Monthly Archives: September 2010

Indian villages get first time electricity from non-traditional sources

The government of the Indian state Orissa has promised to deliver electricity to another 2,000 villages by the end of March 2012.The electricity will not come from traditional power plants but from a mix of solar, wind and biomass sources as well as small-scale hydropower projects.

The Indian government is momentarily doing a great deal of investment in renewable power sources to meet growing power demands. So far, wind power capacity of 1167MW and about 5 billion units of electricity have been fed into the national grid. Small-business owners have started using renewable energy sources for their power needs. Although solar panels are still unaffordable for the majority, the use of solar heaters is expanding in houses and hotels in India with the market rapidly growing. Bangalore has the largest number of rooftop solar water heaters in India that generates an energy equivalent of 200 MW everyday.

But in many rural areas it is still a different story, even concerning traditional electrification. Despite earlier efforts of the state and the central government, nearly 40% of Orissa villages are yet to be electrified. In the national scenario, Orissa is placed at the bottom of the list (24th position) of states already electrified, along with states like Bihar, Meghalaya, Tripura and Jharkhand. This is a surprise fact for Orissa, as it is regarded as a leading power producer in the country. But progress is at hand; currently already 395 villages in the state are powered by solar energy and an additional number of 205 are to be completed by the end of the year. Further renewable energy development in Orissa includes 118 MW of biomass plants, with 20 MW of that to be completed soon. Two wind power projects, 150 MW in size are in the works, with surveys for 22 more locations underway. Micro, mini and small scale hydropower projects are also planned for deliver an additional 300 MW.

So no hooking up to coal-fired plants for these first time electricity users, if all goes to plan it will be smooth sailing into the modern era of electricty for these rural villages.

Turning sound into electricity

Scientists from Korea have turned the main ingredient of calamine lotion into a tiny material that converts sound waves into electricity. The research could lead to panels that can charge a cell phone from a conversation or provide a boost of energy to the nation’s electrical grid generated by the noise during rush hour traffic.

“Just as speakers transform electric signals into sound, the opposite process — of turning sound into a source of electrical power — is possible,” said Dr. Young Jun Park, a scientist at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, and Sang-Woo Kim, the two corresponding authors of a new article in the journal Advanced Materials.

“Sound power can be used for various novel applications including mobile phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles,” the co-authors added.

Harvesting energy from phone calls and passing cars is based on materials known as piezoelectrics. When bent, a piezoelectric material turns that mechanical energy into electricity.

Lots of materials are piezoelectric: cane sugar, quartz and even dried bone creates an electrical charge when stressed. For decades, scientists have pumped electricity into piezoelectric materials for use in environmental sensors, speakers and other devices.

Over the last few years, however, scientists have made dramatic advances in getting electricity out of piezoelectric devices. Most of these devices, which are not yet available for consumer purchase, would generate power as a person walks, runs or, in this case, talks. The U.S. Army is even looking at partially powering some vehicles by channeling the physical impact of a bullet into a small electrical current.

The Korean scientists, however, want to harness a different kind of power source: sound waves.

Using zinc oxide, the main ingredient in calamine lotion, Young Jun Park, Sang-Woo Kim and their colleagues created a field of nanowires sandwiched between two electrodes. The researchers blasted that sandwich with sound waves, which at 100 decibels were not quite as loud as a rock concert. A normal conversation is about 60-70 decibels.

The sound waves produced a mild electrical current of about 50 millivolts. The average cell phone requires a few volts to operate, several times the power this technology can currently produce.

The new research is interesting, said Michael McAlpine, a scientist at Princeton University who also builds energy harvesting devices.

“But the real question though is whether there is enough ambient noise to act as a power source as for a cell phone,” said McAlpine. A consumer probably wouldn’t want to attend a rock concert or stand next to a passing train to charge their cell phone.

The Korean scientists agree: 50 millivolts is not a lot of power, but they also say their research is proof of concept. As they continue their work, they expect to get a higher power output.

Source: Discovery News

Morgan LIFECar2 built on high performance

Morgan Company  is ready to go to production with the LIFECar 2. Three years ago they have built  a hydrogen fuell car and now have  moved   its original  form to a diesel electric hybrid for practically and increased range. This unusual car is a very interesting addition to the growing hybrid population and one of the few that uses a diesel-electric drive train, which has the capability of being more efficient than gasolie.

The original fuel cells have been removed and replaced with a small diesel engine to provide power. This gives LIFECar a 1,000 mile range (rather than 250) at 50 miles per gallon, while retaining many of the other specs on the original.

The car is ultra lightweight thanks to innovative components and use a lot of aluminium for this sport coupe. It weighs in at only 800kg (1,760 pounds), has 15 miles of all-electric range, and does 0-60mph in only 7 seconds.

The styling is very classic with an unusal V-top opening  (rather than doors). The seats are made from composite board in leather and amenities are sparse to save weight. All materials used in the vehicle’ s build as sustainable as possible and made for easy recycling.

Morgan doesn’t now the price tag yet, but usually builds to order. So sales could be unlimited.

With a little help from Mars

We’re not talking about about the amount of daily dust our houses accumulate here, but imagine how much dust companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations have to deal with on a daily basis. Whilst we can use a cloth and wipe dust off the bookshelves or windows, how do they get the dust off the surfaces of the solar panels? Windscreen-wipers may sound like an option, but apparently the new found solution doesn’t require much water or mechanical movement.

And yes, it’s a legitimate problem that the solar power industry deals with. It doesn’t take that much dust to have an impact on solar farms. A dust layer of “one-seventh of an ounce” per square yard is enough to decrease output by 40 percent, a huge deal if solar is to be cost competitive. And in the kinds of places where solar farms are built, like the desert, the amount of dust deposited each month on average is 4 times higher than that.

Large-scale solar installations already exist in the United States, Spain, Germany, India, Australia, and the Middle East. These installations usually are located in sun-drenched desert areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel. Just like grime on a household window, that dust reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

Scientists have now presented the development of one solution – self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars. In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 22, they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energise the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level.The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen’s edges. The scientists say that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for these cleaning operations.

Perhaps this new technology will help us make a step further towards the goal of making solar energy available worldwide.

Source: Science Daily

Converting waste heat to electricity

Waste heat can produce 100,000 megawatts of electricity. As the demand for power increases with the use of various electrical appliances for home and office use, and as concern for CO2 emissions grow among individuals who are feeling the heat of the greenhouse effect, the call for recycling energy and recovering waste heat is now stronger than ever, particulary for China and the US, where it generates most waste heat.

Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that up to 100,000 megawatts (MV) or 100 gigawatts (GW) of electrical capacity  can be produced annually by the US through recycled energy or waste heat. This  translates to 742 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity or a 19% savings in US electricity consumption. This also means that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be reduced by up to 400 million metric tons along with 630,000 metric tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Waste heat is the smoke coming from chimneys, boilers  roofs of power plants and  industrial smoketacks. Waste heat could also come from domestic appliances, now the fastest-growing consumers of energy  in the world. According tot Worldwatch Institute, making it possible for 20% to 50% of burned fuel to go into the atmosphere as waste heat, as reported by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

Renewable energy production helps the environment by not adding to the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of society.With the exception of biomass, electricity and thermal energy production do not give off nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter and carbon dioxide. Popular choices for renewable energy sources have always included  solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower sources. Also the Green Turbine can play a part in the conversion of waste heat, especially for small scales installations.