VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Mar-Apr 2008

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New and Renewable Energy Mar-Apr 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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Solar systems for 400,000 Chinese rural households

China’s Renewable Energy Development Project, supported by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been a major factor in the development of a sustainable photovoltaic (PV) market in China. The project’s aim was to provide reliable, affordable and environment-friendly energy to villagers who live off the electric grid by helping the development of good quality, service-oriented PV businesses through capacity building, training and technical assistance.

The World Bank provided financing for two wind farms totalling 21 MW in Shanghai municipality to demonstrate the viability of commercial wind development. It also supported the sale of solar systems to approximately 400,000 rural households and institutions in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and Sha’anxi, and in the Autonomous Regions of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Xizang and Ninxia. The supply of solar electricity to isolated semi-nomadic people (mainly herdsmen) translated into improved access to communications, education and entertainment, improved indoor air quality and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.


Indian wind projects lure foreign investors

India’s wind energy sector has seen significant investments from foreign companies who are attracted by the development potential – estimated to exceed 45,000 MW – availability of wind farm equipment at com-petitive prices and conducive policies of government. Foreign companies that have forayed into India’s wind energy sector include Roaring 40s – an equal joint venture between China Light and Power (CLP) and Hydro Tasmania – which is setting up a 50 MW wind farm in Maharashtra. Based in Hong Kong, CLP is setting up 100 MW and 82 MW wind farms in Gujarat and Karnataka, respectively. Epuron Energy, a subsidiary of Coenergy, Germany, is planning to set up 550 MW wind farms in the next 3-4 years. Other renewable energy companies, such as Westwind of Australia and Axiona of Spain, are also planning to invest in wind farms. BP Energy India, a subsidiary of the multinational BP, has plans for a 40 MW wind farm.

Less than one-fifth of the wind energy potential of the country (7,660 MW) has been realized thus far. An investment of US$0.75-US$1.5 million is needed to set up 1 MW of wind power capacity compared with the US$1 million for a thermal plant. Currently, about 7 per cent of India’s installed generation capacity is accounted for by wind power, which has seen rapid growth in the 10th five-year plan with more than 5,000 MW capacity being added against the few hundred megawatts in the previous five-year plan periods. At present the country stands fourth in the world after Germany, Spain, and the United States. By 2012, this capacity should further increase to 10,500 MW.


GE’s contribution to Malaysia’s renewable energy

The global technology powerhouse General Electric (GE) has much interest in renewable energy in Asia, especially with the existing high oil prices and environmental concerns. According to GE’s South-East Asia President Mr. Stuart L. Dean, the energy market is moving towards increased use of renewables. In Malaysia, GE has a landfill waste-to-energy project in Puchong. For the remote towns in east Malaysia, Mr. Dean said biogas technology could be an effective contributor to distributed power systems.

According to Mr. Dean, demand for power in Malaysia will be moderate in the short term in view of the comfortable reserve margin between the generating capacity and demand. However, he felt there would still be pockets of demand for extra power generation capacity. While it is important to make current power generation systems more efficient and reduce fuel use and emissions, more investment would have to be made for renewable technology, as the energy markets move towards greater use of renewables. Government incentives would play a major role in supporting the growth of investment in renewable technology.


China reaches milestone ahead of schedule

According to the China Electricity Council, an industry association, the wind power sector generated electricity of 5.6 billion kWh in 2007, a growth of 95.2 per cent over the previous year. This growth rate was 22 percentage points higher than the year before. Mr. Zhang Guobao, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that the top economic planning agency has taken several measures to support the exploration of wind power, including conducting survey of wind resources, organizing biddings for franchise of large wind power projects and promoting localizing production of wind power generation equipment.

At the end of 2007, China had wind power facilities with a combined installed capacity of 6.05 million kilowatts, increasing from 2.67 million kilowatts a year earlier, thus achieving the goal set for 2010 three years ahead of schedule. The wind power projects that are being built involve a combined installed capacity of 4.2 million kilowatts, Mr. Zhang said. China now ranks fifth in the world in terms of installed wind power capacity. China plans to increase its wind power installed capacity to 10 million kilowatts by 2015 and then to 30 million kilowatts by 2020.

Mr. Shi Pengfei, Vice-president of the Chinese wind energy association, stated that capacity growth in wind-generated electricity in 2008 is likely to speed up, with another 4 billion kilowatt-hours expected to be added by the booming industry. This will bring the total amount of turbines erected by the end of 2008 to nearly 10 billion kilowatt-hours or twice the official target for the end of the decade.


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Republic of Korea sees steady gains in solar energy

The Republic of Korea is targeting the growing global solar energy market based on the steady technological gains and improvements in manufacturing it has achieved. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy stated that the country had the necessary technology to produce quality solar electricity since 2006. The Ministry said that while technology levels of industry leaders such as Q-Cells, Kyocera and Sharp stood at 70 per cent in 2007, the Republic of Korea is making gains as more and more companies are pouring greater resources into research and development.

According to a Ministry official, “In 2006, 61 per cent of solar panels used in homes and 85.4 per cent procured for larger commercial and industrial generation were imports. However, in less than a year, manufacturers from the Republic of Korea replaced foreign competition to a noticeable extent.” In July 2007, the market share of foreign products for home solar generation dropped to 45 per cent. For larger commercial solar energy production facilities, the figures edged down to 85.2 per cent. Exports of solar power-related equipment rose from US$45 million in 2006 to US$180 million last year.

At the present pace and with the right amount of state support, the country will be able to generate 4 GW of electricity from solar power in 2020 and 18 GW in 2030, says the Ministry. Correspondingly, exports will go up to US$1.48 billion in 2020 and US$6.32 billion in 2030. Meanwhile, there are promising indications that local companies are pushing to produce key components more effectively. The Ministry added that Seoul plans to continue providing incentives as well as more loans to finance research, and eliminate administrative obstacles that could hinder solar energy generation.


Pakistan licenses wind power plants

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, Pakistan, has issued licences to five independent power producers (IPPs) for initiating wind power projects in the country. In all, eight IPPs had completed feasibility studies on wind power plants for generating 50 kW each, and licences for the remaining three IPPs are being processed. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) has issued a Letter of Intent to 93 national and international investors, of which 92 are meant for 50 MW wind power projects each and one for a 5 MW wind project.

Based on a survey carried out by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), AEDB has identified 50,000 acres of government land in Sindh for the projects. So far, 23,646 acres of land have been allocated to 15 investors, a further 10,330 acres of land is being provisionally allocated to seven more wind investors. A PMD study has identified a wind corridor covering an area of 45,000 km2, beginning from Ketibunder to Gharo and extending up to Jamshoro. It points out that about 9,000 km2 can be used for wind power farms and generate about 11,000 MW.

The study points out that contrary to the general impression, Sindh’s coastal areas have a greater wind power potential than Balochistan’s coast. Using the measured wind data, the annual gross energy production by a wind farm consisting of thirty 600 kW turbines (18 MW in total) will be 45 million kilowatt-hours. Taking into account the wind turbine availability, net losses and wake effects in the wind farm, the net annual energy production will be about 31 million kilowatt-hours per year, corresponding to a capacity factor of 28 per cent.


Renewable energy corridor in Malaysia gets US$1.5 billion

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, announced the allocation of US$1.5 billion for the development of renewable energy under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) project. The projects would be developed in the central region of eastern Malaysia’s Sarawak state and would cover 70,700 km2 in the Bintulu, Kapit, Sibu, Mukah and Sarikei divisions. Mr. Badawi said that with the full implementation of the SCORE master plan by 2030, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Sarawak would grow five fold and its annual GDP growth rate would increase from the current 5 per cent to 7 per cent. A “green development framework” would be evolved to ensure that SCORE’s development is environmentally friendly, so that the energy resources will be developed in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner.


Indian company aims for 2,000 MW in wind energy generation

In India, Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) is planning to invite bids for its pilot project in Karnataka following the successful start-up of its first pilot wind energy project in Gujarat. The PSU major plans to generate up to 2,000 MW through wind energy from these projects. ONGC will invest nearly US$150 million in the first phase of its wind energy foray for generating nearly 15,000 MW of power.

The public sector company entered the wind energy sector recently by signing an agreement with Suzlon Energy for its pilot project in Gujarat to produce 50 MW for consumption at its own facilities in four locations. It will set up 34 turbine machines, each having a capacity to produce 1.5 MW, at both the wind farms in Gujarat and Karnataka. It has roped in consultants – M.P Wind Farms and IL&FS – for executing these projects. The cost of the Gujarat project is about US$77 million. The power produced from this project would be taken to ONGC installations under an arrangement with the Gujarat Electricity Board.

ONGC will invite tenders in June-July this year for its second pilot project in Karnataka, where it plans to invest nearly US$75 million. It is likely to sell the power produced from the project in the southern state itself. The location for Karnataka’s project is yet to be finalized. ONGC, which produces 84 per cent of India’s crude oil and natural gas, is the first public sector company to enter the wind energy sector.


Viet Nam’s first solar panel and cell plant

Work on Viet Nam’s first solar panel and cell manufacturing factory has kicked off at Hoa Duc Plastics Industrial Park located in the southern Long An Province. Ho Chi Minh City Energy Conservation Centre (ECC), in cooperation with the Red Sun Energy Joint-Stock Company, will invest US$10 million in the factory. Sunwatt Group based in France is the primary technical consultant. In the first stage, the factory will assemble solar panels from solar cells imported from France and German at a production capacity of 3 MW per year. In the second stage, the factory will manufacture solar cells with an annual output of 5 MW. The factory will sell 40 per cent of the products in the domestic market, and export the remainder.



A world record for Sharp Corporation

Sharp Corporation, based in Japan, has become the first company in the world to reach 2 GW in cumulative solar cell production volume. It is estimated that the current global cumulative solar cell production volume is 8 GW, meaning Sharp has produced a full one-quarter of this. Sharp has been involved with solar power for 49 years: the company began research into solar cells in 1959 to develop a new technology to follow the success of the television and started mass-production in 1963. In 1966, a lighthouse on Ogami Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan was equipped with what was then the world’s largest solar power system of 225 W for lighthouses. The panels were replaced just once and have been working for the past 25 years.

Currently, Sharp is the only company in Japan authorized to provide solar cells to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The long-term reliability of Sharp-made solar cells has been proved: Sharp solar cells function in harsh environments, such as the over 1,900 lighthouses subjected to water and wind, as well as the over 160 satellites subject to the extreme degrees of temperature that occur in outer space. The company’s strength is that it can supply solar cells to meet specific regional needs: crystalline solar cells for cold, high latitude regions and thin-film types for warm regions.



Resource-saving production process for CIGS thin films

Researchers at Japan’s Research Centre for Photovoltaics have developed a novel technique to grow device-grade Cu(In,Ga)Se2 (CIGS) thin films using a radio frequency cracked Se-radical beam source. A Se-radical beam source meets the technical challenges of high-quality CIGS film growth, efficient use of Se source and precise control of growth conditions and film properties.

Using a CIGS absorber grown with a Se-radical source, an energy conversion efficiency of 17.5 per cent, which can be compared to conventional CIGS solar cell performance, has been achieved. Material consumption by the Se-radical source is significantly reduced to be less than 1/10 compared with a conventional Se-evaporative source. This result will lead to lower production costs of CIGS solar cell modules and sharply reduced levels of industrial waste generation. Contact: Mr. Shogo Ishizuka, Research Centre for Photovoltaics, AIST Tsukuba Central 2, 1-1-1 Umezono, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8568, Japan. E-mail:



Electricity from a thin film solar module

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Germany, have developed a new approach for industrial mass production of organic solar cells. The flexible solar module, which is as small as the page of a book, has been developed by a method that can easily be transferred to roll-to-roll technology – a vital step en route to mass production.

A new design principle helps save costs too. Until now, the front electrode, the one that faces the sun, has usually been made of expensive indium tin oxide because this material is transparent. But ISE researchers found an alternative – they interconnected a poorly conductive transparent polymer electrode with a highly conductive metal layer on the rear side of the solar cell. This connection is achieved through numerous tiny holes in the solar cell. This has the advantage that a low-priced material can be employed. The idea has been patented. Contact: Dr. Michael Niggemann, Fraunhofer Institut fur Solare Energiesysteme (ISE), Heidenhofstraße 2, 79110 Freiburg, Germany. Tel: +49 (761) 2034 798.


Unique nanotube composites for organic cells

Scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the United States, have developed nanotube composites constructed for organic solar cells. Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) are made of polymers and can be painted on a surface, such as on the outside walls of a building or on rooftops. Compared with existing technologies, OPVs have moderate power conversion efficiencies. They can also be made by highly scalable, high-speed coating and printing processes, like spray painting and inkjet printing, to cover large areas on flexible plastic substrates. As such, they provide a low-cost alternative for the future.

In an OPV, solar radiation is harnessed in an unusual way. Incoming radiation excites the photoactive polymer, which functions atomically as a loosely bounded electron-hole pair, referred to as an exciton. The key to OPV technology is the mechanism of effective separation and transport of the electrons and holes (charge carriers). Otherwise, energy is wasted. Spherical fullerenes or C60 are allotropes (different forms) of carbon that are capable of trapping electrons. They can be employed in OPVs for separating charges to prevent recombination of electrons and holes. However, the allotropes are neither good conductors of electricity nor optimal for charge transport. A single-wall carbon nanotube (SWNT), a cylindrical variation of a fullerene, offers a solution owing to its shape. SWNTs have a nanometre-scale diameter and exhibit ballistic electrical conductivity that can serve as tiny wires.

The main component of the OPVs developed at NJIT is a C60-SWNT complex. The SWNTs offer superior electron transport properties. The spherical C60, with its large surface-to-volume ratio, is extremely efficient at separating photogenerated charge carriers. The charge partitioning at the polymer/C60 interface is followed by very efficient electron transport through the nanotubes. Together, these two steps lead to higher quantum efficiencies. Contact: Dr. Somenath Mitra / Dr. Cheng Li, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, Newark, New Jersey, NJ 01702-1982, United States of America.


Telecom research leads to solar breakthrough

In Canada, semiconductor insights gained by engineering physics researchers at McMaster University for the telecommunications industry have led to a breakthrough in the future development of high-efficiency solar cells. Prof. Rafael Kleiman and Prof. John Preston from McMaster found a method for applying single crystal layers of compound semiconductors – gallium-arsenide, for example – on single-crystal silicon crystals, which they expect will convert sunlight to electricity twice as efficiently as other materials systems in common use. The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and ARISE Technologies Corporation, a solar energy company, have announced that they would be investing US$4.1 million to take forward commercialization of McMaster’s research.

The ability to deposit high-quality single crystal layers of selected chemical elements is key to absorbing and converting more sunlight to electricity, but achieving the necessary alignment on silicon was thought to be highly improbable at a large scale. The approach of combining different materials to capture a greater share of the solar spectrum into multi-junction photovoltaic solar cells uses high-cost substrates, such as germanium, and has mostly been deployed for space-based applications. However, solar-grade silicon crystal technology from ARISE has the potential to make the discovery cost-competitive for large-scale applications. The silicon based multi-junction solar cells look to leverage existing solar cell manufacturing technologies to speed up commercialization and lower costs.


New polymer solar cell technique

In the United States, researchers at the University of California (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and California Nanosystems Institute have created a technique for fabricating organic polymer solar cells – a step towards producing low-cost, plastic solar cells. The researchers used an electronic, glue-based lamination process, combined with interface modification, to create a one-step method for semi-transparent polymer solar cell fabrication. They say the method eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming high-vacuum processes presently used in fabrication. The resulting device has the advantage of being low-cost and achieving high transparency for various applications. The technique was developed by Prof. Yang Yang, former UCLA graduate student Mr. Jinsong Huang and research associate Mr. Gang Li.


New coating improves efficiency

In the United States, researchers at the Northwestern University have developed a special coating, which increases the energy efficiency of solar cells by about one-and-a-half times. They found that solar energy falling on just a patch of the Mojave Desert is enough to power the whole country – if it is tapped efficiently.

The researchers have developed an anode coating that boosts the efficiency of solar energy power conversion from 3-4 per cent to 5.2-5.6 per cent. This breakthrough holds promise to bring cheaper solar cells closer to reality. The researchers used a laser deposition technique that coats the anode with a nano-thick layer of nickel oxide, which is cheap, non-corrosive and electrically homogeneous. In the case of the model bulk-heterojunction cells, they increased the cell voltage by 40 per cent and the power conversion efficiency from approximately 3-4 per cent to 5.2-5.6 per cent. The researchers are currently fine-tuning the anode coating technique for increased efficiency.


Firms develop lightest solar cell

In Japan, Peccell Technologies Inc. has prototyped a large-size solar cell module measuring 2.1 m x 0.8 m. The company, along with Fujimori Kogyo Co. and Showa Denko KK, developed a transparent conductive dye-sensitized solar cell using a plastic substrate. The 0.5 mm thick module, which employs a plastic substrate, is flexible and weighs only 800 g/m2. According to Peccell, it is the lightest solar cell and the largest in the world for a dye-sensitized cell. The module conversion efficiency is approximately 3 per cent. When installed indoors, the output voltage of the module exceeds 100 V.

Peccell plans to mass produce dye-sensitized solar cells based on the latest technology from fiscal 2009. The cell lasts for 5,000-6,000 hours with the sealing treatment applied on the surface of plastic substrate (when operated continuously at 50-60°C). If it is used normally and not operated continuously, the cell can last for five years. The company is reportedly aiming to develop a product with 8 per cent module conversion efficiency.



Plug-and-produce wind power

Mariah Power, the United States, offers a consumer-friendly, plug-and-produce wind power installation. All components of the Windspire are designed for integration together to provide seamless, reliable operation and easy installation. Creative innovation, along with advanced engineering, has resulted in the optimal and a very cost-effective wind power appliance for residential and commercial needs.

Windspire’s rotor is a low-speed, straight-bladed Darrieus giromill design optimized for energy capture efficiency by Ecole Polytechique, Montreal. Constructed from aircraft grade aluminium, the rotor ensures both high strength and low cost. The double rotating air core generator used in Windspire is designed specifically for the rotor to efficiently capture as much energy as possible at all wind speeds. The Windspire generator technology was dynamometer tested and performance verified by Oregon State University and the University of Nevada. It registered over 98 per cent efficiency.

The Windspire has its own integrated inverter to convert the electrical power from the generator into regulated electricity that ties in with the grid. The high-efficiency inverter was custom-designed to optimize operation with the rotor and generator. The inverter continuously maximizes the conversion of wind energy, over a range of wind speeds, into electric power provided to homes or businesses. The Windspire has a built-in wireless modem that transmits power production information. Any computer with a WiFi modem can pick up the signal within 330 feet and read the output. Contact: Mariah Power, 748 South Meadows Parkway A-9, #329, Reno, Nevada 89521, United States of America. Tel: +1 (775) 8319 463; Fax: +1 (775) 2010 467.


A wind turbine that emulates a tornado

Energytower AB, Sweden, offers a wind turbine that is claimed to be a controlled reproduction of a tornado inside a cylindrical tower. Energytower’s aim is to offer a combination of far-reaching competitive advantages such as: low overall cost of energy production; flexibility with regard to location and application; and environmental and human friendliness.

Air hitting Energytower is led into it and accelerates as the tower’s inner radius decreases. Inside the tower, a vertical-axes three-blade rotor begins to rotate. The accelerated air raises pressure and temperature along the inner walls of the tower, generating a relative pressure drop in the middle of the tower – the eye of the tornado. The pressure gap generates a chimney effect in the tower which also adds to the rotation of the rotor. The low pressure in the middle of the whirl enables a fast release of air from the tower whereby new air can be taken in.

The vertical orientation of the turbine means that all heavy parts such as mechanical parts, the generator, and other electrical equipment, can be placed at ground level. This makes the construction much lighter and cheaper to manufacture and maintain. Contact: Mr. Jonas Thurdin, Sales and Business Development, Energytower AB, Box 44019, SE-100 73 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46 (73) 663 0500.


Mixer/ejector wind turbine for more power

Flodesign Wind Turbine Corporation, the United States, offers wind turbines loaded with the latest concept called the mixer/ejector wind turbine (MEWT). This new design is claimed to produce a good amount of usable power using wind energy efficiently with its mixer/ejector technology and fluid machinery than its predecessors. Resembling a huge jet engine with its horizontal axis, this wind turbine looks promising. Its small blades rotate faster and use both the higher and lower wind speeds to generate power.

Using the cambered ringed airfoils or shrouds in a stator-rotor turbine cascade design, the turbine would generate more power and draw in more wind with the help of the mixer/ejector pump, which works equally well. It appears to be safer, more efficient and also a lot more quite than the larger wind turbines. The developers of this design are quite confident about its producing 50 per cent more power than conventional wind turbines. It is half the size of a three-bladed horizontal axis wind turbine and 25-35 per cent cheaper.



Bio-crude turns cheap waste into valuable fuel

In Australia, CSIRO and Monash University have jointly developed a chemical process that turns green wastes into a stable bio-crude oil. The bio-crude oil could be used to produce high-value chemicals and biofuels, including petrol and diesel replacement fuels.

The process uses low-value waste such as forest thinnings, crop residues and garden waste, significant amounts of which are dumped in landfills or burned. Says Dr. Steven Loffler of CSIRO Forest Biosciences, “The Furafuel technology overcomes the food versus fuel debate which surrounds biofuels generated from grains, corn and sugar.” The plant wastes being targeted for conversion into Furafuels contain chemicals known as lignocellulose, which is increasingly favoured as a raw material for the next generation of bioethanol.


Efficient ethanol production method

Dr. Patrick Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming (UW), has received a grant of US$485,000 to explore a more economical way to produce ethanol. Dr. Johnson’s project involves developing recyclable biocatalysts for use in the process that converts cellulose into fermentable sugars for ethanol production. The researchers will fabricate enzyme nanoparticles with a magnetic core together with enzymes immobilized on stimuli-responsive polymers – substances composed of molecules with large molecular mass. Well-known examples of polymers include plastics, DNA and proteins. Stimuli responsiveness allows the researchers to make polymers that will precipitate out of solution with a slight change in pH or temperature. Responsive polymers can be precipitated out of solution after the reaction and then recycled.


Biomass-based coal

Newearth Renewable Energy Inc., the United States, produces a ‘coal’ equivalent from 100 per cent biomass sources. The pellets do not smoke, are odourless and produce virtually no pollution; yet they have the same BTU content as coal and are available at a lower price, when all the costs of coal are factored in.

Using the natural ECO Torrefaction and ECO Densification processes, the energy properties of the biomass are augmented and refined. During the ECO Torrefaction process, the molecular structure of the wood is transformed into a more refined fuel, similar to the energy nature of coal but without any pollution side effect because all pollutants are removed. After it has been processed, only the energy component remains in the wood: the natural smoke-forming volatiles have been removed, and the moisture and ash contents are reduced to less than 1 per cent. A higher heat value/energy content is achieved by means of ECO densification, and the biomass is pelletized for transportation. Advantages of the biomass-based coal include:

• Cheaper, cleaner and safer than the total cost of coal and all fossil fuels;
• Moisture resistant, will not reabsorb moisture, and moisture and ash contents are is below 1 per cent;
• Eliminates the need for expensive scrubbers and pollution control technology for total biomass fuel projects;
• Can be produced in any range of energy content, from 9,500 to 14,500 BTU; and
• Capable of providing base load power generation and/or constant electric power generation.

The company is expecting that its coal would replace all coal applications, providing the same BTU but with barely any emissions, at a cumulative price that is comparable to coal. Contact: Newearth Renewable Energy Inc., Washington D.C., United States of America. Tel: +1 (206) 4464 731; E-mail: info@new


Ethanol production from cellulose

KL Process Design Group from the United States has engineered, constructed and is operating a plant that produces cellulosic ethanol. This plant is the first small-scale wood commercial facility to be operated in the country. The plant is the result of six years of development efforts between KL and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

KL’s production process for ethanol uses proprietary technologies and newly developed enzymes. These processes release the fermentable sugars hidden within the wood, without using environmentally unfriendly acids, says Mr. Dave Litzen, Vice-president of process engineering for the company. KL projects that its cellulosic technology, coupled with new applied-design concepts, will allow the plants to be built to match the amount and type of feedstock available near large cities, further reducing the fuel’s carbon footprint. KL’s Advanced Biofuels plants will also generate steam and/or electricity steam heat that can provide additional power sources for local municipalities or complement biofuel plants and manufacturing facilities. The current production facility uses softwood, but successful test runs have been made using waste materials such as cardboard and paper. Contact: KL Process Design Group, United States of America. Website:


New techniques create butanol, a superior biofuel

A team of researchers in the United States, led by Dr. Lars Angenent, an environmental engineer at Wash-ington University, is trying new techniques to produce a biofuel superior to ethanol. The fuel, butanol, can be derived from any lignocellulosic material, which range from woody stems to agricultural residues, corn fibre and husks, all containing lots of cellulose and some lignin. Butanol is seen as a better biofuel than ethanol because it is less corrosive and has a higher caloric value. Like ethanol, butanol is being considered as an additive to petroleum.

In the new process, pre-treated corn fibre, a by-product of corn-to-ethanol production, is placed in digesters comprising a mixed culture of different, selected microbes to convert the biomass into butyrate, which is then converted into butanol using fermenters. Physical and chemical techniques are employed to make the hard-to-degrade lignocellulosic material more amenable to degrade – an important step that allows a mixed bacterial culture to work its magic. The conditions are optimized for a bacterial community that makes an environment conducive to the conversion of the corn fibre to butyrate.



Creating ethanol from wood more efficiently

A type of bacteria that aids termites digest wood could be key to making ethanol cheaply from biomass, such as wood and grass. ZeaChem, a start-up based in the United States, has developed a process based on this bacteria that can produce 50 per cent more ethanol from a given quanity of biomass than is possible via conventional processes. ZeaChem has demonstrated the method in a laboratory setting and is now planning to set up an ethanol plant that produces about 9.09 million litres of ethanol a year.

The process improves yield through more efficient use of biomass than conventional techniques. It begins with breaking down biomass into sugars. At this point, conventional processes use yeast to ferment the sugars into ethanol, a wasteful process as about a third of the carbon in the sugars never makes it into the fuel. Instead, it is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The new process replaces yeast with the bacteria Moorella thermoacetica – which can be found in a number of places in nature, including the guts of termites and ruminants, where it helps break down grass. Instead of making ethanol and carbon dioxide, the bacteria convert the sugars into acetic acid, a process that doesn’t release carbon dioxide. Acetic acid thus obtained is converted into the common solvent ethyl acetate. The final step of making ethanol requires combining hydrogen and ethyl acetate. ZeaChem gasifies lignin, the material left over from the conversion of biomass into sugars, to get hydrogen. To date, the company has achieved more than 40 per cent better yield than with conventional approaches.





Venturi turbine

A patented Venturi-turbine system developed by Mr. Aaron Davidson and Mr. Craig Hill of Tidal Energy Ltd., Australia, increases turbine efficiency by up to 3.84 times compared with the same turbine in free stream without the Venturi. In the Davidson-Hill design, Venturi is a key component used to create a faster flow across the turbine, increasing turbine efficiency and output power. The technology can also be used to pump water, for desalination, and for hydrogen production using electricity and electrolysis process.

The DHV turbine can be mounted on a monopile on the seabed where surface events such as large ocean swells and sea chop might buffet the turbine. It can also be slung under a pontoon on a swing mooring or be flown like a kite under water. In each case, power is cabled to shore for use. The company is now commencing the commercialization stage, with an expected price that competes with coal. Advantages of the DHV turbine include:

• The turbine is protected from potential damage inside the Venturi;
• The Venturi becomes part of the structural load sharing design;
• Bio-fouling is less due to the higher velocity inside the Venturi; and
• Easily mass-produced, and flat-packed and shipped anywhere for final assembly and installation.

Contact: Mr. Aaron Davidson, Tidal EnergyLtd., Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. E-mail: tidalenergy


Wave energy buoy

OE Buoy, from Ocean Energy Ltd., Ireland, is a new wave energy device. In this model, air contained in the plenum chamber is pumped out and drawn in through the turbine duct by the movement of the water-free surface within the device. The hull’s motions enhance the relative surface movement and increase the air flow. The wave energy capture efficiency is high in normal wave conditions. Capture efficiency however, reduces during extreme waves when power levels exceed the capacity of the power take-off system. This makes the device self limiting and will ensure good survivability.

The power take-off system is a self-rectifying type air turbine that converts the flowing air into rotational energy, which drives the generator. The whole power take-off system contains only one moving part. All of the power take-off is above the waterline and not in direct contact with the sea water. This results in a reliable power conversion system. The electrical controls and ancillary systems are all contained within the sealed buoyancy chamber. The air chamber is fitted with a relief valve, which protects the turbine from over-pressure and runaway in extreme wave conditions. This will ensure safe operation of the turbine system during storms. Advantages of the OE buoy include: minimal mooring forces and thus vastly improved survivability; simple design and easy installation; low maintenance; and ease of location. Contact: Ocean Energy Ltd., 3 Casement Square, Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland. E-mail:



New mobile fuel cell prototype

MTI Microfuel Cells (MTI Micro), the United States, has unveiled a new prototype fuel cell for digital camera. The new Mobion®-powered direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) camera grip prototype works like a camera battery pack grip for digital single-lens reflex cameras. The prototype is designed to provide twice as much energy as existing camera battery pack grips of the same size. Also, the camera grip can be refilled with methanol for instant power, which allows photographers the freedom to use the camera any time, anywhere, without having to recharge from a wall outlet.

Additionally, the company has developed a novel embedded fuel cell concept model. Designed for a cutting edge Smartphone, the concept model highlights the expected future product direction for Mobion micro fuel cells in the consumer market. MTI Micro is developing Mobion cord-free rechargeable power pack technology for powering the multi-billion dollar portable electronics market, for cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs, etc. Contact: Mr. George Relan, Vice President, Corporate Development, MTI MicroFuel Cells, United States of America. Tel: +1 (518) 5332 220; E-mail: grelan


New discovery could improve efficiency

In the United States, researchers claim that a polymer membrane that becomes wetter as the temperature in the surrounding air increases can improve the efficiency of polymer electrolyte fuel cells. According to Dr. Nitash Balsara, a polymer physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, the membrane is the first of its kind. As fuel cells become more efficient at higher temperatures, they require a polymer membrane that can operate at higher temperatures. The technology was developed over several years after Dr. Balsara believed simple technology could keep water in the polymer membranes. He said that the work demonstrates the capacity of a membrane to hold water can be affected by organizing them into extremely small channels.


Novel automobile fuel cell concept

The innovative hydrogen fuel cell concept of Cadillac Provoq exemplifies GM’s groundbreaking E-Flex propulsion system, combining the new fifth-generation fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery to produce an electrically driven vehicle. The fifth-generation fuel cell technology is half the size of its predecessor, yet it packs more power and performance. Provoq can drive about 480 km on a single fill of hydrogen – with 450 km from hydrogen and 32 km on battery electric energy.

Two 10,000 psi composite storage tanks beneath the rear cargo floor hold 6 kg of hydrogen to feed the fuel cell stack, located under the hood. There, hydrogen mixes with oxygen to generate electricity – up to 88 kW continuous power. A Li-ion battery pack can store up to a total of 9 kWh of electrical energy and also provide a peak of 60 kW of power. Electricity generated by the fuel cell is distributed to a 70 kW coaxial drive system for the front wheels and individual, 40 kW wheel hub motors on the rear wheels, giving the Provoq its all-wheel-drive traction and great driving dynamics. Its 0-100 km/h speed in 8.5 s is a more than 30 per cent improvement over the previous-generation fuel cell system. The Cadillac Provoq has a top speed of 160 km/h.


Bacteria fuels fuel cell to generate electricity

In the United States, researchers at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University are employing bacteria as a viable option to make electricity. In a new study, lead researcher Mr. Andrew Kato Marcus and colleagues have gained critical insights that may lead to commercialization of a promising microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology. The fuel cell can use any waste, such as pig manure or sewage, and generate electrical energy. Linking bacterial metabolism directly with electricity production allows the MFC to eliminate the extra steps necessary in other fuel cell technologies.

In the first step, an anode respiring bacterium breaks down the organic waste to carbon dioxide and transfers the electrons released to the anode. Next, the electrons travel from the anode, through an external circuit to generate electrical energy. Finally, the electrons travel to the cathode, completing the circuit, where they are taken up by oxygen and hydrogen ions to form water. As bacteria use the anode in their metabolism, they strategically position themselves on the anode surface to form biofilm. Bacteria in the biofilm produce a matrix of material so that they stick to the anode. The biofilm matrix is rich with material that can transport electrons. It is made up of a complex of extracellular proteins, sugars and bacterial cells. The biofilm matrix also has been shown to contain tiny conductive nanowires that may help facilitate electron conduction.







Hydrogen fuel plant runs on solar power

Solar Systems, an Australian company is developing the world’s first commercial plant that uses solar energy to make hydrogen gas. The project plans to convert solar energy into a fuel that can be stored and used as and when needed. The solar hydrogen gas project will be attached to the Mildura solar power station that the company is building, or to a smaller demonstration power plant.

The plant is based on technology developed by Mr. John Lasich, one of the founders of the company. Mr. Lasich’s technique heats the water to 1,000ºC, a temperature at which the process delivers 140 W of hydrogen per 100 W of electricity. The plant works by filtering off infrared rays from sunlight hitting the cells of the solar power station. The hydrogen will be stored and used to produce power after dark, by converting it to electricity through a fuel cell or reverse electrolysis or using it to power a generator. Mr. Lasich reports that the project, which has backing from federal and state governments and private investors, will initially be a demonstration plant built over seven years, which will produce the equivalent of about 1 MW of power every day when fully commissioned.


Solar cell directly splits water

In the United States, Penn State researchers have a proof-of-concept device that can split water and produce recoverable hydrogen. This is a proof-of-concept system that is very inefficient. Ultimately, however, catalytic systems with 10-15 per cent solar conversion efficiency might be achievable, reports Dr. Thomas Mallouk, the Dupont professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. “If this could be realized,” he says, “water photolysis would provide a clean source of hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight.”

Dr. Mallok, Dr. W. Justin Youngblood, a post-doctoral fellow, and colleagues developed a catalyst system that, when combined with a dye, mimics the electron transfer and water oxidation processes that take place in plants during photosynthesis. The key to this process is a tiny complex of molecules with a centre catalyst of iridium oxide molecules surrounded by orange-red dye molecules. These clusters are about 2 nm in diameter with the catalyst and dye components approximately the same size. Orange-red dye was chosen, as it absorbs sunlight in the blue range, which has the most energy. The dye used has also been well studied in earlier artificial photosynthesis experiments.

The dye molecules are arranged around the centre core, leaving the catalyst’s surface area for the reaction. When visible light strikes the dye, the energy excites electrons in the dye, which, aided by the catalyst, can split the water molecule, creating free oxygen. “Each surface iridium atom can cycle through the water oxidation reaction about 50 times per second,” says Dr. Mallouk. “That is about three orders of magnitude faster than the next-best synthetic catalysts and comparable to the turnover rate of Photosystem II in green plant photosynthesis.” Photosystem II is the protein complex that oxidizes water and starts the photosynthetic process.


Hydrogen-powered motorcycle

In the United Kingdom, Intelligent Energy has developed a hydrogen-powered motorcycle. The Emission Neutral Vehicle (ENV) or fuel cell bike is lightweight and aerodynamically built. Powered by a 6 kW, 48 V motor and with energy supplied from Intelligent Energy’s 1 kW hydrogen fuel cell (the Core), the ENV is currently capable of 80 km/hour. ENV is still under development – by the time it reaches market, it can be expected to reach a speed limit of 160 km/hour.

The ENV weighs just 80 kg, has disc brakes and a belt drive. To enhance performance during peak power demand (when accelerating), the fuel cell is hybridized with a battery pack to provide a 6 kW peak load to the motor. The company claims the bike is one of the first designed from scratch as a fuel cell motorcycle rather than being adapted from an existing design.


Organic hydride improves efficiency

Hrein Energy Inc., Japan, announced that it has successfully extracted hydrogen from organic hydride by using a vehicle-mounted reactor vessel and mixing the hydride with intake air. Hrein Energy develops devices to store and supply hydrogen. For hydrogen extraction, it conducted a driving test, using a modified Nissan March model with 1.2 litres displacement. The car was equipped with a dehydrogenation reactor, which extracts hydrogen from organic hydride (methylcyclohexane) by utilizing the waste heat from the exhaust system and supplies hydrogen to the engine. However, in this test most of the drive power was generated from petroleum. Only 3-5 volume per cent of the intake air was hydrogen.

The organic hydride used in the experiment stores hydrogen by using aromatic compounds, like methylcyclohexane. The dehydrogenation reactor separates it into toluene and hydrogen. Organic hydride is liquid at normal temperature and pressure, making it easy to carry. Also, the amounts of hydrogen per mass and volume it can store are more than those of high-pressure hydrogen or hydrogen storing alloys.


Hydrogen on demand

Hydrorunner G3, a “hydrogen-on-demand” system from Hydrorunner Inc. in the United States, is reported to run solely on tap water and fit for use with any engine running on petrol or diesel. The innovation comes in the control rather than the production of hydrogen, which is using electrolysis. Hydrorunner G3 can be controlled via a pre-programmed computer specifically designed for any EFI internal combustion or diesel vehicle.

According to the company, the G3 system creates hydrogen gas on an as-needed basis. Once the ignition is turned on, it produces hydrogen gas. The system thus eliminates on-board storage issues that other systems encounter. The only maintenance requirement is to add water. Test results reportedly indicate that the Hydrorunner doubles mileage, increases the engine’s horsepower by 10 per cent and torque by 8 per cent. It also extends the life of the engine considerably. Results also showed a decrease in the need for oil changes. Hydrorunner maintains its safety with a multi-level safety system consisting of manual overrides, and temperature shut down sensors. The G3 system has been created with non-corrosive materials, minimal moving parts and hi-impact plastics.


Hydrogen from salt water using radio waves

Mr. John Kanzius, and inventor in the United States, has found a way to burn salt water with a radio wave machine, and produce hydrogen in the process. Mr. Kanzius was testing an external radio-wave generator to check if it could desalinate salt water, when the water ignited. A university chemist determined that the process is generating hydrogen, which can be burned as fuel.

While the phenomenon is interesting, it is not yet practical for energy generation as more energy is consumed by the radio wave device than is produced for burning. Another problem to be overcome from burning salt water is the liberation of toxic chlorine (from the Cl of NaCl salt). Mr. Kanzius is offering the rights to the technology for further research and development.



Alternative Energy Systems

This guide focuses on renewable energy applications and fundamentals of induction generators, covering all aspects related to the design, operation and analysis of such systems. This second edition features revised and updated material, including definitions, recent advances such as new aspects of the Danish concept, new methodology such as the magnetization curve representation for induction generators and the technology of doubly fed induction generators. With computer simulation examples, problems and solutions in each chapter, the guide also offers a new section on how to best choose an induction generator as compared with synchronous or other types of electrical machines.

Fuel Cell Systems Explained

This publication is an essential guide to the principles, design and application of fuel cell systems. It includes full and updated coverage of fuel processing, as well as hydrogen generation and storage systems. It presents a full and clear explanation of the operation of all the major fuel cell types and an introduction to possible future technology, such as biological fuel cells. The book also provides a clear overview of fuel cell operation and thermodynamics.

For the above two books, contact: EnergyAsia, No. 20, Upper Circular Road, Unit 01-18, The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416. Tel: +65 6438 0933; Fax: +65 6483 0733; E-mail:

E-mail: teripress@

Solar Energy Fundamentals and Modelling Techniques

This book presents the methods for quantitatively determining the amount of solar irradiation incident on a surface on the Earth. It brings together material from the current literature on atmospheric and environmental sciences, climate change, meteorology, engineering and renewable energy. The target readership includes energy analysts, thermal device designers, photovoltaic specialists, meteorologists and atmospheric scientists, architects and engineers, agronomists, hydrologists, advanced undergraduate and post-graduate students, climate change specialists and environmentalists.

Contact: Managing Director, Springer Asia Ltd., Unit 1703, Tower I, 9 Sheung Yuet Road, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2723 9698; Fax: +852 2724 2366



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