VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Jul-Sep 2012

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New and Renewable Energy Jul-Sep 2012

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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India to go for 30 GW renewable capacity addition

India is expected to see renewable energy capacity addition of 30,000 MW, with significant contribution from wind power, over the coming five years. Mr. Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), noted recently, “At the end of 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017), the country is expected to have total renewable energy generation capacity of 55,000 MW.” At present, India has a renewable energy generation capacity of about 25,000 MW.

Of the projected 30,000 MW capacity addition, around 15,000 MW will be from wind power. According to Mr. Kapoor, there are certain issues – such as the financial health of power distribution companies and availability of transmission lines for renewable energy projects – that need resolution. Amid severe power shortage in the country, there is increased focus on generating electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro to bring down the demand supply gap. Presently, India has an installed power generation capacity of around 200 GW.

Sri Lanka to provide renewable energy to four North islands

Four islands in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province – Delft, Nainativu, Analitivu and Elivativu – that do not have access to the national electricity grid will be provided electricity via renewable energy, according to the Ministry of Power and Energy. The proposed renewable energy projects will be completed in 2013, with funding support from the government of the Republic of Korea. The Minister of Power and Energy Mr. Champika Ranawaka and the ambassador of the Republic of Korea made a joint inspection tour to the four islands recently.

On completion, the project is expected to provide electricity to 2,967 families living in the four islands and also power to operate a garment factory located in one of the Islands. The garment factory, which employs more than 100 workers, is currently run using diesel power generators.

Pakistan can produce 150,000 MW of wind energy

A recent United States Agency for International Development (USAID) report states that Pakistan has the potential of producing approximately 150,000 MW of wind energy, which can fetch around US$2 billion in investments. Official estimates had put the country’s solar and wind energy generation potential at 143,000 MW. Pakistan is currently developing wind power plants in Jhimpir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Bin Qasim in Sindh, which will not only reduce electricity shortages but also help ease the burden of oil imports costing the national exchequer over US$12 billion annually.

The wind speed in the Sindh corridor is between 7.5 m/s and 7.7 m/s, as compared with the fair wind speed of between 6.2 m/s and 6.9 m/s in most parts of the world. The national government has plans to achieve up to 2,500 MW from wind energy by the end of 2015. Work on Zorlu wind energy power project in Jhimpir with a 50 MW generation capacity will start trial production soon. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) of Pakistan recently approved the New Park Energy Phase-I, a 400 MW wind project located near Port Qasim.

China dominates renewable energy market

According to the most recent Global Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices (CAI) report, China will continue to dominate the global renewable energy market during the current decade. The country has quadrupled its solar capacity target to 50 GW by 2020. While China is at the top of All Renewable Index (ARI), the country will have to overcome some challenges – including over-supply of wind turbines and solar panels – as well as solve a number of grid transmission issues to reach its goal.

The score of the United States is going down, with the country dropping 1.5 points to share in second position with Germany. The decline was caused by ongoing uncertainty in the United States’ long-term energy strategy and failure to indicate whether there would be an extension to the Production Tax Credit for wind projects. The rise in Germany’s score results from the government’s approach to addressing barriers to offshore wind development and stability in its solar market. Germany is pushing ahead with its ambitious renewable energy agenda, including the introduction of a new solar photovoltaic tariff and compensation for offshore grid connection delays, explains Mr. Gil Forer, Global Cleantech Leader at Ernst & Young, the United Kingdom.

Next on the leader board is India, which fell one point owing to recent severe blackouts causing speculation that the country has not attracted enough private investment to modernize its power infrastructure. There are worries that the investments in renewable energy will also suffer because of the unreliability of power grid. Rounding out the top five is the United Kingdom, which overtook Italy, the standing of which fell due to worsening economic conditions in that country. However, the United Kingdom seems to be in the turbulent boat with the consensus that policy and subsidy announcements have fallen short of establishing transparency, certainty and longevity within the market.

Philippines starts accepting RE project proposals

The Department of Energy (DoE) of the Philippines is accepting applications from renewable energy (RE) developers seeking an allocation from the limited 760 MW installation target, said Energy Secretary Mr. Jose Rene D. Almendras. Only those projects that receive an allocation from this installation target – which refers to the total capacity of renewable energy projects permitted to be constructed within a three-year period – will be subject to the feed-in-tariff (FiT) rates.

The eligibility criteria will be able to narrow down the list of RE developers who will be allowed to put up their projects and avail of the FiT rate, especially since DoE has already awarded 305 service contracts for RE projects that have a combined potential capacity of 5,505 MW – more than seven times the 760 MW installation target. Under the current installation target, 250 MW has been allocated for hydropower projects, 250 MW for biomass, 50 MW for solar, 200 MW for wind power and 10 MW for ocean power.

Ms. Marissa P. Cerezo, Assistant Director and Officer-in-Charge of DoE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau, however, said that the details and procedures for the eligibility criteria need to be threshed out. Ms. Cerezo added that the Bureau is targeting to finalize the criteria before end of 2012. DoE has also yet to discuss how to allocate the limited capacity in case there is an oversubscription for a particular RE resource.

Indonesia raises price of renewables for electricity

The Indonesian government has announced that it will raise the price of three types of renewable energies for electricity needs, saying the move is necessary to encourage Indonesia’s overall renewable energy production. Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Mr. Rudi Rubiandini stated that state electricity company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) must now pay more for electricity produced by biomass, geothermal and hydro power plants.

The price of geothermal electricity is now between US$0.100-0.185 per kWh from the previous US$0.09 per kWh. Biomass electricity was recently priced up to Rp 1,050 (US$ 0.108) per kWh from the previous Rp 656 (US$ 0.067) per kWh. The new tariffs have been specified in a ministerial regulation recently issued by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry. The Ministry is presently drafting another regulation that will increase the price of hydro electricity from Rp 656 per kWh to up to Rp 1,050 per kWh, the exact price varying depending on the locations of the power plants and other factors.

The Minister added that raising the prices was expected to make renewable energy projects more luring to investors, thus hopefully increasing the number of renewable projects, allowing the government to meet its 2025 renewable energy target. Indonesia is targeting to increase the portion of electricity generated from renewable energies to 17 per cent of the total electricity produced by 2025. The figure currently stands at 5.7 per cent, far below the 49.7 per cent of electricity produced from fuel-fired power plants, 24.5 per cent from coal and 20.1 per cent from gas power plants.

US$65 million fund for renewable energy in Southeast Asia

Armstrong South East Asia Clean Energy Fund, Singapore, has stated that it has closed on US$65 million in funding to support investments in solar, wind and small hydro technology in Southeast Asia. The funding round was led by the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), Luxembourg, and Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG), Germany. Armstrong is targeting a total fund size of US$150 million, which it will use to provide early-stage capital to renewable energy developers in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and other emerging markets.

“To date the team has originated a strong pipeline of potential deals and detailed negotiations are underway. We are hopeful of completing one to two key deals soon. Small-scale solar and mini-hydro are two priority sub-sectors the team is currently focused on,” said Armstrong Asset Management Managing Partner Mr. Andrew Affleck. Armstrong expects a second close of the fund by the end of 2012, with a third and final close due by July 2013. The fund intends to make 10-15 investment deals, ranging from US$5 million to US$12 million over 10 years. The fund will focus on projects less than 10 MW in size, and Armstrong says a salient feature of the investment strategy is aggregating multiple small-scale operational project assets in attractive portfolios, realizing investments upon trade-sales.

Sri Lanka doubles wind power capacity

Sri Lanka has doubled its generation capacity in wind power with the addition of three new parks, according to the nation’s Ministry of Power and Energy. The Ministry’s spokesperson said that three farms of 10 MW each were connected to the grid recently. The plants, located in Puttalam district in northwestern Kaplitiya, were built at a cost of SL Rs 7.2 billion (US$54.6 million) and will sell their power to the state-run Sri Lanka Electricity Board. The project owners are Daily Life Renewable, Nirmalapura Wind Power and PowerGen Lanka.

Sri Lanka, which has a total power generation capacity of 3,120 MW, has set a target of getting 20 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, including 400 MW of wind capacity. It plans to add another 10 MW of wind by the end of the year.

Record trade in renewable energy certificates on IEX

India Energy Exchange (IEX) saw a record trading figure of renewable energy certificates (RECs) in its 16th trading session in August 2012. Of the 568,097 RECs that were available for sale, 248,165 RECs were issued – the highest issuance for any month till date – at Rs 1,500 (US$28) per REC, down from Rs 2,402 (US$45) per REC in the previous month. In the solar REC segment, IEX received buy bids of 1,728 RECs and sale bids of 310 RECs. Of the sale bids, 129 RECs were cleared at Rs 12,850 (US$238) per REC.

IEX is one of the major power exchanges of the country. RECs are generation-based certificates issued to the power producers using renewable source of energy like wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Solar RECs are for solar power producers while non-solar ones are for all other renewable energy sources. RECs, held in electronic demat form, are given to producers who do not wish to sell the electricity produced at preferential tariff.

China expands its on-grid wind power capacity

China’s wind power sector has witnessed substantial growth, with the country’s on-grid wind power capacity exceeding 50 GW, according to the State Grid, China’s largest utility company. On-grid wind power capacity under State Grid’s distribution has reached 50.26 GW as of 2012, indicating an annual growth rate of 87 per cent for the last six years. However, the regional concentration of wind resources and technical obstacles has prevented the efficient utilization of wind power, the company said.

Mr. Zhang Zhengling, spokesperson for the State Grid, said China’s wind energy utilization has reached a “relatively high level” following a string of measures to monitor and adjust use of the energy. In 2011, power generated from wind totalled 70.6 billion kWh, about 28 times the amount generated in 2006. However, linking regional power networks to the national power grid remains a stumbling block for the growth of the sector, Mr. Zhang said.

“The key problem is that regional connections are still weak, and there is not yet a unified national market and corresponding grid network,” said Mr. Shu Yinbiao, Deputy Manager of the State Grid. China needs to speed up the construction of trans-regional power grids to meet its new energy development goals, Mr. Shu said. China’s on-grid wind power capacity is expected to reach 100 GW by 2015 and 200 GW by 2020.

Malaysia aims for 5.5 per cent renewable energy share

With a goal to achieve 40 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2020, the Malaysian government plans to raise the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix to 5.5 per cent by 2015, the Malaysian Prime Minister Mr. Najib Razak has stated. The government had created support mechanisms and launched a feed-in-tariff scheme which pays a premium rate for generating electricity through renewable sources, said Mr. Razak. According to him, renewable energy would get investments worth M$70 billion (US$23 billion) and support 50,000 jobs by 2020. “It will also avoid 42.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions, about a 40 per cent reduction, which I promised at the Copenhagen Climate Conference,” he added during his keynote address at the official opening of the third International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM 2012).


Highly transparent solar cells for windows

In the United States, researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a transparent solar cell that could be used on windows, building and laptops to generate electricity while still allowing people to see through. The polymer solar cell (PSC) that the UCLA team has developed produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared (IR) light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70 per cent transparent to the human eye. The device was made from a photoactive plastic that converts IR light into an electrical current. “Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible,” said study leader Professor Yang Yang, who is also the Director of Nano Renewable Energy Centre at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). “More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost,” he added.

The research team from CNSI, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has demonstrated the high-performance and visibly transparent polymer solar cells via the incorporation of near-IR (NIR) light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The NIR photoactive polymer absorbs more NIR light but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region. Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also permits the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4 per cent power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved.

Record-breaking PV cells developed

Researchers at IBM Corporation, the United States, along with partners from Solar Frontier, Japan, Tokyo Ohka Kogyo, Japan, and DelSolar, Taiwan Province of China, have developed an efficient and affordable photovoltaic (PV) cell. The new PV cell has broken the world record for PV solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency using earth-abundant materials. The materials sciences team from IBM wanted to create a technology that combined the virtues of being highly efficient, cheaply scalable and uses easily-available materials. Made from copper, zinc and tin sulphide and referred to as CZTS, the thin-film device achieved 11.1 per cent solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency – a world record for solar PV cells composed of earth-abundant materials – and 10 per cent better than any previous such device. The cell can also be made using simple ink-based techniques such as printing or casting.

Currently, the most widespread PV semiconductors, made of crystalline silicon, are abundant and very efficient. However, their material purity requirement is an extremely high >99.9999 per cent, and they are expensive and difficult to scale up. The other thin-film chalcogenide materials utilized in PV cells have compounds that contain rare and expensive elements that increase cost and limit their manufacturing levels to less than 100 GW per year. IBM’s CZTS PV cells could potentially yield up to 500 GW/year, which is about one-thirtieth of the renewable electricity the planet needs.

New solar panel to double solar system efficiency

A research team from the University of Arizona, the United States, has developed a novel solar panel that may be a precursor to highly efficient solar energy systems. The solar panel, which is based on old telescope technology and the solar panels that are often used aboard spacecraft and satellites, is claimed to offer double the efficiency seen in conventional solar energy technologies. The researchers are also developing a tracking system that will follow the trajectory of the sun to ensure that the solar panel is constantly exposed to sunlight.

The new solar panel makes use of a dish-shaped mirror that is installed at its foundation. The mirror concentrates solar rays, making photons more available for conversion into electricity. The researchers chose to use mirrors because of the potential to increase the efficiency of the solar energy system they had been developing. The solar panels that collect the concentrated sunlight are able to produce more electricity than conventional solar panels, once again drawing attention to the capabilities of concentrated solar power systems. The research team suggests that the energy system will be capable of generating 10 GW of electricity while the sun is out – on par with the electricity generated from the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, the largest of its kind in the United States.

Spinach gives a boost to biohybrid solar cells

An interdisciplinary team of scientists at Vanderbilt University in the United States has developed a way to combine the photosynthetic protein that converts light into electrochemical energy in spinach with silicon, the material used in solar cells, in a fashion that produces substantially more electrical current than has been reported for previous “biohybrid” solar cells. “This combination produces current levels almost 1,000 times higher than we were able to achieve by depositing the protein on various types of metals. It also produces a modest increase in voltage,” said Mr. David Cliffel, an associate professor of chemistry, who collaborated on the project with Mr. Kane Jennings, Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. With the new design Mr. Jennings estimates that a two-foot panel could put out at least 100 mA at 1 V – adequate to power a number of different types of small electric devices.

Scientists had earlier discovered that Photosystem 1 (PS1) – one of the proteins involved in photosynthesis – extracted from plants like spinach can convert sunlight into electricity with nearly 100 per cent efficiency, as compared with conversion efficiencies of less than 40 per cent achieved by artificial devices. Biohybrid cells that employ PS1 can be made from cheap and readily available materials, unlike many microelectronic devices that require rare and expensive materials like indium or platinum. However, the amount of power that these biohybrid cells can produce per unit area has been substantially lower than commercial photovoltaic cells. In addition, the performance of some early test cells deteriorated after only a few weeks. The Vanderbilt team, however, succeeded in working a PS1 cell for nine months with no fall in performance. Their PS1/silicon combination produced 850 µA/cm2 of current at 0.3 V – nearly two and a half times more current than the best level reported previously for a biohybrid cell.

The reason this combo works well is because the electrical properties of the silicon substrate have been tailored using “p-doping” to fit those of the PS1 molecule. The researchers extracted PS1 from spinach into an aqueous solution and poured the mixture on the surface of a p-doped silicon wafer. Then they put the wafer in a vacuum chamber to evaporate the water away, leaving a film of protein. They found that the optimum thickness was about 1 µm, about 100 PS1 molecules thick. The p-doped silicon also eliminates the problem of both positive and negative currents being produced simultaneously, thereby cancelling each other out.

New world record efficiency for organic tandem solar cell

Heliatek GmbH, Germany, has set a new world record for organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells with 10.7 per cent cell efficiency on 1.1 cm2, confirming the superior low light and high temperature performances of OPV compared to traditional solar. The key to the success is oligomers – a family of small organic molecules – developed and synthesized by Heliatek. “Our solar tandem cells are made of nanometres thin layers of high purity and uniformity. This enables us to literally engineer the cell architecture to systematically improve efficiency and lifetime,” explains Dr. Martin Pfeiffer, the Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Heliatek.

Heliatek conducted efficiency measurements under standard testing conditions of the solar industry as well as performance measurements at low light and high temperatures of up to 80°C. The test results not only set a new world record for OPV with 10.7 per cent cell efficiency, but also highlight the superior performance of Heliatek’s OPV cells under real life conditions. The measurements for low light established that the efficiency not only remains constant, but even increases gradually. At an irradiation of 100 W/m² the efficiency is 15 per cent higher than the standard efficiency measured at 1,000 W/m². The efficiency remains constant at high temperatures. This behaviour is unique for OPV technology; in traditional solar technology, efficiency drops 15-20 per cent at high temperatures.

These technology advantages translate into a higher harvesting factor under real life conditions. First outdoor tests have shown that the harvesting factor of Heliatek’s organic solar cells is 15-25 per cent higher than crystalline and thin film solar. The company is currently working on its first roll-to-roll manufacturing line, which is to go in production in the third quarter of 2012. Contact: Dr. Martin Pfeiffer, Chief Technical Officer, Heliatek GmbH, Treidlerstraße 3, 01139 Dresden, Germany. Tel: + 49 (351) 2130 3430; E-mail:; Website:


Airborne wind power system

At present, land-based tower wind turbines are the dominant source of wind power, but they take up a lot of space and generally need to be located in high visibility areas, such as the tops of hills or ridges. As they are also located close to the ground, where friction from the Earth’s surface slows the wind and increases its turbulence, negatively affecting the efficiency of the turbines. At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States, engineers are developing air-borne wind power systems, capable of generating much more power.

There are two basic types of kite-based wind energy systems. Flygen systems see turbines built into the kite that generate the electricity and feed it via a tether to a storage or distribution device on the ground. The second features a ground-based generator powered by the reeling out of the tether as the kite catches the wind. By tacking the kite upwind like a sailboat, the periodic reeling-in phase takes around 10 per cent less energy than is produced by the reeling-out phase, resulting in a 90 per cent net energy gain. Both systems rely on the aerodynamics of the kite and autonomous flight control. It is these two aspects of the technology that NASA engineers are looking to improve to help make air-borne wind-energy systems a viable alternative to ground-based turbines.

The system developed by the NASA researchers builds on the principle that the blade tips of a wind turbine generate as much as 90 per cent of the turbine’s power because they are farther from the hub and spin faster than the rest of the blade. In effect, placing a wind turbine at the end of a tether allows the kite to act as a flying blade tip. The placing also allows the system to harness the faster and steadier winds found at higher altitudes.

Mr. David North, an engineer, and his colleagues at NASA’s Langley Research Centre achieved the world’s first sustained autonomous flight of a kite using only ground-based sensors in March 2012. They achieved the breakthrough using an inexpensive digital webcam connected to a laptop computer (located on the ground) to track the motion of the kite and keep it flying autonomously. So far, the team’s test flights have been restricted to low altitudes to avoid interfering with aircrafts, but they are trying to gain permission to fly at 2,000 ft for long periods of time in the airspace reserved for NASA above Wallops Island, Virginia. Above 2,000 ft is considered the sweet spot for air-borne wind energy systems.

Compressed air wind turbine

An 89-year-old World War II veteran in Australia has developed a environment friendly wind turbine that he says can cut also the costs of wind power. Mr. Raymond Green states that his “CWP Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine” can be manufactured in sizes from personal use portables to massive units that can used in major wind farm installations. All moving parts of the turbine are internal – the blades are mounted behind the windsock and inner compression cone. Mr. Green says that other advantages include a quieter and lighter-weight unit that doesn’t need to be mounted as high as traditional wind turbines. Since the turbine compresses the wind, it can be placed lower to the ground, allowing for safer installation and easier maintenance, while “at least doubling the energy it creates,” he said.

A prototype wind turbine built by Mr. Green weighs around 21 kg, has a turbine diameter of 30 cm, a wind sock opening 78 cm in diameter and cost around US$550 to build. The wind turbine design is such that it doesn’t harm birds and bats. Sigma Design Co., the United States, has been contracted to test, refine and manufacture the turbine, which may be commercially available within the next two years.

Making offshore wind turbines more efficient

A study at University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom, suggests that offshore wind farms could be 100 per cent more efficient in terms of energy payback if manufacturers embraced new methods for making the structures that support the turbines. Wind farms are increasingly sited offshore rather than on land, and installed at water depths of up to 40 m. Mr. Jim Platts, an engineer at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) of the Cambridge University, is urging the wind power industry to look again at the design of the heavy supporting towers and foundations used out at sea in order to improve the energy payback accomplished. Mr. Platts believes that the wind power sector could achieve significantly higher payback ratios if turbine manufacturers used guyed towers made in composite materials rather than free-standing towers made in conventional steel.

A preliminary study undertaken at IfM suggests that payback ratios for offshore wind farms could be doubled if the industry embraced new construction methods. The effectiveness of wind turbines is determined by a key figure: the harvesting ratio – a measure of the energy it provides set against the energy utilized in manufacturing it. In wind turbine installations, the tower is usually constructed of steel and the foundation in steel and concrete. For a turbine designed for use on land, the energy embedded in the moving parts forms two-thirds of the total energy invested in the installation while the supporting structure (tower + foundation) represents the remaining third. Onshore turbines typically achieve a harvesting ratio of 40:1. When wind turbines are sited offshore, the towers required are both taller and heavier and the foundations more massive, using up to four times the amount of concrete and steel – materials that are highly energy-intensive to produce. Hence, the harvesting ratio of offshore turbines reduces to typically 15:1 – far lower than for on-shore turbines. On top of this, off-shore turbines are subject to corrosion, which reduces the lifespan of the steel used.

A study by IfM suggests that guyed towers offer significant advantages over conventional towers. The use of steel cables, fixed to the sea bed by screw anchors, means that the towers can be significantly slimmer – the tent-like guyed shape distributes the loads more efficiently to the seabed. Similarly, the foundations required are substantially less heavy. The resulting reduction in the volume of steel and concrete needed means that a harvesting ratio of 25:1 can be achieved. The second step would be to manufacture towers in composite materials that are less energy-intensive to make than steel and also have a longer life. Using these new materials could increase the harvesting ratio still further to 32:1 and extend the life-time of a turbine installation to up to 60 years from the present 20 years, claimed Mr. Platts.

Balancing the bolting load of wind turbines

Mr. Mikel Abasolo, a researcher at Faculty of Engineering of University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Spain, has built a simplified simulation model for wind turbines. All one has to do is enter the characteristics that the tower and its parts will have, and in a matter of seconds the model predicts the load that has to be given to each of the bolts, which facilitates construction and maintenance processes. Owing to their great heights, wind turbine towers are built in two or three parts and are subsequently bolted together. However, joining elements of such dimensions and quantities of bolts is very complex. All the bolts must have the same load so that they all work equally, but achieving this is no easy task.

“In an adjustment sequence, when you tighten one bolt, the previous ones lose part of their load,” says Mr. Abasolo. If, for example, in one sequence a load of 100 points is assigned to all the bolts one by one, by the end of the sequence most of them will not remain the same because when one is adjusted, the previous ones lose load. Only a few bolts will continue to have 100 points while the rest will fall below that. Therefore, to keep all the bolts at the level of 100 points, one has to adjust them a number of times. This means a loss of time and money, Mr. Abasolo points out.

The simplified model of Mr. Abasolo can predict what load has to be apportioned to each bolt at the moment of assembly, so that by the end of the process the load ends up being uniform. Data input into the model include tube geometry, the exterior and interior diameter, the metrics and resistance of the bolts or the final load required. The results are output within seconds. This model can be used for periodical maintenance tasks, such as readjusting the load on bolts that have loosened over time.

Bladeless wind turbines double energy efficiency

Conventional wind turbines work by harnessing the kinetic energy of the wind to spin propeller-type blades at low torque. The blades rotate a shaft connected to a generator that makes electricity. While the process is rather simple, it is not the most efficient way of generating power. Saphon Energy, Tunisia, believes that it has a new technology that can change that. The company has developed ‘Zero-Blade’ wind turbines that do nor have the typical blades, rotors or gearboxes.

The design is inspired by sailboats, with turbine blades replaced by a giant sail that harnesses the wind by a back-and-forth motion. This kinetic energy captured is converted into mechanical energy using pistons, thereby creating hydraulic pressure. This pressure can either be stored in a hydraulic accumulator or used to make electricity via a hydraulic motor and a generator. Saphon says the technology is 2.3 times more efficient than conventional wind turbines and cuts costs by some 45 per cent.


Cheaper commercial power from ocean waves

Eco Wave Power (EWP), Israel, has successfully demonstrated the concept of producing cheaper electricity from ocean wave energy with its inventions such as “Power Wing” and “Wave Clapper”. The EWP converters draw energy from wave power throughout uniquely shaped buoys that rise and fall with the up-and-down motion, lifting force, change of water level, hydraulic air lock and incident flux of waves. The “Wave Clapper” and the “Power Wing” are equipped with sensors that continuously monitor the performance of the various sub-systems and surrounding ocean environment. As a result, data transmission to shore is in real time. In the event of upcoming storms, the system automatically “recognizes” the type of waves, and independently “decides” whether to raise the buoys over the water level, or to create a process of buoy submersion into the ocean, in order to protect the system from mechanical injuries. When the wave heights return to normal, the system unlocks and recommences energy conversion and transmission of the electrical power ashore.

The energy from motion of the floats is delivered to shore by a submarine cable. The on-shore machinery – a hydro pneumatic system – converts the energy from this motion into fluid pressure, which is used to spin a generator, producing electricity. One of the clear advantages of the system is that only the buoys and pistons are located in the water, while all other equipment operate on land, thereby improving reliability and providing easy access for maintenance and repair. The floats are attached by robust arms to any type of structure, such as breakwaters, peers, poles, and floating and fixed platforms. At large scale commercial size sea wave power plants, the waves will enable the lifting of up to 100 floats in turn. This will enable continuous energy production and a smooth output.

New testing system for wave energy technology

A new test centre for public wave energy has been launched in the United States. The US$1.5 million Ocean Sentinel, sited off the Oregon coast, is among the few centres in the United States that tests new public wave energy technology from industry or academia. The Newport test facility has been established by Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre (NNMREC). The much-needed mobile unit will also be used to measure and learn more about wave resources and examine wave energy production and other critical matters.

Mr. Sean Moran, NNMREC’s Ocean Test Facilities Manager, says, “The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another. We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be.” The Ocean Sentinel can test and measure the amplitude of waves, energy output, ocean currents, the speed of the wind and more.

It is thought that no single technology will dominate wave power generation. Some get better results with flatter waves and others need rough seas, says Mr. Moran. The area in which the Ocean Sentinel operates has been specially selected for its physical aspects as well as local biology. A major element of the marine centre’s programme is to study possible environmental factors from variations in acoustics, electromagnetic fields, differences in marine life, sediment and more. It will also promote research, public outreach and education.

Power flows from the ocean waves

The Wave Energy Technology-NZ (Wet-NZ) converter, which generates electricity by ocean wave power, is undergoing tests off the coast of Oregon, the United States. With these tests, the device designed in New Zealand is one step closer to breaking into the massive United States energy market. It is a major milestone for the eight-year project in New Zealand – a collaboration between Industrial Research Ltd. (IRL), a Crown Research Institute, and Power Projects Ltd., a private company.

Wet-NZ had been refined based on the results of deployments at various sites around New Zealand, as well as extensive wave tank modelling. The device was designed to extract as much energy as possible from three different types of wave motion. A half-scale, 18.4 m long version would be moored upright to the sea floor off Oregon, with wave movement converted into energy by a system of on-board hydraulics. After this test, the next step would be to develop and trial a full-scale version of the device. That would need to be tested in bigger, more powerful waves in another part of the country, said IRL General Manager of Industry Engagement, Mr. Gavin Mitchell.

Wave energy technology produces cheap power

SDE Sea Wave Power Plants from Israel is concluding construction of its second plant in a series of three for China, which will generate 150 kW/hour using the energy of ocean waves, and will be followed by a third such plant that generates 500 kW/hour. SDE power plants operate automatically, employing a hydro-pneumatic circular system with an engine and buoys that enable the use of waves at their rise and fall, as well as the return from breakwaters. This way, the system can be more efficient, and generate as much energy as possible from a single wave, according to SDE.

The motion of the waves creates hydraulic pressure, which causes a generator to spin and create electricity. While this process involves use of a hydraulic oil, the company stressed that this type of oil is environmentally friendly and does not cause any damage to underwater plants and animals. An added benefit of the technology, says SDE, is that it has low production costs of only US$0.02 per kWh. The system is resistant to storms, as only 10 per cent of plant parts are in the water and because systems use full force of waves to generate power from their rise and fall.

CoRMaT tidal current turbine to be tested

In the United Kingdom, the Mull of Kintyre, southwest Scotland, is to be the first test site for a new generation of tidal energy technology developed by Nautricity, which has received development and demonstration funding from the Scottish government. Nautricity will use the £1.4 million towards the cost of deploying its CoRMaT tidal current turbine in the sea. Electricity generated by the device will be fed into the electrical network. It is hoped the test phase can be completed by March 2014, followed by full-scale commercial deployment. The device, which could generate 500 kW of electricity, uses a patented rotor system that overcomes many of the problems that have made tidal energy production uneconomic until now. While conventional tidal devices resemble wind turbines fixed to the seabed, incurring engineering and deployment costs, CoRMaT is a small capsule, tethered to a sub-surface float, which uses a novel, contra-rotating rotor-generator system to harness tidal energy.

A new wave energy device prototype

SUBMARINER, a European project on the sustainable uses of Baltic marine resources, is exploring potential for development of a wave energy industry in the Baltic Sea. One of the project activities that are under way is the technical implementation of wave energy generators for the very specific Baltic Sea conditions. A wave generator prototype developed is being tested off the coast of Lithuania. The prototype will be further developed and refined on the basis of environmental conditions and test results.

The linear generator – a vital part of the prototype – received the first prize in the “engines” category in a recent innovation contest. The wave energy device prototype has been designed to meet the specific conditions of the Baltic Sea – occasional harsh storms and relatively low energy in a yearly run. The further development focuses on minimizing the investment costs while maximizing the generator’s efficiency. Contact: Ms. Joanna Przedrzymirska, The Maritime Institute in Gdańsk, Długi Targ 41/42, PL-80-830 Gdańsk, Poland. Tel: +48 (58) 301 1641; Fax: +48 (58) 301 3513; E-mail:; Website:

‘World’s first’ community-owned tidal turbine

In the United Kingdom, the world’s first community-owned tidal turbine will be deployed off the Shetland Islands, the United Kingdom, early next year, according to Scottish First Minister Mr. Alex Salmond. Nova Innovations, the United Kingdom, will supply the grid-connected 30 kW demonstrator device, which is set to be used by a community in North Yell to power a local ice plant and industrial estate. Nova has commissioned Steel Engineering Ltd. to manufacture the tidal turbine.

The Nova-30 tidal turbine employs a well proven, horizontal axis, three-bladed rotor to extract reliable and predictable energy from the tides. The generating unit, consisting of a Siemens gearbox and generator, is housed in a watertight nacelle. The turbine is fully yawable and is connected to a solid gravity mooring and anchoring mechanism on the seabed.


Towards long-life hydrogen fuel cells

Recent studies have shown that gold nanoparticles can remove carbon monoxide (CO) impurities from hydrogen in fuel cells by catalysis under mild temperature and pressure conditions. Unfortunately, gold nanoparticles tend to lose their catalytic activity after a few hours of use – a problem that need to be overcome if gold nanoparticles are to be used. At the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, scientists have identified the subtle, atomic-scale structural transformations that can activate and de-activate gold nanoparticle catalysts – a finding that may lead to longer-lasting hydrogen fuel cells. Along with their colleagues, Dr. Ziyi Zhong at the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences and Dr. Ming Lin at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering set out to design an improved catalyst for preferential oxidation (PROX) reactions. Their approach transforms CO impurities in hydrogen gas – which can have a detrimental impact on the performance of fuel cells – into carbon dioxide (CO2) on a ceramic support containing metal catalysts.

The research team has previously found that silica-based supports, called SBA-15, could boost CO removal by selectively absorbing the CO2 by-product. The researchers took advantage of another SBA-15 feature – a mesoporous framework decorated by terminal amine groups – to engineer a novel PROX catalyst. First, the team used amine modification to disperse a mixture of gold and copper(II) oxide (CuO) precursors evenly over the SBA-15 support. They then used heat treatment to generate gold and CuO nanoparticles on the SBA-15 support. The numerous pores in SBA-15 and the CuO particles work together to hinder agglomeration of gold nanoparticles – a major cause of catalyst de-activation.

The team then achieved an almost unprecedented chemical feat: localized structural characterization of their catalyst at atomic scale, using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) and 3-D electron tomography. These imaging techniques revealed that the active catalyst sites – gold or gold-copper alloy nanoparticles in the immediate vicinity of amorphous and crystalline CuO – remained stable for up to 13 hours. Eventually however, the reducing atmosphere transforms CuO into copper(I) oxide and free copper; the latter of which then alloys with the gold nanoparticles and deactivates them. Fortunately, heating to above 300°C reversed the alloying process and restored the catalyst’s activity.

New fuel cell keeps going after the hydrogen runs out

Imagine a kerosene lamp that continued to shine after the fuel was spent, or an electric stove that could remain hot during a power outage. Materials scientists at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) of Harvard University, the United States, have demonstrated an equivalent feat in clean energy generation with a solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that converts hydrogen into electricity but can also store electrochemical energy like a battery. This fuel cell can continue to produce power for a short time after its fuel has run out.

According to principal investigator Dr. Shriram Ramanathan, Associate Professor of Materials Science at SEAS, “This thin-film SOFC takes advantage of recent advances in low-temperature operation to incorporate a new and more versatile material.” Vanadium oxide (VOx) at the anode behaves as a multifunctional material, permitting the fuel cell to both produce and store energy. The finding will be most salient for small-scale, portable energy applications, wherein a very compact and lightweight power supply is crucial and the fuel supply may be interrupted.

The new SOFC uses a bi-layer of platinum and VOx for the anode, which allows the cell to continue operating without fuel for up to 14 times as long (3 minutes and 30 seconds, at a current density of 0.2 mA/cm2). This early result is only a “proof of concept”, according to Dr. Ramanathan, and his team predicts that future improvements to the composition of the VOx-platinum anode will further extend the cell’s lifespan. During normal operation, the amount of power produced by the novel device is comparable to that produced by a platinum-anode SOFC. The special nanostructured VOx layer sets up various chemical reactions that continue after the hydrogen fuel has run out.

Three reactions that potentially take place within the cell due to the VOx anode, says Dr. Ramanathan. “The first is the oxidation of vanadium ions, which we verified through XPS (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy). The second is the storage of hydrogen within the VOx crystal lattice, which is gradually released and oxidized at the anode. And the third phenomenon we might see is that the concentration of oxygen ions differs from the anode to the cathode, so we may also have oxygen anions being oxidized, as in a concentration cell.” All the three reactions are capable of feeding electrons into a circuit, but it is currently unclear exactly what allows the new fuel cell to keep running.

Magnesium-air fuel cell developed

Research by Professor Takashi Yabe at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, on the potential of magnesium in terms of energy generation has shown that the metal holds a great deal of promise in energy systems. In terms of transportation, a magnesium-air fuel cell could be 7.5 times more effective than lithium-ion batteries. Despite the potential of these energy systems, the majority of the fuel cell industry and its supporters remain focused on hydrogen. However, MagPower Systems Inc. from Canada believes that magnesium-air fuel cell technology is completely capable of competing against hydrogen variants, if not replacing them entirely.

MagPower Systems has developed a lightweight and efficient magnesium-air fuel cell that it believes will be a viable energy system in the near future. The cell makes use of hydrogen inhibitors, which reduce the prevalence of hydrogen gas. The fuel cell also makes use of a gas diffusion cathode and magnesium immersed in an electrolyte, a combination that generates a strong electric current. Magnesium is a relatively inexpensive material, making the manufacture of the fuel cell cost-effective. MagPower notes that the magnesium-air fuel cell may be a popular energy system in military and vehicle markets. Contact: MagPower Systems Inc., Suite 20, 1480 Foster Street, White Rock, B.C., Canada V4B 3X7. Tel: +1 (778) 294 3211; Fax: +1 (778) 294 3212.

New hydrogen-powered fuel cell system

Toyota Motor Corporation, based in Japan, has developed a power supply system that utilizes electricity produced within a fuel cell bus to supply electrical power to devices such as electrical appliances. The fuel cell bus, which is powered by hydrogen fuel, has two electrical outlets (100 VAC, 1.5 kW) inside the cabin that can supply a maximum output of 3 kW. Toyota is also developing a vehicle-to-home (V2H) system for supplying electricity from a fuel cell bus to a building’s existing electrical wiring, with the goal of providing a maximum output of 9.8 kW for 50 hours. With a full tank of hydrogen, a fuel cell bus with the V2H system could be used to power the lights inside an average school gymnasium (with a power consumption of approximately 100 kWh) for approximately five days.

Superior fuel cell material developed

Current commercially available fuel cells use platinum nanoparticles as the catalyst because platinum is the only metal that can resist the highly acidic conditions inside such a cell. However, the widespread use of fuel cells has been impeded by the high cost of platinum and its low stability. To overcome this limitation, a research team led by Prof. Jackie Y. Ying, Executive Director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore, has discovered that by replacing the central part of the catalyst with gold and copper alloy and leaving just the outer layer in platinum, the new hybrid material can provide five times higher activity and greater stability than the commercial platinum catalyst.

IBN’s new nanocomposite material can produce at least 0.571 A of electric current per milligram of platinum, compared with 0.109 A for commercial platinum catalysts. This is also the first time that a catalyst has been shown to enhance both the stability and activity for the fuel cell reaction with a significantly reduced platinum content. To make this catalyst more active than the commercial platinum catalyst, the researchers designed the core of the nanocrsytalline material to be gold-copper alloy, which has slightly smaller lattice spacing than the platinum coating on the nanocrystal’s surface. This creates a compressive strain on the surface platinum atoms, making platinum more active in the rate-limiting step of oxygen reduction reaction for the fuel cell. Replacing the core of the nanoparticle with the less expensive gold-copper alloy cuts down the usage of platinum.


Single catalyst for oxidation and reduction of water

Scientists at University of Grenoble, France, have developed a catalyst based on cobalt that generates hydrogen from water in a simple electrochemical process, with the added bonus that it can also be used to produce oxygen. Mr. Vincent Artero and his colleagues used reductive electrodeposition of cobalt dinitrate hexahydrate in a potassium phosphate buffer onto a fluorine-doped tin oxide electrode. This produces a nanoparticulate coating of a layer of metallic cobalt on the electrode, covered by a cobalt-oxo/hydroxo-phosphate layer on the outside.

When this electrode is operated against a silver/silver chloride electrode in an electrolyte of aqueous cobalt dinitrate, hydrogen gas is produced at a potential difference as low as 50 mV, which is far lower than those reported for other cobalt-based catalysts. Remarkably, when the same electrode is operated at a positive potential, typically +1.16 V relative to the silver/silver chloride electrode, a stable anodic current density is achieved and oxygen is produced. This is made possible by a change in the structure of the catalyst under negative and positive potentials.

Spectroscopic studies show that the cobalt layers act like a catalyst with two types of structure on the same electrode. About half of the original cobalt film is changed into a cobalt oxide-based material at positive potentials in a fast, redox-dependent transformation that is fully reversible without loss of activity. This is the first time that a non-noble metal catalyst has exhibited such behaviour and it is possible because the materials on the electrode exist in equilibrium with metal ions in solution. While the device for the use of the catalyst remains to be developed, the prospects for commercialization of the technology are good, says Mr. Artero.

Hydrogen production using cheap catalyst

Researchers at University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom, have produced hydrogen from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions. Lead author of the research Dr. Erwin Reisner, Head of Christian Doppler Laboratory at the University, said: “A hydrogen evolution catalyst that is active under elevated oxygen levels is crucial if we are to develop an industrial water-splitting process – a chemical reaction that separates the two elements that make up water. A real-world device will be exposed to atmospheric oxygen and will also produce oxygen in situ as a result of water splitting.”

According to the university, one of the many problems that scientists face is finding an efficient and inexpensive catalyst that can function under real-world conditions in water, under air and at room temperature. Currently, highly efficient catalysts such as platinum are too expensive and cheaper alternatives are typically inefficient. The researchers discovered that a simple catalyst containing cobalt, a comparatively inexpensive and abundant metal, operates as an active catalyst in pH-neutral water and under atmospheric oxygen. Dr. Reisner said in a statement: “Our research has shown that inexpensive materials such as cobalt are suitable to fulfil this challenging requirement. Many hurdles, such as the rather poor stability of the catalyst, remain to be addressed, but our finding provides a first step to produce green hydrogen under relevant conditions.” The results demonstrate that the catalyst works under air and the researchers are currently working on a solar water-splitting device, where fuel hydrogen and the by-product oxygen are produced simultaneously.

Patent for plasma-arc-through technology

MagneGas Corporation, the United States, has secured a patent for its “Plasma-Arc-Through Apparatus and Process for Submerged Electric Arcs,” related to a technology that converts liquid waste into a hydrogen-based metal working fuel and natural gas alternative. The company’s patented Plasma Arc FlowTM process entails flowing liquid waste through a submerged electric arc between coal electrodes. The arc decomposes the liquid molecules into atoms and creates a plasma around the tips of the electrodes at about 5,500°C.

The ‘Plasma Arc Flow’ moves the plasma away from the electrodes and controls the formation of the gas – MagneGasTM – that bubbles to the surface for collection. In this way, the liquid waste is converted into MagneGas and sterile liquid effluent, with carbonaceous precipitates collected in a strainer for periodical removal. MagneGas is a clean burning hydrogen-based fuel that is essentially interchangeable with natural gas. The gas can be utilized for metal working, cooking, heating, powering bi-fuel automobiles, etc. The fuel gas has very low greenhouse gas emissions when compared with fossil fuel. The refinery has no odour or noise pollution as it runs quietly in a totally sealed environment.


Fermentation process doubles biofuel production

Dr. Hao Feng, a scientist at University of Illinois, the United States, has found a way around the bottleneck that has frustrated biofuel producers in the past and could significantly reduce the cost of the energy involved in making it as well. “The first challenge in butanol production is that at a certain concentration, the fuel being created becomes toxic to the organism used to make it (Clostridium pasteurianum and other strains), and that toxicity limits the amount of fuel that can be made in one batch. The second issue is the high energy cost of removing butanol from the fermentation broth at the high concentrations used by the industry. We have solved both problems,” Dr. Feng says.

Dr. Feng’s team successfully tested the use of a non-ionic surfactant, or co-polymer, to create small structures that capture and hold butanol molecules. “This keeps the amount of butanol in the fermentation broth low so it doesn’t kill the organism and we can continue to produce it,” he says. The process, called extractive fermentation, increases the quantity of butanol produced during fermentation by 100 per cent or more. The research team then makes use of one of the polymer’s properties – its sensitivity to temperature. When the fermentation process is finished, the scientists heat the solution until a cloud appears and two layers form.

“We use a process called cloud point separation,” explains Dr. Feng. “Two phases form, with the second facing the polymer-rich phase. When we remove the second phase, we can recover the butanol, achieving a three- to four-fold reduction in energy use there because we don’t have to remove as much water as in traditional fermentation.” A bonus is that the co-polymers can be recycled and can be reused at least three times after butanol is extracted with little effect on phase separation behaviour and butanol enrichment ability. After the first recovery, the volume of butanol recovered is slightly lower but is still at a high concentration, Dr. Feng says.

Economically viable fuel production

In the United States, a new process developed by Gas Technology Institute (GTI) to produce fuel from municipal waste, algae, corn stalks and similar materials was presented at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The new process makes use of a technology named Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2), which utilizes hydrogen fuel that is produced internally as well as a series of catalysts that are used to generate chemical reactions. The process then uses these chemical reactions to convert non-food biomass materials, such as wood or corn stalk, into petrol, diesel or jet fuel. GTI claims that the process is both efficient and viable in terms of fuel production as it is capable of producing high volumes of clean fuel.

The fuel produced by the process is ready-to-use as soon as it is created. This sets the GTI process apart from other biofuel production methods. Conventional biofuel production requires the fuel to be refined before it can be used. The IH2 technology makes use of existing materials and equipment that makes it economically viable and keeps the production of greenhouse gases low. The technology also produces the hydrogen it needs internally. The United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory has examined the IH2 technology and determined that it can produce petrol at a cost of approximately US$0.53 per litre.

Major step in electricity generation from wastewater

Engineers at Oregon State University (OSU), the United States, have made a breakthrough in the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can produce electricity directly from wastewater, opening the door to a future in which waste treatment plants not only will power themselves, but will sell excess electricity. The new OSU technology can now produce 10-50 more times the electricity per volume than most other approaches used in MFCs and 100 times more electricity than some. Researchers say this could eventually change the way that wastewater is treated all over the world, replacing the widely used “activated sludge” process that has been in use for almost a century.

OSU researchers reported on the promise of this technology several years ago, but the systems in use at that time produced far less electrical power. With new concepts – reduced anode-cathode spacing, evolved microbes and new separator materials – the technology can now produce more than 2 kW/m3 of liquid reactor volume. This amount of power density far exceeds anything else done with MFCs. The system also treats wastewater more effectively than anaerobic digestion, and does not have any of the environmental drawbacks of that technology, such as the production of unwanted hydrogen sulphide or the release of methane.

This technology cleans sewage by a very different approach than the aerobic bacteria used in the past. Bacteria oxidize the organic matter and, in the process, produce electrons that run from the anode to the cathode within the fuel cell, creating an electrical current. Almost any type of organic waste material can be used to produce electricity – not only wastewater, but also grass, straw, animal waste, and by-products from such operations as the wine, beer or dairy industries. The OSU system has been proven at a substantial scale in the laboratory, said Ms. Hong Liu, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, and the next step would be a pilot study.

Biofuel waste product recycled for electricity

Distiller’s Dried Grain with Solubles (DDGS) is a waste product from bioethanol production that is commonly used as a low-cost animal feed. At University of Surrey, the United Kingdom, researchers incorporated DDGS together with bacteria-inoculated sludge from a wastewater treatment plant in their microbial fuel cell (MFC). The design of the MFC physically separated the bacteria, which used the DDGS for growth, from their oxygen supply, forcing the bacteria into sending electrons around a circuit leading to a supply of oxygen. By tapping into this electron flow, electricity could be generated from the waste.

MFCs offer the ability to convert a wide range of complex organic waste products into electrical energy. However, finding cost-efficient starting products is necessary to help commercialize the process, explained Ms. Lisa Buddrus who is conducting the research. “The next step for us is to identify the electrogenic bacterial species that grow on DDGS. Furthermore, by looking at genetics across this microbial community, we will be able to better understand the metabolic processes and essential genes involved in electron liberation and transfer,” she said.

“We have found something really useful from a waste product without affecting its value as animal feed and at the same time improving its environmental status,” said Professor Mike Bushell who is leading the group. Besides being low-cost, use DDGS in MFCs is very environment-friendly. The waste that is left following electricity generation is of greater value, as it is less reactive with oxygen and so less polluting.

A process that could improve biofuel production

A new patented process developed by microbiologists at Missouri University of Science and Technology, the United States, could reduce the cost and the reliance on fossil fuels in biofuel production, while streamlining the process. Prof. Melanie Mormileb has found a bacterium, Halanaerobium hydrogeniformans, that can be used to streamline the production of biofuel. Because the bacterium thrives in high-alkaline, high-salt conditions, it can eliminate the need to neutralize the pH of the biomass, a step required in the alkali treatment of biomass for production of hydrogen fuel and other biofuels.

The conventional method of biofuel production involves steam-blasting of switchgrass and straw to separate lignin from the cellulose, which is needed to create the biofuel. The process requires electricity, produced by either coal or natural gas, to generate the steam. The process releases considerable amounts of carbon dioxide, while maintaining the dependency on fossil fuels. The degradation of lignin produces certain compounds that impede fermentation and leads to overall low hydrogen yields. Treating switchgrass and straw with an alkaline substance removes the lignin with limited formation of the harmful compounds, but the resulting slurry is highly alkaline and very salty. A neutralization step was therefore required before the fermentation process could begin. The discovery of H. hydrogeniformans has eliminated this step.

“We are seeing hydrogen production similar to a genetically modified organism and we haven’t begun to tweak the genome of this bacterium yet,” said Dr. Mormile, who is now looking for ways to optimize growth of the organism and minimize the cost. She is working in collaboration with Dr. Oliver Sitton, an associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, to optimize growth of the bacterium in a bioreactor. “We have shown that we can produce hydrogen in a lab-scale reactor,” Dr. Mormile stated. “The next step in the project is to find the best growth medium and optimize the hydrogen production from this organism.”


Microbial Technologies in Advanced Biofuels Production

Very real concerns over the effects of biofuel production on food supplies have led to the realization that new, non-food substrates must be found for biofuel production. This book is a comprehensive, authoritative review of the options under development for the production of advanced biofuels as alternative energy carriers. Internationally recognized experts on individual focus areas contribute technical chapters that detail present progress and future prospects.

Contact: Springer GmbH, Haberstrasse 7, 69126, Heidelberg, Germany, Tel: +49 (6221) 345 4301; Fax: + 49 (6221) 345 4229; Email: orders-hd-individuals

Practical Handbook of Photovoltaics

The Handbook of Photovoltaics will be a ‘benchmark’ publication for those involved in the design, manufacture and use of photovoltaic devices. The book covers the principles of solar cell function, the raw materials, photovoltaic systems, standards, calibration, testing, economics and case studies. Internationally respected experts from industry and academia have contributed their knowledge to prepare this publication.

Contact: Customer Service Department, Elsevier B.V., 3 Killiney Road #08-01, Winsland House I, Singapore 239519. Tel: +65 6349 0222; Fax: +65 6733 1510.

Renewables Information 2012 – with 2011 data

The book provides a comprehensive review of historical and current market trends in OECD countries, including 2011 preliminary data. An Introduction, notes, definitions and auxiliary information are provided in Part I. Part II of the publication provides an overview of the development of renewables and waste in the world over the 1990 to 2010 period. Part III provides a corresponding statistical overview of developments in the world and OECD renewable and waste market. Part IV presents a detailed picture of developments for renewable and waste energy sources for 34 OECD member countries, including 2011 preliminary data.

Contact: International Energy Agency, Bookshop, 9, rue de la Fédération, 75739 Paris Cedex 15, France. Tel: +33 (1) 4057 6690; Fax: +33 (1) 4057 6775; E-mail:


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