Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Man-Made Wind For The Wind Turbines Of The Future

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 07:51 AM PST

Low cost wind power is extending its reach throughout the U.S., even in regions where wind conditions aren’t exactly optimal for powering a wind turbine. New transmission lines like the Grain Belt Express are helping to make that happen, and there could be a third option on the horizon if all goes well for Clean Wind Energy Tower, Inc. The company has developed an energy efficient way to generate wind in a steady, reliable stream, and the technology is promising enough to catch the eye of ARPA-E, the Energy Department’s cutting-edge research funding arm.

manmade wind for low cost wind powerLow Cost Wind Power from Man-Made Wind

Clean Wind calls its technology the “Solar Wind Downdraft Tower,” and that pretty much describes what it’s all about: a hybrid system that harnesses solar energy to create wind.

The infrastructure basically consists of a large cylindrical tower in which a fairly powerful downdraft is created when water meets hot, dry air.

To heat the air in the tower, the system relies on ambient energy from the sun. The water is introduced as a fine mist across the top of the tower. As it evaporates the air becomes cooler and denser, and this air fall through the tower at a pretty good clip, reaching speeds in excess of 50 mph.

At the bottom of the tower, the wind is diverted into tunnels in which the wind turbines are located.

Depending on the prevailing wind conditions in any particular region, the company also anticipates outfitting the tower with vertical wind vanes that capture additional wind energy.

You’ll notice that there are a couple of catches, namely that the basic technology is best suited for regions where ambient temperature and water supply are sufficient, but that still accounts for a pretty good chunk of the U.S.

With the aforementioned wind vanes included, the system’s cost effectiveness could span a wider area.

Making Wind without Using Energy

In case you’re wondering how that water gets to the top of a tower without using energy, it doesn’t. The water is pumped, but the system generates enough wind energy to power its own operations, with plenty left over of course.

Here’s what the company is looking at in terms of the system’s capacity:

“…As currently designed, the Company anticipates that each Downdraft Tower will be capable of generating, on an hourly basis, up to 2,500 megawatt hours, gross, of which approximately 1/3 will be used to power its operations. From normal to ideal circumstances the Tower should have a potential hourly yield of 1,100 to 1,500 megawatt hours available for sale to the power grid.”

From Downdraft Towers to Silos

Obviously, Clean Wind is banking on bigness, but you can see the same basic concept at work at the other end of the scale.

One example is a system for small and medium-sized farmers to generate low cost wind power by converting their existing silos to create a steady compressed air flow strong enough to power a small wind turbine.

We Built This!

Not for nothing, but the silo project is being partly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a grant of $100,000.

In that regard it’s worth noting that the developer of the technology, an Air Force veteran and Arkansas native, was partly inspired by a desire to help his fellow Arkansans create a sustainable rural economy, enabling small communities to remain viable.

Meanwhile, Clean Wind Energy Tower is hoping for some big love from the Department of Energy. The company was selected as a semi-finalist for the the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit taking place later this month, which features a new $150 million funding opportunity for breakthrough technologies.

Note: Clean Wind has begun the process of formally changing the company name to Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc.

Image: Low cost wind power system courtesy of Clean Energy Wind Tower, Inc.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Man-Made Wind For The Wind Turbines Of The Future was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Wireless Revolution – Solar Eliminates The Expense Of Wiring Devices To The Grid

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 07:00 AM PST

This morning I decided to head down to the beach and take a photograph of a solar-powered parking lot sign for you, but it was raining. This was very odd, as it almost never rains in Adelaide at this time of year. Of course, it does rain in other parts of Australia. A fair bit of Queensland is under water at the moment as a result of all the rain they’re having, which is rather inconvenient for them, but I suppose it makes for a pleasant change from all that catching on fire they were doing not so long ago. But rain in Adelaide at this time of year is most peculiar. Fortunately for you, I was undaunted and headed out to get some photographs.

Actually, heading out wasn’t that much of a sacrifice. I prefer rainy days to sunny ones. We don’t get enough rain in Australia. Except when it floods. Personally, I dislike walking around in sunshine as I burn very easily. If my arms weren’t so hairy I would have died of sunburn long ago. The sun is my enemy. The reason I am so interested in solar power is it amuses me to gain benefit from my foe.

The reason I wanted to go out and get you some photographs is because I’ve been told that free-standing, solar-powered, electrical devices are rare in many countries, and so there may be quite a few people who have never seen one.

Here is one of our solar-powered parking signs. It cuts carbon emissions by getting its electricity from the sun and stops drivers from wasting time and fuel looking for a park when the lot is full. As it’s a free car park, it was quite thoughtful of the local council to install it.

Powering devices like the parking lot sign with solar instead of mains power can save money by eliminating the cost of connecting them to the grid. The savings can be huge, as installing just a few metres of power line can cost thousands of dollars. It can be much cheaper to install a solar panel and a battery instead. As the cost of solar has decreased and the reliability of batteries has improved, these devices have steadily become more common.

I did notice one odd thing about the solar parking sign. Through sophisticated image analysis techniques, or possibly just by holding a protractor up to my computer screen, I was able to determine that the solar panel has an angle of only 30 degrees. In Adelaide, that makes it optimised for collecting sunshine in the summer, while it should make more sense for it to be at a steeper angle to generate more power during the shorter winter days. But for all I know, 30-degree fittings were on special the week they installed it, and so it was the cheapest option.

There are two other interesting things I learned from my trip to the beach, and they are that ice cream cones now cost $7.50 and it is now possible to buy a thing called a Beer Bong. A Beer Bong is a bucket of beer on a pole with nozzles that hang down like the tentacles of an alien, alcohol-based life form. As a result of this new information, I am unable to decide if Australians have too much money or not enough.

On the right is a picture of a solar-powered park light from the block I live on. As you can see, the solar panel is at a steep angle in order to maximise winter power. See the serrated teeth at the top of the solar panel? Oddly enough, the reason they’re there is not to form steel jaws when it transforms into a robotic dinosaur, but rather to stop birds perching on top and leaving behind little messages. Or even bird poo.

This is a solar-powered sensor for our trams that was possibly built to stop my friend’s mother from speeding when she’s driving them. It includes a mobile phone link that sends information back to the person at Tram Command Headquarters, who I think is called Kym.

And this… I have no idea what this is. The lamp is mains powered, but the box connected to it isn’t. It has an aerial so it can call people, but I’m not sure what it would have to say, "Hi! Yeah, I’m still bolted to a lamp post. How are things with you?" But I’m sure it has a practical purpose. Well, I’m pretty sure it does, but I suppose it’s always possible it could be a primitive type of solar-powered life that escaped from someone’s 3D printer.

There are plenty of uses for free-standing, solar-powered devices, and people are thinking up new ones all the time. Or at least some of all of the time. One potential use is to create temporary or permanent wi-fi in an area. In other words, they can be used to create wireless wireless.

If you don’t have these kinds of solar-powered devices in your area already, you might see them popping up soon. Or you might not. There is absolutely no need for other countries to follow our rather simple approach of slapping a rectangular solar panel on top of a device. Solar cells could instead be incorporated in an aesthetically pleasing way so that you’d never know they were there.

Wireless Revolution – Solar Eliminates The Expense Of Wiring Devices To The Grid was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Considering Solar? Of Course You Are…

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 06:10 AM PST

Home solar panels & cash via Shutterstock

We currently have close to 3,000 articles on CleanTechnica filed under the “Solar Power” category, more than any topic other than “Clean Power” (which is Solar Power’s parent category). But sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees… and that includes us!

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that I don’t think we’ve ever written a post on how to go about getting solar panels put on your roof!

It may seem obvious — close your eyes, dream about them, and then put them on your list to Santa (and, of course, make sure you are being nice, not naughty, throughout the year). Unfortunately, it actually takes a little more work than that. However, not too much more.

There happen to be many different ways of getting those cleantech superstars on your roof, but one or two of those options dominate the huge majority of installations:

  1. Paying a local solar installation company for the solar panels, and for putting them on your roof. (For many of us, this would also require taking out a loan from the bank.)
  2. Paying a solar service company to install a solar power system for a much smaller fee (or even nothing at all), and then leasing the system (or the electricity it produces) from that company for a couple decades to come. This option is dominating residential solar installations these days, primarily due to our aversion to spending a lot of money at once for anything (even if it saves us money in the long term), or in some cases an inability to do so.

Of course, there are other ways to go solar, such as: paying for a portion of a solar garden (if possible in your area), buying solar panels (or even finding free ones) and installing them yourself, using PACE financing (if it’s available in your area), or at least taking part in crowdfunding a solar project. But, as stated, the first two options I listed above are how almost everyone goes solar.

But one question remains — how do you find the best company?

That step has, for several years, put up a big block to going solar. There are many solar installers out there, and now many solar service companies, but which is the best? Well, a handful of companies have actually popped up to help people find the best deals in their locale.

If you’ve noticed (and how could you not?), we’ve partnered with one of those companies (One Block Off The Grid, aka 1BOG) to feed people into that comparison shopping step more quickly and seamlessly. And also because we know 1BOG is doing a good job providing a great service to thousands of consumers interested in cutting their electric bills, saving money, helping prevent mass suicide of our species and other species, and other good stuff.

To make things even easier, you don’t even have to head over to 1BOG’s site to get its help. The company has created a form you can fill out for free right here on our site — right below the related posts below this article. Check it out. Fill it out. And get a solar system put in!

Considering Solar? Of Course You Are… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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