jobs announced, while California led all states in total projects announced.

Top green job states Q1 2012

Surprisingly, most clean energy project announcements were made in Republican-leaning congressional districts. New projects and jobs were forecast across 101 congressional districts, with 70 in districts represented by Republicans and 54 in districts represented by Democrats (13 announcements spanning multiple congressional districts).

New project announcements were also diverse across the clean energy industry. Renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, were responsible for 68 projects and 18,000 jobs. Clean tech manufacturing, including electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines, constituted 35 projects and 10,000 jobs.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

The E2 report is certainly good news for U.S. workers and overall transition to a clean energy economy, but future gains are in jeopardy because of uncertain government policy. Many of the project and job announcements in E2's report were made possible because of federal incentives, which have helped keep clean energy investment economical, even in the face of America's shale gas glut.

Without this support, it may be difficult for clean energy to sustain its momentum. As a recent Brookings/Breakthrough Institute report revealed, federal clean tech spending is forecast to drop 75 percent from its $44.3 billion high in 2009, to a projected $11 billion by 2014 without Congressional action.

But, while federal spending may decline, a combination of more efficient state-level funding programs may help blunt the overall impact on clean energy. A January report found clean energy funds in 21 states generate $500 million per year in direct project financing support, and when combined with state university systems, that can be a powerful driver of research and development.

The E2 report is yet another piece of evidence in the power of a clean energy economy, and underlines the importance of investment in sustainable jobs. Green jobs employed 3.1 million Americans in 2010, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure represented 2.4 percent of all jobs nationwide, and dwarfs the 783,000 jobs in oil, gas, and coal-mining industries.

Photos courtesy of Environmental Entrepreneurs

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Interview: Molten Salt Storage is Safe + Could Store Heat for 2 Months

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 10:14 PM PDT


Last week I had the chance to talk on Skype with Kevin Smith, the CEO of SolarReserve, which is building the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant in Tonopah, Nevada. It is the same technology as one that came on line in Spain last year that can ship power 15 hours a day by using molten salt storage – both as the carrier and as the storage. It was developed by (literally) rocket scientists in the 90s with a pilot project that proved it works.

First, I had to know:

SK: I’ve had a commenter who thinks molten salt could explode… ?

KS: There’s a tremendous amount of study work thats been done on molten salt. It’s a combination of potassium and sodium nitrate.  It’s a very safe compound. It’s kind of similar to the kind of garden fertilizer that you’d spread around in your garden and at these temperatures – the only problem is it’s very hot.

But theres no risk of explosion… theres no… It’s not considered a hazardous substance by the U.S. government. It’s no more hazardous than the high temperature steam, which obviously the high temperature; it’s hot…you have to treat it with that kind of caution – but theres no issues with it being hazardous.

SK: How hot do you get at the top?

KS: We’ll heat up to 1,000 degrees which is comparable to the temperatures that you’ll see in a regular power plant. The big difference with utilizing molten salt, is that at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit it’s still a liquid which means we can store it in a tank. Its low pressure so… it’s not like it’s a high pressure tank or a high pressure system, because it’s a liquid: it’s all still at low pressures, then once we take it to the power project the steam is also at 1,000 degrees.

SK: How about any danger of heating up the surrounding air?

KS: No its completely insulated. the way the system works is what you have is there is a heat exchanger at the top of the tower. The tower is about six hundred feet tall – 550 ft ft tall – its surrounded by huge field of mirrors, and the mirrors heat up the salt as it runs through this heat exchanger and then once its heated up to full temperature it drops back down the tower and its stored in an insulated tank, its a continuos loop like the radiator in your car.

When it comes out the other end it’s at high temperature and then we put it in this tank at the base of the tower – that also is a heavily insulated tank, and its stored in that tank for when we want to generate electricity. Then when we want to generate electricity it goes through another heat exchanger that takes water and heats it into steam, then it goes through a conventional steam turbine just like a regular power plant. So our back end looks just like a conventional power plant with a steam turbine – steam that turns the blade on the turbine.

SK: The 15 hour Gemasolar plant is the same as yours, right? (Along with everything else I learned in this talk, BTW, is the correct Spanish pronunciation: it’s “hemma-solAAR”)

KS: We’ll generate similar to Gemasolar in Spain which uses up all the heat in the salt every single day. Our facility is a similar technology to theirs other than that ours is about six times as large as their project. So their project is really more of a pilot project. They’re I think 17 MW, we’re 110 MW. Ours is the first commercial utility-sized plant.

And we’ll store energy for ten hours. We’ll run during the day, and then we’ll have an additional ten hours that we could run.

SK: Could you store power for more than ten hours?

KS: The molten salt in the tank loses less than one percent of it’s heat overnight. It’s a heavily insulated tank. If we filled the tank with the hot salt and it just sat there it would stay there in its molten salt state for two months.

SK: Two months!!!???

KS: Now, that’s not the way we use it! We use it on a daily basis because we’re generating electricity here every day. But because its in a heavily insulated tank and because salt is a bit self-insulating: the salt in the middle sees the salt next to it is hot… only at the exterior walls do you get a little bit of heat that escapes. As a practical matter though, the heat will be used daily.

Storage means the company can produce for exactly the peak times that a utility needs to cover. For late risers in Las Vegas, who are out till midnight, that can mean a customized generation to suit their needs.

For the Nevada project we’ll only run 12 noon till 11-12 oclock at night. With Las Vegas the big load center for Nevada, they are looking for their peak requirements on the utility, which go up to 11, 12 o’clock at night. But we won’t run overnight.

SK: So, Gemasolar’s is 15 hours and Las Vegas wants just those 12 – but you could run solar 24 hours?

KS: Yeah, we could run it overnight but the utility doesn’t really want it overnight.

SK: Any things you can say about the BrightSource non-IPO?

BrightSource is a good company. They've got strong projects in construction. They are a different technology than ours. Clearly the markets right now are not very strong, either for Initial Public Offerings, or even just the business climate is weak right now.

Its improving, we continue to see an improvement in the economy. Our decision was not to look at IPO activity in 2012, we didn't think the market makes sense right now and its clear from BrightSource's activity that it's not.

You know, they’re a good company, they've got a nice pipeline of projects and we expect they'll continue to be successful – we have a different business model, on IPO we'll probably look at that next year.

(I also had some questions about Desertec too: his answers here.)


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Airborne Wind Turbine Video from Altaeros Energies — Seeing Is Believing

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 12:46 PM PDT


Airborne wind turbine

Tina Casey previously reported on a helium-based airborne wind turbine from Altaeros Energies capable of delivering electricity from elevations ranging from 350 feet to 1000 feet. The image used for her post was a donut, reflecting the shape of the device.

Now Altaeros Energies has released a YouTube video, featuring explanatory notes on how the system works and how electricity is distributed.

Not so sure how the system — which could easily have been used for a scene in the movie Blade Runner — works with air traffic controllers. However, the technology is impressive and is said to deliver far more juice from its elevated altitudes. Check out the new video:

Source & Photo: Altaeros Energies

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