VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Nov-Dec 2003

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New and Renewable Energy Nov-Dec 2003

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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Share of new renewables in global energy

A recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that the contribution of renewables like wind, solar and wave energy to the global energy supply is still very marginal, a mere 0.1 per cent of the worlds total primary energy supply (TPES) or 0.5 per cent of the global renewable energy. According to Renewables Information 2003, solid biomass is by far the largest renewable energy source at 10.4 per cent of the world TPES or 77 per cent of all renewables, followed by hydropower at 2.2 per cent of world TPES or 16 per cent of renewable energy. Geothermal is placed third at 0.5 per cent world TPES or 3.2 per cent of renewables. Renewables provide 13.5 per cent of world TPES, with oil holding a 35 per cent share. The respective shares for coal, natural gas and nuclear power are, 23 per cent, 21 per cent and 7 per cent.

Since 1990, renewables have grown at an average annual rate of 1.7 per cent, slightly higher than the yearly growth rate of world TPES of 1.4 per cent. At an annual growth rate of 19 per cent, the new renewables have expanded rapidly. Nonetheless, their very low base implies that production still remains small. OECD nations account for most of the production and expansion of new renewables. While solid biomass experienced the slowest progress (1.5 per cent), the second highest rate of growth was registered by non-solid biomass combustibles such as municipal solid waste, biogas and liquid biomass which grew each year by an average of 7.6 per cent. Hydro grew at 1.7 per cent, with growth in non-OECD regions at 2.9 per cent and 0.4 per cent in OECD nations.


UNEP initiative to raise investments on renewables

Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), announced the introduction of a Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative (SEFI) aimed at enabling the finance sector to take the lead in investing on renewables and energy efficiency. Addressing more than 600 bankers, financiers and members of the financial sector during the UNEP Finance Initiative Global Roundtable held in Japan, Mr. Toepfer stated that two of the most pressing concerns worldwide, energy security and climate change, would not be solved by the mindset that spawned them in the first place. Instead of climate change we need to create the climate for changing, he said.

According to a UNEP statement, Mr. Toepfer told the group that although sustainable energy technologies like solar cells and wind generators have advanced rapidly, transaction costs and market uncertainty of renewable energy programmes have led most financiers to adopt a wait-and-see approach, which is compounded by an overall lack of data, experience and the tools required to quantify, mitigate and hedge project as well as financial product risks. SEFI will help mainstream financiers to overcome these barriers and consider renewables and energy efficiency as not just niche investments, but key components of secure energy systems based on truly sustainable forms of energy.


Global standard for solar cell output

The European Commissions Joint Research Centre (JRC) has devised a procedure to measure the power output of solar cells. Adoption of the new procedure by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), has cleared the path for harmonization of the global solar market. Retail prices of photovoltaic (PV) cells are directly linked to their power output and JRCs calibration reduces the uncertainty in power ratings to less than 2 per cent. JRCs role involves performance and lifetime assessment of technologies involved and precision reference measurements of all generations of PV technology to ensure topmost quality. It opines that standardization methods need to keep pace with technological developments so that the international trade in solar products and services continue to grow.



Shell Solar reaches key milestone in Sri Lanka

Shell Solars programme to provide rural communities in Sri Lanka with solar electricity achieved a record landmark by supplying a system to its 20,000th customer. The General Manager of Shell Solar Lanka Ltd. opines that sales could grow by 40 per cent this year. Essential to its success has been a grant from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility that lowers the average cost of each solar module to US$500 and tie-ups with local banks that offer loans to consumers. Under the credit schemes, each customer pays an initial deposit of about US$100 and US$10 per month over five years.

Contact: Shell Solar B.V., P.O. Box 38000, 1030 BN, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Tel: +31 (20) 6303 000; Fax: +31 (20) 6302 21.

E-mail: solar


China projected to spend US$1.21 billion on solar projects

In China, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reports that US$1.21 billion would be disbursed over the next five years for developing solar energy projects. NDRC and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) have jointly launched the Lightning Project in order to boost PV technology and related industries in the nation. The five-year project is expected to raise the countrys installed solar capacity to 300,000 kW. Moreover, the World Bank will provide US$25 million in assistance. This aid will be directed specifically at rural solar projects and to create a production capacity of 10,000 kW.


Rice husk lowers production cost of cement in Asia

Asias cement makers are reducing consumption of fossil fuel by turning to a greener, cheaper and potentially more abundant fuel source to heat their kilns. Cement facilities in the worlds major rice exporting nations, Thailand and India, are replacing coal with rice husk that would otherwise have been incinerated and dumped in landfills. In view of annual savings in millions of dollars, many other rice producers such as China, Viet Nam, Sri Lanka and the Philippines may soon change over from coal to rice husk. While rice husk is greener than coal, it does release carbon dioxide, but with around one-fifth of the sulphur emissions of coal and lignite. Supporters of the alternative fuel point out that rice mills were burning the husk anyway, and so net carbon dioxide emissions will fall. Rice husk releases about 16 joules of energy per kilogram, about the same as lignite but less than the 25 joules of bituminous coal. Palm kernel residue yields 19 joules/kg while tyres provide around 30.

Website: and

Data on renewables in the Maldives

A study financed under the United States Agency for International Developments (USAIDs) South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Co-operation and Development (SARI/Energy) programme has shown that solar and wind energy could play a significant role in Maldives. The final report of the survey on solar and wind mapping in the Maldives was presented to Maldives Minister for Communication, Science and Technology by Mr. James F. Entwistle, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Sri Lanka. The USAID-funded survey found that solar and wind power have promising future as renewable sources. Over time, the study uncovered that wind power could substantially increase the present clean energy production capability. The strongest resources were identified in the north central part of the Maldives, just north of Male. This territory includes Raa, Baa, Noonu and Lhaviyani atolls. Solar resource maps show ample resources throughout the year for virtually all locations in the country.


New solar facility in the Philippines

Cypress, the United States, plans to set up Southeast Asias first wafer fabrication facility for solar cells in the Philippines. This is also the first such plant to be established in the Philippines, signalling the countrys graduation to higher-end electronics manufacturing activities. The facility is being set up following assurances from local utilities and government with regard to a steady and stable supply of electricity and water, key prerequisites for the production of silicon wafers. Though most of the output from the new facility would be exported, about 20 per cent would be sold locally. Photovoltaic cells are the crucial components of solar energy systems, converting sunlight into electricity. They play a vital role in providing power in remote areas isolated from larger power grids as well as mitigating dependence on non-renewable sources like oil.


China teams up for solar energy tower

Chinese businessmen are to invest in Australias proposed giant solar energy tower with the objective of building similar solar stations in their homeland. The investors have formed Sunshine Energy (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., which will contribute about US$1.5 million to EnviroMission, a company that will build the 1 km high solar tower. Also, Sunshine Energy will invest approximately US$1 million in EnviroMissions major shareholder, SolarMission Technologies Inc. of the United States, which holds the licence for solar power technology in China and many other international markets. A further US$8 million will be furnished for a special-purpose Australian company to develop solar tower technology for China. While the Chinese will have a 75 per cent stake in the company, SolarMission will own the rest.

EnviroMission aims to build a 1 km high solar tower power station that would generate 200 MW of electricity for the peak market. The tower will include a surrounding greenhouse skirt of solar collector panels 7 km wide (originally planned to be 5 km). Electricity is generated by 32 wind turbines that would be driven by the mass of air moving under the huge transparent collector and the updraft effect created by the tower. Recent estimates have pegged the cost of this undertaking at US$670-US$800 million. Materials and innovations to the original design include replacing glass in areas of the collector with polycarbonates and polymer film, thus reducing both weight and cost. A pre-feasibility study expected to be completed by the end of this year would be followed by detailed design and bankability studies, before the final design and construction.


New solar module assembly facility established in China

Kyocera (Tianjin) Solar Energy Co. Ltd. is a joint venture financed by Japans Kyocera Corp. (90 per cent) along with the Chinese Tianjin Yiqing Group (Holding Share) Co. Ltd. (10 per cent). This is the first overseas solar production facility to be set up in China by Japans Kyocera Solar Energy division. With an overall plant size of about 4,900 m2, production capacity will reach approximately 1 MW by the end of this year and increase to 12 MW/y by early 2004. Kyocera plans to raise production to 20 MW/y by the end of 2004. This joint venture will contribute to the Illumination Project for electrifying areas in China where no electricity is available.


Korean cooperation for developing hydrogen technology

The Republic of Korea has agreed to join a band of countries in developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. At an inaugural meeting of the International Partnership for Hydrogen Economy (IPHE), the Korean Vice Minister for Commerce, Industry and Energy put his signature on a Terms of Reference aimed at creating an international procedure to coordinate the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

More than 700 representatives from 15 countries such as the European Union, Brazil, Japan and the United States participated in the two-day ministerial conference, pledging their commitment to the partnership. The agreement calls for multilateral and bilateral collaborations for R&D on policy and technical guidance with regard to standards and regulations for commercial utilization of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. As per the agreement, a couple of working-level committees would be formed under a Planning Committee, which will govern the overall framework and procedure of IPHE. Member nations also agreed to publicize the results of IPHEs research as far as possible but decided to come up with specific arrangements for the protection of intellectual property.


India may surpass wind power target

An Indian government official stated recently that his country will exceed its target for boosting wind energy over the next four years as a result of improved grid links. India has set a target of installing 1,500 MW of wind power for the 2002-2007 period. Around 700 MW would be set up in the first two years, which leaves 800 MW for the next three years. Mr. Ajit Jupta from the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources reports that the latter figure would probably be higher, at about 1,200-1,500 MW, owing to enhanced grid connections. With the worlds fifth largest wind power market, Indias installed wind capability of 2,000 MW is projected to reach 2,300 MW by March 2004. Germany is the worlds biggest wind energy market with approx. 12,000 MW, followed by the United States and Spain about 5,000 MW each.


Windmills could power economic growth in China

An official Chinese report states that 172 windmills nestled in a blasted valley below the Tianshan mountains of Chinas Xinjiang region may hold the key to the countrys quest for clean energy to power its booming economy. Wind power could eventually help wean the nation off smog-spewing coal and crude oil sources. Windmills at Chinas largest wind farm can generate about 90.5 MW/y of electricity, sufficient to fulfil just 3 per cent of the needs of Xinjiangs capital. According to Mr. Sun Hao, Manager of Xinjiang Tianfeng Wind Power Co. Ltd. who runs the operation, the escalating demand for non-polluting energy sources has forced the company to undertake a study to expand the wind farms capacity to 140 MW. The central government has earmarked US$1.9 million for 30 such wind farms over the next two years. Coal provides nearly 70 per cent of the countrys energy compared with 25 per cent for crude oil and 3 per cent for natural gas. Wind power accounts for an anaemic 1 per cent.


New PV modules slated for market launch

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan plans a prompt market introduction for its lead-free solder PV modules that comply with international safety regulations. These newly developed modules fulfil International Electrotechnical Commissions standard on lead-free solder, which is the first in the Japanese PV industry, and also conform to international safety rules of Underwriters Laboratories certification in the United States and Technischer Uberwachungs-Verein (TUV) certification in Germany.


Renewable energy for cellular operators

In India, the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) is targetting cellular operators to sell solar technology. MNES is reaching out to mobile service providers to promote the use of photovoltaic (PV) technology by utilizing PV to supply energy at their sites responsible for transmitting signals. MNES expects that the use of PV would prove to be a more effective power source than generator-powered energy. MNES adviser Dr. E.V.R. Sastry, states that a few mobile operators in Delhi and Rajasthan have experimented with solar energy and are satisfied with the results. MNES is scheduled to organize programmes to congregate vendors and mobile operators on a common platform. It is also scouting other avenues where the technology can be marketed, e.g. railways and defence establishments. Dr. Sastry reports that the railways is already employing PV technology to power railway signals in several divisions.


Wind energy in Iran

Mr. Habibollah Bitaraf, Irans Energy Minister, has expressed that power generation from the nations wind power plants would reach 100 MW by March 2005 and exceed 500 MW by March 2010. While addressing a ceremony marking the inauguration of a new wind turbine production line, Mr. Bitaraf stated that the private sectors contribution to the project would be economical.


Prospects for solar bright in mainland China

With environmental concerns gaining momentum worldwide, mainland China is looking to the sun as an alternative energy source. However, domestic production of solar devices is inadequate owing to small-scale, narrow applications and limited line-up of products. Presently, the mainland has an established solar power capacity of 15 MW.

This scenario is set to change soon as commercial supply is increasing rapidly. A solar cell production base set up in Baoding, Hebei, has started trial production. A 6,000 m2 solar cell factory, considered to be the largest, will commence production this year at Shanghai Xingzhuang Industrial Zone. Baoding Yingli New Energy Resources Co. Limited, the biggest supplier of solar cells and modules in mainland China, has invested on a polycrystalline silicon solar cell, module and application systems production line. The Shanghai Solar Energy Science and Technology Co. Limited is investing nearly US$7.25 million in a state-of-the-art solar cell line with an annual capacity of over 10 MW. The company is taking part in the China Renewable Energy Development Project, which aims to develop the local PV market.

Industry sources estimate that by 2010, prices of solar modules will be able to compete with other energy sources, providing an opportunity to mainland China for commercializing solar power. Contact: Shanghai Solar Energy S&T Co. Ltd., China. Tel: +86 (21) 6408 2388; Fax: +86 (21) 6408 1212.


Australia completes solar power project

The final phase of a multimillion dollar Territory Solar Power Programme has been completed in Australia. The second phase of Australias largest project involves launching of a flat-plate solar photovoltaic power station at Kings Canyon. The new facility incorporates 1,608 solar panels and a solar capacity of 241 kW, sufficient to provide up to a third of the areas power requirements. This station is expected to save around 105,000 l/y of diesel and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 331 t/y of carbon dioxide. The projects first phase, a US$900,000 photovoltaic power station, was completed last year. With 800 solar panels and a production capacity of 56 kW, this plant can save 25,000 l/y of diesel and 73 t/y of GHG emissions.


ASEM Green Independent Power Producers Network

The ASEM Green IPP Network is a thematic network on green IIPs (Independent Power Producers) that focuses on renewable energy projects linking researchers, industry representatives, policy makers and NGOs from Europe and Southeast Asia. The network transfers experiences made in the European power markets on success factors and market potentials of renewable energy projects to Southeast Asia. The technologies considered within this project are wind, biomass combustion, biomass digestion and small hydro power plants.




Photovoltaic solution for single-ply membrane roofs

In the United States, United Solar Ovonic LLC and GenFlex Roofing Systems, a major supplier of single-ply roofing products and systems, are offering a combined solar energy panacea for low-slope membrane roofs. The remedy is a combination of GenFlexs durable thermoplastic polyolefin and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) membrane roofing solutions and Ovonics unique lightweight, flexible, photovoltaic (PV) panels. This panacea enables end-users to easily install a powerful energy-generating system without necessitating additional structural support or penetration of the roof itself. The Ovonic/GenFlex solution is designed to maximize flat or low-slope commercial roofing situations without compromising the integrity of the roof or building structure. The PV panels are designed to produce energy from any existing roof space.


Power conditioner for PV applications

SatCon Technology Corp., a United States-based developer and manufacturer of electronic power control systems, has launched a 100 kW photovoltaic (PV) power conditioning system (PCS) especially for use in industrial solar power applications. The company also produces PCSs for industrial fuel cell applications. A PCS converts the output power from PVs or fuel cells into useable electricity.

The new system includes a standard power inverter building block, a high-efficiency isolation transformer and associated input/output switchgear normally associated with on-site installation. As such the total installed cost of a solar system can be substantially reduced while maintaining high efficiency. SatCons PCS provides industrial, commercial, military and electric utility consumers with the solutions they need, regardless of the power generation system they choose.

Contact: SatCon Technology Corporation, # 161, 1st Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, the United States. Tel: +1 (617) 6610 540; Fax: +1 (617) 6613 373.



New SHS models for the off-grid market

Sharp Corp., Japan, is scheduled to launch two off-grid small home system (SHS) PV power generating systems for those areas where grid-supplied electricity is not available. Aimed primarily at markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, these small-scale systems consist of a PV module, a charger/inverter unit, battery and connecting cables in a single package. The systems will be configured for both DC and AC power outputs. Initial monthly production of 25,000 units is planned, utilizing both 80 W and 123 W module-based systems.


Solar energy powers desalination process

At the University of Florida in the United States, researchers have developed a system that uses a gravity-induced vacuum and solar energy to desalinate water. Though the new unit is simple and inexpensive, it is more efficient than previous solar stills for removing salt. According to Prof. Yogi Goswami, the team has attempted to replicate and enhance natures process by exploiting solar energy and barometric pressure. In the natural procedure, fresh water evaporates from the ocean, forms clouds, condenses and falls to the ground as rain.

The new system consists of a U-shaped pipe placed upside down, with one end of the pipe suspended in a tank of salt water and the other in fresh water. When the 32 ft high pipe is filled with water, some of it drops into the tanks, leaving behind a vacuum. The area of the pipe where the vacuum occurs is surrounded by an evaporator that circulates water heated in a solar collector. The heat forces salt water to begin evaporating, a procedure facilitated by the vacuum as it significantly lowers the boiling or evaporating temperature of water. The resulting steam then enters into a condenser. Fresh water drips from the condenser down the pipe and into a reservoir. Tests on an experimental version of the system exhibited 90 per cent efficiency.


Novel solar-powered integrated window

At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the United States, researchers have devised an innovative solar-powered integrated window system that can significantly reduce dependency on the grid. Designed to function akin to a shading system, the Dynamic Shading Window System (DSWS) employs a newly developed solar technology to convert sunlight and diverted heat into storable energy that can also be used to efficiently heat, cool and artificially light the edifice. Aimed mainly at commercial buildings, DSWS allows the most pleasing daylight into a buildings interior while blocking the harshest rays. It can be incorporated into new as well as existing structures.
The DSWS unit is fabricated using clear plastic panels that can fit in between two panes of glass. Each panel incorporates dozens of small, pyramid-shaped units (or modules) made from semi-translucent focusing plastic lenses, which track the suns motion. Sensors, embedded in the walls or the roof, ensure that the units are always facing the sun to capture all incoming rays while at the same time deflecting harsh, unwanted rays. Each unit holds a miniaturized PV device utilized to collect light and heat, which are then transferred into useable energy to run the motors, also embedded in the buildings interior walls. The remaining energy is used for heat, air-conditioning and artificial lighting. Surplus energy can be directly and automatically disseminated through wires inside the buildings walls or can be stored in batteries.

Contact: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110, 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180 3590, United States of America. Tel: +1 (518) 2766 000.


Harvesting electrons using nanotubes

Researchers from the University of Bologna and the University of Trieste in Italy, and the University of Notre Dame in the United States, are fabricating materials at the level of molecules and atoms in order to produce substances with specific, precise electrical characteristics. The team has uncovered a way to alter carbon nanotubes so that they efficiently separate electrical charge; a breakthrough that could lead to more efficient solar cells.

Carbon nanotubes are long, rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms that can be smaller than a nanometre in diameter and are a natural component of soot. Researchers were able to attach ferrocene molecules to the wall of every hundredth nanotube in a jumble of nanotubes. A ferrocene molecule consists of an iron atom sandwiched between two flat carbon rings. On exposure to visible light, ferrocene molecules in the altered nanotubes readily give up electrons, that are absorbed by the nanotubes. These electrons can then be diverted to provide a useful flow of electricity. Researchers are working on adding light collectors such as dyes to the nanotubes.


New solar panel

The United States-based Evergreen Solar Inc. offers its latest PV panel, the EC-115. This model extends the EC-100 range, providing 115 W of output within the same size panel as its predecessors, the EC-94, EC-102 and EC-110. EC-115 ensures 20 per cent more conversion efficiency. All the modules feature patented String Ribbon technology that uses less silicon and energy to manufacture solar cells. Originally developed at MIT, this manufacturing procedure achieves the reliability, stability, high efficiency and market acceptability of crystalline silicon, but without the inherent cost and waste of sawing solid silicon blocks.

Contact: Evergreen Solar Inc., # 259, Cedar Hill Street, Marlboro, MA 01752, United States of America. Tel: +1 (508) 3572 221; Fax: +1 (508) 3572 279.


Organic solar cells

In the United States, researchers at Princeton University have developed a technique to produce solar cells from organic materials comprising small carbon-containing molecules. The materials are ultra-thin, flexible and can be applied to large surfaces. Organic solar cells can be manufactured using a procedure akin to printing or spraying the materials on to a roll of plastic. Such a sheet of solar cells could be unrolled and installed on a roof. These cells can be produced in a variety of colours, enhancing their aesthetic feature, or they could also be transparent, enabling their use on windows. The cells would serve as tinting, letting half the light through and using the other half to generate power.

Solar cells are made of two types of materials sandwiched together, one that gives up electrons and another that attracts them, allowing a flow of electricity. The team has devised a way to make these two materials mesh together, similar to interlocked fingers, providing more opportunity for the electrons to transfer. The key to this advance was to apply a metal cap to the film of material as it is being made. This cap permits the materials surface to stay smooth and uniform while the internal microstructure transformed and meshed together. A new mathematical model developed by the team to explain this behaviour could even be useful in creating other micro-materials.

Contact: The Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, United States of America. Tel: +1 (609) 2583 034.


New off-grid solar panel

BP Solar, the United States, has launched a 125 W solar module for off-grid applications. The 12 V BP-3125 features 157 157 mm multicrystalline cells and IntegraBus technology. IntegraBus increases reliability by exponentially reducing the heat rise experienced by the
module when the diodes are turned on due to cell shading. Available in two versions, the BP-3125U incorporates a high capacity junction box and is ideal for caravanning, boating, camping sites, industrial systems and houses in remote locations. BP-3125S has polarized multicontact connectors and is suitable for large off-grid installations as well as on-grid residential systems. The BP-3125 module comes with a warranty covering power output for 25 years and freedom from flaws for five years. It has been tested and certified to meet IEC 61215 and UL performance and reliability standards.

Contact: BP Solar HQ, 989, Corporate Blvd., Linthicum, Maryland 21090, United States of America. Tel: +1 (410) 9810 240; Fax: +1 (410) 9810 278.


Discovery may spur cheap solar power

Europes largest producer of semiconductors, the French-Italian Company, STMicroelectronics, reports to have discovered new ways to manufacture solar cells that will generate 20 times cheaper energy than feasible with presently available solar modules. The French-Italian company is expecting its first stable prototypes of the new cells by the end of next year. The trick lies in the use of materials that are less efficient in producing energy from sunlight but are extremely cheap. The company had earlier reported to have found a new way to produce tiny yet extremely efficient fuel cells to power a mobile phone for 20 days.


Solar cells for better hydrogen production

In Japan, Honda Engineering has developed next-generation solar cell panels featuring a light-absorbing layer formed from a copper-indium- gallium-selenium compound, which needs less electricity for fabrication than ordinary silicon crystal solar cells. A new compact unit, which achieves higher efficiency using a new Ruthenium-based catalyst, has been used to replace the electrolysis unit that generates hydrogen from water. Both the new solar cells as well as the electrolysis system are mounted on the Honda solar cell-powered hydrogen refuelling station in the United States, to improve the total efficiency.


High-voltage solar module

Clare Inc., a United States-based designer and manufacturer of solid-state relays and high-voltage integrated circuits, has announced the availability of CPC1810 solar product and introduction of a new solar cell technology. The CPC1810 module produces a floating source voltage, up to 7.5 V and current output of 12 micro amps. It is suitable for battery charging, wireless and transportable electronic applications.

The company is currently developing additional solar products for higher voltages and currents that different applications require. An entire family of parts ranging from 2 to 30 V with a variety of output currents is slated for launch in the near future. Additionally, as there is excellent electrical isolation between circuit elements on the PV die, it is possible to add other power management circuitry or logic control options with minimal added cost to the product. Samples are packaged in a 4-pin TO-39 can with a clear surface for light transmission. Additional package options will be made available soon as well as individual die or whole wafers. The enabling capability behind the CPC1810 module is a proprietary PV technology.

Clare has two decades of experience using PV cells in optically coupled solid-state relays. These PV cells are manufactured using state-of-the-art Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI) technology. This solar IC product yields more than 7 V, compared with a mere 0.6 V of output exhibited by standard silicon solar cells, and as such can charge batteries directly.

Contact: Clare Inc., 78, Cherry Hill Drive, Beverly, MA 01915, United States of America. Tel: +1 (978) 5246 700; Fax: +1 (978) 5244 700.

Website: and

New range of products for air and space vehicles

Iowa Thin Film Technologies (ITFT) Inc., the United States, has introduced PowerFilm Air and Space series products for solar powering and recharging of air/space vehicles. The lightweight, durable and low-cost PowerFilm could reduce up to 90 per cent of the photovoltaics cost. PowerFilm products are essentially semiconductor devices deposited on a paper-thin, durable and flexible polymer substrate. PowerFilm solar panels are monolithically integrated, which improves durability and lowers costs by eliminating the need for expensive and failure-prone manual connection of individual solar cells. All modules are manufactured on ITFTs proprietary roll-to-roll manufacturing technology platform.

The company has supplied PowerFilm to NASA for several projects, including the Mars Flyer prototype and fly-by-light demonstrations of unmanned aerial vehicles. Its line of PowerFilm integrated photovoltaic (solar) products for lightweight, portable and durable remote applications is well-known and is developing products for building integrated photovoltaics. ITFT is also designing thin-film transistor and diode products for flat panel displays, RFID tags, digital memories for cameras and audio, medical imaging and also electronic paper.



New vertical axis wind power generation system

Eurowind, the United Kingdom, is offering a versatile vertical axis wind turbine modular unit (VAWTMU). A simple and rugged design makes this system ideal for installation in all sectors of the large wind turbine industry. It can be attached to existing structures, without inhibiting their normal use. The use of an existing structure assures cost advantages over conventional systems.

A key benefit of VAWTMU is that there is no need for the system to be directed into the wind, therefore eliminating the need to use motors, gearing and control systems employed in a conventional horizontal axis wind turbine system. Also, the blades on a vertical axis machine are not subjected to the high degree of centrifugal force felt by horizontal axis units. This means that a wind farm developer can easily achieve the planned output by installing fewer machines. Other benefits of the new system over conventional horizontal axis systems include lower noise level and visual intrusion.



New sensor for monitoring fatigue in wind turbines

A German consortium has developed a non-contact device to keep an eye on fatigue in wind turbine units. The durability of a wind power generating system, and hence its economic viability, depends on the capricious moods of the energy source. Wind blows at variable strengths, shaking the rotor blades and causing frequent variations in the mechanical load. This change in torque acting on the drive shaft leads to vibrations that can eventually damage the shaft, shaft couplings and gear. The consortium includes researchers from the Institute for Electrical Machines, Drives and Power Electronics at the University of Dortmund, Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM and a sensor manufacturer.

The non-contact gadget does not hamper the mechanical structure of the turbine. The sensor is based on magnetostrictive effect magnetic properties of the steel components vary according to the applied mechanical forces, e.g. torque. The new sensor induces a magnetic field, for instance in the rotating shaft. Four coils measure the resulting alterations. These data are processed to obtain a measurement of the torsion. The status reports output by ITWMs information analysis programs can be immediately transmitted to the operator. ITWMs software provides near real-time analysis of the high-resolution data. The applied mathematical technique can even be used to calculate torsion in components that cannot be fitted with sensors.

Contact: Dr. Andreas Wirsen, Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics, Gottlieb-Daimler-Strasse, Gebaude 49, Kaiserslautern 67663, Germany. Tel: +49 (631) 2053 126; Fax: +49 (631) 2054 139.


Turbine for rooftop and off-grid markets

McKenzie Bay Intl. Ltd., the United States, is offering DERMOND wind turbine (DWT) system that is ideal for rooftop applications as the blades rotate about the mast allowing them to perform well in areas of frequently changing wind directions. DWT offers greater safety since the blades are securely connected at four points, both ends plus safety harnesses, with kill switches to instantly shut down rotation to prevent blades and turbine from falling to the ground.

WindStor is a renewable electricity generation and storage system. The turnkey wind power system incorporates a DWT and vanadium-based battery. Designed to provide on-site power generation, WindStor ensures uninterruptible power supply, which is also suitable for peak shaving and load levelling applications. It is ideal for use in commercial edifices, multi-storey residential dwellings as well as light industrial users, businesses and off-grid users in remote areas of the world.

Contact: Mr. Richard J. Kaiser, McKenzie Bay International, # 975, Spaulding Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49546, United States of America. Tel: +1 (616) 9403 800; Fax: +1 (616) 9409 194.



Giant offshore wind turbine prototype

REpower, Germany, has unveiled a 5 MW offshore turbine with a rotor diameter of 126.5 m and 12,000 m2 of rotor swept area. The technical design of this system is based on the companys MD and MM series. The prototype is planned for erection onshore in early 2004. A few other turbines would also be set up at onshore test sites in preparation for a rapid market launch in 2004. Key constraints considered while developing the 5M are:
  • Achieve maximum energy yield at a minimum load of the turbine;
  • Achieve a high technical availability; and
  • Utilize and optimize well-known and reliable design concepts of the firms existing successful turbines.
REpower 5M incorporates a modular drive train with a double bearing on the main shaft and a combined spur/planetary gearing, which has been optimized for the turbines intended application. By utilizing the longest rotor blades ever built, developed in cooperation with LM Glasfiber A/S, high yields of electricity is ensured. The onshore version will have a hub height of 120 m, making the turbine as a whole more than 180 m tall. The company also plans to introduce a 12 year full-service package that covers all maintenance and repair work for the turbine and guarantees operators 97 per cent availability in the first five years and 96 per cent later on.

Contact: REpower Systems AG, Alsterkrugchaussee 378, Hamburg D-22335, Germany. Tel: +49 (40) 539307-0; Fax: +49 (40) 539307-37.


Website: and

Denmarks largest wind turbine set up

The largest wind turbine in Denmark, a prototype of NEG Micons new 4.2 MW offshore turbine featuring pitch regulated variable speed (PRVS), was recently installed by NEG at Riso National Laboratorys Hovsore test site. One of the lightest in its class, with a combined nacelle and rotor weight of 214 t, the windmill has a rotor diameter of 110 m. The NM110 is based on well-known and proven technology, as the turbine is similar to NEGs NM80 and NM92 turbines for on- and offshore sites. The PRVS-controlled system, along with latest power output electronics, ensures that the turbine meets the requirements stipulated by operators and utilities for grid stability. PRVS ensures, among other things, a soft grid cut-in and fast regulation in the event of grid drop and changes in output demand.

Contact: Mr. Ole Gunneskov, NEG Micon, Denmark. Tel: +45 8710 5296.


New age turbines

In Denmark, Vestas Wind Systems A/S is scheduled to launch its very latest turbines the V90 1.8 MW, V90 2 MW and V90 3 MW. All three units have undergone in-depth tests. Featuring a new nacelle design, the V90 3 MW turbine presents a range of solutions that sets new standards for wind turbine technology. The 44 m blades, the longest Vestas has ever produced, is fabricated using new materials. In a number of areas, light carbon fibre components have replaced those traditionally made of fibreglass. The V90 1.8 MW and V90 2 MW models are particularly suitable for areas with modest wind conditions and are primarily intended for markets in Central and Southern Europe.


Japan installs 2 MW turbine system

In Japan, a 2,000 kW wind turbine system is generating energy for a power company in Okinawa. MHIs MWT-S2000 is the largest Japanese wind turbine generator. This is also the first and largest commercial wind turbine generator equipped with a permanent magnet synchronous generator in the world. Moreover, it is the first turnine in the 2 MW class to be designed and built by a non-European manufacturer.

MHI and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. jointly overcame all hurdles in designing and manufacturing the wind turbine. They used new lightweight blades, a small-size generator and inverter, and other improved technologies. Designed in accordance with IEC 61400 Class-1, the system at Okinawa is a variable speed gearless synchronous type capable of withstanding violent typhoons. The wind turbine generator delivers high-quality electrical energy by levelling off changes in the output. A simple structure free of wearing elements contributes to the high reliability and maintenance.


Prolonging the life of wind turbine blades

In the United States, Mr. Don Lobitz has created a computer model of a blade that twists when a gust of wind hits it, alleviating the gust load and significantly reducing fatigue. Generally, additional blade fatigue caused by extraneous blade motion in strong gusts of wind reduces the blades life. In the new conception known as aeroelastic tailoring, the response to a wind gust is reduced due to a decrease in the angle of attack. Under contract to Sandias Wind Energy Technology Dept., a team at Stanford University has produced an aeroelastically tailored D-spar, a long structure fabricated with carbon graphite fibres embedded in an epoxy resin having a D-shaped cross-section. Tests indicate significant amounts of twists occurring when bending loads were applied.



New biogasification system launched

Takuma Co. Ltd., Japan, is offering a biogasification system for efficient recycling of organic solid wastes like kitchen garbage. In the new system, organic wastes can be fermented anaerobically, recovering carbon in the form of methane gas or biogas. The residue is dewatered and used for composting. The enclosed unit drastically reduces odour pollution. Use of feedstock with a high solid content, over 25 per cent, enables biogas generation of 100-120 m3/t of the feedstock. By using biogas for both power generation and heating, the total energy efficiency is raised. Key features include:
  • High-temperature fermentation
    (50-60C) results in high efficiency;
  • Biogas can be refined and used to fuel automobiles;
  • The compost obtained has low salt and nitrogen content; and
  • The fermenting vessel employs forced flow system using plug-flow, which helps segregation of microbe habitats according to the stage of fermentation. Moreover, it requires relatively low energy for mixing and moving.
This system can yield energy using the following feedstock: household wastes like wet garbage and paper, kitchen waste, farm animal manure, animal and vegetable residues, cut grass and also pruned tree cuttings, etc.

Contact: Takuma Co. Ltd., 4-16, Dojimahara 1-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 5300004, Japan. Tel: +81 (6) 6347 9114; Fax: +81 (6) 6347 9150.



Bug batteries

The discovery of a new microbe by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the United States, could pave the way for renewable power stations that convert sugars into electricity, just like the human body. Rhodoferax ferrireducens is a sludge-dwelling organism capable of oxidizing common sugars into carbon dioxide while pumping out electrons. The team noted previous research saying that bacteria from the same family, labelled as iron breathers since they rely on iron instead of oxygen, could colonize graphite electrodes and directly pass electrons to graphite, without the need for mediators. They have developed a microbial fuel cell, which produces sufficient energy to power low-level applications. However, the kinetics of the new system are slow and, as it stands, is not suitable for producing mains power.

Website: and

Extracting energy from olive waste

The United Kingdom-based Peter Brotherhood has devised a system to make use of pomace, the pits and pulp left over after oil is extracted from olives, to generate power. The company has installed a 8,500 kW condensing turbo alternator set at Becosa Energia Renovables, Spain. Electrical energy is produced from shredded olive waste. Contact: Mr. Steve Canham, Peter Brotherhood, Werrington, Parkway, Peterborough PE4 5HG, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (1733) 292 200; Fax: +44 (1733) 292 300;



Source: TPI News, Issue 38, July 2003

Circulating fluidized bed gasification

A team of rese archers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Germany has devised a circulating fluidized bed gasification plant as a technological option for thermal utilization of solid biofuels and substitute fuels. The gasification unit is placed before the existing processes, and converts solid fuels into fuel gas before they are fed in to the boiler or furnace, thus eliminating problems usually associated with combusting solids. A 500 kW circulating fluidized bed gasification plant at the Institute has been operated for over 2,000 h.
Researchers are also developing a procedure for integrated energetic utilization of raw sewage sludge and used wood through pre-gasification of sewage sludge and feeding-in of fuel gas into a used wood energy station.

Contact: UMSICHT, Osterfelder Strae 3, Oberhausen 46047, Germany. Tel: +49 (0208) 8598-0; Fax: +49 (0208) 8598 1290.



New system produces energy from organic waste

Malahat Energy Corp., Canada, is offering a small-scale power plant to generate electrical or thermal power from organic wastes. The BioFuel system converts waste into a clean gaseous fuel, which is used to run a generator for energy production. Though the present system runs on wood, future versions may operate utilizing municipal solid waste free from metal, glass and minerals.
In the BioFuel system, thermal conversion of biomass fuel takes place in a downdraft gasifier. The hot gases then react further with charcoal in the gasification zone to yield more gas. Gasification occurs under vacuum conditions created by a suction fan or reciprocating engine. Gas exits the gasifier at around 650C and is cleaned and cooled using standard gas conditioning equipment. Ash is removed at the bottom of the gasifier using a screw conveyor. Malahats proprietary technology facilitates a high level of carbon conversion with low tar production. The clean gas can be used to replace diesel or natural gas in reciprocating engines.

Contact: Malahat Energy Corp., 6473, 64th Street, Delta, British Columbia V4K 4E2, Canada. Tel: +1 (250) 3864 545; Fax: +1 (604) 9463 889.



New fluidized bed gasifiers

Energy Products of Idaho, the United States, offers fluidized bed gasifiers (FBGs) to convert biomass waste products into a combustible gas that can be burned in a boiler, kiln, gas turbine or other energy load. In a FBG, the bed material can either be sand or char, or some combination. Though air is normally the fluidizing medium, oxygen and/or steam can also be employed. Fuel is fed either directly into the bed or above-bed, depending on the size and density of the fuel and how it is affected by the bed velocities. Energy densities in a FBG are dependent on the fuel characteristics and have been found to be as high as 4 million BTU/h/ft2.

Gasification is the thermal decomposition of organic substances in an oxygen-deficient environment to yield a gas composition containing combustible gases, liquids and tars, charcoal and air or inert fluidizing gases. In a gasifier, the wood particle is subjected to high temperatures generated from the partial oxidation of carbon, primarily. As the particle gets heated, moisture is driven off. Further heating of the particle begins to drive off volatile gases. Discharge of these volatiles generates a wide spectrum of hydrocarbons ranging from carbon monoxide and methane to long-chain hydrocarbons comprising tars, creosotes and heavy oils. The quality of gas produced is influenced by fuel characteristics, gasifier configuration and the amount of air, oxygen or steam introduced. The output and quality of gas produced are determined by the equilibrium established when the heat of oxidation (combustion) balances the heat of vaporization and volatilization plus the sensible heat (temperature rise) of the exhaust gases.

Gasification systems can generally be used in most applications where natural gas, oil or pulverized coal are currently being used. Low BTU gases can be used to fire cement or lime kilns, rotary driers, wood veneer driers or dry kilns, air heaters, steam boilers and turbine or diesel sets.

Contact: Energy Products of Idaho, 4006, Industrial Ave., Coeur dAlene, Idaho 83815 8928, United States of America. Tel: +1 (208) 7651 611; Fax: +1 (208) 7650 503.



Electricity and heat from biomass

Switzerland-based Xylowatt SA has developed a process to obtain heat and electricity from wood biomass. In this method, production of gas takes place in a reactor, which is filled with biomass fuel from the top by means of an Archimedes screw. Gas exiting the reactor will have a temperature of 550C and contains pollutants. Prior to being injected into a standard gas engine, the gas is cooled and subjected to various treatment processes like cooling, water washing and filtration. Ash is expelled into a container at the base of the reactor.

The water washing system, which works in a closed circuit, includes a small water treatment plant. Extra water resulting from the condensation of water present in gas (humidity of wood) is evacuated, after treatment, into the wastewater network.

Contact: Xylowatt SA, En Budron A12, 1052 Le Mont s/Lausanne, Switzerland. Tel: +41 (21) 6516 969; Fax: +41 (21) 6516 968.




Turbine prototype

In the United Kingdom, Shetland Enterprise is testing a prototype tidal energy turbine, devised by Swedish-owned Seapower Scotland, at more than ten sites to obtain information for future projects. During the tests, the EXIM tidal turbine is attached to an anchored ship and electricity produced at each site measured to determine the best site for locating a full-scale tidal generator station. The full-scale version would be used to generate electricity for Shetland islands grid and also for supplying clean energy for the production of hydrogen, on-board or connected to land-based production facilities.

According to Mr. Inge Pettersson from Seapower, The wave climate in Shetland is the second best in the world, outstanding for the production of offshore wave energy, utilizing our floating wave power vessel.

Contact: Shetland Enterprise, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (01595) 746 809.




Offshore installation

Six simplified Kaplan turbine units developed and tested in cooperation with Kossler Ges.m.b.H, Technical University Munich (TUM) and VeteranKraft AB have now been installed on the Wave Dragon. These turbines are vital components in the Wave Dragon concept. Each unit weighs around 1,000 kg and were installed in under 6 h. Earlier, a siphon turbine was mounted on the Wave Dragon during 2000. The propeller and guide vanes were fixed in their optimal position. Each of the seven turbines was equipped with a PMG generator controlled by power electronics.

The design of the new turbines is based on experience gained with a siphon type model turbine previously developed using state-of-the-art 3D CFD software modelling, by VeteranKraft and TUM. Tests have shown that the turbine design is capable of operating at efficiencies comparable to conventional hydro power plants for the complete range of heads and flows in the Wave Dragon. Three of the new turbine outlets are coated with a non-toxic, slippery, silicone-based coating for antifouling, developed by Hempel.

Contact: Wave Dragon ApS, Blegdamsvej 4, 1st Floor, DK 2200, Copenhagen N, Denmark. Tel: +45 3536 0219/3537 0211; Fax: +45 3537 4537.



New method to harvest wave energy

Hoymyrmarka, Norway, offers a new device to capture energy from ocean waves. This system consists of an annular float placed around a floating column, connecting mechanism, pump and power aggregate. The float is coupled to the floating column by means of a connecting mechanism, which facilitates both vertical and pivotal motion in relation to the column, so that power in both forms of motion can be utilized. In addition, the device uses the energy in both horizontal backward and forward motions. Relative motion between the float and column are resisted by pumps coupled to the connecting mechanism. The column is equipped with an air chamber for buoyancy and the lower end of the column is connected to a water chamber, i.e. sea-anchor. The device is moored using lines/cables to buoys, floating props or fastening points onshore.

The device can be used as a single unit or deployed in groups, which supply high-pressure fluid to a single power aggregate accumulators, hydraulic motor, electrical generator, etc. The power aggregate can be fixed on one of the devices/adjacent floating structure or onshore. Key benefits of the new device include:
  • Applicable in different types of waves and works in any direction;
  • Easy to operate and maintain;
  • Low fabrication costs; and
  • Can also be equipped with solar panels and windmill for additional power generation.
Contact: Hoymyrmarka, 123A, Vollen 1391, Norway. Fax: +47 9727 8965.



New technology

Macroshaft P/L is employing Wave Energy Power Plant (WEPP) proprietary technology to extract clean, green and environmentally friendly power from the ocean. WEPP generates ocean wave power by means of reciprocating pressure sectors in a Macroshaft, which is used to force-feed liquid through a Dunk turbine. The bottom force fluctuation is generated by bouncing multi-level shear columns.

The driving principle is to transform a small head difference into a big head difference, which is then converted into electrical energy through generator torque from a Francis style Dunk turbine/impact Dunk turbine. All the pressure/torque producing actions occur within the confines of the Macroshaft. Liquid is treated in a fashion similar to water in a car radiator. The WEPP system cannot be compared directly to any other wave energy harvester. Having pulling, pushing and surfing actions integrated in the energy harvesting helps bring in a lot more power than in any other device presently in existence.

Contact: Mr. Knud Holm




Breakthrough in fuel cell plate technology

Morgan Fuel Cells (MFC) Ltd., the United Kingdom, has announced a technology innovation that promises to boost the power available from fuel cells while lowering manufacturing costs. The breakthrough is in the design of the bipolar plates, a crucial part of fuel cells. The patented Biomimetic bipolar plate technology mimics the structure seen in animal lungs and plant tissues to enable gases to flow through the plate in a far more efficient manner. Also, the plates have the added advantage of being produced with MFCs patented ElectroEtch system, which allows them to be manufactured at just a fraction of the time and cost needed by conventional methods.

Biomimetic plates feature a highly branched flow field to ensure non-sequential delivery of gases to the electrode. This ensures more uniform gas concentration across the bipolar plate, so that additional energy is extracted from the fuel cell. The new technique exhibits performance and cost advantages not possible with conventional serpentine flow field designs. Initial results are promising, with tests confirming a 16 per cent rise in peak power. The company has focused mainly on the graphite bipolar plates featured in proton exchange membrane type fuel cells. However, Biomimetic flow field designs are also applicable to ceramic and metal bipolar plates. The core design has been adapted for use in direct methanol fuel cells and may find application within solid oxide fuel cell systems.


10 kW power module

Canada-based Hydrogenics Corp. announced that it has standardized the commercial design of its 10 kW HyPM fuel cell power module. The HyPM models are integration-ready energy generators with a fuel cell stack that needs hydrogen to supply clean DC electrical power. Mr. Pierre Rivard, President and CEO of Hydrogenics, states that Leveraging our strength in fuel cell test platforms, we have used the best verification tools available to prove HyPM 10s durability. We are now able to offer the HyPM 10 at an attractive price for early adopter applications in the telecom, industrial, military, aerospace and light mobility markets.

Contact: Hydrogenics Corp., 5985, McLaughlin Road, Mississauga, Ontario L5R 1B8, Canada. Tel: +1 (905) 3613 660; Fax: +1 (905) 3613 626.


New fuel cell testing product

Astris Energi Inc., Canada, has introduced its next-generation test load monitoring device for the fuel cell and battery industries, the TL5 Test Load model. This enhanced gadget will enable the company to begin pre-commercial production of the 2.4 kW E8 fuel cell generator. Pilot production of MC250 POWERSTACK fuel cells will also start soon. MC250 and E8 have a broad range of potential applications including power back-up for uninterruptible power supply, portable power and small vehicle transportation power.

TL3 and TL4 Test Loads have been used in North America and Europe for testing fuel cells and battery electrodes, cells and stacks. Along with the TLIF computer interface and TESTMASTER software program, they allow for streamlined control of fuel cell load and data acquisition for monitoring purposes from a large number of test stations in a test laboratory. They are used for research, production, quality assurance and product life testing.

TL5 offers several improvements in performance and functionality over the existing devices, including a 40 amperage range that is needed by the MC250, in addition to the 20 amp range of the TL4. It has improved overload protection, accuracy and repeatability of readings. It has inputs for a reference electrode and a temperature sensor, and allows for measurements of electrochemical potentials by the resistance free method, just like the earlier models. An added feature is the expansion I/O port with eight pairs of digital inputs and outputs, and two differential analogue inputs, allowing connection, monitoring and control of additional sensors. It incorporates many improvements over earlier models in response to customer feedback, including highly chemically resistant paint for the demanding environment of electrochemical laboratories.

Contact: Mr. Anthony Durkacz, Astris Energi Inc., United States of America. Tel: +1 (905) 6082 000; Fax: +1 (905) 6088 222.



New technology for hydrogen production

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, the United States, have devised a new method to generate hydrogen. Oxides of the rare earth elements cerium (Ce), terbium (Tb) and praseodymium (Pr) can produce hydrogen from methane and water vapour in continuous inhale-exhale cycles. By doping iron atoms into the oxides, researchers lowered the temperatures at which the oxygen pump materials produce hydrogen, potentially allowing solar energy to power the process. This strategy to obtain hydrogen offers benefits over conventional techniques. Traditional reforming processes use metallic catalysts and temperatures over 800C to yield hydrogen from hydrocarbons like methane. By operating at lower temperatures, the new technology may provide a low-cost alternative that requires less energy.

The new system takes advantage of the oxides crystalline structure, which allows as much as 20 per cent of the oxygen atoms to leave the lattice without structural damage. This allows cycling oxygen atoms out of and back into the structure through a sequence of oxidation and reduction processes that both produce hydrogen, first from methane and then from water vapour. By providing an oxygen supply, the oxide system could reduce the amount of water needed to produce hydrogen. Though the use of rare earth oxides, like cerium oxide, as catalysts for hydrogen manufacture is not new, addition of iron to those oxides has significantly enhanced the surface chemistry activity, allowing the oxidation and reduction reactions to take place at lower temperatures.


New fuel cell

In the United States, Proton Energy Systems Inc. (PES) and Naval Air Weapons Station are refining PES UNIGEN RE regenerative solar/fuel cell power system. Data obtained after 60 days of Phase I testing are being used for system optimization. The goal of the five-year development programme at China Lake is to design a validated 5 kW UNIGEN unit that can be deployed in remote locations without access to the grid.

The UNIGEN RE reclaims the fuel cell by-product, water, for hydrogen production. The rate of hydrogen production and usage, and efficiencies of the systems individual elements (PV array, hydrogen generator and fuel cell) have performed as anticipated. Phase II of the China Lake project will be a one-year demonstration test period for the UNIGEN, which will record the systems performance and reliability in extreme climates. The system will operate on a 24 h profile to simulate real-life electrical load requirements.


Fuel cells for notebook computers

In Japan, Hitachi Ltd. has devised a compact fuel cell to supply power for notebook computers. Attached to the bottom of a computer, the device delivers a little over 10 W of power continuously for 8 h. The fuel cell extracts hydrogen from methanol to generate electricity. Apart from reducing the platinum particles size (from 10 nm to 2-3 nm), used as a catalyst, a structure that prevents platinum from aggregating was developed. Hitachi intends to alter the fuel cells structure to further reduce its size by more than two-thirds.


Fuel cell for portable devices

Toshiba Corp., Japan, has unveiled the prototype of a highly compact, direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) to power personal devices such as cell phones, digital still cameras, PDAs and mobile TVs. The new DMFC is small enough to fit in a carry-on bag or jeans pocket as a portable power source. Weighing around 130 g (with fuel cartridge), the 100 60 30 mm unit achieves an average output of 1 W/h for about 20 h of operation as total on a single 25 cc fuel cartridge of high concentration methanol fuel. The necessary miniaturization was realized by minimizing the size of auxiliary parts such as the fuel tank, liquid and air transmission pumps, interface and electric circuits, and the DC/DC converter.

Website: and

Low-cost hydrogen production system

Alternative Energy Corp. (AEC) of Canada has purchased technology that will enable it to offer safe and affordable hydrogen fuel to fuel cell vehicle owners. AECs inexpensive technology submerges a number of its specialized fuel plates in water to obtain hydrogen. The system is designed to produce hydrogen only when required. Effectively, hydrogen produced is consumed as quickly as it is produced. As such the need for storing hydrogen is eliminated, making it safer. In addition, engineering estimates indicate that the plates have outstanding longevity. Since attrition rate of the on-board plates is very small, the frequency of refuelling is greatly reduced, comparable to a quarterly oil change versus a weekly fill-up.

Contact: Alternate Energy Corporation, Administrative Offices, 3325, North Service Rd., Unit 105, Burlington, ON L7N 3G2, Canada. Tel: +1 (519) 6202 623.


New electrodes for PEM fuel cell

In the United States, researchers at the University of California have successfully developed a fuel cell employing carbon nanotube-based electrodes. This project was carried out under a contract with Pacific Fuel Cell Corp. The company owns the worldwide rights (excluding Japan) to the proprietary PEM fuel cell technology. It is anticipated that the use of multi-walled carbon nanotubes as a platinum support for PEM fuel cells will lower the production cost of fuel cells through increased utilization of platinum.

Contact: Mr. Steve Godwin, Pacific Fuel Cell Corp., United States of America. Tel: +1 (714) 5641 693.



Solar Energy Houses: Strategies, Technologies and Examples

This second edition delves into passive and active solar strategies, adoption of energy conservation measures and integration of new materials and technologies. It presents the findings of Task 13 of the IEAs Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, whose objective was to advance solar building technologies and demonstrate this potential by designing and then constructing buildings that met very low energy consumption targets while maintaining a good indoor climate. Task13 members from 15 nations pooled ideas to evolve new designs.

Contact: James and James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 8-12, Camden High Street, London NW1 0JH, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 7387 8558; Fax: +44 (20) 7387 8998.



Solar Installations: Practical Applications for the Built Environment

This book focuses on water-based solar heating technology, presenting basic principles of solar radiation and the solar heating system, including details on orientation and output, sizing, solar collector, solar circuit, heat exchangers, heat stores and overall system technology. This is followed by a detailed description of single family and multi-family dwellings, outdoor pools, large-scale solar heating technology, camp sites, sports facilities, etc. Key ratios have been provided with practical examples, producing a clear picture that will enable readers to make a preliminary study of the technology and associated economics and decide on the applicability of solar heating in different projects.

Contact: James and James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 8-12, Camden High Street, London NW1 0JH, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (20) 7387 8558; Fax: +44 (20) 7387 8998.



Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering

This book discusses all topics relating to the photovoltaic industry, including the most recent technological advances and research developments. It reviews past work and the fundamentals in solar electric science. It is an essential reference tool for practitioners, consultants, researchers and students in the PV engineering industry.

Contact: John Wiley and Sons, 10475, Crosspoint Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46256, United States of America. Tel: +1 (877) 7622 974; Fax: +1 (800) 5973 299.



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