Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

New Solar Panels Don’t Need Direct Sunlight

Friday, September 18th, 2009

GreenSun Solar Panels

In North America, one of the problems in harnessing solar energy is the fact that there needs to be a slightly south facing roof in direct sunlight for the solar panels to produce an optimum amount of energy.  This might no longer be the case. read more »

Teenager Invents $40 Solar Panel Made From Human Hair

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Milan KarkiWhen you go to get your locks chopped, we just see all the hair that should be thrown away.  Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a  village in rural Nepal, saw an opportunity.  He discovered that hair could be used to conduct electricity, and now thinks he could revolutionize the solar industry. read more »

Mixing Salt And Fresh Water Produces Electicity…Who Knew?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

salt-electrode-01When salt water and fresh water meet, energy is released when the salt water tries to find a new salinity equilibrium.  According to Doriano Brogioli of the University of Milan Bicocca in Monza, Italy, this energy can be harnessed using modern day techniques to capture the energy. read more »

Compressed Air Energy Storage

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

compresssed-air-energy-storagePacific Gas & Electric has resorted to an older technology to make wind power more effective.  The wind can be unpredictable in terms of when and how hard it blows, and the unpredictability presents a problem for the grid.

PG&E will use the off-peak electricity produced by the turbines to run air compressors that will be used to fill underground caves or caverns left from mining.  When the wind is not blowing as hard or at peak times, the electricity will then be released to a turbine that will then create the extra electricity to meet the grid’s demand.

Another benefit is in terms of cost.  Currently, wind power is more expensive than energy produced at traditional power plants.  This is reflected in the price per kilowatt hour for the consumer hindering many people from switching to environmentally friendly energy.  The compressed air technology will make wind power less expensive and more competitive in the open market allowing more consumers to make the switch.

This is actually a twist on a old idea.  In Huntdorf, Germany, a traditional 290MW power plant will produce extra off peak electricity and store it in the form of air compression, and release it during peak times.  The Huntdorf plant has been in operation for over 25 years.

The compressed air technology has not been tested with wind turbines, but the transition should not pose and problems.


Leftovers to Electricity

Monday, August 17th, 2009

virgin-island1With 2 million tourists visiting the Virgin Island every year, it is not surprising that the small island of about 100,000 has a problem with tourist waste.  In fact, they have so much of it that the EPA has fined the territory for the excessive solid waste and is now running out of places to put it 146,000 tons of garbage.

Alpine Energy Group to the rescue.  They plan on building 2 waste-to-energy plants that would essentially burn all the excess municipal solid waste in order to create steam that will create electricity.

The process starts by making the waste into a homogeneous material called “fluff”.  Then the remaining metal scraps are taken out and the fluff is compressed into pellets that are then burned.  The steam produced will then power turbines which will in turn produce electricity.  This seems like a great solution to an overwhelming problem…right?

I hate to be the one that simply points out faults in a plan instead of coming up with something better, but aren’t we just replacing one kind of pollution (trash) into another kind of pollution (air)?  The vast majority of municipal solid waste is either biodegradable or recyclable.  Is this a case of out of sight out of mind?  Is it not possible that the organic matter could be composted and sold and the paper and plastic could be recycled?

Overall, I am glad that they are less dependent on fossil fuels, but this cannot be the best solution to ultimate problem of pollution.  What are your thoughts?

via cleantechnica

image via

Hydrogen Manufacturing Is Now 20-30 Times Cheaper

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Dr. Sen Kim who is the Director of S&P Energy Research Institute (SPERI) has been working on ways to make hydrogen the fuel of the future, and he has discovered a way to produce hydrogen at an extremely low cost.  The problem with hydrogen power today is that it takes 4-4.5 kwh energy for getting 1 cubic meter of hydrogen.  The method they have come up with only requires .1 kwh making it significantly cheaper to produce.

via newswire, gizmodo

120 Megawatt Wind Powerplant in Ethiopia

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Ethiopia started building the right way.  They have in the past relied on hydroelectric dams for power, but with the severe drought they are facing, they have turned to another renewable resource for energy.  They have announced the building of the largest wind farm in Africa costing 220 million euros.  When it is finished, it will be able to produce 120 megawatts and will supply 15% of the nation’s energy.

The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation’s chairman Meheret Debebe has stated that the new wind power project “will help us to fill the gap of hydrological risks we are facing in Ethiopia with the droughts”.  This is a significant landmark for other developing countries to build renewable energy infrastructures.

via greenweb

New Material Able To Absorb Full Light Spectrum

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Ohio State University Chemists have produced a breakthrough material that can absorb the full spectrum of sunlight and make the electrons generated easier to capture.

The material is an amalgamation of electrically conductive plastic and metals like molybdenum and titanium. It is the first such material able to capture the full solar spectrum. The solar panels in use today are only able to harness a small portion of the energy in sunlight.

The material is still in its infancy and is far from commercialization, but it is another example of the vast possibilities of capturing and using the sun’s energy. Even with the economic downturn, and the lack of extension of credit in many sectors, the arena of green energy continues to raise funding and attract solid investments.

If this new material can be coupled with cutting edge battery technology, it has the potential to change the way we produce and consume energy. Individual homes could be rigged with their own energy systems and virtually wipe out the need for grid power. With the potential of this technology coupled with nanotechnology in batteries the viability of an oil free nation is within reach in the next decade.

The material generates electricity just like other solar cell materials do: light energizes the atoms of the material, and some of the electrons in those atoms are knocked loose.

Ideally, the electrons flow out of the device as electrical current, but this is where most solar cells run into trouble. The electrons only stay loose for a tiny fraction of a second before they sink back into the atoms from which they came. The electrons must be captured during the short time they are free, and this task, called charge separation, is difficult.

In the new hybrid material, electrons remain free much longer than ever before.

To design the hybrid material, the chemists explored different molecular configurations on a computer at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Then, with colleagues at National Taiwan University, they synthesized molecules of the new material in a liquid solution, measured the frequencies of light the molecules absorbed, and also measured the length of time that excited electrons remained free in the molecules.

They saw something very unusual. The molecules didn’t just fluoresce as some solar cell materials do. They phosphoresced as well. Both luminous effects are caused by a material absorbing and emitting energy, but phosphorescence lasts much longer.

To their surprise, the chemists found that the new material was emitting electrons in two different energy states — one called a singlet state, and the other a triplet state. Both energy states are useful for solar cell applications, and the triplet state lasts much longer than the singlet state.

Electrons in the singlet state stayed free for up to 12 picoseconds, or trillionths of a second — not unusual compared to some solar cell materials. But electrons in the triplet state stayed free 7 million times longer — up to 83 microseconds, or millionths of a second.

When they deposited the molecules in a thin film, similar to how they might be arranged in an actual solar cell, the triplet states lasted even longer: 200 microseconds.

via thedailygreen

SkyTrough (TM) The World’s Cheapest Utility-Scale Solar Power System

Monday, October 13th, 2008

These days it seems like solar power is moving leaps and bounds toward a truly viable and scalable alternative energy source. Black silicon, solar tubes, and fusing nanotechnology with solar present the potential for solar energy to be immense. The solar company SkyFuel has come up with a way to lower the cost of parabolic troughs by 35% by using a new silvered-polymer film instead of the traditional heavy glass mirrors. This makes the concentrators less expensive and more durable since the film will be backed by sheets of aluminum and will not shatter.

SkyFuel estimates that it can deliver electricity below the concentrating solar power benchmark of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour at a profit. That’s the price of other solar thermal technologies, but still more than a natural gas or coal power plant.

The company expects to have a small installation of its SkyFuel system–between 2 to 10 megawatts in size–in the next year and larger installations after the initial pilots.

The company is already working on the second generation product that will include storage. It probably won’t be commercially available for at least a few years, Huntington said. Rather than heat up oil or hot water, the parabolic troughs will heat up tubes of molten salt. That salt can be stored to make electricity even after the sun goes down.

via CNET

Carbon Sciences Turns CO2 Into Fuel

Monday, October 13th, 2008

The company Carbon Sciences has developed a low-cost way to turn regular CO2 back into the basic building blocks of hydrocarbons.  Turning CO2 to fuel is not new, however the process consumes more energy than it gives off because they either require high temperature or high pressure.

The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite, with traditional catalytic chemical processes, the Carbon Sciences process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 into basic hydrocarbon building blocks. Of greatest significance, our process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches.

While this may not be an ultimate solution for our energy needs, it buys us time and gives us a bridge until we can find a more comprehensive solution.

via inhabitat