- Australia Rides the Tide Toward a Wave Energy Future
- New Solar Module Reduces Payback by up to 5 Years
- Scientists Successfully Test Traction Motor for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
- Virtual Power Plant to Help Integrate Renewable Energy into Grid
- China Gets it First Solar-Powered Hybrid Buses
- A 200-Mile “Date” with a 2012 Mitsubishi i EV
- Nearly 200,000 GW of Solar Possible for United States, Finds New Study
- 541 MW of Solar Approved for France
- “Mr. Watson, Come Here. I Have Graphene!”
- California Renewable Energy Forecast Just Keeps Getting Brighter
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 11:40 PM PDT
A new report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the national scientific research entity, found the motion of the ocean could supply about 11 percent of Australia's electricity by 2050. This power could be generated across as little as 150 kilometers of coastline, depending on the installed technology, and could be reliably forecast three days in advance.
The finding is a big deal for a nation where 80 percent of the population lives along the coast, and is equivalent to powering Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city.
Potential along Almost Every Coast
Wave-power potential is greatest along the country's southern coastline, driven by strong winds that generate consistently large waves, but it is also notable near Australia's eastern coast, alongside its main population centers. The study mainly cited tidal energy, but also examined the niche potential of ocean thermal power to supply local power needs along the northern Queensland coast.
Notable Hurdles in the Way
While ocean energy's potential is massive and ought to be explored, the study also found significant hurdles in the way. Researchers note that ocean currents can move over time, meaning infrastructure built in one area may not always be ideal. In addition, the ocean energy industry is still working to build generator blades large and strong enough to withstand constant use and corrosive conditions.
Environmental, economic, and cultural considerations could also prove prohibitive, including impacts to marine protected areas, indigenous land rights, shipping lanes, defense, and recreation. The report also notes wave energy's future hinges on the success of Australia's carbon tax, which began operation this year but has been threatened with repeal by the country's opposition political party.
Wave Energy Cresting across the Country
Even with these unknown factors looming large, the island nation is rising with the tide toward realizing its renewable energy potential. Australia recently committed $10 million to help bring two new wave energy systems to market, including the world's biggest wave energy turbine, a 250-kilowatt (kW) full-scale pilot plant.
The world's largest wave energy project, a 19-megawatt installation, is also expected to begin construction in 2013 off the southeastern state of Victoria. The joint public-private effort between Lockheed-Martin, Ocean Power Technologies, and the Australian government should start generating electricity in 2014 and be fully online by 2017.
Australia's navy is also moving full-steam toward wave power. HMAS Stirling, the largest naval installation in the country, recently signed a power supply deal to secure electricity from an installation of submerged buoys off the western coast of Perth.
Like most renewable energy technologies, wave power is expected to become more affordable and cost-competitive as additional testing is completed and more projects come online. One recent estimate found wave energy will drop to $100 per megawatt-hour (MWh) by 2020 – a price on par with offshore wind.
Wave energy is still in its nascent stages, but CSIRO's report means it could soon grow to a tidal wave in Australia's clean energy future. "Assessing the opportunities and challenges from resource to the market is a first for ocean renewable energy," said Ian Cresswell, the report's director.
Wave image via Shutterstock; Australian wave energy potential image via CSIRO
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 11:00 PM PDT
“An increasing number of businesses have begun recognizing the environmental and cost-effective benefits of going solar,” said Alan H. Lee, CEO at ecoSolargy. “ecoSolargy’s objective is to facilitate the use of renewable energy through the provision of reliable and affordable solar solutions. The features in our new lines embody our commitment to sustainability, quality and cost-savings for our customers.”
The new high-efficiency, black-on-black Lotus solar modules come in three different wattages to fit a variety of solar projects. The Lotus panels are engineered at the molecular level using state-of-the-art nanotechnology. Unlike regular solar modules, nanotechnology-built panels have a smooth surface that prevents water, dust, and dirt accumulation, making them self-cleaning, anti-fading, anti-fogging, and anti-bacterial.
The modules’ buildup resistance improves solar energy absorption by up to 6% and increases efficiency by 35% over a 20-year period. This feature also eliminates the need for periodical cleaning maintenance and ensures the panels are always performing at maximum efficiency, resulting in cost savings equivalent to a three- to five-year decrease in payback time.
The Lotus series also offer excellent performance under low light conditions, and the black aluminum frames withstand the severest of environmental conditions.
Apollo and Zeus
ecoSolargy’s Apollo and Zeus mono-crystalline photovoltaic modules come in five different wattages that adapt to many budgets and project sizes. In addition to durability benefits — including corrosion and high wind loads resistance — both Apollo and Zeus panels rank high in performance. The Zeus 300W module has the second-highest PTC* rating out of all 300w mono crystalline PV modules in the market; the Apollo 250W module, when combined with a M215 micro inverter, delivers one of the most efficient system performances in the market.
Alpha, Orion and Titan
ecoSolargy is also revamping three of its existing module lines. The Alpha, Orion, and Titan series have been improved for maximum efficiency and cost-savings. All the updated panels have more power, are more efficient, and ensure quicker investment payback.
*PTC (Practical Test Condition): Power a module produces in real life testing conditions — 1,000 Watts per square meter solar irradiance, 20 degrees C air temperature, and wind speed of 1 meter per second at 10 meters above ground level.
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 10:30 PM PDT
Traction motors are the key ingredient in hybrid and electric vehicles, converting electrical energy into motion. The new GE-designed traction motor is not only cheaper to build, but in lab tests it was found to also be more powerful and more efficient than anything on the market today.
GE’s new motor can run at a higher temperature than a conventional traction motor, but without the need for extra cooling lines. A conventional traction motor will run at approximately 65ºC but require a dedicated cooling loop to keep it running. GE’s latest development has created a model that will run continuously at 105ºC over a wide speed range (2,800 – 14,000 rpm at 30 kW) and cooled using engine coolant.
Without the need for dedicated cooling lines, cars carrying this new motor will be lighter and cost less.
GE's prototype traction motor operates at a peak power level of 55kW and exceeds state-of-the-art motors in the same class in several key areas:
"This is a significant accomplishment. We at GE are pushing the boundaries to build more robust, yet more efficient motors for hybrid and fully electric platforms," said Ayman El-Refaie, Electrical Engineer, in GE Global Research's Electrical Machines Lab. "We have built a motor that is substantially more powerful than what's commercially available now, all while improving efficiency by up to 5%."
GE has already built several prototypes that have been fully lab tested and demonstrated for the Department of Energy.
"This technology is scalable and flexible enough that it can be leveraged in a number of capacities," said El-Refaie. "What we learned through this project will help us build higher efficiency industrial motors, high-speed oil and gas compressor motors, and generators for aerospace applications."
Source: GE Motors
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 10:00 PM PDT
"There is considerable talk about how to integrate a large number of small, renewable sources into the grid in a more efficient and cost effective way, as current feed in tariffs, that simply reward production are expensive and ineffective,” said Dr Valentin Robu, from the University's Agents, Interaction and Complexity Research Group, who worked on the study.
"CVPPs that together have a higher total production and, crucially, can average out prediction errors is a promising solution, which does not require expensive additional infrastructure, just intelligent incentives."
Valentin adds: "Scoring rules with specific incentive properties have long been used to design payment mechanisms that incentivise agents to report private probabilistic predictions truthfully and to the best of their forecasting abilities.
"We show that our mechanism incentivises real DERs to form CVPPs, and outperforms the current state of the art payment mechanism developed for this problem."
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 09:10 PM PDT
China recently got its first solar-powered hybrid public transport buses. The buses are powered by solar panels, which are expected to increase the life of the lithium batteries used in the bus by 35 years. The buses were launched in the city of Qiqihar in north-east China’s Heilongjiang province.
The buses have been manufactured by Heilongjiang Qiqiar Longhua New Energy Automobile Co., Ltd. at a new industrial park which was founded in 2010 as part of the province’s largest investment in a new energy project. The industrial park was built with an investment of $329 million.
The buses can accommodate 100 passengers and consume 0.6 to 0.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity per kilometer.
China has announced ambitious plans in the clean transport sector. China has already invested $15 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure, and the government has expanded a plan to introduce electric vehicles in 25 cities.
Recently, the government directed the car manufacturers to increase annual production capacity of clean cars to 2 million by 2020. The government aims to achieve sales and production of half a million clean energy cars by 2015 and 5 million by 2020.
Image: Abubiju/Wikimedia Commons
The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 04:09 PM PDT
The Mitsubishi i electric vehicle has been anticipated, discussed, driven, featured in many CleanTechnica articles, and even raced, but there are probably as many ways to view the experience of a test drive as there are drivers. Yet, common, to the point of cliché, are the expressions: "It drives like a normal car," and "It doesn't drive like a golf cart." Confident in my own unusual perspective, I announced, to mixed receptions, that being with the car for almost 4 days was a bit like going on a date.
“Grandmother's house we go…"
Concurrently, I am using this "media drive" to test the myth that you can’t go to “grandmother’s house” with an electric car. The most famous trip to grandmother’s house was probably less than 10 miles and was popularized in a well known song. To grandmother’s, or whatever weekend trip you might take, may be less than 60 miles away. The Mitsubishi i has an EPA range of 62 miles, and a very excellent MPGe of 126 in the city and 99 on the highway (30 kWh / 100 miles). Seeing that if I picked up the car in central NJ, rather than having it delivered to NYC, I would be able to drive further, I took the electrified East Coast Train to New Brunswick and by the end of the day was about 90 miles outside of NYC.
People can have different goals on a date, but here I am pondering the experience of getting to know someone. My mechanical partner on this trip was a Raspberry Mitsubishi i, special edition (SE.) Take a few minutes to look through the photos of the trip. Expand them for a better look, but most of the wording is repeated in the text that follows:
Driving the Car
It was a very hot day and we jumped in the vehicle to turn on the AC. The handler, who gave me a quick lesson on operating the vehicle, was nervous with "The Plan." "You know you have to charge this vehicle," he panted, "you can't just go to a gas station." As if to distance himself from the insane, he kindly excused himself, saying, "I don’t want you to use up the battery." The Mitsubishi i is one of only a handful of electric cars available in the US, and the only electric vehicle that is delivered for media tests.
Undaunted, I drove South for almost an hour on the NJ turnpike in AC comfort, where the posted speed limit is 65 but traffic moves easily at 70 mph. Most electric vehicles could do more but have governors to limit the speed and maintain fuel economy. This one is set to 80 mph. The car kept up without any noticeable sign of strain. I once owned an MG midget that couldn't do the same.
"Shifting" the vehicle from "drive" to "economy" would make the accelerator less responsive (0 to 60 takes longer) and allow somewhat more regeneration when the foot was removed from the control. This effect is pushed even more with the shift control in "B (braking?)." So it is possible to downshift the vehicle when coming to a stop, and use engine braking as you might do with a manual shift car. Unlike its petrol counterpart, this downshifting is not only saving the brakes, but also charging the battery. This would play an important role in my last trip with the vehicle.
With only a single and fixed gear, "shifting" has nothing to do with a transmission, gears, or engine speed. It is an electronic switch that changes the nature of the accelerator control and regenerative braking. The feel is entirely different from a petrol vehicle. There is never any jarring with the MiEV. Everything is very smooth.
My Date with the Mitsubishi i
As I slowly found out more about my EV partner in different settings, I was also able to observe reactions of family, friends, and the people we met along the way. My first stop was the home of a storyteller who once regaled me with the feeling of the electrified trolleys he once traveled in across rural NJ as a boy. We had arrived at the “Grandfather’s house.” Sadly, the electric trolleys no longer exist. “We have gone backwards,” he complained with exasperation. But with some pride, he presently boasted, "Now I can say I have ridden in an electric car." OK, the trip was worthwhile.
The Small Battery Solution
Electric vehicles can be made with large batteries. The new Tesla Model S caters to this demand, with batteries as large as 85 kWh. The big battery will be more costly to replace than a smaller battery. It will also take longer to charge and it is more weight to carry around (not to mention the cost and weight of a hybrid’s gasoline engine). Like astrophysicists looking for Earth-like planets, we need a Goldilocks solution. A battery that is not too big and not too small, but just right for the size of the vehicle and expected charging level. The Mitsubishi i has, at 16 kWh, a small battery, but it is enough for this road trip and most daily driving. More importantly, as there are almost no public charging stations in NJ, I can plug it into any 120-volt outlet (level 1 charging) and recharge the vehicle in a practical amount of time.
How Much Charge Time is Available?
I drove around a bit and finally put the vehicle on to charge at around 5:30 pm, with two bars remaining. Most vehicles sit for 23 hours a day. (12,000 mile average a year / 365 days = 33 miles / day = less than 1 hour driving.) If a vehicle is traveling for less than 1 hour a day, that potentially leaves 23 hours for charging. It takes only seconds to plug it in and the same to unplug it. I didn't sit and watch the vehicle charge (and wasn’t forced to watch a propaganda screen at the pump), but spent the time visiting, resting, and preparing for the next trip.
With just a little planning, we can travel, stay, travel, stay, and enjoy a relaxing trip that is probably better for us than long periods of sitting in a vehicle. We clamor for longer ranges that we don’t always need, have limited use to us (again, we average less than one hour of driving a day), aren’t good for us in any event, and may not be as good for the vehicle, as higher charge levels also tend to shorten battery life. It is in our nature to always want more.
But a battery EV may not work for everyone. "He goes to work and then sometimes has to go to meetings across the state from there." The EV can work well when the route is small or easily planned. Uncertainty, like flexibility, is a cost that must be paid at the pump.
Charging: Amps, Volts, and Watts
I was surprised that the provided cord contains 16 AWG (American Wire Guage) wire. Using NEC (national electrical code) standards, this is sufficient for continuous load of 8 amps. Charging the vehicle draws about 7.3 amps, varying slightly over the duration of the charge. (I have a lawnmower that draws 9 amps, and a car battery charger that draws 10 amps, and with these I use a 12 AWG extension cord good for 16 amps of continuous draw.)
7.3 amps at 120 volts is 876 watts. This is a bit like filling a swimming pool with a straw, as the 16 kWh battery will require at least (16000/876=) 18.27 hours. The car’s rated 21.5-hour charge time (using a 120-volt level 1 charge) is due to some small inefficiency of the on-board charger and a charging pattern that tapers the charge amperage at the end of the charge cycle. In most countries with 240 volt power, that same wire size would give (8 x 240 =) 1920 watts, and as the voltage is doubled, the charge time is reduced by half.
Higher amperage could also reduce charge time. A dedicated 20-amp, 120-volt circuit (16 amp continuous) could charge this size battery in ½ the time if the equipment were designed for it. Beyond this, there are aftermarket adaptations that would provide 240 volts from two out-of-phase 120-volt outlets (in the US) or a 240-volt dryer plug.
A dedicated J-1772 (2009) charger, that you might install in your garage or find in a public setting, is a “safer” connection, but as public infrastructure is slowly being installed, a car like the Mitsubishi i, with its small battery, could take advantage of opportunistic charging: level 1 (120 volts in the US) and potential 240-volt connections at campgrounds or from dryer and welding plugs. We presently need both, but opportunistic charging, once an active issue, is now mostly ignored.
–> On to Page 2, which includes “another reason to buy an EV,” the way home, the longest drive, “range anxiety,” and the last day.
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 02:47 PM PDT
The report is titled, U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis.
In Table 1, it provides a number of very interesting figures. Chiefly, that it is rural utility-scale solar that could be dominant in the future, with 153,000 GW of potential. Texas accounts for about 14% of all the rural solar potential for the whole country. It also has about 20% of all the concentrated solar power potential for the nation. So, it appears this single, huge state could have a very bright future in terms of solar power development, and therefore in economic growth as well.
Typically, Texas is thought of mainly for oil and cattle, but sometime in the not so distant future, it might become a clean energy powerhouse. (These kinds of very large infrastructure changes have been speculated to have significant cultural implications. For example, the construction of a huge, underground sewer system in Victorian London was said by at least one scholar to have social psychological implications, and at the very least was a part of a different perception of public hygiene and public health.)
The same type of PV, in urban areas, they found to have a potential of 1,200 GW. Rooftop PV potential they rated at 664 GW.
Offshore wind was 4,200 GW, and enhanced geothermal was GW 4,000. It was concentrated solar power, at 38,000 MW, that was in second place to rural utility-scale solar’s dominance.
It will be fascinating to see if the development of renewable energy in rural areas, where the potential is tremendous, will change the cultural views of some of the people there.
For example, recently, a relative and friend of hers, who is an Iowa farmer, picked me up at the airport in a new Hybrid Prius to drive us back to a tiny farming community. If some of these rural areas become the “energy basket,” so to speak, of America, will they be perceived in a more esteemed way by people living in large cities and on the coasts, who might tend to use words like ‘redneck’?
Often, these renewable energy news stories contain technical specifications and cost information, which is useful, but what about some of the cultural implications of the transition away from fossil fuels?
Every state in the US has notable solar power potential, according to the study.
Image Credit: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0.
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 01:45 PM PDT
Currently, the largest solar plant in operation in France is about 67 megawatts, but several fairly large ones are now under construction or in the planning phase. The country did have a plan to have over 5,000 MW installed by 2020, but this outlook may be in doubt at the moment.
With the administration change, perhaps the new approvals are an indication of a friendlier attitude toward solar power. Sarkozy was believed by some to have ties to the nuclear industry (ties that were conceived to be too close), and the shrinking of new solar projects under his guidance may have been a reflection of that relationship.
The French government is now supporting the creation of a new report on its solar industry potential. This document may be published in September. The CEO of a photovoltaics company in France said the new administration is more green-oriented.
If you look at a map of France’s solar radiation levels, the highest are in and around Marseilles, and the lowest are, of course, in the North.
Solar heating panels have been used there since the 1980s but they didn’t become relatively common until a decade later. By 2009, there were about 715,000 homes using them.
France is already a low-carbon nation in terms of energy production. About seventy-five percent of its electricity comes from nuclear power.
Image Credit: Jddmano, Wiki Commons
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 09:00 AM PDT
Scientists at Columbia Engineering have discovered yet another talent in graphene, a unique new material that consists of a sheet of atoms only one atom thick. Graphene is already under the spotlight for its potential use in ultra-efficient electronics, batteries, solar energy, and even desalination, and now it seems that graphene could provide a platform for energy-efficient telecommunications, too.
Graphene for telecommunications
The new research, in collaboration with the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, has resulted in the development of a hybrid semiconductor chip made of silicon layered with graphene.
With the addition of graphene, the research team was able to make the chip generate a radio frequency on top of a laser beam. They could also change the frequency by altering the intensity and color of the laser beam.
The device is based on “mixing” two electromagnetic fields that operate at low energy, which translates into a reduction in the amount of energy needed to transmit each information bit.
I did so build this graphene whatsis!
Given the number of large and small businesses that have launched on the back of silicon chips, Columbia’s new hybrid chip could have the potential to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of new private sector enterprises based on a new generation of energy-efficient telecommunications.
Entrepreneurs who succeed in this new niche will naturally want to give a measure of credit to the research team that developed the new hybrid chip.
While they’re at it, they could throw a bone to the Columbia Energy Frontier Research Center program, which supported the research and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as the the Columbia Optics and Quantum Electronics IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) program, which is funded by another government agency, the National Science Foundation.
Image: Courtesy of Columbia Engineering.
Follow me on twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 29 Jul 2012 03:05 AM PDT
The forecast for renewable energy in California, already America's strongest solar market, just keeps getting brighter.
Renewable energy represented 20.6 percent of the electricity mix from the state's three biggest utilities at the end of 2011, up from 17 percent in 2010. While slightly off the 20 percent renewables by 2010 goal set in 2002, the jump suggests the state may reach its ambitious 33 percent by 2020 renewable portfolio standard.
But a wider look at the state reveals it's not just the state's big three utilities that are boosting renewables. A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the thirteen biggest utilities in California, representing 87 percent of all retail electricity sold in the state, generated 30 percent of their electricity from renewables and large-scale hydropower in 2010.
While renewables are growing fast across California, solar power is set to grow exponentially in the Golden State. PG&E, the state's largest utility expects solar to jump from one percent of its total renewable portfolio to a staggering 40 percent by 2020.
"We're about to see solar on a project scale larger than almost anywhere in the world," said Aaron Johnson of PG&E. "There's no way to get from here to there (33% RPS) without solar." A similar jump is expected in Southern California Edison's territory, which forecasts solar to grow from six percent of its total renewable mix to 40 percent by 2020.
But even as more and more solar comes online, the state's grid operator is proving it can handle the intermittent electricity supply. CalISO set a new solar generation peak of 978 megawatts (MW) earlier this week, a significant mark considering daily peak demand during the summer season is around 33,000 MW.
These individual marks are impressive, for sure, but California's ultimate solar potential could be much, much brighter. 12 utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plants with a 2,200MW capacity are currently under construction in the state, and a staggering 62 PV plants with 11,600 MW of capacity are under development.
With so many renewable energy projects in flux due to inconsistent and uncertain incentive policies, California stands as a model for states and the federal government to demonstrate the massive impact an ambitious and steady set of renewable energy policies can have on the economy and environment.
California flag image via Shutterstock
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