VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Jul-Aug 2008

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New and Renewable Energy Jul-Aug 2008

ISSN: 0971-5630

VATIS Update New and Renewable Energy (formerly Non Conventional Energy)* is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of New and Renewable Energy. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

* This update has been renamed as 'VATIS Update: New and Renewable Energy' from Jan-Mar 2015 onwards.

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ADB to promote clean energy through private equity funds

Using up to US$100 million in seed capital, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping establish five private sector funds with a total target investment of up to US$1.2 billion in clean energy projects in Asia. ADB is playing the role of a catalyst by identifying and supporting fund managers willing to establish clean energy-focused private equity funds. Each of the funds will each receive up to US$20 million in capital from ADB. The five funds were selected from 19 fund managers responding to ADB’s call for proposals issued in July 2007.

The MAP Clean Energy Fund aims to invest a total of US$400 million in 10 to 15 projects, each worth US$ 15 million to US$40 million, across Asia, with a focus on Southeast and South Asia. Geothermal projects in Indonesia, wind projects in India and Pakistan, and bio-ethanol projects with no competition for food crops in the region are among those considered.

The China Environment Fund III has a target size of US$200 million to US$250 million and will invest in companies working to improve the environment by reducing, reusing and recycling natural resources in China. It will make 15 to 20 investments of US$5 million to US$30 million each in clean energy areas, such as solar photovoltaic modules, large-capacity batteries for wind farms, a laser-based monitoring system for thermal power plants, coal-bed methane projects, etc.

The US$200 million GEF South Asia Clean Energy Fund will invest US$ 3 million to US$15 million each in about 12 projects across South Asia in companies and projects that promote the use of efficient, reliable and clean forms of energy in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The Asia Clean Energy Fund has a target size of US$200 million and will make about 15 investments of US$10 million to US$15 million each throughout Asia. Projects in the pipe-line in Southeast Asia include palm oil, solar energy, solar photovoltaics, waste to energy, biodiesel, replacement of used transformers, and power plant rehabilitation.

With a size of US$100 million to US$150 million, the China Clean Energy Capital Fund will make 8 to 12 investments of US$5 million to US$30 million each in renewable energy projects, energy savings and energy efficiency, and other clean energy technologies in China. Projects in pipeline include renewable power generation (biomass, wind farm, solar thermal), alternative fuels (biodiesel and ethanol), and energy savings/energy efficiency technologies (new construction materials).


Green energy in India not reaching the grid

Despite the growth of renewable energy – solar, wind and biomass – in India, not much of it reaches the power grid that transfers electricity across long distances. The reason: only 14 out of the 28 states have set quotas for sourcing renewable energy for their grids. This is in spite of the Electricity Act of 2003, which specifically mentions that the states must source a certain proportion of power consumed from renewable sources. The Act also directs State Electricity Regulatory Commissions to institute preferential tariff for purchase of electricity from a renewable source.

Estimates from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy state that India generated 12,403 MW of cumulative grid-interactive renewable power by the end of March 2008, and is now aiming to achieve a target of 20,000 MW by 2020. However, the use of renewable energy through power grids is negligible. Renewable energy accounts for only 8 per cent of the total installed power capacity in India, according to an official from the Ministry.


China to expand wind power capacity

The China is planning to expand wind power generating capacity by fivefold the previous target by 2020, an industry official said. “The National Development and Reform Commission has just recently completed an internal meeting to discuss the possibility of increasing wind power capacity to 100,000 MW,” said Mr. Shi Pengfei, vice president of Chinese Wind Energy Association said.

China aims to get 15 per cent of its power consumption from renewable sources by 2020, though the majority of the capacity will come from hydropower projects. “To meet this binding target, besides hydropower, wind also has to play a major role as others like solar and bio-energy will only generate small amounts out of the total,” Mr. Shi said. To provide a boost to the sector, the Ministry of Finance has said that value-added tax and import tariffs on key wind turbine component imports will be refunded with retroactive effect from 1 January 2008. The country had 5,600 MW of installed wind capacity at the end of 2007, although nearly a quarter of them were grid-connected, according to the electricity regulator and industry association. Distributors in China are not keen on wind power, as they have to secure back-up energy at times when the wind is not strong enough, and wind power costs more than coal-fired electricity.


Sri Lanka’s private sector to drive move for carbon credits

Carbon trading or selling carbon credits earned through greenhouse gas reduction projects is becoming a lucrative business all around the globe. To facilitate this, the Sri Lanka Carbon Fund (SLCF) was launched recently. The main role of SLCF will be to assist companies and other parties to verify their carbon credits and sell them in the international carbon market. The Fund will function as a private company, jointly established by the government and the private sector, with the the government holding majority shares.

Dr. B.M.S. Batagoda, the CEO of SLCF, said the fund will bundle the carbon credits earned by smaller companies and sell it to international buyers who usually prefer to buy a larger volume. The carbon market is demand-driven and the prices of a carbon credit may vary depending on demand and supply.

Sri Lanka could start many Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects that could have certified emission reductions, each unit equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. Project verification is a very rigorous and lengthy process. The Climate Change Secretariat, the Designated National Authority for CDM projects in Sri Lanka was also launched together with SLCF. The secretariat will be responsible for undertaking climate change responses, including development of relevant policies and programmes, and will act as the watchdog in climate change-related issues. Four CDM projects have already received eligibility for carbon trading. According to Dr. Batagoda, there are many more CDM projects in the pipeline with five more under evaluation stage.


Thailand tests use of alternative energy

In Thailand, Bangkok University has collaborated with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) to conduct a pilot test for the adoption of solar-cell technology to help generate energy for the production of biodiesel used at the campus. The technology was developed by a team of researchers at NSTDA’s Institute of Solar Energy Technology Development (Solartec). The team has developed a photovoltaic/thermal (PVT) solar system to produce electricity and hot water using solar energy. The electricity generated from the solar panels will be used in the university’s grid.

Solartec has installed a dozen PVT panels at the university’s biodiesel production plant. The PVT panels produce electricity at about 2.5 units a day and 750 litres of hot water. The main object of the programme is to use the energy produced from solar technology to run the university’s biodiesel plant. Initially, it will use the hot water generated to replace the heater employed in the biodiesel production process.

The project is expected to develop a stand-alone solar energy system for bio-diesel production especially for use in remote areas where there is no electricity supply. To push for more widespread use of solar technology in the country, Solartec also plans to work with a local solar cell manufacturer and establish a plant to produce solar panels that use Solartec’s technology solutions. The new plant, which is expected to require an investment of about US$12 million to US$15 million, will produce solar cell panels that can generate electricity at 80 W from each 0.8 m2 panel. The plant will have a production capacity of 10 MW per year and is expected to reach the break-even point within five years.


Indian wind resource map complete

AWS Truewind LLC has announced the completion of a high-resolution wind resource map of India. The map is a significant addition to the company’s wind resource assessment experience worldwide, and one step further towards completing wind resource maps for the industry’s most promising markets. “With an estimated potential of 65,000 MW and a growth rate of 28 per cent in 2007 (8,000 MW installed currently), India represents one of the largest po-tential markets for wind energy dev-elopment worldwide in the coming years,” stated Mr. Jim Adams, the Director of Business Development at AWS Truewind.

The 200 m grid cell resolution map was completed using the proprietary MesoMap system, one of the most advanced wind mapping systems in use today, from AWS Truewind. To date, MesoMaps have been utilized as a prospecting tool for wind farm siting in over 60 countries on behalf of public and private entities. The wind resource analysis of India revealed land areas with excellent wind project potential where wind speeds exceed 9 m/s at 80 m hub height in some of the higher elevations. Lower elevation areas also show promise with speeds at 100 m height ranging from 6.5 m/s to 8.0 m/s.



Real efficiency of solar systems

While the theoretical efficiency of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can be calculated, the actual efficiency can be ascertained only after the panels are tested in a laboratory under real weather conditions. The Solar Power Research Laboratory at Chosun University, the Republic of Korea, is one such solar testing laboratory.

Theoretical efficiency measures how much of the light hitting the solar cell can be converted into electricity under standard test conditions (STC). These conditions are very strict and include:

• a constant temperature of 25ºC;
• the equivalent of 1.42 cm of water vapour in the column of sky above the panels;
• 0.34 cm of ozone in the column of atmosphere above the panels;
• the sloar rays hitting the panels at 37º; and
• the panels at 41.81º above the horizon.

However, the Nature is rarely this constant. Therefore, the actual efficiency of the panels often reflects much lower number than theoretical efficiency. At the Solar Power Research Laboratory, the scientists create “actual” conditions for their tests.

The solar panel designs range from flat to arched and to even rotating; some are multi-coloured polycrystalline, while others are neatly lined monocrystalline. Rotating panels have tracking devices that follow the sun. The panels can rotate 180º and swivel vertically 53º, following the sun’s path across the sky. Electrical input from each array of solar panels is captured and fed into computers for analysis. Power input from each panel is measured every day for one year.


Major boost in solar cell efficiency

IBM has managed to squeeze 230 W of power on to 1 cm2 of solar panel using concentrator photovoltaics (PV). The energy was then converted to 70 W of usable electric power, the best power efficiency yet achieved, the company claims. The IBM researchers used a very thin layer of a liquid metal made of a gallium-indium compound that they applied between the chip and its cooling block. They suggest that if the silicon chip can be cooled effectively, concentrated PV could be the cheapest form of solar energy.

By using a much lower number of PV cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light on to each cell using larger lenses, IBM’s system enables a significant cost advantage in terms of a lesser number of total components. The researchers said that the concentration raises the power of the solar rays by a factor of ten, permitting cells that normally generate 20 W of power to generate 200 W instead.

The researchers developed a system that achieved the breakthrough by coupling a commercial solar cell to an IBM liquid metal thermal cooling system using methods developed for the semiconductor industry. PV concentrator technologies have the potential to offer the lowest-cost solar electricity for large-scale power generation, “provided the temperature of the cells can be kept low, and cheap and efficient optics can be developed for concentrating the light to very high levels,” said Dr. Supratik Guha, the scientist leading PV activities at IBM Research.


“Hairy” solar cell could boost conversion efficiency

Two teams of researchers have independently developed methods to produce nanowires that could lead to a dramatic improvement in solar photovoltaic cell efficiency. In both cases, the primary concept is the same: to use nanowires for more efficient conduction of electrons from the collection surface of a solar cell to an electrode.

The first technique, developed by researchers at University of California San Diego, the United States, creates ‘hairy’ solar cells, only visible at a microscopic level. The hairs are nanowires, tiny metallic or silicon structures used to complete very small circuits. The researchers were able to grow nanowires directly onto a cheap conductive surface made of indium-tin oxide. Nanowires were then coated with an organic polymer. The researchers have increased the electrical current by 6-7 orders of magnitude when compared with a polymer-only cell.

The second team, a consortium between three German universities (Jena, Gottingen and Bremen) and Harvard, the United States, has developed a technique to bond nanowires and spun glass. The approach is based on a high-tech ‘sandwich’, whereby nanowires are placed between a highly conductive bottom layer and a metallic top one, with spun-on glass forming a ‘spacer layer’ to prevent the circuit from shorting. This means that current can run smoothly along the nanowires, and lead to a completely new class of efficient integrated circuits.

There are still a few teething problems. However, if either approach can be made to work on a commercial scale, it could lead to smaller, cheaper and easier to install panels.


Nanomaterials to boost solar cell efficiencies

A new solar cell design is employing light-directing nanomaterials in thin-film solar cells to achieve record-breaking conversion efficiencies. Using the light-scattering design, electrical engineers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), the United States, have achieved 45 per cent sunlight-to-energy conversion efficiency. The approach is expected to reach higher efficiencies as more aspects of the technology are optimized.

The USCD team is employing nanoparticles to scatter incoming light particles, called photons, into paths within the quantum well region in which energy is absorbed. The new design approaches the problem of increasing the probability of photon absorption in a different manner to previous efforts of stacking several quantum-well layers. “Our devices have a much thinner stack of quantum wells, which means the extra photons that are absorbed are much more likely to make it out of the quantum wells and generate current,” said principal investigator Dr. Edward Yu. “This enables high photon absorption efficiency, and high electron and hole collection efficiency – and therefore also high voltage – to be achieved simultaneously.”



  World record for solar cell efficiency

Physicist Mr. Bram Hoex and colleagues at Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, together with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, have improved the efficiency of an important type of solar cell from 21.9 to 23.2 per cent (a relative improvement of 6 per cent) – a new world record. The efficiency improvement is achieved by the use of an ultra-thin aluminium oxide layer at the front of the cell, and it brings a breakthrough in the use of solar energy a step closer.

An improvement of 1.3 per cent (in absolute terms) may appear modest, but it can enable solar cell manufacturers to greatly increase the performance of their products. This is because higher efficiency is a very effective way of reducing the cost price of solar energy. As the costs of applying the thin layer of aluminium oxide would be low, this will mean a significant reduction in the cost of producing solar electricity.

Dr. Hoex was able to achieve the increase in efficiency by depositing an ultra-thin layer (approximately 30 nm) of aluminium oxide on the front of a crystalline silicon solar cell. This layer features an unprecedented high level of built-in negative charges, through which the energy losses at the surface are almost entirely eliminated.



Cost-efficient dye-sensitized solar cells

Japanese electronics giant Sony Corporation claims to have developed dye-sensitized solar cells with an energy conversion efficiency of 10 per cent – a level essential for commercial use. Dye-sensitized solar cells, which use photosensitive dye and do not require costly and large-scale production equipment, are seen as a promising next-generation solar cell variety and a potential threat to silicon-based solar cells. Sony’s dye-sensitized solar cell operations are still in the research and development stage and nothing has been decided on potential commercialization, a company spokesman said.


A tree with solar-cell leaves

In Japan, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), together with Mitsubishi Corp. and Tokki Corp., has prototyped a foliage plant-like solar cell module by using organic thin-film solar cells. The organic thin-film solar cell consists of a plastic substrate, phthalocyanine layer, fullerene layer and so forth. Eight 7.5 cm2 solar cells connected in series constitute approximately 60 cm2 solar cell module.

AIST, Mitsubishi and Tokki improved the durability of the module by sealing it with a very thin protective film to prevent the entry of water and oxygen. AIST aims to expand the use of organic thin-film solar cells to fields where design is important such as architectural materials including walls and windows, clothing materials, leisure goods, toys and outdoor products.



Low-cost, offshore wind turbine

The innovative SuperturbineTM from Selsam, the United States, has a simple design – it does away with all components that do not directly contribute to power generation. The result is a low-cost wind turbine. The unit is equipped with multiple, synchronous, small rotors and with a universal joint that enables it to tilt. Because of this structure, the turbines resemble reeds bending in the wind. The Selsam prototype was able to produce 6,000 W in 52 km/h winds, proving the efficiency and effectiveness of the design.

Much like a human backbone, the unit has a universal joint, attaching it to the generator, which allows it to tilt but not to rotate. The result is that slip rings are no longer required. To minimize the amount of salt water splashing the seal, the shroud is extended high above the water line. In addition, the seal can be kept under oil or air pressure for maximum protection. According to the company, each rotor in the line “favourably affects the next in line”. The tilted rotors pull in fresh wind from above, deflecting their wakes downwards to ensure fresh wind for succeeding rotors and to add overall lift, thus helping to support the driveshaft against gravity as well as downwind thrust forces.

The unit’s fulcrum is formed via a flotation canister near the water surface. Mooring below the surface balances the weight of the small rotors and driveshaft. The driveshaft is responsible for generating electricity once the wind rotates the turbine’s blades. It also consists of a buoyant, thickened, hollow base that acts as the main bearings of the turbine. A blimp can be added to the turbine in order to generate additional power. Selsam says that other mooring methods could be employed, depending on wind farm layout, turbine size and number, local marine traffic, tides, currents, waves, and depth.



Hybrid solar-wind turbine generator

ARI Renewable Energy Company, the United States, has introduced a hybrid solar-wind turbine generator. This innovative generator has been developed as an alternative source of electricity and an alternative for the conventional solar-wind generators, the noisy kind that freeze during cold temperatures.

This generator combines two technologies into one hybrid solar-wind charge controller, which regulates the current of both solar panels and wind turbines before storing the energy in battery banks. Combining these two technologies has also eliminated some well-known problems of each individual process.

Solar systems are usually expensive to produce, although they are very reliable and cheap to maintain. On the other hand, wind power generators are more easy and cheap to produce but are less reliable. ARI’s solar-wind turbine generator strives to provide solar and wind energy at a cheap manufacturing rate, with the reliability of a higher-end product. Manufacturing costs stay low because the systems share battery banks and inverters.


Measuring the wind to optimize power generation

Experience has shown that the accurate power generation estimation based on wind speed is a challenging task. For large new wind turbine models, conventional met mast wind speed measurements are not feasible based on cost and technical considerations. In Germany, scientists at the Endowed Chair of Wind Energy of the University of Stuttgart are working together with researchers from the University of Oldenburg and other project partners on an alternative technique for remote sensing.

The Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology is being developed and tested for wind energy applications. This laser-based technique performs wind field measurements in a more flexible as well as economical way. Currently, LIDAR is claimed to be the best candidate to replace the met mast-based wind measurements, used in power curve calculations, for offshore wind farms. This laser-based technique detects wind speed and direction based on the time delay of the laser beam reflected by airborne aerosols.

The objective of the research is to establish this measurement technique as a quality standard for wind field measurements with the spatial and temporal resolution needed by the wind energy industry. It concentrates on two main topics, namely, power curve assessment and wind field measurement from the nacelle: ground-based approaches to replace conventional anemometers mounted on a met mast; and the development as well as verification of new nacelle-based approaches that will take measurements of inflow and wake wind fields.


New 1.5 MW VSCF wind turbine

A 1.5 MW variable-speed constant frequency (VSCF) wind turbine, developed by Zhejiang Yunda Wind Power Co. Ltd., China, has rolled off the production line in April. The new wind turbine, featuring advanced VSCF technologies, is claimed to obtain a maximum energy conversion and work under a minimized load. One can equip the turbine with the vanes tailored to the site, at 70 m, 77 m or 82 m. The unit, sporting a range of features designed for cold areas – such as resistance to low temperature, resistance to wind and reduced air density – the unit is able to work under extreme weather conditions.

The prototype turbine will be tested at the Zhangbei Danjinhe wind field, before escalating to mass production. The first batch of VSCF wind turbines will be delivered to a special state project for wind power generation.



Upgrade for wind turbine design package

Samtech, Belgium, has developed a new version of its S4WT wind turbine package. S4WT V1.1 provides users with an open desktop, which allows editing of pre-defined wind turbine validated models, launch pre-defined computation schemes (transient responses, modal analyses, fatigue analyses, dynamic load amplification analyses, etc.) and perform specific post-processing (Campbell, waterfalls diagrams, etc.) for analysing the turbine’s flexible dynamic behaviour and resonances.

S4WT also allows the introduction of local detailed FEA models for some selected parts of the wind turbine. This capability is reckoned to be unique, and is a first step in the connection between global flex-ible mechanisms simulation and local stress analyses using finite element analysis. S4WT is also appropriate for future integration of any pre-existing specialized computation software for the whole wind turbine simulation for detailed analyses of wind turbine components (blades, gearbox, bearings, tower, control, etc.).

S4WT was developed to help wind system manufacturers avoid dramatic and expensive consequences arising from aerodynamic transient excitations, says Samtech CEO, Mr. Eric Carnoy. The software package provides advanced easy-to-use design and verification tools to wind energy sector for solving such difficult problems. Contact: Samtech, Rue des Chasseurs-Ardennais 8, Parc Scientifique du Sart-Tilman, Liege B-4031, Belgium. Tel: +32 (4) 361 6969.



Blade pitch control system for wind generator

Moog Japan Ltd. is making full-scale entry into the wind power generator market with its new blade pitch control system, a device for changing the blade direction (angle) in accordance with the wind conditions in an installation environment of wind power generator. The system is designed to help the generator stably generate power at the rated output. For this purpose, the system controls the blade angle in such a manner as to increase the rotational speed when the wind is weak and vice versa. The pitch control system can fend off the wind when it is strong enough to harm the generator, and prevent vibration and noise.

The pitch control system consists of an electromechanical actuator (EMA) unit, a slave drive unit, a slip ring, a master drive unit and a sensor. The EMA unit changes the blade angle, detected by the sensor. The slave drive unit controls the EMA unit. The master drive unit corresponds to an instruction unit for the entire system. The slip ring electrically connects the master drive unit and a higher-order controller (the instruction unit of the power generator). The slave and master drive units are housed in a hub supporting the blades.

The EMA unit is composed of an AC servomotor, a speed reducer and an electromagnetic brake. Basically, the number of EMA units is equal to that of blades. The number of the slave drive units is also equal to that of the EMA units, but the master drive unit doubles as one of the slave drive units. The master drive unit has a communication function to perform maintenance work by remote control. The master drive unit can intercommunicate with the higher-order controller and other external units.



Vehicle fuel from used cooking oil

An innovation by Ms. Wan Khairul Norhaizan Wan Ishak, a chemical engineering student at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Malaysia, has led to the finding that waste cooking oil could be converted into fuel for vehicles. “Biodiesel oil is safer and more economical compared to current energy sources. It is also free of plumbum and in line with aims to reduce green house effect, recommended by the Kyoto Protocol,” she said.

Extraneous substances in the used cooking oil have to be separated first, before the oil can be processed through a chemical reaction. The inventor claims that through this innovation, a litre of used cooking oil can produce one litre of biodiesel oil. “This means the used cooking oil is used in full, without any wastage,” she said. The fuel can be used with a vehicle that would accept biodiesel. The chemical used in the reaction can be recovered and reused. Apart from biodiesel fuel, this innovation has also successfully produced glycerine.


Bacteria make oil from biomass

A company in Georgia, the United States, has announced a simple, natural way that uses bacteria to convert any biomass into fuel oil. By focusing on the output as hydrocarbons, the company plans to address not only the fuel supply line, but the other uses of petrochemicals, such as making plastics, cosmetics and several other petroleum-based products.

Mr. J.C. Bell, the CEO of Bell Bio-Energy Inc., says he has isolated and modified specific bacteria that will, on a very large scale, naturally change plant material – including the leftovers from food – into hydrocarbons to fuel cars and trucks. He believes that fuel could be generated for as little as US$0.25 cents per gallon (at about US$0.07/litre). Contact: Mr. J.C. Bell, CEO, Bell Bio-Energy Inc., Bell Plantations, P.O. Box 943, Tifton, Georgia, GA 31793, United States of America. Tel: +1 (229) 387 7238;E-mail: info


Fuel from carbon dioxide

A2BE Carbon Capture, the United States, is developing biosafe, scalable, climate adaptive, and highly cost-effective technology for producing valuable fuel and food from carbon dioxide (CO2) using algal photosynthesis and bio-harvesting.

The “algae@work” technology is unique in that it addresses carbon capture and recycle, as well as the production of biofuels, animal feed protein, and fertilizer in a single integrated plant. CO2 can originate from sources such as fossil fuel-fired power/heat plants, other types of biofuel plants producing ethanol from starch or cellulose, and from gasification/Fischer-Tropsch processes such as coal-to-liquids and natural gas-to-liquids.

At the core of the technology is the photo-bioreactor algae growing and harvesting (PBR) machine. Each PBR machine is 450 ft long and 50 ft wide, consisting of two transparent, long plastic algae water-beds, each 400 ft long, 20 ft wide and 10 inches deep. Profitability of the technology is enhanced as it produces biofuel, methane gas, protein and fertilizer.

PBR is a closed photo-bioreactor with bio-isolation to prevent cross-contamination. It is piped for CO2 and NOx bearing flue gas emissions or pure CO2 plus water and nutrients. It produces pure oxygen and a concentrated slurry of biomass. Multi-function rollers pump in both directions, re-suspend algae, degas media and clean internal surfaces. The fully enclosed system prevents water evaporation and percolation, and water consumption is only 3 inches of equivalent rainwater use per year. Contact: Mr. James T. Sears, CTO and President, A2BE Carbon Capture, 2301 Panorama Avenue, Boulder, CO 80304, United States of America. Tel: +1 (303) 541 9112; Fax: +1 (303) 541.9117; E-mail:



Glycerine fires turbine engines

XcelPlus Global Holdings Inc., the United States, has acquired a new technology that will convert glycerine, a by-product from biodiesel production, into a fuel suitable for use in turbine engines. Gly-Clene, the new fuel developed by Maverick BioFuels as an alternative energy source, can be made from any crude glycerol, regardless of the feedstock. Gly-Clene also has the ability to power up turbine engines for electricity production or any other non-aircraft use associated with turbine engines.

Gly-Clene is produced after introducing a cracking agent to glycerine. The end product is processed with stabilizing agent before being fed to electricity turbines. The cracking process will generate another product that can be sold to the glycerine market. The new technology offers a way to help biodiesel manufacturers convert an unwanted by-product into a renewable fuel.



Low-cost cellulosic ethanol production

The global chemicals major DuPont and Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, are forming DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC – a 50:50 global joint venture – to develop and commercialize the leading, low-cost technology solution for the production of cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel produced from non-food sources. The venture will initially target corn stover and sugar-cane bagasse. Future targets include many ligno-cellulosic feedstocks, like wheat straw, a variety of energy crops and other biomass sources.

Utilizing the scientists and technologies of both companies, DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC will lauch an effort to rapidly integrate the unique cellulosic processing capabilities of both companies to economically produce ethanol from non-food sources. The parent companies will license their combined existing intellectual property and patents related to cellulosic ethanol. The goal is to maximize efficiency and lower the overall system cost to produce ethanol from cellulosic materials by optimizing the process steps into a single integrated technology solution.


Biofuel from straw

China is the world’s largest producer of rice, a crop that leaves behind roughly 230 million tonnes of rice straw each year. All that biomass could, in theory, get converted into biofuel with the aid of microbes that break it down into useful chemicals. A similar approach is already used in more than 30 nations worldwide to help convert corn, sugarcane and other crops into ethanol fuel.

Rice straw has not been tapped to make biofuel because bacteria cannot easily break down its cellulose, due to its complex chemical and physical structures. Scientists in China have now developed a pre-treatment for rice straw that raises its potential for biofuel production. The scientists from Beijing University of Chemical Technology mix the straw with sodium hydroxide, or lye, before letting the bacteria ferment it. The lye helps make the straw more biodegradable. This is done at ambient temperature and with just minimal amounts of water, helping make the process “simple, fast, cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” according to researcher Mr. Xiujin Li.

The lye technique also allowed the researchers to boost production of biogas by up to roughly 65 per cent. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of this process, but “rice will absorb back the carbon dioxide from air during rice growing,” Mr. Xiujin said. The process is thus carbon neutral.


Fungus improves corn-to-ethanol process

Growing a fungus in some of the leftovers from dry-grind ethanol production can save energy, recycle more water and improve the livestock feed that is a co-product of fuel production, says a research team from Iowa State University and the University of Hawaii in the United States. Dry-grind ethanol production involves grinding of corn kernels, and then adding water and enzymes. The enzymes break the starches into sugars that are fermented with yeasts to get ethanol.

Every gallon of ethanol produced generates six gallons of leftovers, called stillage, which contain solids and organic material. Most of the solids are removed by centrifugation. The remaining liquid, known as thin stillage, still has some solids, a variety of organic compounds and enzymes. As the compounds and solids can interfere with ethanol production, only about 50 per cent of thin stillage can be recycled back into ethanol production.

The researchers added a fungus, Rhizopus microsporus, to the thin stillage and found it would feed and grow. The fungus removes about 80 per cent of the organic material and all of the solids in the thin stillage, allowing the water and enzymes in the thin stillage to be recycled back into production. The fungus can also be harvested – it is a food-grade organism that is quite rich in protein, certain essential amino acids and other nutrients. It can be dried and sold as a livestock feed supplement. It can also be blended with distillers dried grains to boost its value as a livestock feed and make it more suitable for feeding hogs and chickens.




Trial of new tidal turbine completed

FreeFlow 69 Ltd. from the United Kingdom has completed the first phase evaluation trials of its vertical axis turbine that can generate power from the tidal movement of the sea, as well as from tidal rivers and inland waterways. The Osprey tidal turbine is equipped with a hydraulic scissor lift, to lower and retract the turbine housing into the water flow, and is powered by two outboard engines.

The rig drives the turbines through still water to simulate a current or flow of water at different speeds and it incorporates calibrated instrumentation to determine the power output of the turbine, together with two systems for measuring the torque loading on the contra-rotating blades. Osprey is bidirectional and will turn the same way in flood or ebb tide. It operates effectively in variable depths to maximize the efficiency of power generation from the tidal cycle or in differing river heights.


Biomimicry solution for ocean power

Biomimicry – or designs based on natural systems – is one of the most intriguing methods for designers and engineers to create innovative, sustainable, efficient and environment friendly solutions to problems. Using biomimicry as the guiding design principle, BioPower Systems from Australia has developed an ocean power system called bioWAVETM, which mimics the motion of underwater plants in the ocean currents to harness energy and generate electricity.

Biowave mimics the swaying motion of sea plants found on the ocean bed. The system looks like three buoyant blades, which are constantly oscillating to the motion of the sea. As they sway in the tide, electricity is generated. If at any point the system is in danger from strong currents, it simply lies in flat until the ocean calms down.

BioPower Systems is currently testing a prototype of bioWAVE off the coast of Tasmania. The prototype unit of 250 kW will inform the company on how to best deploy a larger scale system. If found successful, the technology may provide power to the entire state of Victoria.




More efficient and cheap fuel cells

Dr. José E. Barranco Riveros, a research chemist at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), has developed new materials that enable the manufacture of cheaper and more efficient methanol fuel cells. For fuel cells to be a competitive option among alternative energies, advances in a number of fields are needed. The development of new catalysts is primary among these. Dr. Barranco’s Ph.D. thesis focused on the development of new metallic materials of an amorphous nature for use in direct methanol fuel cells.

For the fuel cell to generate electricity, a chemical reaction called electro-oxidation has to take place and this, in turn, requires a catalyst to speed up the process. This catalyst is inserted in the membrane of the fuel cell. In the case of methanol, the basic accelerator is platinum, a scarce and expensive metal. The aim of Dr. Barranco’s study was to devise a catalyst composed of a metal alloy in which the amount of platinum is significantly reduced. It focused on a fundamental problem: methanol’s electro-oxidation produces carbon monoxide (CO), which adheres to the metal and inhibits the latter’s catalysing capacity.

After investigating the composition of many metals, Dr. Barranco made alloys that enabled the reduction of the proportion of platinum to 1 per cent. These alloys – composed of elements such as nickel, niobium, antimony or ruthenium, etc. – have the unique property of efficiently converting CO into carbon dioxide (CO2), which does not adhere to the catalyst.

The conclusions of Dr. Barranco’s Ph.D. thesis point to the fact that, if the platinum alloy is structured amorphously, its electrical conduction properties are enhanced and it undergoes less corrosion. Further, it has an operational capacity in the order of 80-100 times greater than platinum in a crystalline structure. For the catalyst to be incorporated into the fuel cell membrane, its form was changed to a very fine powder and placed in a container to “spray paint” the membrane. As the catalyst is a substance made of minute particles, its operating capacity is enhanced by 9 to 13 times.


Methanol fuel cell with more power

Sharp Corporation, based in Japan, has announced the development a prototype direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) that can output more power for its size than others developed to date. DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air. The only by-products of the reaction are a small amount of water vapour and carbon dioxide, so the fuel cells are typically seen as a much greener form of energy than traditional batteries. A major advantage of DMFCs is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds; so there is no waiting for a recharge. Companies like Sharp are keen to use DMFCs in portable electronics products but a fair amount of development work is needed before the cells can replace Lithium-ion cells.

The prototype Sharp cell is capable of producing 0.3 Watts of power per cubic centimetre of the power generation part of the cell (power density of 0.3 W/cc). Sharp didn’t disclose the size of the cell. The company’s goal is the development of fuel cells that offer a longer life than Lithium-ion batteries for the same volume.



Fuel cell that runs on starch and light 

A research team from Japan’s Oita University has proposed a fuel cell that uses starch as a fuel in a reaction involving light and a photocatalyst. The prototype is small and produces only a tiny 20 µA current. But the fuel cell could be developed into a dream energy resource that generates electricity with a net reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2), as the fuel is a plant material and the process does not release CO2. The group hopes to have more practical technology ready in about 10 years.

The proposed fuel cell consists of a solution containing starch and the enzyme amylase sandwiched between a platinum electrode and a second transparent electrode coated with the green pigment chlorophyll and a photocatalyst. When the cell is exposed to light, the chlorophyll accumulates light and the photocatalyst responds by releasing electrons. These electrons flow as a current in a wire that connects to the platinum electrode. There, the electrons react with oxygen in the solution to create water. The amylase in the solution breaks down the starch, releasing electrons that migrate back to the second electrode, completing the circuit. The by-product from starch breakdown is the harmless gluconic acid. 


A breakthrough in fuel cell technology 

In the United States, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a major advance in direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology, which transcends the limitations of similar power sources currently on the market. Utilizing an innovative new layer-by-layer assembly approach, the MIT researchers, led by Bayer Professor of Chemical Engineering Dr. Paula T. Hammond, have been able to forge a cheaper as well as more efficient alternative to Nafion – a commonly used fuel cell material that is permeable to methanol.

The new substance comes in the form of thin film which retains two orders of magnitude more methanol fuel, while comparing favourably to Nafion in proton conductivity. “Our goal is to replace traditional fuel-cell membranes with these cost-effective, highly tunable and better performing materials,” said Dr. Hammond about the newly developed material. The material, boasting a 50 per cent increased power output, is touted as the next eco-friendly energy storage solution for portable electronics.


Water-powered mobile fuel cell

Samsung Electronics, the leading electronics company based in the Republic of Korea, has announced the development of a cell phone powered by a fuel cell that uses water to initiate the chemical process. The Samsung Electro-Mechanics’ research centre developed the fuel cell and water-induced process.

When the mobile phone is turned on, metal and the water that has been added to the phone react and produce hydrogen gas. The gas is then sent to the fuel cell where it reacts with oxygen in the air to generate power. The micro fuel cell and hydrogen generator can charge mobile devices for 10 hours (about 3 W), using just ordinary water to start the chemical process.

“If the user uses the phone for four hours a day on average, they would have to change the hydrogen cartridge about every five days,” said Mr. Oh Yong-soo, vice president of the research centre. “Later handsets will be developed that don’t need the hydrogen cartridges to be changed, and would only need to be filled with water,” he added.



Small hybrid fuel cell 

In Japan, Sony Corporation has prototyped a fuel cell system small enough to fit in one hand. The system, measuring just about 50 mm × 30 mm, was developed by combining a fuel cell, Li-polymer secondary battery, control circuit, etc. This is the first time that Sony revealed the prototype of a practical fuel cell system that includes a secondary battery and control circuit.

As for the fuel cells for mobile devices, Sony has already announced the evaluation results of a fullerene-type solid polymer electrolyte membrane and a membrane-electrode assembly developed with the membrane. This time, the company expects to commercialize the new fuel cell system, which is direct methanol type and an active fuel cell system that controls fuel supply with a pump. The system is a hybrid with the output supplemented by a Li-polymer secondary battery. Sony claims that the cell can deal with steeply rising peak powers of mobile devices and its instantaneous output can be as high as 3 W. Also, its efficiency of energy use is high enough to accommodate several hours of continuous movie playing by general mobile phones with 10 ml of methanol.


Microbial fuel cell for pollutant detection

At Konkuk University, the Republic of Korea, a team led by Dr. Hyung Joo Kim has developed fuel cells powered by bacteria for monitoring toxin levels in water entering wastewater treatment plants. Biological wastewater treatment plants rely on maintaining a carefully balanced mixture of bacteria and other organisms. Effective methods are needed to monitor toxin levels in the water entering the plants so that the organism balance can be maintained.

The bacteria in Dr. Kim’s fuel cells oxidize organic matter in the water to convert biochemical energy into electrical energy, which is detected by a potentiometer. The microbes generate a constant electric current under normal water pollutant levels. When the toxin levels in the water increase, however, they become less efficient, inhibiting electricity generation. Further work is needed before these fuel cells can replace existing methods. Detection limits and specificity to various toxins need to be determined, besides ensuring the microbe community will not adapt to changes in pollutant levels.



Hydrogen fuel from formic acid

New research shows that formic acid could be used as a safe, easy-to-transport source of hydrogen for fuel cells. Dr. Matthias Beller and his team at the Leibniz Institute of Catalysis (LIKAT) in Rostock, Germany, have found a way to convert formic acid, a common preservative and antibacterial agent, into hydrogen gas at low temperatures. The researchers say that the process could produce hydrogen in sufficient quantities for micro fuel cells that power portable electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops.

Currently, methane and methanol top the list of hydrogen sources for fuel-cell vehicles. They are typically broken down via steam reforming, which requires temperatures of more than 200ºC and a reforming unit. Processes that work at cooler temperatures will not need a reformer or much energy, and therefore can be more convenient for producing hydrogen for smaller fuel cells that power portable electronic devices. The new process works at temperatures of 26º to 40ºC. The scientists mix formic acid with amines and expose the mixture to a ruthenium-based catalyst, which breaks down the acid into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Formic acid is easy to handle and its mixture with amines is benign, Dr. Beller says. Further, it can be used directly in a fuel cell, which means it saves the extra step of first converting it into hydrogen. But direct formic-acid fuel cells have the same drawback that makes methanol fuel cells expensive: both are less efficient than hydrogen fuel cells. Dr. Beller states that using formic acid to make hydrogen also has its drawbacks. Compared with methane and methanol, formic acid has much less hydrogen. If all the hydrogen in a kilogram of methanol is used, 4.19 kWh of energy is produced, while the hydrogen in a kilogram of formic acid gives only 1.45 kWh. The process, however, takes less energy than steam reforming and with better catalysts, the costs could be made more favourable, Dr. Beller says. He and his colleagues are already discussing their technology with two German automotive companies. They are also working with some engineers to build a small prototype model car that uses the technology.


Improved ion mobility for hydrogen storage

In the United States, a materials scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has deciphered the structure of a new class of materials, which can store relatively large quantities of hydrogen within its crystal structure for later release. The new analysis may point to a practical hydrogen storage material for automobile fuel cells and similar applications. Ms. Hui Wu, a research associate from the University of Maryland working at the NIST Centre for Neutron Research, has been investigating a new hydrogen storage compound that mixes lithium amide with lightweight metal hydrides.

Lithium amide can hold more than 10 per cent of hydrogen by weight, well above the 6 per cent target set by the United States Department of Energy. The material absorbs and releases hydrogen reversibly, but both actions require high temperatures and also produce ammonia, a toxic by-product. Metal hydrides also store hydrogen, though not as well, but recently it has been shown that a combination of the two not only can store significant quantifies of hydrogen but also can release it at lower temperatures than the lithium amide alone (at about 100ºC) and generate much less ammonia.

To understand how the compound achieves this, Ms. Wu used neutron analysis to figure out the atomic structure of the material, which she found consists of layers of calcium between which lithium ions travel rapidly. The easy travel allows the material to transfer the hydrogen at lower temperatures. The hydrogen ions in the amide and hydride mixture combine easily and release hydrogen at lower temperature without creating much ammonia.



A new source of primary energy

In BlackLight Power Inc., the United States, has announced the successful testing of a new primary energy source. The company has developed a prototype power system that generates 50,000 watts of thermal power on demand. This 50 kW unit is ready for commercial production. “The BlackLight Process generates enormous amounts of cheap, non-polluting heat that will replace the thermal power in coal, oil, gas and nuclear power plants that is then converted to electricity,” said Mr. Randell Mills, Chairman, CEO and President of BlackLight Power Inc.

The BlackLight Process is a novel chemical process causing the latent energy stored in the hydrogen atom to be released as a new primary energy source. This allows the negatively charged electron that is otherwise in a stable orbit to move closer to the naturally attracting, positively charged nucleus to release large amounts of energy. This patented process of releasing chemical energy from hydrogen generates heat, power, plasma, light and proprietary new compounds. 

The BlackLight Process involves a solid fuel that uses conventional chemical reactions to generate the catalyst and atomic hydrogen at high reactant densities that in turn achieves high power densities. In principle, power plants would utilize continuous regeneration of the solid fuel mixture employing known industrial processes. The only consumable, the hydrogen fuel, would be obtained ultimately from water due to the enormous net energy release relative to combustion. The catalyst causes the hydrogen atoms to transition to lower-energy states by allowing their electrons to fall to smaller radii around the nucleus with a release of energy that is intermediate between chemical and nuclear energies.


Efficient hydrogen storage using nanoparticles

A Storing hydrogen gas in nanoparticles is efficient and effective, states Mr. Kees Baldé, a Dutch chemist. He says that 30 nanometre particles of sodium alanate, a metal hydride, make the extraction and storage of hydrogen feasible to the extent that the gas could be used more easily in mobile applications.

Mr. Baldé says that hydrogen can be stored even more efficiently through the addition of a titanium catalyst, which can reduce the particle to 20 nanometres in size. He also studied the deactivation process of the titanium catalyst, which can affect the uptake and release of the hydrogen gas. The study was carried out as part of the Advanced Chemicals Technology for Sustainability programme, a public-private part-nership within the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.


BMW has a better method of storing hydrogen fuel

The auto giant BMW’s hydrogen fuel development is taking another step towards its dreams of a hydrogen-powered car with its latest development in the transportation and storage of the ultra-low emission fuel. The company has used a new way to store the fuel in its gaseous and liquid states, through a process called cryo-compression, in its new mono-fuelled Hydrogen 7 Series luxury cars.

The relatively new technology uses a compressed hydrogen tank surrounded with an insulating jacket. The jacket allows for the transportation and storage of both liquid and gaseous hydrogen fuel by keeping its contents cool and not allowing its vaporization. Cryo-compression can give drivers a selection of which fuel form to utilize within their internal combustion engine.

Recent tests of BMW’s mono-fuel Hydrogen 7 by the United States Department of Energy found that the vehicle powered by liquid hydrogen produced very little emissions output and actually cleaned the ambient air surrounding the vehicle. 


Renewable hydrogen generation systems

Electric Hydrogen (EH), Canada, has announced the delivery of four renewable hydrogen generation systems, ranging in capacity from 2.5 to 17 slpm (0.15 to 1 Nm3/h). The systems are powered by solar photovoltaics and/or wind, producing carbon-free hydrogen for renewable energy systems and to power fuel cell vehicles. Fuel is delivered to both compressed gas and solid state metal hydride storage systems.
EH has developed a proprietary approach to controlling power input that enables the hydrogen generation system to produce hydrogen from the renewable power available, without the use of more electronics and batteries. Two of the four systems included EH metal hydride (MH) filling stations, MH storage supply, and hydrogen storage systems on-board fuel cell golf cars. These systems were equipped with custom quick-connect fittings to enable fast, safe and easy replacement of MH canisters.




Thermodynamics of   Solar Energy Conversion

This nook is an excellent general introduction to the principles of future solar energy systems, assuming an undergraduate level of physics knowledge. General principles are illustrated using idealized models, and technological examples are used to compare reality with theory. The topics covered include: radiation, thermodynamical engines, wind energy creation, photothermal and photovoltaic conversions, photosynthesis and chemical reactions.

Contact: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, P.O. Box 10 11 61, 69451 Weinheim, Boschstrasse 12, 69469 Weinheim, Germany. Fax: +49 (6201) 606-328



Device and Materials Modelling in PEM Fuel Cells

Device and Materials Modelling in PEM Fuel Cells is a specialized text that compiles the mathematical details and results of both device and materials modelling in a single volume. Successful integration of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells into the mass market will require new materials and a deeper understanding of the balance required to maintain various operational states. This book contains articles from scientists who contribute to fuel cell models from both the materials and device perspectives.

Contact: Springer Distribution Centre, Haberstrasse 7, D-69126 Heidelberg, Germany. Tel: +49 (6221) 345 4301; Fax: +49 (6221) 345 4229



Renewable Energy 2008

This edition of Renewable Energy 2008, the official publication of the World Renewable Energy Network (WREN), provides senior executives in the renewable energy sector with all they need to know about new developments, advances in technology, management issues and environmental matters. It also provides a unique forum for the exchange of the latest industry and government thinking. The book is designed to be used by those responsible for the purchase of renewable energy technologies, equipment and resources.

Contact: Sovereign Publications Ltd., 32 Woodstock Grove, London W12 8LE, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 7616 0800; Fax: +44 (20) 7724 1444



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