VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Oct-Dec 2014

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New and Renewable Energy Oct-Dec 2014

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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Renewable energy transmission network in India

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), Philippines, will soon release $150 million in loans to the Indian government to partly finance a transmission network dedicated for carrying electricity generated for large-scale solar and wind energy projects in Rajasthan. The $150 million tranche is part of a $500 million loan deal under which ADB will finance Rajasthan’s renewable power transmission corridor. The state government will contribute $127 million towards the project. The Rajasthan belt of the renewable energy transmission network is just a small part of the national renewable energy transmission corridor which will be spread across the country to supply renewable power from resource-rich areas to the high-demand centers.

Renewable energy resources are mostly concentrated in the northwest (solar energy) and west and southern states (wind energy). The Indian government has proposed an ambitious program to tap the arid areas to set up large-scale wind and solar power projects. Through this project, the government intends to use the barren wastelands across the states to install ultra-mega solar power projects and wind parks with installed capacity of up to 4,000MW. India also has a renewable purchase obligation, which requires power utilities in every state to procure a set minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy projects.

Since renewable energy resources are not evenly distributed among the states, the state power utilities face a challenge fulfilling their renewable purchase obligation. A dedicated transmission network for renewable power will enable resource-deficient states to procure surplus power from resource-rich states. About half of India’s power capacity is located in just two states – Rajasthan and Gujarat. These states implemented favorable policies that offered easy access of transmission network to the project developers. A number of states have so far been unable to implement similar policies.

India to set up 100MW offshore wind power project

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), government of India, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) along with a consortium of Public Sector Units (PSUs) to set up a Joint Venture Company (JVC) that will set up the first 100MW demonstration offshore wind power project in the country along the coast of Gujarat. The consortium includes National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), NTPC Ltd, Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, Power Finance Corporation, Power Trading Corporation, and Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd (GPCL).

According to a ministry spokesperson, “Some sites were identified along the Gujarat and Tamil Nadu coasts which have good wind power potential for development of offshore projects. GPCL was more interested so they have been allotted the project. The JVC will undertake detailed feasibility study based on the inputs received from pre-feasibility studies. Subsidy will be provided for setting up of evacuation and transmission infrastructure to connect the project to the main land, in addition to financial support for carrying out studies such as wind resource assessment, environment impact assessment (EIA), oceanographic survey and Bathymetric studies. According to Global Wind Energy Council, Europe leads the way in harnessing offshore wind power with almost 90% of the installations located in the continent.

Solar project underway in Pakistan

Mounting systems maker Powerway Renewable Energy, China, have reported that it will supply its solar mounting systems and ground screw foundations, as well as construction services, to developer Tebian Electric Apparatus (TBEA), China, for the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Pakistan. The project is the first phase of a 1 GW project which the government plans to build in the next two and a half years in Bahawalpur District, Punjab. The office of the Prime Minister estimated in May that this initial 100MW phase will be complete in December 2014.

The Pakistani government has made a number of ambitious statements regarding solar power, and set rates for a feed-in tariff in January 2014. But as often is the case with developing nations progress on getting projects to the construction stage has been slow. There is an urgent need for additional electric capacity in Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), the gap between demand and supply is around 5GW, and much of the population suffers from either no access to electricity or irregular access. This is the nation’s first large-scale PV project to reach this level of development.

Renewable energy investments reached $175 billion worldwide

According to report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the United Kingdom, worldwide spending on renewable-energy projects have reached $175 billion in the first three quarters of 2014, up 16% from the same period a year ago. China drove the surge with record investment in solar energy. Global spending in the third quarter hit $55 billion, a 12% rise from a year earlier. Nearly $20 billion of that came from China, which could add 14 gigawatts of solar capacity this year alone. That’s more than all the solar power installed in the United States.

“Investment patterns in the third quarter mark a substantial geographical shift, with spending on the rise across Asia and investments tumbling in Europe. The makeup is really quite different compared with as recently as 2011 or 2012, when Europe accounted for a major share of the total,” said Ethan Zindler, at BNEF. European clean-energy investments dropped to $8.8 billion, as governments in the UK, Italy and Germany, continue to rein in subsidies that helped spark a boom in project development. U.S. spending rose to $7.3 billion from $5.7 billion in the third quarter amid growing demand for residential and commercial rooftop solar systems.

The U.S. was once the world’s top investor in clean energy, but it has fallen behind China in recent years as Chinese leaders move to reduce toxic air pollution from coal-burning power plants and to supply more electricity to the growing middle class. Former U.S. senator and first lady Hillary Clinton said last month that she wants to transform the U.S. into the “clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” Clinton, who mounted an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2008 and is considering a second White House bid in 2016 – called on businesses and politicians to confront climate change through “smart investment in infrastructure, technology and environmental protection.”

China outlines new rules for wind

The National Energy Administration (NEA), China, has published a document that sets out market-entry rules for wind-power equipment and clarifies its role in setting future industry-related policies. New government standards and regulations, particularly those related to the certification of key components, are scheduled to go into effect by 1 July, 2015. The NEA, alarmed by what it describes as “disorganised competition” in the wind industry, said it wants to improve technological standards in the turbine market through constant supervision and the regular disclosure of important information.

In an apparent bid to facilitate ongoing consolidation within the wind industry, it said that it wants to minimise the emergence of new developers and turbine manufacturers, and will discourage developers from owning or holding stakes in turbine producers. It has called for the establishment of a system under which turbines, blades, gearboxes, generators, bearings and other components can be formally certified and accredited according to its GB/Z25458-2010 turbine certification guidelines. It aims to publicise these standards to ensure that turbine sales contracts and warranties are clarified prior to the completion of such transactions. The NEA also said that it does not want regional governments to intervene in the bidding process by favouring specific companies, to ensure that tenders remain open and transparent.

In particular, developers will also be expected to have their installation plans approved with regard to specific geographical requirements. The NEA has urged industry players and the scientific research community to help devise ways to strengthen the testing and certification process over time, particularly by developing test platforms.

Ultimately, it plans to set up a national system under which technological and safety standards are uniformly enforced throughout the industry, through the regular disclosure of monitoring results. It aims to ensure quality by regularly reporting the findings of industry experts on matters such as safety, accident prevention and recurring quality-related issues.

Renewable energy projects made easy in Philippines

The Department of Energy (DOE), Philippines, has slashed the processing for renewable energy projects to hasten the development of additional power supply. “The agency has adopted a “milestone approach” in the approval of renewable energy projects on account of the rising demand for electricity,” said Carlos Jericho L. Petilla, Energy Secretary at DOE. Under the new scheme, the waiting time for applications of Renewable Energy Service Contracts was slashed from 100 days to 45. The government is scrambling for measures to plug a projected shortfall in power come summer next year.

To date, the department already awarded 649 renewable energy projects with a total potential capacity 10,683 megawatts (MW), or about two-thirds of the country’s installed power generation of over 16,000MW. Most of the awarded projects are hydro-based with a potential capacity of 6,158MW. Out of the total renewable energy projects approved installed capacity stands at 2,333MW. Under the National Renewable Energy Plan, the DOE aims to triple the country’s renewable energy generation from the current installed capacity of 5,438MW to 15,304MW by 2030.

Kazakhstan outlines renewable energy targets for 2020

Countries once considered as part of the Third World are making plans to substantially increase renewable energy capacity, while some in the developed world are contemplating getting rid of them altogether.

The government of Kazakhstan has recently set a target for its renewable energy projects that will contribute 3% to the country’s energy mix by 2020. This would require the country to install more than 3,000MW of renewable energy capacity by the decade’s end. This will include 28 solar power projects with more than 700MW in capacity. The country has made significant strides in the low-carbon development sector. Interestingly, these measures are in stark contrast to those taken by Australia over the last few years. In 2013, Kazakhstan became the first Asian country to implement an emissions trading scheme. In doing so, the country joined a club whose members don’t include even developed nations like Japan, Russia, U.S., and Canada.

While the size and coverage of the emissions trading scheme is small, it does promote private investment in low-carbon and renewable energy technologies. The short-term target of renewable energy capacity addition is small, but in the long-term, the country is eying a clear departure from the current economic system that is centred around fossil fuels. By 2050, the country aims to have 50% of the total power generation from renewable energy sources. Currently, 80% of the country electricity is generated from coal.

The over-dependence on coal and other fossil fuels has led to a 40% increase in the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2006.

In 2010, the Kazakh government announced a voluntary plan to reduce its GHG emissions to 15% below the 1992 levels by 2020. Through international cooperation, the Kazakh government has also set other ambitious low-carbon development targets. The country’s industrial sector has set a target to reduce its energy intensity by 10% by 2015 and 25% by 2020 from 2008 levels.

A pact to achieve sustainable energy

The government and Norway, Denmark, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a Framework Document for Energy+Cooperation to contribute towards achieving sustainable energy for all in Nepal. The four donors extended their support to achieve the goal of providing universal access to modern energy services, doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement and doubling the share of renewable energy in the energy mix by 2030 as per the Sustainable Energy for All initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General.

“The development partners intended to use this agreement to improve coordination to assist Nepal to achieve universal access to sustainable energy,” said Madhu Kumar Marasini, Joint Secretary at the Finance Ministry. The assistance may be used to improve energy efficiency and develop renewable energy to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and energy intensity in the energy sector, thereby supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in Nepal.

In order to implement the assistance, the government and the donors will work on a joint implementation note that is similar to a programme document, which can be a basis to channel more development assistance to the energy sector in Nepal. The government and all the development partners have already been contributing towards improving access to renewable energy through the National Rural Renewable Energy Program (NRREP), the ministry said


Solar battery developed

Scientists from Ohio State University (USU), the United States, have developed the world’s first solar battery which recharges itself using air and light. Researchers developed the solar battery by combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device. The key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

The solar battery will be licensed to industry, where it will help tame the costs of renewable energy. “The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy. We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost,” said Yiying Wu, at OSU.

Researchers develop printable solar panels

Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia, are one step closer to making available a cheaper and faster way to print solar cells onto plastic. “The technology is almost at the commercialisation stage and could be used to power laptops to rooftops. iPad covers, laptop bags, skins of iPhone – not just for casing electronics but to collect some energy as well and power those electronics,” said Dr. Fiona Scholes, senior research scientist at CSIRO.

The Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium behind the project comprises scientists from the CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, Australia and Monash University, Australia, who have been working on printing solar cells since 2007. The team quickly produced results, creating coin-sized solar cells and increasing them to A3 size.

The team used commercial printers that were modified to take solar ink, as it looks and works quite different to conventional silicon rooftop solar. It can be made to be semi-transparent which can used for a tinted window scenario. In addition, any plastic surface could be substituted for solar panels. That made it perfect for powering up a skyscraper. “We print them onto plastic in more or less the same way we print our plastic banknotes. Connecting our solar panels is as simple as connecting a battery,” said Dr. Scholes. The team is now working on a solar spray coating. Several companies have expressed interest to take it to the next level of commercialisation.

More environmentally friendly solar cells

Researchers at Northwestern University, the United States, have developed a new solar cell that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as a collector of solar energy. This cheap and environmentally-friendly solar cell can therefore be made without any high-tech equipment or hazardous materials.

The new solar cell developed by the team uses a structure called a perovskite and utilizes tin instead of lead as the light-absorbing material. Lead perovskite is a solar cell material that can convert up to 15% of sunlight to electricity, which is very close to the efficiency of the current solar cells.

The team developing the new cells is certain that tin perovskite should be able to match or even improve on that result. These new cells are the brainchild of lead researcher Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, who first developed, synthesized and analyzed the material. Afterwards, him and nanoscientist Robert P. H. Chang from Northwestern worked together to engineer a usable and efficient solar cell from the material. The tin-based perovskite layer of the new solar cell acts as an efficient sunlight absorber and is placed between two electric charge transport layers for conducting electricity. The solid-state tin solar cell is a sandwich of five layers, with each layer contributing to the effectiveness of the cell.

The first layer is electrically conducting glass that lets sunlight enter the cell. The next layer is composed of titanium dioxide and is deposited onto the glass. Together these two layers form the electric front contact of the solar cell. After this, the tin perovskite (that is the light absorbing layer) is deposited, which is done in a nitrogen glove box to avoid oxidation. Next comes the hole transport layer, which is needed to close the electrical circuit and produce a functional cell. The final step is applying a thin layer of gold caps and the resultant solar cell is only about one to two microns thick. These cells achieved energy conversion efficiency of 5.73% in tests done with simulated full sunlight.

New world record in thin-film photovoltaics

The ZSW Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, Germany, has set a new world record in thin-film photovoltaics. Scientists have achieved 21.7% efficiency with a solar cell made of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). ZSW succeeded in bringing the record back to the institute with this cell’s performance. Swedish researchers achieved a new best mark in June, which has now been surpassed by 0.7 percentage points. The record-setting cell has an area of 0.5 cm2, a standard size for such tests. It was manufactured in a laboratory coating plant by way of a coevaporation process that is highly reproducible in the lab. The scientists made more than 40 cells with efficiency ratings topping the 21% mark. This would indicate that the method lends itself to industrial manufacturing and could be readily scaled up to mass production.

Solar cell efficiency is one of the most powerful drivers in reducing the cost of solar energy. The rating indicates how much of the sun’s incident light is converted into electrical energy. “It will probably take some time for this efficiency increase to make its way into module manufacturing, but 17-19% is very much possible in the next few years,” said professor Michael Powalla, Head of the Photovoltaics division at ZSW.

The CIGS modules currently available on the market are rated for around 15% efficiency. Modules’ physical area is larger so they are less efficient than solar cells. This record-setting performance extends the CIGS cell’s lead over multicrystalline solar cells, which still dominate the market, to 1.3%.

The latest results improve the chances of CIGS thin-film technology gaining a much larger market share. The idea is to make CIGS solar systems economical and affordable practically anywhere in the world. Thin-film cells’ coating is measured in micrometers, so they consume far less material and energy in the making than standard solar cells and are sure to have a major impact on cutting future production costs. This is why the Germany Federal Ministries for the Environment and for Economic Affairs and Energy provided funding for this technology. As the ZSW’s record-setting efficiency rating yet again attests, the support for this research is paying dividends.

Researchers improve solar cell efficiency

Researchers from University of Chicago (UChicago), the United States, in collaboration with a research team from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), the United States, have identified a new polymer – a type of large molecule that forms plastics and other familiar materials – which improved the efficiency of solar cells. The group has also determined the method by which the polymer improved the cells’ efficiency. The polymer allowed electrical charges to move more easily throughout the cell, boosting the production of electricity – a mechanism never before demonstrated in such devices. “Polymer solar cells have great potential to provide low-cost, lightweight and flexible electronic devices to harvest solar energy,” said Luyao Lu, graduate student in chemistry. The results have been published online in the journal Nature Photonics.

Solar cells made from polymers are a popular topic of research due to their appealing properties. But researchers are still struggling to efficiently generate electrical power with these materials. The active regions of such solar cells are composed of a mixture of polymers that give and receive electrons to generate electrical current when exposed to light.

The new polymer developed by Yu’s group, called PID2, improves the efficiency of electrical power generation by 15% when added to a standard polymer-fullerene mixture. Fullerene, a small carbon molecule, is one of the standard materials used in polymer solar cells. In their work, the UChicago-ANL researchers added another polymer into the device, resulting in solar cells with two polymers and one fullerene.

The group achieved an efficiency of 8.2% when an optimal amount of PID2 was added – the highest ever for solar cells made up of two types of polymers with fullerene – and the result implies that even higher efficiencies could be possible with further work. The group is now working to push efficiencies toward 10%, a benchmark necessary for polymer solar cells to be viable for commercial application. The result was remarkable not only because of the advance in technical capabilities, but also because PID2 enhanced the efficiency via a new method. The standard mechanism for improving efficiency with a third polymer is by increasing the absorption of light in the device. But in addition to that effect, the team found that when PID2 was added, charges were transported more easily between polymers and throughout the cell.


New wind turbine under development

EDF Energy, the United Kingdom, one of Europe’s biggest energy company, has been developing a new generation wind turbine that is likely to be seen as even uglier than current designs. The turbine, in which the blades spin around a vertical – rather than horizontal – axis, is being developed with millions of pounds of public funding from Brussels. The European Commission has approved funding of about £30 million towards this new offshore wind farm. The farm will incorporate the new type of turbine, which has been developed with an additional £2 million of funding from Brussels. The new design means the turbines can be built on shorter columns, making them in theory less obtrusive. But critics are likely to round on the design as more bulky than the present standard turbine design.

The 26MW wind farm, producing enough energy to power about 60,000 homes, is being built at Fos-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean coast close to Marseilles. It will consist of 13 wind turbines in total and is due to begin operating by 2016. A prototype of the turbine, developed with the help of around £2 million of funding from the European Commission, is currently being tested on land in Fos-sur-Mer, with the first of three levels of blades which will make up the final structures. “It seems amazing that an industry, built on subsidy and high energy prices, can receive yet more taxpayers’ money to waste. Getting value for money has never been a strong suit for the European Commission, but it seems now they are happy to throw taxpayers’ cash around like straws in the wind,” said Chris Heaton Harris, a Conservative MP who has led a backbench rebellion against the spread of wind turbines across the UK.

A European Commission spokesman said that all member states, including the UK, had agreed an EU policy to invest in green energy technology. The rationale is not only that cleaner energy is essential to tackle climate change – though it is – but also that it is a sector of the future with huge potential to create jobs and economic growth. Developing it will reduce dependence on energy imported from Russia and the Middle East, which is for obvious reasons even more important in the light of current developments.

New distributed wind turbines

Northern Power Systems, the United States, has launched the next generation of their industry leading permanent magnet/direct drive distributed wind turbines. The 100 kilowatt (kW) NPS 100C and the 60 kW NPS 60C are commercially available for delivery to markets around the world starting in the fourth quarter of 2014. A new 24.4 meter rotor features state-of-the-art hub and blade technology with superior aerodynamics providing a larger swept area compared to the outgoing model. This increases the annual energy production (AEP) of the NPS 100C-24 and 60C-24 by up to 15% depending on wind conditions.

In combination with Northern Power’s proprietary permanent magnet/direct drive technology, these new turbines are industry leading in power performance, energy production and lifetime cost of ownership. The turbines reflect the next generation of NPS’ proven distributed wind platform that has been deployed since 2008. The cutting-edge design reduces foundation and installation costs. Further improvements include a new best in class brake system, industry leading yaw configuration, an enhanced electrical layout, more efficient generator cooling, and an ultrasonic wind vane and anemometer. The new class III 24.4 meter rotor is available on the 100kW and 60kW model.

The NPS 100C is alternatively available with a class II 21 meter rotor option. “This launch heralds a new era in distributed wind energy generation. Through our technology and innovation, we are introducing small wind turbines that will drive economics that are on par with an increasing proportion of other energy sources,” said Troy Patton, President and CEO

Cost competitive wind turbine blades

Sandia National Laboratories, the United States, is helping makers of wind turbine blades improve the labor productivity associated with blade fabrication and finishing. This improved productivity makes domestic blades more cost competitive with blades from countries that pay workers lower wages. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (AMII), a three-year $6.3 million project, brought together researchers from Sandia, Iowa State University, the United States, and TPI Composites, the United States. “AMII is a collection of small, targeted projects. Of 49 proposals considered by the project committee, the 22 accepted projects included automated laying and finishing, using simulation to develop more efficient manufacturing process flows, and improved non-destructive inspection (NDI) capabilities,” said Daniel Laird at Sandia.

The project’s goal is to make U.S. wind turbine blade manufacture economically viable in the U.S. market. In addition to taking advantage of the transportation advantage of in-country manufacture, the project sought to improve labor productivity and reduce the manufacturing time by 35%. The Wind Energy Foundation found that the U.S. now has 61,946 megawatts of utility-scale wind power capacity, and utility-sized wind installations in 39 states and Puerto Rico. Though wind energy production is a vital piece of America’s total energy portfolio, high U.S. labor costs have historically made it difficult to manufacture blades in the U.S. competitively.

Building blades isn’t easy. Wind turbine blades are large and heavy, and tolerances must be within millimetres of perfection. They must withstand decades of harsh conditions and handle punishing speeds up to hundreds of miles an hour at the blade’s tip. And right now, much of the work of making a wind turbine must be done by hand. “Wind turbine blade manufacturing consists of a labor-intensive set of highly distributed manual operations including layup of very high volumes of material, infusion, secondary bonding and demolding for many sub-assemblies over a vast manufacturing floor area. All of these considerations make implementation of automation a challenging and expensive endeavor,” Laird said.

Students develop wind turbine to mitigate energy

A team of undergraduate students from Northern Arizona University (NAU), the United States, collaborated on designing, building, and testing a wind turbine. The turbine was developed to meet the goals of their customized, market-data-derived business plan, which is focused on mitigating energy challenges during disaster relief efforts. When typhoons, hurricanes and earthquakes wreak havoc on communities, the efforts of humanitarian and relief workers often are hampered by logistical challenges. Electricity can be scarce and generators tough to acquire, limiting water pumping and purification, sterilization of medical implements and recharging of communication devices.

The students intended to improve the resources available during emergency responses. Two dozen students from various disciplines have joined forces to create a lightweight, portable wind turbine that is capable of powering small electronics and is designed for on-demand deployment. The turbine was evaluated during the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Collegiate Wind Competition on May 5-7, 2014, in Las Vegas. DOE selected 10 teams through a competitive process and challenged them not only to create a wind turbine but also to base it on a solid business plan built around market drivers. The students were required to design everything from the blades to the turbine’s electrical components.

“A real-life design project was very, very different from sitting down and doing homework problems,” said Jonathan Pepper, a team member from electrical engineering major. During the competition, teams were judged by industry and policy experts based on (1) how their turbine performed in a wind tunnel, (2) the content of their business plan, and (3) an oral presentation describing the current challenges and opportunities in the wind industry


New tidal energy production solution

Developed by Alstom Group, France, the Oceade turbine has a rotor diameter of 18 metres and a nominal power of 1.4MW. It is equipped with three variable pitching blades and plug-and-play modules on rails which are easily accessible via an inspection hatch at the rear of the nacelle. This should enable faster assembly and maintenance. The turbine’s buoyancy makes it easy to tow to and from the operating site and this also improves cost-effectiveness as there is no need for specialist installation vessels. It also reduces the timeframe need to install or retrieve the turbine. The unit also rotates to face the tide at an optimal angle, thereby extracting the maximum energy potential.

Alstom has successfully deployed a 1MW tidal turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland. The company is currently testing the turbine which has already reached 1MW, generating over 500MW on the Scottish grid. “With this new tidal energy production solution, Alstom has made definite headway. The project is seeking to demonstrate a new design for an efficient, reliable turbine to reduce installation and maintenance costs with a view to commercial production,” said Jacques Jamart, at Alstom.

Oceade is ready to be deployed at the tidal energy farm selected from the French government’s call for expressions of interest. This will eventually result in the deployment of experimental farms in Raz Blanchard, west of the tip of Cotentin (Manche) and Fromveur Passage. The project has received the support of ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Efficiency Agency) in the frame of the “Investissements d’Avenir” programme, and of FEDER (European Fund for Regional and Economic Development). Contact: Alstom Group Headquarters, 3, Avenue André Malraux, 92309 Levallois-Perret Cedex, France. Tel: +33-141.492.000

Water wall tidal turbine

Water Wall Turbine Inc. (WWT), Canada, has selected The Switch, Finland, to provide a 500 kW full-power converter for its innovative Water Wall tidal turbine in British Columbia, Canada. The unit will be installed on the machine, which will be deployed off the Dent Island Resort near Vancouver Island, in October. System testing is planned for the first quarter of 2015. The Water Wall device will power the resort, replacing existing diesel generators as the primary energy source, and is integrated with battery energy storage. The diesel generators will provide system backup.

According to WWT, “The technology is scalable from 500kW up to 5MW per unit and the vessels provide bi- or monodirectional operation for tidal and river currents. “WWT was interested in The Switch converter because of our product knowledge and flexibility to work with them on the prototype,” said Risto Ahvo at The Switch. Additional 1MW plants are being planned for other remote resorts and communities in British Columbia.

A power deal to sell electricity from innovative device

Tidal Energy Ltd. (TEL), the United Kingdom, the company behind DeltaStream™, the first full-scale tidal power generator to be developed in Wales, has announced a deal to sell its electricity to EDF Energy, the United Kingdom. DeltaStream will be among the world’s first grid-connected demonstration devices to generate tidal power. The device developed by TEL, was unveiled in August. It will be installed in Pembrokeshire, and is expected to begin generating electricity for Welsh homes shortly afterwards. The power purchase agreement (PPA) guarantees that EDF Energy, will buy electricity and renewable certificates from the device for the first year of the project at a pre-agreed price, ensuring that it will be able to generate revenue for its owners, TEL, from both the electricity market and the Government’s Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme.

The Government has earmarked tidal power as a priority technology in order to fast-track its commercial development. Power purchase agreements not only provide certainty of income for projects such as DeltaStream, but also provide a clear and useful benchmark of revenue for future investors and lenders. As such, the value of the contract to the DeltaStream project will extend well beyond its first year. “DeltaStream is not just about proving a new, innovative technology – it is about proving that tidal power can make a real and lasting contribution towards the UK’s renewable energy targets and energy security,” said Martin Murphy, managing director of TEL.

New tidal energy farm

Nuclear electric power generation company Electricite de France (EDF), has been constructing Paimpol-Brehat Tidal Farm at the coast of Paimpol-Brehat in North Brittany, France. It is set to become the largest tidal array in the world once all its four turbines are operational. The power generated from the farm will be capable of serving 4,000 households. The idea to build the facility was brought up by EDF in 2004, after France formally banned coal mining. Construction work at the tidal farm began in 2008. Sea testing of the first turbine has been completed and construction of the other three turbines is in progress. The cost of constructing the offshore tidal farm is estimated at €40m ($49m). The project is expected to provide employment opportunities for the neighbouring areas.

OpenHydro’s turbines were selected for the Paimpol-Brehat tidal power project due to their low-cost and ease of installation with significantly less labour required. The laying of the turbines underwater requires no drilling or excavation work. Each of the four turbines will measure 22m in height, 72ft in diameter and 850t in weight, inclusive of the foundation units. Each of the four turbines has a generating capacity of 2MW each and will be laid 35m deep into the seabed. A specially designed barge named OpenHydro Triskell is used for the installation of the turbines. The turbines will be laid on top of a three legged structure acting as the subsea base for the turbines. The subsea base for supporting the turbines will be laid 4.8m above the seabed.

A turbine named L’Arcouest developed by OpenHydro, Ireland, was tested at the site from December 2013 to April 2014. Another pilot farm comprising of two tidal turbines at the same site was further announced in June 2014. OpenHydro will develop, install and test the two turbines in partnership with EDF from 2015. The pilot project is expected to pave way for the pre-commercialisation of tidal farms from 2016. The turbines are specially designed with an opening in the middle, which is done to provide safety and easy access for fishes and other creatures in the sea. The project received support for construction from the Brittany region, the French Government and Europe for prioritising the safety of the marine environment.

Water can friction nano marine power generators

According to a research team led by Zhong Lin Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), water can rub nano-generator, or can be achieved after each use of networking square kilometers of sea produce megawatt electricity. Ocean energy power generation or beyond hydropower and other “green energy”. If these water friction nano-generators form a mesh placed in the ocean, no rules will make the movement of seawater into a steady flow of electricity.

The team used solid-liquid interface triboelectric phenomenon developed “water friction nano-generator” that can be used on rivers rain, waves gather momentum. By combining application of nano-generators are four basic modes of friction, this generator can efficiently recover the kinetic energy in the ocean resources, including water, pat fluctuate waves, currents, sea water. “Water friction nano-generator” first generation solid-liquid interfacial friction. Previously, generally considered to be in dry condition triboelectric; realization of the technology also the kinetic energy of the water drops and waves while collecting,” said Wang.

Wang Lin believes that the use of marine energy is the direction of the world’s cutting-edge energy research, but because of the high cost of ocean wave energy development small-scale, economic efficiency, and always tied its large-scale commercial exploitation and development. Nano-generator coupling friction electrification by friction and electrostatic induction to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy work, and the various existing power generation technologies, making it possible to wave energy collection.


Fuel cell bicycle

Scientists from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have developed a Hy-Cycle, a bicycle that is able to take users up to 125 kilometers on $2 of hydrogen and a single battery charge. Built by technical officer Paul Brockbank from the School of Chemical Engineering and associate professor Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, the bicycle has a hydrogen fuel cell that helps the rider climb up hills or travel long distances by providing electrical assistance while pedalling. The cell could also make the bicycle a cheap and sustainable form of transport.

The bicycle’s hydrogen is contained in a 2.5-kilogram canister that is placed near the pedals. The fuel cell found under the seat of the Hy-Cycle utilizes the hydrogen in the canister and continuously recharges a Lithium-ion battery on the bicycle.

Researchers develop unique method for waste clean-up

Researchers from the Washington State University (WSU), the United States, have developed a unique method to use microbes buried in pond sediment to power waste clean-up in rural areas. The first microbe-powered, self-sustaining wastewater treatment system could lead to an inexpensive and quick way to clean up waste from large farming operations and rural sewage treatment plants while reducing pollution. Professor Haluk Beyenal and graduate student Timothy Ewing in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, the United States, have discussed the system in the Journal of Power Sources and have also filed for a patent.

Traditionally, waste from dairy farms in rural areas is placed in a series of ponds to be eaten by bacteria, generating carbon dioxide and methane pollution, until the waste is safely treated. In urban areas with larger infrastructure, electrically powered aerators mix water in the ponds, allowing for the waste to be cleaned faster and with fewer harmful emissions. “As much as 5% of energy used in the U.S. goes for waste water treatment,” said Beyenal. Most rural communities and farmers, meanwhile, can’t afford the cleaner, electrically powered aerators. Microbial fuel cells use biological reactions from microbes in water to create electricity. The WSU researchers developed a microbial fuel cell that does the work of the aerator, using only the power of microbes in the sewage lagoons to generate electricity.

The researchers created favorable conditions for growth of microbes that are able to naturally generate electrons as part of their metabolic processes. The microbes were able to successfully power aerators in the lab for more than a year, and the researchers are hoping to test a full-scale pilot for eventual commercialization. The researchers believe that the microbial fuel cell technology is on the cusp of providing useful power solutions for communities. “The technology could also be used in underdeveloped countries to more effectively clean polluted water. This is the first step towards sustainable wastewater treatment,’’ said Ewing.

Scientists create quantum dots from coal

Scientists in the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour, the United States, have discovered boiling down a solution of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) and graphene oxide sheets (exfoliated from common graphite) combined them into self-assembling nanoscale platelets that could then be treated with nitrogen and boron. The hybrid material combined the advantages of each component, an abundance of edges where chemical reactions take place and excellent conductivity between GQDs provided by the graphene base. The boron and nitrogen collectively add more catalytically active sites to the material than either element would add alone. The research has been published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

“The GQDs add to the system an enormous amount of edge, which permits the chemistry of oxygen reduction, one of the two needed reactions for operation in a fuel cell. The graphene provides the conductive matrix required. So it’s a superb hybridization,” said Tour. The Tour lab’s material outperformed commercial platinum/carbon hybrids commonly found in fuel cells. The material showed an oxygen reduction reaction of about 15 millivolts more in positive onset potential – the start of the reaction – and 70% larger current density than platinum-based catalysts. The materials required to make the flake-like hybrids is better than platinum in terms of oxygen reduction, permitting one to sidestep the most prohibitive hurdle in fuel-cell generation – the cost of the precious metal. Contact: David Ruth, Tel: +1-713-348-6327; E-mail:


New method to harvest hydrogen fuel from Sun

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland, led by Michael Gratzel, have developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting. To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules. By using the latter technique, Gratzel’s post-doctoral student Jingshan Luo and his colleagues were able to obtain a spectacular performance.

Their device converts into hydrogen 12.3% of the energy diffused by the Sun on perovskite absorbers – a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel. According to the researchers, this high efficiency provides stiff competition for other techniques used to convert solar energy. “Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap. However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used,” said Luo.

On the other hand, the conversion of solar energy into hydrogen makes its storage possible, which addresses one of the biggest disadvantages faced by renewable electricity – the requirement to use it at the time it is produced. Such a gas can be burned – in a boiler or engine – releasing only water vapour. It can also pass into a fuel cell to generate electricity on demand, researchers said. They hope the 12.3% conversion efficiency they achieved will soon get even higher. The study is published in the journal Science.

New technique to generate pure hydrogen without CO2

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, have developed what they call a “hydrogen generator,” a microscopic device that uses light and graphene to increase the production of pure hydrogen. In the process, they also learned about a previously unknown property of graphene, a honeycomb sheet of carbon atoms one-atom thick. They found that graphene not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance. Generating pure hydrogen is a major breakthrough because the current method is to separate it from water using natural gas, a fossil fuel, to react with high-temperature steam to strip away hydrogen atoms for use as hydrogen fuel. But this process releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Argonne’s generator, however, shows that hydrogen can be produced without burning any fossil fuels.So far the generator is small, even smaller than the diameter of spider silk, but if it can be enlarged, enough hydrogen can be produced to power cars and even power generators – an infinitely cleaner alternative to oil or coal because hydrogen fuel emits only water vapor. “The Argonne team was inspired by the function of a protein known to turn light into energy. Certain single-celled organisms are known to use a protein called bacteriorhodopsin (bR) to absorb sunlight and pump protons through a membrane, creating a form of chemical energy,” said Elena Rozhkova, a chemist at Argonne.

Water can be split into oxygen and hydrogen not only with natural gas but also by combining bR with titanium dioxide and platinum, then exposing these substances to ultraviolet light. The trouble is that ultraviolet light makes up only 4% of the solar spectrum, so the Argonne researchers needed to find a new material that would produce more hydrogen using other lights from the solar spectrum. What they found was graphene, which is very strong, very light and one of the best conductors of electricity known to science. In the mini-hydrogen generator, both the bR protein and the graphene absorb visible light, creating electrons that are transmitted to the titanium dioxide, which thereby becomes sensitive to visible light. And this convergence on the platinum produces hydrogen – and nothing but hydrogen. The research has been published in the journal ACS Nano.

Scientists found a key step in storing energy in nanomaterials

By observing how hydrogen is absorbed into individual palladium nanocubes, scientists from the Stanford University, the United States, have detailed a key step in storing energy and information in nanomaterials. The work could inform research that leads to longer-lasting batteries or higher-capacity memory devices. The ideal energy or information storage system is one that can charge and discharge quickly, has a high capacity and can last forever. Nanomaterials are promising to achieve these criteria, but scientists are just beginning to understand their challenging mechanisms. The team, led by Jennifer Dionne, assistant professor at Stanford, and consisting of Andrea Baldi, Tarun Narayan and Ai Leen Koh, studied how metallic nanoparticles composed of palladium absorbed and released hydrogen atoms.

Previously, scientists have studied hydrogen absorption in ensembles of metallic nanoparticles, but this approach makes it difficult to infer information about how the individual nanoparticles behave. The new study reveals that behavior by measuring the hydrogen content in individual palladium nanoparticles exposed to increasing pressures of hydrogen gas. The group’s experimental findings are consistent with a mechanism recently proposed for energy storage in lithium ion batteries, underscoring the interest for the broader scientific community. The finding was made possible by the use of a specialized transmission electron microscope (TEM) that allowed the team to detect, with near atomic-scale resolution, the process by which hydrogen entered the nanomaterial.

The researchers synthesized palladium nanocubes and then dispersed them onto a very thin membrane in the TEM. Then the engineers flowed hydrogen gas past the palladium nanoparticles and gradually increased its pressure. At sufficiently high pressures of hydrogen, the gas molecules dissociated on the surface of the nanocubes and individual hydrogen atoms entered into the spaces between the palladium crystals. As the hydrogen entered the palladium nanostructure, the material’s volume increased by about 10%. This expansion significantly altered the way in which the particle interacted with the electron beam. Because the nanocubes are single-crystalline and effectively “unbound” from the membrane, the researchers were able to study and measure the storage mechanism in unprecedented detail. The study has been published in the journal Nature Materials.

Hydrogen to deliver clean energy

Hydrogen is the lightest element in the Universe. More pertinent to our needs, it’s a carbon-free fuel. When you burn it you simply get heat and water. There’s considerable buzz around hydrogen’s capability to deliver clean energy, either by burning it or using hydrogen fuel cells. But the dominant method for producing the hydrogen we use today is not clean. Most of it is derived from methane in a process which uses fossil fuels and creates greenhouse gases. However, scientists at University of Glasgow, the United Kingdom, have come up with a game changer. The new process is 30 times faster than the existing leading process which uses electricity to make hydrogen from water.

Currently the most advanced process is to use proton exchange membrane electrolysers (PEMEs). But even the highest performing PEMEs need catalysts made of precious metal, high pressures and plenty of electricity. Professor Lee Cronin and his colleagues at the university’s Solar Fuels Group said that their new method allows more hydrogen to be produced than ever before, with lower power loads and at normal atmospheric pressure. And there’s more, as they reveal in a paper in the journal Science. Instead of remaining a gas – which requires high pressures and low temperatures to store – the new process stores the hydrogen in a carbon-free liquid.

It’s done by using a “liquid sponge” – a metal oxide that starts yellow, then turns blue as it’s loaded with hydrogen, or more correctly the potential to create hydrogen, as it holds its constituent protons and electrons. “What you do is just turn on the electricity and you split water and you produce this liquid. When you want to produce the hydrogen, you don’t have to add any more electricity. You just pour this over a catalyst and out comes the hydrogen. And it comes out 30 times faster than the equivalent commercial device,” said Prof Cronin. So far, so startling. But while the process itself represents a breakthrough, the possibilities which flow from it are even more intriguing. Prof Cronin’s method offers a different future. Electricity from renewable sources would be used to split water, harvest the hydrogen and store it in a liquid for use when it’s needed.


Microbe-to-biodiesel method

A professor from Arizona State University (ASU), the United States, has been recognized for his efforts to turn bacteria and algae into biodiesel. Professor Bruce Rittmann has received the first presentation of the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME)/International Water Association (IWA) Bio Cluster Award, Portugal, for his work to promote research between the microbial ecology and the water and wastewater treatment fields. Rittmann’s research focuses on the scientific and engineering fundamentals needed to manage microbial communities to provide services to society.

“It’s individual organisms comprising a community that’s working together. And now we have a chance to really manage that community to get the right organisms doing the right job,” said Rittmann. His research team has developed the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates, and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is also part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel. Rittmann and his colleagues are the first to link the modern tools of molecular microbial ecology to understanding and improving the performance of microorganism-based water technologies.

Researchers convert used cooking oil to biodiesel

Recently professor (Emeritus) Aharon Gedanken from the Department of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, visited National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Taiwan (Province of China), to continue his research in converting waste cooking oils into biodiesel with the research team in NCKU. Currently a visiting chair professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), NCKU, Gedanken is a pioneer of sonochemistry and an expert in the fabrication of nanostructures. “We are converting basically waste cooking oil into biofuel and now we can convert 3 liters per hour,” said Gedanken. His team as NCKU has developed a process to convert used cooking oil to biodiesel using microwaves and strontium oxide (SrO) as catalyst. With the system designed by the team, the machine has been built by a company in Taiwan.

According to Jiunn-Der Liao, a professor at NSKU, who has invited Gedanken to cooperate with NCKU faculty conducting the research, the converting machine has been set up in the department and ready to yield more biofuel in the coming months. “With Gedanken’s help NCKU is going to set up a converting station at An-nan campus and hopefully will collect more waste cooked oil for the demonstration,” said Liao. So far NCKU have received inquiries from Thailand, Malaysia, and at least three domestic enterprises. The three-year project, supported and conducted by NCKU, started in August 2013 and is now in its second year. NCKU is about to realize the project and conduct the experiment on a larger scale to set up a station.

Turning winery waste into biofuels

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology (SUT), Australia, have developed a technique for converting winery waste into compounds that could have potential value as biofuels or medicines. Australia is the world’s sixth largest wine producer, with around 1.75 million tonnes of grapes crushed for wine every year. After the final pressing, more than half of the grapes crushed end up as biomass waste comprised of skins, pulp, stalks and seeds. Unlike other agricultural by-products, this waste has limited use as animal feed due to its poor nutrient value and digestibility. It is also not suitable as compost because it doesn’t degrade. Thus a majority of this grape waste ends up as toxic landfill.

As part of his PhD research, SUT student Avinash Karpe has been investigating how to break down this woody material composed of cellulose, pectins and lignins into simpler compounds that can be used to create other things such as ethanol or other biofuels. He has performed a series of experiments to develop the best procedure for degrading winery biomass waste. “Various fungi are known to degrade this waste by generating an array of enzymes. These enzymes convert the waste to soluble sugars which can then be converted into other products,” Mr. Karpe said.

He discovered that a 30-minute heat activated pretreatment aided in the breakdown of these biomolecules. Using a ‘cocktail’ of four fungi – Trichoderma harzianum, Aspergillus niger, Penicillium chrysogenum and Penicillium citrinum, in a one litre bioreactor, Mr Karpe succeeded in breaking down the biomass, with noticeable increases in enzyme activity and lignin degradation. This fermentation process takes one to three weeks and produced alcohols, acids and simple sugars of industrial and medicinal interest. The research has been published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. Contact: Lea Kivivali, Corporate & Government Affairs Unit, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. Tel: +61392145428; E-mail:

Researchers discover clue to produce 3rd gen biofuel

A research team from Republic of Korea headed by Choi In-gul, a professor at the Department of Biotechnology at Korea University, has successfully defined the fermentation process of red algae and found a clue to making ethanol, a 3rd gen fuel for vehicles. The production of ethanol from marine algae, which are abundant, could replace a significant portion of gasoline consumption. In particular, red algae contains a lot of carbohydrates, which make those plants ideal for the production of bioethanol. But production has been limited, since the metabolic pathways of 3,6-Anhydro-L-galactose (L-AHG), which makes up the major ingredient of red algae, have not yet been mapped.

However, the researchers have succeeded in separating Vibrio vulnificus, which live on L-AHG, and defining the metabolic pathways in which this microorganism breaks down the main ingredient of red algae. The production of ethanol from red algae will be made possible by fermenting L-AHG, using colon bacillus with new fermentation enzymes included in the newly-discovered metabolic pathways. After applying new fermentation enzymes to colon bacillus that are used to make ethanol, the production of ethanol increased 24% compared to existing colon bacillus utilized to produce ethanol.

“We anticipate that the newly-developed method could be used as core technology to produce biofuel and bioplastics using seaweed biomass as a source of energy in our country that lacks lignocellulosic and herbal biomass,” said Kim. The study was funded by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), under the project to support leading researchers. The research findings have been published by Environmental Microbiology, a scientific journal published by the Society for Applied Microbiology.

Scientists create renewable fossil fuel alternatives

A team of scientists from Imperial College London, the United Kingdom, and the University of Turku, Finland, have engineered the harmless gut bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to generate renewable propane. During their sturdy, researchers used E. coli to interrupt the biological process that turns fatty acids into cell membranes. They used enzymes to channel the fatty acids along a different biological pathway, so that the bacteria made engine-ready renewable propane instead of cell membranes. Their ultimate goal is to insert this engineered system into photosynthetic bacteria, so as to one day directly convert solar energy into chemical fuel. The results of the study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The scientists chose to target propane because it can easily escape the cell as a gas, yet requires little energy to transform from its natural gaseous state into a liquid that is easy to transport, store and use.

Using E. coli as a host organism, the scientists interrupted the biological process that turns fatty acids into cell membranes. By stopping this process at an early stage they could remove butyric acid, a nasty smelling compound that is an essential precursor for propane production. To interrupt the process, the researchers discovered a new variant of an enzyme called thioesterase, which specifically targets fatty acids and releases them from the natural process. They then used a second bacterial enzyme, called CAR, to convert butyric acid into butyraldehyde. Finally, they added a recently discovered enzyme called aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase (ADO), which is known to naturally create hydrocarbons, in order to form propane. By stimulating ADO with electrons they were able to substantially enhance the catalytic capability of the enzyme, and ultimately produce propane.


Biofuels from Algae

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