Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boeing set to start large scale production of the highest efficiency solar cells on the market

Best known for their massive jet planes, powerhouse Boeing is set to begin the large scale production of their highly efficient concentrator photovoltaic cell (CPV), the C3MJ+. The cell is said to be one of the highest efficiency cells on the market today, with an average conversion efficiency of 39.2 percent. The cells, produced by Spectrolab, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing company, are will be a major improvemnt on the C3MJ cells currently in production, which currently convert 38.5 percent of the sun’s rays into electricity.

Spectrolab is a market leader when it comes to the production of solar cells and photovoltaic technology, and has been producing such elements for various space and terrestrial applications for 50 years. Since 2007, the company has been introducing the large-scale production of solar cells that have consistently boasted an increased energy-conversion efficiency rate year on year.

The researchers at Spectrolab have even set a world record for solar cell efficiency with a test prototype that peaked at 41.6% – it has been said to be the basis for the solar cell C3MJ+ technology.

Speaking about the new cells, Russ Jones, Spectrolab director of CPV Business Development stated, “Given the new cells’ close similarity to our existing production cells, we believe that our current C3MJ customers will be able to easily upgrade for more efficiency.”

The important difference between concentrator photovoltaic cells and conventional PV cells is the multi-layer structure of semiconductor material aimed at generating power in correspondence to various frequencies of sunlight. The overall system is a combination of lenses and mirrors consisting of multi-junction cells.

Considering their success in the past, it is no surprise to learn that Spectrolab is expecting a 40 percent average production efficiency for terrestrial solar cells in 2011.

Monday, November 29, 2010

World's largest renewable energy project in the Saharan desert

A giant step has been made in what will be the world’s largest renewable energy project. While previously just a grand vision for the production of clean energy in the Saharan desert, the project now has a core group of backers and a signed agreement between 12 companies wanting to move forward with the $555 billion renewable energy belt. The 12 collaborators signed articles of association last week for the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative (DII), which will work to bring more companies and groups on board as well as focus on regulations and conditions to get the project successfully completed and generating pure power from the sun.

The DESERTEC Foundation vision is to install 100 GW of solar power throughout Northern Africa, with the goal of supplying 15% of Europe’s energy demand with clean renewable power. So far a number of blue chip and powerful companies have signed on to be part of the project, including ABB, ABENGOA Solar, Cevital, DESERTEC Foundation, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, SCHOTT Solar, and Siemens. The project will link multiple solar concentrating facilities around coastal North Africa and transmit most of the renewable energy through high-voltage DC lines to Europe. Additionally, desalination plants will be coupled with the solar concentrating plants to bring fresh water to people in Africa.

Although still many years out from completion, the signed agreement between the founding partners will help bring cohesion and a unified force to the project. A considerable amount of work must still be done to bring this to reality, and more support must be garnered from both European agencies and companies along with organizations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. Questions regarding energy security, fairness, social justice, water and solar rights, as well as compensation must be dealt with along the way.

New DESERTEC CEO van Son says, “Now the time has come to turn this vision into reality. That implies intensive cooperation with many parties and cultures to create a sound basis for feasible investments into renewable energy technologies and interconnected grids. The DII will primarily focus on the economic, technical and regulatory conditions that must be fulfilled for successful project implementation.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

World’s largest solar-powered boat attempts to break world record circumnavigation

The world’s largest solar-powered boat – TÛRANOR PlanetSolar – departed from Monaco on September 27th in an attempt to become the first boat to circumnavigate the globe using only solar energy. Aside from getting another world record under the boat’s belt, the aim of the expedition is to demonstrate that, through the use of existing materials and technology, high-performance solar mobility can be realized today.

The multihull vessel is covered in 537 square meters (5,780 sq ft) of solar panels, which power the four electric motors (two in each hull) that have a maximum output of 120 kW and can propel the boat to a speed of 14 knots. Although the vessel is capable of hosting 40 passengers and is destined to be used as a luxury yacht after the circumnavigation attempt, the vessel is crewed by just six people and that is the number that will be making the round the world journey.

The 31 m (102 ft) long, 15 m (49 ft) wide vessel was built by Kiel-based boatbuilding firm, Knierim Yachtbau, using light yet durable carbon-sandwich construction. In total, 20.6 tons of carbon fiber, 11.5 tons of foam core and 23 tons of resin and hardener were used to create the craft, whose 537 square meters of solar panels consists of a total of 825 modules, equipped with 38,000 individual photovoltaic cells made by SunPower Corp. The energy they capture is stored in six blocks, each containing 12 lithium-ion batteries.

The vessel is driven by two contra-rotating carbon propellers that each have a diameter of almost two meters (6.6 ft), which is twice the usual size for a craft of the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar’s size. As only half the propeller is underwater, a “wheel effect” is created which makes it possible to steer the ship without a rudder.

At the time of publication, the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was just north of Cuba, making its way towards its next planned stopover in Miami. Other planned stops for the PlanetSolar team include Cancun, San Francisco, Sydney, Singapore, Abu Dhabi before finishing in Monaco sometime in 2011.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Completion of the Park Hotel in Hyderabad, India's first LEED Gold certified hotel

Andhra Pradesh, India recently announced the completion of the country's first LEED Gold certified hotel, the Park Hotel, Hyderabad. Described as a 'Modern Indian Palace', the new eco hotel designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) combines local craftsmanship and high performance design into a 250 room hotel. The hotel is designed to be ultra modern and sustainable, yet it is influenced strongly by local vernacular architecture - read on for a look inside!

The Park Hotel in Hyderabad is distinguished by its impressive facade of perforated metal, which serves as a sun and rain screen that protects the building’s high-performance windows. Daylighting, orientation, solar gain and local climate were all taken into account during the design of the building to maximize light and minimize heat gain. The mostly square volume wraps around an elevated large courtyard that provides protection for the hotel’s pool, restaurants, bars, retail shops, and other mixed-use programs. Rooms enjoy expansive views of Hussain Sagar Lake and the city yet are shielded from receiving much sun.

SOM collaborated with Stevens Institute of Technology’s Product Architecture Lab in Hoboken, New Jersey in order to minimize the hotel’s energy consumption — and they succeeded in reducing it by 20%. The team also collaborated on incorporating an on-site waste water treatment plant that processes both gray water for reuse and waste water before it is released back into the city’s sewer system. The hotel is the first in India to achieve LEED Gold certification and it has been awarded Best New Hospitality Project of 2010 from Cityscape India.

Monday, November 22, 2010

170-meter skyscraper capable of collecting water and generating energy

Like a plant that opens its petals to collect dew, the Blooming Tower by Mekene Architecture responds to environmental changes with a kinetic facade that opens and closes throughout the day. The mixed-use recreational facility combines playgrounds, a library, a conference space and picnic areas under a lightweight tower covered in sail cloth material. The 170-meter tower designed for Dubai is also capable of collecting water and generating energy.

 The base of the eco tower is slightly sunken into the surrounding gardens, and a large dome creates recreational space, picnic areas, a library, and a conference area. The tower is designed with a lightweight aluminum frame, and it narrows as it rises up 170 meters tall. The top-level features a cafe and viewing level that is accessible via a cable car elevator.

The tower was inspired by the city’s strong connection to the sea, which is expressed through the use of sail cloth material. The exterior is covered in a facade of movable white sail cloth that has multiple purposes. During the day, the sail cloth is closed and serves to provide protection from the sun. While the flaps are closed, a chimney effect is created in the tower and hot air rises up and out, drawing in cool air.

Each flap also has the ability to move, and as it vibrates with the wind an attached piezo-electric device generates power for the building. At night, the sail cloth flaps open like the petals of a flower and collect dew from the night air and store it underground in a reservoir. This dew collection system is expected to capture enough water to accommodate the entire building’s needs.

Friday, November 19, 2010

London 2012 - London to fall short on environmental pledges

London 2012 organisers are on course to fall short of their environmental pledges, according to the London Assembly.

A new report - Going for Green - from the Assembly's Environment Committee has stated that London 2012 may not be as environmentally transformative as originally hoped and said more must be done as the Games approach.

High on the list of the Assembly's concern were that original targets on renewable electricity during the Games were unlikely to be met while the report also labels the failure to secure more electric vehicles as a ‘missed opportunity'.

In July, the Assembly criticised organisers, stating they will fail to meet its target to obtain 20 percent of its electricity from new local renewable energy sources.

That largely came as a result of having to shelve plans to erect a wind turbine in the Olympic Park, after changes to health and safety legislation.

Environment Committee chairman Darren Johnson said: "We fully support London 2012's ambition to be the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games in recent history, and there has been some excellent work towards that goal.

"However we don't want to see environmental standards compromised in the run-up to what I am sure will be a fantastic Games.

"We need to see clear targets for re-using temporary materials, more detail on how organisers will promote sustainable travel and plans for recycling facilities on site and around London."

The report also states that London's air quality has not improved as hoped since 2015 and claims that will in turn result in harmful levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in parts of the capital in 2012.

"London's air quality is a particular cause for concern, as failing to reduce levels of pollutants could have consequences for London's international reputation as well as the health of those attending the event," added Johnson.

The report went on to set out work that Locog must complete if the Games are to live up to their environmental aspirations include a plans to promote sustainable travel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Transparent Solar Material Could Lead to Photovoltaic Windows

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven and Los Alamos National Laboratories have created a new type of transparent photovoltaic film that can be spread over large areas to absorb light and create an electrical charge. It is hoped that the technology could lead to the development of power-generating windows and transparent solar panels.

This isn’t the first ‘solar window‘ story that we have reported on, so what makes this technology so different? According to the scientific journal Chemistry of Materials, “though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation.”

Lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials said that the material stays transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-researcher Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN. “Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

She is right — with so many companies each working on separate ways to create ’solar windows’, surely it is only a matter of time before everyday items such as windows and doors are able to generate electricity for homes and businesses.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The World’s Smallest Solar-Powered Movie Theater

While An Inconvenient Truth may have opened our eyes to the perils of global warming, most of us still saw it in a cinema powered by large amounts of electricity. Fortunately, movie fans now have an option to see films in a more sustainable manner – The Sol Cinema, which is the world’s smallest solar-powered movie theater!!

The Sol Cinema was made from a converted two-berth caravan and funded by the media arts charity Undercurrents. Its film projector is powered by four large lithium-ion batteries that are charged by two 120W solar panels. You need not worry about large crowds or people talking on their phones either, as the Sol Cinema only seats eight adults or twelve children.

The cinema says it has a “full library of comedies, quirky movies, music videos and short films with inspiring environment themes.” Situated in Kent in the UK, the Sol Cinema hopes to raise people’s awareness about solar power while showing educational films. Earlier in the year, the cinema was used at Ramsgate town’s new Summer Squall arts festival, where it played a number of local documentary films.

The Sol Cinema is an innovative idea that shows what can be done on a small scale — it just makes this writer wonder why more cinemas don’t install solar panels on their roofs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Glastonbury festival unveils the largest private solar system in the UK

If U2 or the Rolling Stones had been performing on his cow shed roof, the Glastonbury Festival supremo Michael Eavis could hardly have been more excited. "It's fantastic. This is the best fun I've had here for ages," he said. "We had to make a big statement – and that is what we've done."

Eavis' statement is an "array" of 1,116 solar panels installed on the roof of that cowshed - nicknamed the Mootel. To the sound of a musician called Harriet playing Here Comes The Sun on the vibraphone (deemed suitable because its aluminium bars resemble solar panels), Eavis today unveiled what is believed to be the biggest private solar electric generating system in the UK.

The photovoltaic (PV) modules will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 40 homes annually. Power generated will be used, in the first instance, for Eavis' Worthy Farm and any left over will be fed into the National Grid.

Wearing shorts on a chilly but perfectly blue Somerset day, Eavis said: "We had to make a major statement because we use so much power. This has brought us one big step closer to our goal of operating the farm as ecologically as possible." The 1,500-acre site effectively turns into a small city at festival time with more than 200 diesel-powered generators hauled into place to make sure bands can play, food-and-drink suppliers can operate and the place is lit up at night.

Much has been done already. Eavis and his team have built reservoirs so water does not have to be brought on site and linked into local sewerage systems so human waste does not have to be carted off. They recycle all they can and encourage people not to drive if they can help it. But on a busy night they need up to 15 megawatts of power to make sure everything runs smoothly. Eavis felt they were still "losing the argument" so when he built the new cow shed seven years ago, he made sure its roof sloped gently southwards and was strong enough to support 20 tonnes of solar panels.

He has been impressed by how easy it has been. The bank lent him most of the money and the government's feed-in tariff - a subsidy for small-scale renewable energy generation - has meant it makes economic sense to launch the project. He should earn £60,000 a year from the project. Eavis's cow shed, which enjoys a fine view of the pyramid stage - skeletal at this time of year - and Glastonbury Tor in the far distance, now generates up to 200 kilowatts of power. It should also save around 100 tonnes of carbon a year. He expects to make the money he has invested back in nine years.

Lucy Brooking Clark, green initiatives co-ordinator for the Glastonbury Festival, said it was an "amazing" day. "It feels like one big step for Glastonbury today. It's been four or five years in the planning. We have to constantly look at how we can make the festival more sustainable - we have to keep raising the bar." Steve Riches, a planning engineer for Western Power Distribution, which makes sure the electricity generated on the roof reaches the National Grid, said it was a "symbolic day." Riches said: "I think other farmers and landowners will look at what Michael Eavis has done here and try to do the same. I think this is an important step."

Next week, the Farming Futures project, which works to inform farmers about climate change, will be hosting a workshop with Eavis at Worthy Farm for others thinking of investing in solar panels. Bill Egan, who for the last 26 years has made sure Worthy Farm has all the power it needs for the festival (mainly by bringing in all those generators), was trying to work out whether he would still have a job for a few years to come.
However, festival is so energy-hungry though that he concluded he would. Using the power generated on the cow shed roof would probably allow only six temporary diesel generators to be lost. As Eavis bounded from interview to interview, Egan calculated that they would need between 50,000 and 100,000sq m of solar panels to be sure of generating enough electricity. "You'd lose a lot of camping space for that. I think my job is safe for a while."

But he said they had already thought about how best to use the new source of electricity, perhaps using it to charge generators that are used for long periods, for example by crew members who are on site for months before and after the festival. "We'll start getting those cables in now," he said. Phil Miller, the infrastructure manager for the site, said they were always on the look-out for new ways of cutting the festival's carbon footprint. "I heard about an idea of using urine to generate power. That could work for us. Or what about putting solar panels on marquees? We have to keep trying." Eavis is already thinking about the future. "We've got the best festival in the world and the best solar power system in the country - so far. We've got to keep pushing, trying to do more." And with that he was off to make sure the panels were performing properly - and the cows beneath them were as content as he was.

Farmers across the country, but especially in the south-west of England, are becoming more interested in the idea of supplementing their income through solar power. Claire Wyatt, of Farming Futures, a government-funded organisation that helps farmers cope with and prepare for climate change, said farmers were "hungry" for information. "I think it's because the technology has improved, and so you no longer need the perfect site, but the feed-in tariff [under which landowners are paid for the energy they supply to the National Grid] has shown them it is economically valuable."

It was standing-room only at an event held in Oxfordshire last week, and there are 200 people on a waiting list for a Farming Futures session at Glastonbury site Worthy Farm next week. Companies that supply solar panels have started to organise seminars for farmers in the West Country – the Californian-based SunPower Corporation recently held well-attended events in Somerset. One of the most eye-catching schemes revealed earlier this year was a £40m network of solar farms in Cornwall. If the network is built, it would triple the UK's current solar generating capacity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Produce your own power with solarpod by thousandsuns

solarpod by thousandsunsTM : Portable Solar Generator

solarpod by thousandsunsTM
is an ideal way to achieve energy self-sufficiency using solar power. It contains the latest in battery and inverter technology and with our optional high performance solar panels. It can power electrical and electronic devices when off grid. It can power most appliances found in the home, office, sheds or workplace – such as TVs, stereos, games consoles, laptops, phones, power tools etc.
solarpod by thousandsunsTM works out-of-the-box and is completely plug-n-play with no installation required. It is compact, light, durable and amazingly powerful.

Watt foldable/angle adjustable solar panel
To complete solarpod by thousandsunsTM, we recommend the Thousand Suns 60W foldable solar panel. It features a robust yet light and waterproof aluminium stand that allows stability on most surfaces. The panel can be angled as required to ensure the optimum inclination depending on location.

Produce your own power within 5 minutes of unboxing the kit
solarpod by thousandsunsTM contains a high performance LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery which is a safe and environmentally friendly. It is fitted with a 300W inverter, a UK 3-pin socket (or a continental 3-pin socket), 2 USB and a 12V Car socket. It can be charged either by solar panels or directly onto the mains (an auxiliary charger is provided).

Solar energy and battery indicator
solarpod by thousandsunsTM features LED light strips that indicate the amount of solar energy being collected by the solar panel as well as the amount of stored energy in the battery.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A 5 kWh storage system for solar panels with a cycle life matching that of most solar panels.

Dispatch Energy and Fraunhofer ISE and ISIT have developed a 5 kWh storage system for solar photovoltaics (PV) with a cycle life matching that of most solar panels.

Dispatch Energy specialises in electrochemical energy storage systems which exploit lithium-ion polymer technology.
The Black Diamond product range has been designed for decentralised, building integrated solar PV installations.
“Thanks to an extremely high cycle life, the calendrical service life of the cell technology and the refined modular system concept with its integrated battery management system, the battery bank can be used efficiently throughout the typical service life of a modern photovoltaic installation,” says Dr Matthia Vetter, Head of the Off-grid Photovoltaic Systems and Battery System Technology Group at Fraunhofer ISE.
“The battery system is therefore adapted to match the guaranteed service life of the remaining components in a grid-connected PV system.”
The solar PV storage system is protected against overcharging and overdischarging, and is said to have an efficiency of over 95%.
Its modular construction allows it to be easily connected to charge controllers and inverters already available on the market. Furthermore, customers can retrieve data on the reserves of electricity available at any time via a touch screen phone, laptop or smartphone.
Series production is scheduled for mid-2011. The aim is to equip over 1000 solar PV homes with battery systems annually.

Mass series production with a total capacity of 250 MWh is currently being planned.
Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) contributed expertise in the fields of battery module and battery system construction, battery and energy management system development and integration into grid-connected and off-grid solar PV systems. Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT) has a new pilot cell production line, which Dispatch Energy Innovations GmbH is benefitting from.

This article is featured in:
Energy storage including Fuel cells Photovoltaics (PV)