VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Nov-Dec 2006

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New and Renewable Energy Nov-Dec 2007

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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Co-generation potential in India

Mr. Vilas Muttemwar, the Minister of Non-conventional Energy Sources, India, has said that nearly 15,000 MW of energy could be produced through co-generation in various core industries, including the pulp and paper industry, breweries, rice mills, textile mills and solvent extraction units. At the inauguration of the National Workshop on Promotion of Co-generation/Captive Power Plants in Pulp and Paper Mills, Mr. Muttemwar stated that the waste generated by rapid industrialization could be used for generating power through waste-to-energy conversion technologies. This can address the challenges of waste disposal and greenhouse gas emissions, besides making the industry self-sufficient in its energy requirements.

The Ministry is implementing various programmes/schemes for installation of co-generation projects based on biomass and energy recovery from industrial waste. Financial assistance is extended to encourage setting up of such projects, which in addition to providing energy and helping in creative disposal of waste also assists in cutting down transmission and distribution losses, the Minister said.

Mr. Muttemwar released the National Master Plan (NMP) for the Development of Waste-to-Energy prepared by the Ministry. NMP will provide a framework for waste-to-energy programmes in the country, covering all waste streams from the urban and industrial sectors. The primary objective of NMP is to catalyse additional decentralized power generation capacity through projects for energy recovery from both urban and industrial wastes cost-effectively by deploying appropriate technologies.


Energy fund for developing nations

The European Commission (EC) is mooting the creation of a global risk capital fund to mobilize private investment for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in developing countries, including India, Nepal and Bhutan. The EC aims to kick-start the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) with a contribution of approximately US$100 million over the next four years. Financing from other public and private sources is expected to add to the corpus.

An official release states that The GEEREF will accelerate the transfer, development and deployment of environmentally sound technologies and help to bring secure energy supplies to people in India, Nepal and Bhutan. The projects will also help combat climate change and air pollution problems. One of the goals of the European Union is to ensure that the global temperature does not rise more than 2C above the pre-industrial levels, since beyond this level the impacts of climate change are forecast to be far more severe. EC estimates that greater focus on alternate energy sources is expected to reduce the demand on fossil fuels for electricity generation globally from the current 13 per cent to 34 per cent in 2050.


Philippines is top in wind energy potential

A report prepared by Greenpeace reveals that the Philippines has the highest wind energy potential in Southeast Asia. The international environmental group has said that the Philippines government should hasten the passage of a stronger renewable energy bill, which should have provisions that will make a difference in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace has urged the government to adopt a target that increases the share of renewables to at least 10 per cent of the countrys energy needs by the year 2010.

Greenpeace made the call while it launched the Global Wind Energy Outlook 2006 report in Australia with the Global Wind Energy Council. According to the new report, one-third of the worlds electricity can be supplied by wind power. It also highlights the expansion of wind power worldwide as a key to stopping climate change. Wind turbine capacity implemented on this scale would save 113 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by 2050.


Novel electrification project in Nepal

Nepals the first-ever project to install photovoltaic and thermal systems based on solar energy is being introduced in 24 districts. The Renewable Energy Project (REP), a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the Nepal government, is intended to help alleviate poverty in remote areas through the use of power for income generation activities. According to Mr. Mangal Das Maharjan, national director of the project, the project will benefit approximately 500,000 people.

Under the project, scheduled to be completed by 2008-end, solar PV and thermal plants will be installed in districts with no electricity and with no prospects of having their own small hydro projects for at least the next five years. Existing community organizations are being developed into being Community Energy Service Providers (CESP), legal entities that will own, manage and operate the plants. The plants will be given to the CESPs totally free of charge against an obligation to provide a defined range of services to the community. The power generated will be sold by the CESPs to locals. The main target consumers are schools, health institutions, and communities seeking to operate water-pumping schemes.

Other potential consumers include entertainment entrepreneurs who can generate income by showing movies, cyber centres run by entrepreneurs, grinding and milling operators, photocopy and fax service providers, and household electronic equipment users.


Bioenergy share in Chinas renewable energy

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), China, has reported that bioenergy would account for 1 per cent of the nations renewable energy consumption by 2010 and 4 per cent by 2020. MOA and the Asian Development Bank have jointly launched a project aimed at strategic development of bioenergy in rural China. Mr. Bai Jinming from MOA said that the proliferation of bioenergy in rural areas would promote the development of agriculture and rural economy.

Bioenergy has been developing fast in China. According to statistics, by the end of 2005, over 18.07 million farmer households were employing methane gas for fuel. Besides, more than 3,550 bioenergy projects are producing nearly seven billion cubic metres of methane each year.

According to MOA, Chinas installed capacity of bioenergy electricity will reach 5.5 million kilowatts by 2010 and 30 million kilowatts by 2020. The annual use of methane gas will be 19 billion cubic metres in 2010 and 40 billion cubic metres in 2020.


Sri Lanka for better utilization of natural energy resources

Sri Lanka is to set up a new authority responsible for formulating plans to effectively utilize the nations natural energy resources. The Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA), under the Ministry of Power and Energy, will also focus on further developing capacity for solar energy generation. A memorandum on this matter would be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

The government is also considering construction of a wind power plant at Narakkalliya, Puttalam, with financial assistance from Germany. Two dendro power plants with a capacity of 80 MW are to be constructed at Embilipitiya and Monaragala. Glidicirium sepum will be cultivated on 4,000 ha of land to be used by the two power plants. A 32 MW power plant powered by garbage is to be established at Muthurajawela.


New Korean player in wind turbine sector

Romax Technology based in the United Kingdom reports that its high profile project with Hyosung, the Republic of Koreas leading supplier of software tools and services for transmissions engineering, has completed its halfway stage. Romax is working to help Hyosung design its own wind turbine units. Hyosung has been in the wind turbine equipment business for several years, and with Romaxs support looks set to commence producing its own units by 2008 making Korea join Japan as the only major players in the Far East Asian wind turbine market.

Romaxs role in this major development project began two years after the company secured its ongoing partnership with Hyosungs Power & Industrial Systems Performance Group, following a successful pitch to help Hyosung to design gearbox systems for wind turbines. Since that crucial first project, Romax has been helping Hyosung in various design and marketing aspects related to wind turbines.


Indonesia to develop coal-bed methane

Indonesias state-owned gas firm PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (PT PGN) plans to develop coal-bed methane (CBM) gas as an alternative energy source to replace fossil fuels. The company has signed a memorandum of understandingwith the Musi Rawas district administration on the exploitation and utilization of CBM. PT PGN President-Director WMP Simandjuntak said that Indonesia has over 453 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of methane gas reserves in some areas, including in South Sumatra which has 183 TCF. The company plans to exploit CBM to the optimum by using its pipeline network.


India plans SEZ for renewable energy

Indias Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources is setting up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for the manufacture of renewable energy systems/devices. This venture has elicited favourable response from local and foreign prospective investors. Mr. Vilas Muttemwar, Minister, Non-conventional Energy Sources, said that the state governments of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh are keen in locating the SEZ in their states.



Solar desalination plant and technology

China Heute, Germany, offers seawater desalination plant along with associated patents. The SALINAS plant is a self-sufficient evaporation system that produces 240 m3 per day of drinking water, and is suitable for isolated coastal areas, seaside establishments, islands, small villages, etc.

The plant works exclusively on renewable energy, has no fabricated support structure and works on low-maintenance techniques. The plant consists of a wind generator, solar collector, heat exchanger, evaporator and condenser. The wind generator drives a seawater pump that pushes the salt water through the solar collector, which heats up the water to 85C. The hot water and steam are directed to the condenser through a low-temperature evaporator. All materials used in the plant are corrosion-resistant and have been tested in a prototype on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura.

The SALINAS plant has a comparatively long service life, minimum maintenance, and does not require trained staff.

Contact: China Heute, Bahnhofstrasse 30, D-63683 Ortenberg, Germany. Tel: +49 (6041) 1677; Fax: +49 (6041) 90246


High-power, higher efficiency solar panel

SunPower Corp., a United States-based manufacturer of commercial high-efficiency solar cells and solar panels, has unveiled a solar panel that offers much higher power output and conversion efficiency than its existing products. SPR-315 solar panel utilizes SunPowers new 22 per cent efficient Gen 2 solar cells and carries a rated power output of 315 W. The new design incorporates 96 Gen 2 solar cells that offer improved panel efficiency through a combination of better cell architecture and improved packing density. Compared with conventional solar panels, SPR-315 can generate up to 50 per cent more power per square foot of roof area with half as many panels. While a typical 4 kW solar system needs 30 conventional 160 W panels and 410 ft2 of roof space, the SPR-315 panels need just 15 solar panels and 265 ft2.
SunPowers low-maintenance, silent solar panels have no moving parts and provide pollution-free electricity. Their all-back-contact design enables the high-tech solar panels to perform better than most other solar panels during cloudy or hot weather.

Contact: SunPower Corp., 3939 N. 1st Street, San Jose, California, CA 95134, United States of America. Tel: +1 (408) 240 5500; Fax: +1 (408) 240 5400



Frequency of sunlight boosted

Scientists at Germanys Max-Planck Institute for Polymer Research have deviced a technique to up-convert low-frequency sunlight into higher frequency. Many natural materials exhibit fluorescence in which they down-convert incoming light to lower frequencies. Up-conversion is rarer, typically requiring two or more low-frequency photons to be absorbed by a single molecule. The combined photon energy knocks one of the molecules electrons into an upper energy level, and it later falls to the ground state emitting a single high-frequency photon with double the energy of any of the incoming ones. As the multiple absorptions must occur simultaneously, this process needs a high photon concentration.

The technique for up-conversion that Dr. Stanislav Baluschev and his colleagues have developed can work at much lower intensities. Instead of adding photons in a single molecule, the researchers employed two molecules, each storing a photons worth of energy for later summation. Using sunlight, which was filtered of all but its green frequencies and focused so that its intensity was 100 times higher than normal, the researchers recorded a blue shaft of light in their liquid up-converter. The maximum efficiency of the system was found to be 1 per cent (one blue photon out for every 100 green photons in). This may seem small, but solar cells are only sensitive to a portion of the suns spectrum. So up-conversion can capture unused photons to make useable ones.


Advances in solar cell science

Recent advances in materials science and plasma chemistry in the United States could help boost the performance of solar cells, according to researchers. Prof. Vikram Dalal, Director of Microelectronics Research Centre, Iowa State University (ISU), is working with Power Film Inc. a company that makes thin, flexible solar panels to improve the performance and stability of the companys solar cells.

Most cells are manufactured with crystalline silicon. However, there is a way to manufacture solar cells using non-crystalline silicon wafers, although they only produce about half the electricity as crystalline silicon.

Additionally, their performance drops by nearly 20 per cent over time. Prof. Dalal says that ISU researchers have developed a way to improve the cell performance by almost 35 per cent and eliminate 15 per cent of the drop in performance.


New ways to enhance solar cell efficiencies

Three recent research studies have established ways to increase the efficiencies of solar cells, thereby enabling them to be used in devices such as automobiles, cell phones, computers, etc.

In the United States, University of California researchers report that plastic solar cells could provide an efficiency of 15 per cent if the cells titanium oxide layers are chemically modified. The team, led by Nobel Prize winner Mr. Alan J. Heeger, has already created plastic solar cells with efficiencies of 5-6 per cent considered among the highest for this type of solar cell.

The second study, by Swiss scientists, created dye-sensitized solar cells to obtain a new generation of thin-film photovoltaic devices with the highest-to-date efficiencies and low costs. The new cells, developed by researchers led by Mr. Michael Graetzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, are composed of an ultra-thin film of nano semiconductor crystals of titanium dioxide. The cells are 6-7 per cent more efficient than current solar cells, and can be used on glass windows as low-cost, flexible sheets to supply electricity to homes and shops or as coatings on tents to supply power for outdoors.

In the third research, scientists at University of Notre Dame, the United States, found that carbon nanotubes engineered into the architecture of semiconductor solar cells composed of cadmium sulphide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide double the cells conversion efficiencies, even up to 10 per cent. According to Mr. Prashant Kamat, a professor of chemistry at the university, carbon nanotubes could also be added to other types of solar cells, such as dye-sensitized solar cells and organic solar cells based on conducting polymers, to create similar or even stronger efficiency boosts.


Material captures low-energy photons

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States have created a new type of semiconductor material designed to improve the efficiency of solar cells by capturing low-energy photons. Traditional solar cells convert light with wavelengths corresponding to the energy it takes for electrons to jump from the valence band to the conduction band. Photons that have lower energy pass right through the material. The new semiconductor material can capture the low-energy photons for electricity generation, which could result in solar cells with efficiencies of around 45 per cent, compared with the 25 per cent for conventional cells that use a single semiconductor and 39 per cent for cells with layers of semiconductors.

The new semiconductors have three energy bands instead of the usual two (valence and conduction). The third band lies below the conduction band, effectively splitting the gap between the valence and conduction bands into two smaller parts. This helps low-energy photons to participate in the process because they can excite electrons to the intermediate band and then up, said Mr. Wladek Walukiewicz from the Laboratory who developed the semiconductor with Mr. Kin Man Yu.


Cheap, flexible photovoltaic cells

Researchers at Cornell University, the United States, have demonstrated a new organic semiconductor device using ionic junctions, which exhibits electro-luminescence and acts as a photovoltaic cell. Organic semiconductors can be made in thin, flexible sheets, and therefore could be used to create displays on cloth or paper. The researchers made a diode by laminating together two organic layers, one containing free positive ions and the other negative ions.

They then added thin conducting films on the top and bottom; the top conductor being transparent to allow light in and out. Where the two films meet, negative ions migrate across the junction to the positive side and vice versa, until an equilibrium is reached, as it happens in a silicon diode, where electrons and holes migrate across the junction.

When a voltage is applied across the electrodes, opposing currents of charged ions flow through the junction, causing a higher potential than normal. This raises the energy of the molecules, which release the energy as photons. However, when a bright light is applied, photons are absorbed by the molecules, causing them to emit electrons. The ionic charges create a preferential direction for the electrons to move, and a current flows.



Wind turbines employ magnetic levitation

Mag-Wind Co., the United States, offers a vertical-axis wind turbine with magnetic levitation for residential applications. Magnetic levitation reduces friction and the unpleasant sound associated with roof-mounted wind vents. The MW-1100, a Canadian invention, reportedly generates the same electrical output from its 4 ft sweep as a much larger blade turbine. It can generate 1,100 kWh/month at an average wind speed of about 21 km/h. It has a cut-in speed of less than 3.4 km/h while the top speed exceeds 161 km/h. Over a period of 10 years, electricity produced by the MW-1100 turbine at optimal output would cost about US $0.035/kWh.


Methods and apparatus for rotor load control

General Electric Co. of the United States has developed new methods and apparatus for better rotor load control in wind turbines. Some configurations permit a certain method for operating a wind turbine having a rotor with at least one rotor blade and a plurality of generators. The method includes operating the first generator of the plurality of generators to provide power to an electric grid, while a second generator operates to provide power to the wind turbine during grid loss. Some other configurations provide a method for reducing load. The method includes using the first generator in the wind turbine to provide electrical power to a power grid. During grid loss conditions, the method includes idling a rotor of the wind turbine, using a second generator in the wind turbine to provide electricity to a pitch control system of the wind turbine and operating the pitch control system to reduce wind loads on the wind turbine.

These configurations provide an effective control strategy and necessary back-up power for operations during grid loss conditions. Moreover, by reducing design loads for grid loss conditions, it is possible to provide wind turbines with rotors that have larger diameters and thus improved energy capture.


Wind turbine harnesses buildings aerodynamics

Aero Vironoment Inc. of the United States has unveiled a compact wind turbine that sits on the parapets of a building, rather than the roof, and catches the wind as it travels up the side of a building. This is claimed to result in increases of up to 30 per cent in energy production.

The Architectural wind turbine is 2 m tall and weighs 27 kg. It requires only a 3.1 m/s breeze to start up, and produces roughly 55 kWh per month per unit. There are two available optional extras for the turbine: a canopy, and an avian protection option, which is designed to keep birds out of the turbine.

Contact: Aero Vironoment Inc., 181 W. Huntington Drive, Suite 202, Monrovia, California, CA 91016, United States of America. Tel: +1 (626) 357 9983; Fax: +1 (626) 359 9628




Noiseless, efficient wind turbine

Australias O'Connor Wind Energy Ltd. has developed what is called the Hush Turbine, a wind turbine with a significantly advanced design.

The Hush Turbine is a sleek, ultra-modern and noiseless turbine that can be set up complementing other home power systems. It interfaces with existing systems, such as diesel engine back-ups, thus making present residential power set-ups still usable.

The Hush Turbine is available in different sizes with diameters of 1-5 m. Depending on size, a turbine can produce 5 kWh to 100 kWh per day, operating at low wind conditions.

Contact: Mr. Arthur O'Connor J.P., Director, O'Connor Wind Energy Pty. Ltd., PO Box 2421, Sunbury Victoria 3429, Australia. Fax: +61 (3) 8746 9780





Tidal generator

Power Tube Inc., the United States, offers a patented tidal generator for producing energy by harnessing the oceans tidal activity. This unique device can be adapted for supplying energy to small beach houses or even large port facilities. The system comprises a main reservoir tank and a magnetic flotation collar, which makes an internal diaphragm go up or down according to movements of the tide. This action produces either an intake or a discharge of water through a specially designed turbine that turns in only one direction regardless of the direction of the flow.
The turbine then turns a generator to create the electricity required.

The Tidal Generators height is determined by the tidal range of the area where it is to be installed; the quantity of power produced is govetrned by the volume of the tank and the size of the turbine and generator. Advantages of this device include:
  • Can be built for any power requirement, from 100 kW to 100 MW
  • Easy to maintain, and unlimited life cycle if properly maintained; and
  • Very low operating costs.

The resource tank is a special acrylic tank designed to resist ultraviolet rays and salt water. All of the accessory parts are likewise made of materials that will not degrade in the corrosive coastal environment or solar radiation. All magnetic materials, including the samarium-cobalt magnetic ring, are protected by Teflon, while the diaphragm support is made of a special HDPE plastic.

Contact: Power Tube Inc., 11811 North Freeway Suite 200, Houston, Texas, TX 77060, United States of America. Tel: +1 (281) 820 6622; Fax: +1 (281) 820 8979



New wave energy generator

In Mauritius, Mr. Raj Balkee has invented an energy conversion device that employs a floating buoy to advance a unidirectional generator, harnessing the up-and-down motion of waves and tide. The yet-to-be patent tide and wave power electricity generator (TWPEG) works with a unique energy conversion device capable of converting tidal and wave motions directly to rotary motion to turn a generator always in the same direction.

TWPEG is scaleable, depending on sea depth, from knee deep water to any reasonable depth, provided there are some waves. TWPEG can produce 2 kW/m2 of sea surface. A very crude prototype has been tested and promising results obtained.

Contact: Mr. Raj Balkee, Plateau Road, Goodlands, Mauritius. Tel: +230 2838764



Advances in wave energy technology

A project led by Finavera Renewables Ltd. and Dunlop Oil and Marine, supported by a Carbon Trust Applied Research grant, is expected to take the wave energy sector a step further in the quest for viable power generation. The Hose-Pump Validation project, a key part of AquaBuOY technology, is an offshore wave energy converter whose successful completion marks the next step in its commercialization.

The AquaBuOY wave energy technology is from Aquaenergy Development UK Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Finavera Renewables. The hollow elastic cylinder can pump fluid when it is extended and contracted; when connected to a buoy, wave action can be harnessed to produce pressurized fluid via cyclic extensions. Multiple devices coupled to a standard hydropower turbine and generator provide a complete conversion solution, from wave energy to electric energy.

Contact: Aquaenergy Group Ltd., P.O. Box 1276, Mercer Island, WA 98040, United States of America. Tel: +1 (425) 4307 924; Fax: +1 (425) 9881 977



Electricity from ocean swells

A researcher from NASA, the United States, has developed a system to generate cheap and clean electricity from ocean water. The device, named the Ocean Swell and Wave Energy Conversion system, was invented by Mr. Tom Woodbridge who holds six national and international patents. Efforts are on to develop three ocean-trial models.


Wave energy conversion system

The Australian company Biopower Systems Pty. Ltd. has developed a new wave energy conversion system. The bioWAVETM is based on the swaying motion of sea plants in the presence of ocean waves. The hydrodynamic interaction of the blades with the oscillating flow field is designed for maximum energy absorption. This system has numerous advantages over other wave energy devices. For example, bioWAVE is the only wave energy system that captures a wide swath of incident wave energy without using a large rigid structure, and the only one that absorbs energy over the full water depth and continually self-orients with the wave direction.

In extreme wave conditions, including hurricanes, the bioWAVE is automatically triggered to cease operation and assume a safe position lying flat against the seabed. This is achieved by back-driving the O-DRIVETM generator and it effectively prevents exposure to extreme forces, allowing for lower design tolerances and large cost savings. Systems are being developed for 500, 1000 and 2000 kW capacities.

Contact: Biopower Systems Pty. Ltd., Suite 145, National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh, New South Wales 1430, Australia. Tel: +61 (2) 9209 4237; Fax: +61 (2) 9319 3874



Hydropower prototypes to explore ocean power

Bourne Energy, the United States, has developed three invisible and silent hydropower systems called OceanStar, TidalStar and RiverStar that have the potential to harness wave, tidal and river energy. Bourne plans to build full-scale prototypes of each technology, which will be used as demonstrators. OceanStar is a submerged ocean power harvester that interconnects to form a mile-long underwater energy capture arrays situated a few miles offshore. TidalStar is a submerged tidal power harvester that interconnects to form tidal fence arrays. RiverStar is an in-river, dam-free river power harvester.

Each of these hydropower systems uses modular components making them highly adaptable to specific sites. All three have novel technologies incorporated into the energy absorber, energy transmission, and control and mooring systems. The OceanStar, TidalStar and RiverStar series are capable of producing electricity, clean water and hydrogen while the OceanStar also mediates the risks to coastlines and breakwaters from the ravages of storms as well as functions as a security barrier.


Wave machine takes the 'right' angles

The Wave Star machine, from Wave Star Energy of Denmark, is basically different from most other wave power machines. It does not form a barrier against the waves to harness all their energy; instead it cuts in at right angles to the direction of the wave, making the waves run through the length of the machine and exploiting their energy in a continuous process.

On both sides of the oblong machine 20 hemispherical floats are placed, partially submerged in water. When a wave rolls in, the first float is lifted upwards, and then the second and so on, until the wave subsides. Each float is positioned at the base of its own hydraulic cylinder. When a float is raised, a piston in the cylinder presses oil into the machines common transmission system at 200 bar pressure. The pressure drives a hydraulic motor connected to the generator, which produces the electricity. As Wave Star is several wave lengths long, the floats work continuously to harness energy.

The Wave Star automatically raises the floats up out of the water when the waves reach 8 m, and stations them at a safe position 20 m above the surface of the water. The machine rests above the surface of the water on steel pillars, and the only submerged parts of the machine are the fiberglass floats. This reduces the cost of production cosiderably, as compared with the fully submerged systems that need to be corrosion-free. Further, the critical parts of the Wave Star machine are housed in the generator casing on the bridge. Th emachine thus has a production price which, per megawatt, corresponds to that of the wind turbines.

The machine generates electricity even from very small waves. For the 1:10 model currently built, waves only need to be 10 cm high. Calculations and tests show that the Wave Star machine produces energy around 90 per cent of the time, and that it runs on maximum power 30 per cent of the time. The machine can be built to different climatic conditions and sizes. When the size of the machine doubles, its power increases around 11 times.

Contact: Wave Star Energy, Maglemosevej 61, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark. Tel: +45 (3940) 4696; Fax: +45 (3940) 46 97




Zinc-based fuel cell trials successful

Power Air Corporation (PAC) of the United States is reported to have achieved satisfactory test results with third-party air cathode products in its 6th generation zinc-air fuel cell (ZAFC) power supply. PAC has been testing air cathodes from a range of suppliers since March 2006, with the aim of establishing a pool of off-the-shelf air cathodes. The ZAFC needs high-performing and cost-effective air cathodes. The fuel cell, patented and owned exclusively by PAC, uses a combination of atmospheric oxygen and zinc pellets in a liquid alkaline electrolyte to generate electricity.

ZAFCs developers hope the technology can be applied in diverse commercial contexts. The cell has advantages over batteries including consistent and longer lifetimes, recyclable waste output, as well as high specific energy. Its advantages over internal combustion engines include the capacity to rapidly refuel and operate silently.


Fuel cell technologies for the military

The United States army is evaluating the use of injection-moulded and inexpensive fuel cell formed into the common BA-5590 battery form factor, to power SOF PRC-117 field radio, resulting in a weight saving of over 6 kg and decrease in costs by at least 50 per cent.

Other power sources are provided by direct methanol micro fuel cell (DMFC), under development at MTI Micro. The company has demonstrated the operation of its power system on 100 per cent methanol fuel resulting in 0.9 Wh/cm3 of fuel, extracting from methanol more than thrice the energy than most current lithium-ion batteries. The company is teaming with Harris RF Communications Division, to develop a fuel cell prototype that will replace standard batteries in Harris Falcon II portable military radio. The current prototype is producing a power output of 5 W with a peak power of 25 W and an energy content more than 50 Wh. The fuel cell is designed to fit into a size and form of a standard BA-5590 battery, while generating twice the energy of the radios internal battery and approaching the energy of the external rechargeable battery the BB390.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation has completed product development of a first methanol fuel cell cartridge. With the introduction of the new cartridges, fuel cells could be instantaneously recharged by replacing the disposable fuel cartridge. A single cartridge is expected to provide 5-10 h of computer operation, depending on the efficiency of the fuel cell. The methanol cartridge holds 50 cm3 of 100 per cent methanol and is designed for laptop computer and similar applications. Cell phones will need smaller cartridges while other applications may require larger ones.

Another fuel cell technology is being considered for an auxiliary power unit (APU) developed by Radian Inc. The system is planned for deployment on army vehicles. The fuel cell is based on Hydrogenics Corporations proton exchange membrane technology. Since modern armoured vehicles rely on many electronic and electrical systems, even when positioned in stationary positions, the APU will offer adequate supply of electrical power, to operate digital equipment and long silent watch requirements.


Ceramic film for fuel cells

A research team led by Dr. Michael Steltert at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), Germany, has started a project to develop fuel cells from a new type of ceramic film called low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC). The researchers have successfully developed cost-effective ways of integrating additional non-electronic functional elements into the ceramics. Their task is facilitated by a special feature of LTCC structures can be applied not only to the surface of the ceramic, but also to the inside.

Micro fuel cells are criss-crossed with tiny channels that transport hydrogen or fluids. They are simple and cheap to produce. Another advantage is that the LTCC fuel cell can run on various types of fuel mainly hydrogen and methanol, but also less conventional fuels such as formic acid. The researchers are going ahead with the new generation of micro fuel cells in collaboration with several German industrial enterprises.

Contact: Dr. Michael Stelter, Fraunhofer-Institut fr Keramische Technologien und Systeme, Winterbergstr. 28, 01277 Dresden, Germany. Tel: +49 (351) 2553 648; Fax: +49 (351) 2554 208.


Ruthenium: a steam reforming solution for fuel cells?

A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois in the United States suggests that tailored macroporous SiC monoliths coated with ruthenium catalyst and integrated into high-density reactor housings could provide a method to easily extract hydrogen through steam re-forming of propane, one of the best ways identified by experts to obtain hydrogen in portable fuel cells. However, a major problem is that to do so requires a reactor that can work with temperatures of up to 800C; otherwise, coking of the catalytic structures may take place during the reforming process.

Mr. Michael Mitchell and Mr. Paul Kenis found that the ruthenium catalyst, in conjunction with ceramic microreactors with a high surface area, could successfully withstand high temperatures. The performance of the microreactor was not affected after exposure to more than 15 thermal cycles at temperatures as high as 1,000C. The ceramic microreactors could therefore be used for on-site production of hydrogen from hydrocarbons, in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.


New fuel cell system

In the United States, MTI Micro Fuel Cells has successfully demonstrated its latest Mobion-30M fuel cell power system to the Air Force Research Laboratory. The prototype system, which can deliver up to 600 Wh of operating time, is designed to power laptops and other portable telecommunication devices used for military purposes. It can power the average laptop seven times longer than the more conventional battery systems. The fuel cell system and its methanol fuel cartridges together weigh much less than the batteries required for an equivalent operating time.


Enzyme-based biofuel cell

An enzyme-based power source is a viable source of electricity for the rapidly proliferating RFID tags used in the medical sector and logistics. Applications include electrode for measuring temperature, plasters containing a memory circuit and sensors monitoring food quality.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing printable biofuel cells in which enzymes convert the energy bound in the renewable fuels sugar, alcohols, etc. into electricity. VTTs invention is based on the use of the fungal laccase enzyme on the cathodic compartment. A patent has been filed on the solution, which has yielded a 0.7 V voltage with a current density of 20 A/m2. Laccase is also suitable for printable technology applications as it retains its ability to produce electricity even when printed on paper.

Such printable enzyme-based power sources are compact, inexpensive and disposable. The enzymes replace the traditional precious metal catalysts and the fuel cells operate with good overall efficiency in standard pressure at ambient temperature. The ability to mass-produce the fuel cells as printable products will enable a dramatic reduction in costs. Because of the biodegradable raw materials and fuels, they are disposable.

Contact: Ms. Anu Koivula, Senior Research Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044, Finland. Tel: +358 (20) 7225 110.


Powerful fuel cell for portable gadgets

A powerful new addition to its line-up of fuel cells and accessories has been announced by Jadoo Power Systems Inc. of the United States. The XRT 100 W fuel cell system delivers the power density demanded by the emergency preparedness market. It provides critical support power when the grid is either unavailable or not reliable. The XRT can be used for all power-hungry emergency response applications that need power support, such as portable radio and laptop battery recharging, as well as a battery replacement for emergency lighting and critical communication devices like satellite phones and modems.
The XRT a mobile, rugged fuel cell power package can be configured to deliver application runtimes well beyond that of standard deep-cycle, marine batteries. A fully-configured XRT includes:
  • Six N-Stor360 fuel canisters, providing up to 2,200 Wh of runtime;
  • One 100 W N-Gen fuel cell power unit;
  • 110 VAC and 12 VDC outputs;
  • Hot-Swap capable, allowing for continuous, uninterrupted operation; and
  • Easy-to-use digital state-of-fill indicator that identifies remaining runtime.



Low-cost efficient hydrogen generation

QuantumSphere Inc. (QSI), a leading manufacturer of nanometals and alloys in the United States for applications in renewable energy and other markets, has announced the filing of a patent relating to clean hydrogen production. This patent enables highly efficient, low-cost hydrogen generation by electrolysis of water. QSI has surpassed the Department of Energys target for 2010 by producing hydrogen with greater than 75 per cent efficiency using its new porous electrode employing nanometals.

Enabled by high surface area metal particles and a novel structure, this innovation has not only surpassed pertinent technical targets, but also generates hydrogen without producing greenhouse gases, using water as a clean, reliable source of energy. The technology is a critical step in working towards a hydrogen-on- demand system for direct feed into fuel cells that would eliminate the need for storing hydrogen in pressurized systems, which have cost, logistical and safety issues.


New reactors for hydrogen production

Indias Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is designing two new reactors that will produce large quantities of hydrogen, which is increasingly being looked upon as a fuel option for combustible engines. The prototype versions of the Compact High Temperature Reactor (CHTR) and the Indian High Temperature Reactor (IHTR) are under development. Both these reactors will have reactor core temperatures of over 1,000C, known as white hot cores.

White hot cores are said to be more efficient at producing hydrogen gas. The CHTR and IHTR experimental reactors, with a capacity of 600 MW, will be capable of producing hydrogen by night when the demand for power drops. They can also be used to desalinate sea water.


Cheap hydrogen fuel

The General Electric Co. (GE) in the United States reports that its new machine can make the hydrogen economy affordable, by slashing the cost of water-splitting technology. Researchers at GE have come up with a prototype version of an easy-to-manufacture apparatus that is expected to lead to a commercial machine able to produce hydrogen via electrolysis for about US$3/kg a quantity roughly comparable to about 4.546 l of petroleum down from the present US$8/kg.

The team has devised a way to make future electrolysers largely out of plastic. The GE plastic called Noryl is extremely resistant to the highly alkaline potassium hydroxide. Also, since the plastic is easy to form and join, manufacturing an electrolyser is relatively cheap. Inside the plastic housing, metal electrodes still do the same job.

However, as GE is using less electrode material, the reactivity of the electrodes surfaces is improved. For this, the research team borrowed a spray-coating process, normally used to apply coatings for parts on jet engines, to coat the electrodes with a proprietary nickel-based catalyst with a large surface area.


New hydrogen production method

A biotechnology research company in the United States, NanoLogix, has discovered a reliable and simple method of producing large quantities of hydrogen. A team of microbiologists at NanoLogix says that nutrients from grape juice and a type of grass can be used to speed up the rate at which bacteria are able to produce hydrogen. The research team says that by combining switch grass and a solution of 3 per cent grape juice as the nutrient source for the bacteria, the rate of hydrogen gas production can be increased to three times the normal rate. It is believed that the combination creates an optimal nutrient mixture, which allows the bacteria to thrive.


Novel hydrogen storage materials

The Marie Curie Research Training Network project on Complex Solid State Reactions for Energy Efficient Hydrogen Storage (COSY) was established to develop new types of reactive light-metal hydride composites that can be used for more effective hydrogen storage. During four-year duration of the project, the GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht will coordinate the collaboration between the 13 participating research institutes from seven European countries. Scientists involved in the project will work to develop nano-structured composites of light-metal hydrides.Their usage would be for hydrogen storage.

Light-metal hydrides are solid materials that chemically bind hydrogen atoms and release them again when heated, says Prof. Rudiger Bormann, Director of the Institute for Materials Research at GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht, and COSY coordinator. The reactive hydride composites discovered by scientists at GKSS will allow us to significantly increase the storage density. By storing hydrogen in solids, we can avoid several safety- and material-related technological difficulties, such as those encountered with high-pressure storage of gaseous hydrogen or the low temperature storage of liquid hydrogen.

The COSY network aims to prepare and optimize the new reactive hydride composites for use in hydrogen storage systems of mobile applications. To make this possible, the COSY scientists are studying the economic production of these light-metal hydrides and hydride composites, characterization of the micro and nano structures that are generated during production, evaluation and optimization of the thermodynamics and kinetics of the hydrogen absorption and release, and models of these processes.


Hydrogen from cheap biomass

A new way to make hydrogen directly from biomass such as soya oil could reduce the cost of electricity production using cheap fuels. At the University of Minnesota, the United States, scientists have developed a catalytic method for producing hydrogen from fuels such soya oil and even a mixture of glucose and water. The hydrogen could be employed in solid oxide fuel cells, which now run on hydrogen obtained from fossil fuel sources such as natural gas, to generate electricity. Further, by adjusting the amount of oxygen injected along with soya oil or sugar water, the method can be adapted to make synthesis gas, a hydrogen- carbon monoxide combination that can be burned as fuel or converted into synthetic fuel.

The new catalysis process represents a fundamentally new way to directly use soya oil and other cheap biomass as fuels, according to Dr. Ted Krause, head of the Basic and Applied Research Department at Argonne National Laboratory. The elimination of the need to process soya oil and sugar water to make volatile fuels such as ethanol, opens up the number of available biomaterial feedstocks says Dr. Krause.

The process begins when fine droplets of soya oil or sugar water on to a super-hot catalyst made of small amounts of cerium and rhodium. The rapid heating and catalyst-assisted reactions together prevent the formation of carbon sludge that would otherwise deactivate the catalyst. The heat produced by the reactions keep the catalyst hot to continue the reaction. As a result, although fossil fuels are used initially to bring the catalysts up to the 800C working temperature, no fossil fuels are needed to continue the process.


New hydrogen storage material

Researchers from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, have developed a new compound that could be effective for storing hydrogen. According to the reports, Prof. Douglas Stephan and Mr. Gregory Welch have synthesized a phosphonium borate compound that is able to produce hydrogen molecules on being heated.
The phosphonium borate compound splits into hydrogen molecules and phosphine borane, which then recombine under lower temperatures to recreate the original compound. However, the exact mechanism for this process is not yet fully understood, the researchers admit.



Waste-to-fuel process creates nanodiesel

Green Power Inc., the United States, successfully demonstrated its new technology of extracing diesel fuel from everyday landfill waste by employing a process called catalytic depolymerization. The demonstration unit, fixed on a tractor-trailer rig for mobility, is a miniature version of a much larger, permanent plant that will process, depending on size, from 500-2,000 t/d of landfill waste.

A typical 500 t/d plant is actually five 100 t plants stacked together. This provides an element of redundancy, standardization and reliability. The entire plant does not have to be shut down for maintenance or repair. Additionally, manufacturing costs will be reduced. As a sites capacity needs to increase, more units can be added without a major redesign. The plant will yield about 340,950 litres of very high grade diesel fuel in the same period, with zero pollution. Besides, the cost to produce the fuel will be extremely competitive, estimated at US$0.52-US$0.58 per gallon (4.546 l).


Test equipment for second-generation biofuels

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is bringing out gasification equipment designed for developing second-generation biofuels for transportation. The extensive testing that is to be launched will produce basic information for the ongoing design of an industrial demonstration plant. Besides synthesis applications, the work involves the development of new solutions for gas turbine and fuel cell power plants, as well as for the application of hydrogen for transport purposes. The gasification plant will be able to use any carbonaceous raw material such as forest industry residues, post-harvest biomass, refuse-derived fuels and peat.

VTTs gasification test equipment represents the most advanced technology in Europe, and would facilitate joint research by the industry and the laboratory on totally new production technology. This will enable new business models for enhancing the competitiveness of Finnish industrial clusters. The production of liquid fuel in the forest industry or district heating power plants will be very competitive because of its high efficiency and practical raw material logistics. This gasification test plant is one of the largest energy projects to date financed by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.


Fuelling the future with citrus waste

In the United States, researchers at USDAs Citrus and Subtropical Products Research Laboratory are developing cost-effective ways to convert citrus wastes into ethanol and other useful products. They are also seeking new sources of candidate materials that are abundant, cheap and sustainable to establish ethanol as an alternative to petroleum. Mr. Bill Widmer, lead scientist of the project, reports that about three million tonnes of wet pulp and peel waste produced every year by citrus-processing companies could yield around 227.3 million litres of ethanol fuel.

Mr. Widmer and his colleagues have demonstrated the citrus-waste-to-ethanol concept with a 454.6 l ethanol production system. They are currently working with Delray Beach to conduct full-scale tests at a pilot facility (45,460 l) at the start of the citrus season. The ethanol produced at the facility could replace methyl tert-butyl ether as a petroleum additive. The conversion of citrus waste into ethanol also yields limonene, an organic solvent, as a valuable co-product. Though citrus waste is currently being recycled, by recovering ethanol and limonene we have probably tripled or quadrupled the value of the waste stream, said Mr. Widmer. Once it has developed the process for citrus, USDA plans to apply the technique to other products, such as apples and sugar beet; the process could then find markets elsewhere. In a connected development, Mr. Lonnie Ingram, a microbiologist at the University of Florida, has developed an E. coli strain, called E. coli K011, which is believed to boost the prospects of making ethanol from citrus waste.


Bio-fuel from agricultural wastes

At Iowa State University, the United States, scientists led by Prof. Samy Sadaka have developed a way to transform farm wastes like manure and corn stalks into bio-oil. This project is being supported by the Iowa Biotechnology By-products Consortium with grants of US$190,000.
The process involves mixing the corn stalks and manure in a big drum and using a small blower to keep the air circulating. An auger turns this mixture once a day. In about five days, bacteria and fungi working to decompose the mix would have naturally raised the temperature to approximately 66C. In another 20 days or so the moisture content decreases from 60 per cent to almost 20 per cent. Following this bio-drying stage, as Prof. Sadaka calls it, the mixture is rapidly heated in a bubbling, fluidized bed reactor that has no oxygen a process called fast pyrolysis. The thermochemical process breaks down the molecular bonds in the mixture to produce charcoal, which can be used to enrich soil. The vapours are condensed into a thick, dark bio-oil.

Preliminary tests indicate that every kilogram of the dried mixture yields 0.2-0.5 kg of bio-oil, depending on the operating conditions. According to Prof. Sadaka, the energy content of dry manure is about 12-18 GJ/t. The team is experimenting with the process in 900 l drums at the Iowa Energy Centres Biomass Energy Conversion Centre. While the trials so far have been restricted to cow manure and corn stalks mixture, the next step will look into the use of poultry manure and pig manure.


Vertical bioreactor

Valcent Products Inc., the United States, reports to have developed a proprietary high-density vertical bioreactor for the mass production of oil-bearing algae, which is suitable for blending with diesel to create bio-diesel fuel. The system consists of a series of closely spaced vertical bioreactors constructed of thin-film membranes allowing high levels of light penetration. The membrane is configured for an optimum flow for the growth of algae. This dynamic system produces much higher algal growth rates than conventional static systems. When fully operational, it yields a constant supply of algae that is harvested, dried and processed to remove the oil, leaving a residue of some 50 per cent by weight, which can also be sold for a variety of commercial products.

The closed-loop system allows for greater water retention in the system and eliminates cross-contamination by other algae species. Extrapolated data from the companys test bed facility indicate that up to 90 per cent of the algae, by weight, is sequestered CO2, which could be an additional revenue source either in the emerging voluntary green credit markets within the country or elsewhere under the Kyoto protocols. Valcent has entered into an agreement with Global Green Solutions Inc. for funding the next phase of development of the technology, including the completion and testing of a fully operational demonstration pilot plant.

Contact: Valcent Products Inc., 1057 Doniphan Park Circle, Suite H, El Paso, Texas, TX 79922, Unitied States of America. Tel: +1 (915) 217 2878; Fax: + 1 (915) 217 2879.


Gasification process yields low-cost diesel

Researchers at University of California Riverside, the United States, have unveiled a new process that can convert sewer sludge, wood, agricultural waste, plain old trash as well as plastics into diesel oil. Viresco Energy is investing US$15 million on a pilot plant to be built over the next two years. This plant would be able to convert 10 t/d of waste into fuel.

The hydro-gasification conversion process, originally conceived to produce clean-burning gases from coal, has been adapted for use with wet wastes. While traditional gasification uses oxygen, the new process uses hydrogen and steam to break apart the feedstock into a gas made up of its molecular components. The gas resulting from gasification then goes through a couple of other steps and comes out as water, wax and diesel. There is little waste up to 85 per cent of the feed material is converted into usable liquid fuel. The programme is being conducted by the Bourns College of Engineering, Centre for Environmental Research and Technology at UC Riverside.


New biofuels

Scientists in Germany have reportedly achieved a breakthrough in the production of fuels from food crops by employing specially engineered bacteria. Biodiesel is an alternative energy source and a substitute for petroleum-based diesel fuel. A growing number of countries are already making biodiesel on a large scale, but the current method of production is still costly, according to Prof. Steinbuchel at the Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat.

Microdiesel is different from other production methods because it not only uses the same plant oils, but can also use readily available bulk plant materials or even recycled waste paper if engineering of the production strain is more advanced. Further, it does not rely on the addition of toxic methanol from fossil resources, like many other processes for biodiesel production. The bacteria developed for use in the microdiesel process make their own ethanol. This could help to keep the costs of production down and ensure that the fuel is made from 100 per cent renewable resources. The Microdiesel process can result in a more widespread production of biofuel at a competitive price in the future due to the much lower price of the raw materials used in this process, and their great abundance, said Prof. Steinbuchel.


Ethanol production from waste in Finland

St1, an energy enterprise in Finland, is scheduled to commence production of ethanol employing a process developed by the VTT Technical Research Centre. In the VTT process, ethanol is produced on site from the waste generated by the food processing industry. This process can make ethanol production profitable even on a small scale. To begin with, St1 will use the ethanol it produces in the fuel that it sells through its own petrol stations.

Based on fermentation and evaporation, the homogeneous ethanol production plant generates a mixture of ethanol and water with an alcohol concentration of 50 per cent. Besides water, by-products include solid waste and a liquid that can be used, for example, in soil conditioning. The ethanol-water mixture is then transported to St1s oil terminal, where it is refined to a purity of 99.8 per cent, mixed into the fuel and distributed to the petrol stations. The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during the production process is minimal, as the energy needed for the process is generated using residual heat from industrial installations or renewable sources of energy, and through sound logistics.

Contact: Mr. Juha Kokko, Managing Director, ST1, Finland. Tel: +358 (44) 7412 839; Or Mr. Tapio Koivu, Executive Vice-President, Ventures, Finland. Tel: +358 (20) 7226 943.



Technology Packages: Low-cost PV System Components

This book presents technology packages on different low-cost photovoltaic system components developed under the Renewable Energy Technologies in Asia programme. The packages include adaptor for colour TV, ballast for fluorescent lamp, inverter, charge controller, DC to DC converter, low-powered light, TV guard, fixed voltage power supply, etc.

Demonstration and Monitoring of PV Systems: Lessons Learned

This book presents details of the monitoring results of different types of PV systems installed in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Viet Nam under the Renewable Energy Technologies in Asia programme. It also includes the monitoring methodology, analysis of the monitoring results and lessons.

Biofuels: Towards a Greener and Secure Energy Future

This guide provides an assessment of current practices and knowledge on the production, conversion and use of biofuels. The result of experiences provided by a diverse group of distinguished persons asso-ciated with biofuels, the book is intended as a ready-reckoner for individuals, policy-makers, researchers, and automobile manufacturers interested in biofuels.

Contact: TERI Press, Darbari Seth Block, IHC Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003, India. Tel: +91 (11) 2468 2100/2111; Fax: +91 (11) 2468 2144/2145



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