VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Sep-Oct 2005

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New and Renewable Energy Sep-Oct 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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Cost-competitive electricity from solar energy imminent

Solar concentrators using highly efficient photovoltaic (PV) solar cells will reduce the cost of electricity from sunlight to competitive levels soon, attendees were told at a recent international conference in Arizona, the United States. Concentrating solar electric power is on the cusp of delivering on its promise of low-cost, reliable, solar-generated electricity at a cost that is competitive with mainstream electric generation systems, said Mr. Vahan Garboushian, President of Amonix Inc. from California. With the advent of multi-junction solar cells, PV concentrator power generation at US$3/W is imminent in the coming few years, he added.

At the conference, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States Department of Energy announced a new record efficiency of 37.9 per cent at 10 suns, a measure of concentrated sunlight. Soon thereafter, Boeing-Spectrolab, under contract to NREL and the Department of Energy, surpassed the NREL record with 39.0 per cent at 236 suns announced at the European PV conference in Barcelona, Spain. PV concentrators come in large module sizes, typically 20-35 kW each, and are suitable for large utility installations.

Amonix Inc. is in a joint venture with Spains Guascor to build a 10 MW per year assembly plant in Spain by the end of 2005. Amonix also has plans to install 3 MW PV concentrator systems in the southwestern United States while Guascor plans to install 10 MW concentrator PV systems in Spain in 2006. In Australia, Solar Systems Australia is planning to install more than 5 MW PV concentrator systems in 2006, riding on its ties with Spectrolab, a major manufacturer of multi-junction solar cells.

The ultra-high efficiency solar cell technology, initially discovered at NREL and successfully developed for space satellites in the 1990s by Boeing-Spectrolab Inc., is enabling development of low-cost solar electricity systems. The perormance of concentrator solar cell is expected to reach or exceed 40 per cent by 2006, with continued enhancement in performance and reliability, according to Dr. Nasser Karam, Vice President of Advanced Technology Products at Spectrolab Inc.


Bangladesh launches first wind-generated power plant

Bangladesh has put into operation on pilot basis its first wind power project with high rate of success in production of electricity. Electricity generated on trial basis from four windmills is connected with the distribution cable of Palli Biddut Samity providing uninterrupted additional power generation with the capacity of 1 MW per day for the last four months, said a Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) source. Four three-bladed windmills were established installed at Muhari in Feni district of Chittagong division, southeast of Bangladesh, with the assistance of NEPC India under the direct supervision of BPDB.

The windmills, each 15 metres tall and with maximum power production capacity of 225 kW, have been installed at a cost of Tk 73.6 million (US$1.23 million). According to reports, PDB can produce 2,000 MW of power in the coastal belt by installing 30 windmills per sq. km. The windmills that can be installed in the coastal belts can sustain 250 km/h cyclonic storm. Bangladesh has good wind power potential because of its 724 km long coastline and many small islands in the Bay of Bengal, where the strong south-westerly wind and sea breeze blow in the summer months and the gentle north-easterly wind and breeze in winter months.

Ninety per cent of the electricity in the country is at present produced by natural gas. If the same amount of gas is used every year, then the reserve of gas will be run out within 15 years. Moreover, wind energy is a clean energy source, cheaper to maintain, saves fuel and can give decentralized energy without generating pollutants.


China to develop renewable energy in its west

Acute shortages of fossil fuels have prompted the Chinese government to promulgate a law on the development of renewable energy sources. Solar energy could be the primary choice as a fossil fuel alternative. Chinas western areas especially the Tibet autonomous region, Qinghai, Gansu and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have rich solar energy resources. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau receives a total radiation volume of 6,000-8,000 trillion joules per square metre annually, averaging 7 kWh per square metre, and the hours of sunshine total 3,400 per year. The radiation volume in Tibet ranks second in the world, just after the Sahara Desert.

Accordingly, the western areas have in recent years intensified the development of solar energy resources. Tibet has installed more than 300 photovoltaic (PV) power stations ranging in size from 3 kW to 5 kW. Seven counties in the region have built 10-100 kW PV power plants, spread the use of independent PV power generating systems totalling 5.4 MW, and installed 110,000 solar cook stoves.

The total capacity of PV facilities in China exceeds 2.3 trillion watts. China started to set up PV labs in 1981 and began to develop them rapidly ten years ago. The total power generated by solar cells and components has increased to 35 trillion watts in 2004, i.e. 3 per cent of the global total. PV power plants, however, produce electricity at about 3.4 yuan (US$0.42) per kWh, which cannot compete with energy generated by wind power and thermal power. Experts have advised that renewable energy be developed in four stages. The first stage, from the present up to 2010, is to realize the commercialization of parts of renewable energy technology that already exist by expanding demonstration projects.

The next stage will cover the period from 2010 to 2020, in which a large amount of renewable energy technology would be commercialized to increase the proportion of renewable energy sources in total primary energy production to 18 per cent, and increase total installed capacity to 90-100 million kilowatts. The third stage from 2020 to 2050 would see renewable energy sources replacing a considerable portion of fossil fuel energy to raise their proportion in total primary energy production to more than 30 per cent. In the fourth stage that covers the period 2050-2100, the proportion of renewable energy in the total energy consumption will be raised to more than 50 per cent to realize a fundamental change in the energy consumption structure. A project for the promotion of commercialization of renewable energy sources launched jointly by the State Economic and Trade Commission, the World Bank and the Global Environment Fund had started in December 2001. The state has promised to give all-out support to this project.


World Bank helps China scale up use of renewable energy

The World Banks Board of Executive Directors has lately approved a loan of US$87 million to China for a programme aiming to scale up the countrys use of renewable energy, reported the China Economic Times. This financial support, together with a grant-in-aid of US$40.22 million from the Global Environment Facility, is the largest ever amount the nation has received so far in this regard, said the report. The Renewable Energy Scale-up Programme will be used to finance the Chinese governments strategy to start further development of projects and the transfer of up-to-date biomass and wind technology from international suppliers. Fujian, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu and Zhejiang are four pilot regions to get the financial support.

The Chinese government has developed a comprehensive renewable energy strategy for making power generation from renewable energy sources. According to the report, the official renewable energy strategy is three-pronged. The first is to design and put in place a legal and regulatory framework that promotes the development of economic renewable energy resources in line with power sector reforms that include the creation of a more competitive power market. The second is to provide potential power producers with access to advanced technical know-how that will make renewable energy more competitive with fossil fuels in power generation. The third is to strengthen the capacity of existing companies to develop, finance, construct and operate renewable energy projects for power generation on a large scale, and further open the sector to private investors.


India outlines renewable energy priorities

Mr. Villas Muttemwar, Indias Minister of State for Non-Conventional Energy Sources, has announced a plan to prioritize the deployment of renewable energy devices in India to supplement and eventually replace fossil fuels. The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of a national level brainstorming on mainstreaming of renewable energy in the country and attaining global leadership.

He informed that the top priority is to focus on market penetration of alternate fuel systems/devices for stationery, portable and transport applications. The second priority is augmenting rural energy needs using the bio-energy route. Deployment of new and renewable energy systems of industrial, commercial and urban applications is the third priority. The fourth is grid-interactive renewable electricity, which is essentially a replacement of coal.

The Minister also announced that half of the subsidy would henceforth be given to energy projects based on municipal solid waste, immediately after disbursement of the first loan instalment as contribution towards equity. This is the first time that subsidy is being used to reduce equity burden of the investor, and will help the cause of larger public good, as the disposal of municipal solid waste remains a major problem in every city. The decision is, however, subject to the outcome of the Supreme Courts final ruling in a pending matter on the subject.

Mr. Muttemwar has set an outer time limit of 2022 to convert the country from net importer to net exporter of renewable energy products and services. Efforts would be made in close concert with corporate and scientific and technical institutions to make the domestic new renewable energy industry globally competitive. The Minister stated that 25,000 remote villages, which are not likely to be connected to electricity grid, would be provided grid quality electricity by 2009 through renewable energy sources. To achieve this, he called for public-private partnership so that not only the systems are put in place but also the operations and maintenance carried out in a viable and sustainable manner. Approximately 2.5 million households are likely to benefit from this effort.


India: Biomass power projects get approval

Indias largest wind power producing state, Tamil Nadu, has sanctioned 15 biomass-based power projects, pressing ahead with its strategy to tap into renewable energy. The Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) has recommended 37 biomass-based power projects to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) for a total capacity of about 260 MW. Approval has been given for 15 projects for a capacity of 145 MW by TNEB so far, said the states Electricity Minister Mr. R. Viswanathan.

TNEB has fixed a target of adding 500 MW through wind power for the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2002-07), which has been surpassed with capacity addition of 1,173 MW in the first three years alone, stated the Minister while speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day conference on Green Power 2005, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Around 20 per cent of the installed power capacity in the state came from renewable energy sources, against the national average of 4.8 per cent. Tamil Nadu continues to be the number one state in power generation through renewable energy sources, the Minister said. In the wind energy sector, Tamil Nadu, with a capacity of 2,040 MW as on 31 March 2005 accounts for more than 55 per cent of the total installed capacity from windmills in the country at 3,600 MW, he added.


Malaysia identifies fuel cell technology under IMP3

Fuel cell technology is among the new emerging technologies, which have potential in the automotive sector, that the Malaysian government has identified under the Third Industrial Master Plan, or IMP3. Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, the International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, named the other technologies as nanotechnology, radio frequency identification, micro-electro mechanical systems and photonics.

As a long-term strategy to bolster domestic technological capabilities, the government is also continuing its efforts to encourage local companies to be involved in research, innovation and development of new emerging technologies by providing them research grants, said Datuk Ahmad Husni. Up to 15 August 2004, the government had approved more than M$846 million (US$224 million) in grants to 2,021 projects under the Intensification of Research in Priority Area. For private sector R&D projects, the government has thus far approved grants amounting to M$293.7 million (US$77.8 million) for 145 projects.


Micro-hydro energy project in Pakistan

A renewable energy project recently launched in Pakistan involves an estimated cost of PRs 4.5 million (US$75,300) to develop productive uses of energy in northern areas. The project is aimed to promote the adoption of renewable micro-hydro energy for the poor rural communities who are not connected through the national electricity grid. The officials of United Nations Development Programme, the Alternative Energy Development Board and the German Technical Assistance Agency took part in the signing ceremony.

Among renewable energy supply options, micro-hydro is considered one of the most viable to provide energy to the remote villages and promote income generation-activities, particularly in the mountainous area of northern areas. Mr. Khalid Saeed, the Economic Affairs Division Secretary said that the project would also help in increasing the share of renewable energy in the total energy generation in the country.


Russia goes in for tidal power

Two unique tidal power plants will soon be built in Russia for industrial use. The plant at Mezehn in the White Sea will produce 10,000 MW and have the potential for twice that amount. Its sister plant at Penzhin Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, where tides reach up to 17 m, will generate 20,000 to 90,000 kW. Potentially, Russia could employ tidal energy to cover its current energy production and consumption needs. The Kola Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk alone could produce about 100 GW from tidal plants; the average settlement north of the Arctic Circle consumes about 2 MW.

The first tidal plant in Russia was commissioned in Kislaya Bay on the White Sea in 1968 but was mothballed in mid-1990s, as there were no funds for its modernization. It was re-commissioned recently, after a hiatus of almost a decade. Tides at the bay reach 5 m, and the plant has a capacity of 400 kW. The orthogonal turbine used to modernize the plant is a unique piece of engineering used nowhere else in the world. The main idea underlying it is that the turbine blades always rotate to one side, regardless of the direction of the water flow.

This type of turbine has been used for many years in wind farms, and was adapted for aquatic use by NII Energosooruzheniy research institute and built at the Sevmash facility, best known for building nuclear submarines. In an orthogonal rotor, the blades do not have to be turned when the water flow changes, which reduces maintenance costs by almost 30 per cent.


Korea to build worlds largest tidal power plant

Plans are well under way for a tidal energy power plant off the coast of Republic of Korea that developers say will be the largest such project in the world. Known as the Sihwa Tidal Power Plant, the project would generate 260 MW from the constant flow of water in and out of a seaside bay.

The tidal power plant, with a total project cost of approximately US$ 250 million, would be the first of its kind in Republic of Korea. The project will consist of a powerhouse for 10 bulb-type turbines with direct driven generators including gates and other equipment. The output of each turbine and generator will be 26 MW. The power plant is designed to be operated in one direction from the sea to the Sihwa Lake, allowing up to 60 billion tonnes of seawater to be circulated annually. In doing so, the plant will generate electric power by using the head between the high tide and the reservoir level.

VA Tech Hydro, an international supplier of equipment and services for hydropower plants, was awarded an order from Daewoo Engineering & Construction for engineering and delivery of the electromechanical main components for the tidal power plant. The Korea Water Resources Corporation acts as the project owner/ developer. Daewoo, as leader of the Korean joint venture with other civil companies, is the projects chief contractor. VA Tech Hydro will carry out the detailed design for the turbine/generator equipment while, at the same time, be responsible for supplies and services with respect to the electro-mechanical portion as sub-contractor of Daewoo and also supply all the major equipment for the turbines and generators.

Not only will the project generate power, but the existing water quality of Sihwa Lake will be significantly improved, said VA Tech Hydro officials. Regularly flushing the Sihwa Lake with sea water was identified as an acceptable method of remediation of the water in the lake into which industrial wastewater flows in, according to the company. Profits from tidal power generation would make the investment in water remediation cost-effective.


Thailand to utilize alternative energy sources

Thailand is planning to utilize alternative sources of energy over the next five years, according to a recent report by the Thai News Agency. Given current world oil price hikes, the government is seeking alternative energy sources to secure Thailands energy supply and sustain domestic demand, said the Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Preecha Laohapongchana.

It is time we reduce our reliance on fossil-based fuel and turn to other sources, including solar cells, bio-energy and even wind-based power, the Minister was quoted as saying. The governments move was seen as timely in response to continuing global oil price rises.



Higher solar efficiencies possible

SunPower Corp., the United States, recently announced the discovery of surface polarization, a performance detriment observed in silicon PV solar cells. Following the discovery, SunPower scientists have developed and applied for patents that eliminate surface polarization, which the company believes will lead to improved solar efficiencies.

According to the scientists, surface polarization creates non-destructive and reversible accumulation of static charge on the surface of high-efficiency solar cells. It occurs when minute amounts of electrical current leak through the face of the solar cell and accumulate on the surface. Current leakage of this sort is present in all solar systems but will accumulate or dissipate on the solar cells surface depending on the systems grounding polarity and configuration. The presence or absence of surface charge can decrease or increase solar cell current generation similar to the switching of a programmable memory transistor.

SunPower has found that electricity production in systems using high-efficiency solar cells could be significantly decreased or increased by varying the system wiring and grounding configurations, and that these performance changes were relatively rapid and fully reversible.

Contact: SunPower Corp., # 430, Indio Way, Sunnyvale, CA 94085, United States of America. Tel: +1 (408) 9910 900; Fax: +1 (408) 7397 713



Dye solar cell

The Australian solar energy technology company Dyesol is set to commercialize its revolutionary dye solar cell (DSC) technology. Just as chlorophyll in a leaf absorbs energy from the sun for the needs of a plant, the dye in Dyesol solar cells absorbs light to generate renewable electricity in a process known as artificial photosynthesis. Dyesol cells can be used as building walls or roofs to provide renewable power, even on overcast days, at lower costs than silicon cells.

Dyesols plan is to deliver an early harvest of financial returns without the need for a large investment in manufacturing solar cells. The company will sell DSC components and equipment, ranging from the dyes used in the cells to the design and delivery of full manufacturing facilities, ready for operation.

Dyesols dye solar cell technology combines artificial photosynthesis with one of the worlds first commercial applications of nanotechnology, replicating the leaf of a plant with a layer of titania the material used as pigment in white paints and tooth paste and the plants chlorophyll with ruthenium dye. Sunlight striking the dye excites electrons, which are absorbed by the titania layer to become electrical current. An electrolyte, which is also part of a glass sandwich containing the titania and the dye, then replaces the electron to complete a circuit.


A solar cell for futuristic products

Scientists from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Republic of Korea, have developed a flexible dye-sensitized solar cell, which is the best fit for such futuristic products as wearable computers, thanks to its high efficiency and flexibility. ETRI used a sheet of plastic on the front of the dye-sensitized cell, which uses an organic dye to absorb light for conversion to electricity, and a sheet of stainless steel behind for flexibility and energy efficiency.

The primary advantage of the dye-sensitized solar cell is cost effectiveness: it costs up to 80 per cent less to manufacture than traditional silicon-using cells. It also has a competitive edge,as it is transparent and can be developed in various colours. ETRIs solar cell has demonstrated an energy conversion rate of 4.8 per cent in its new models using plastic plates and stainless steel sheets. Mr. Ryu Kwang-sam, a reseacher with ETRI affirms that In comparison with silicon solar cells, our dye-based cell has about double the cost-effectiveness of silicon-made ones in making the same amount of electricity.


New high-efficiency d.Blue cells

Kyocera Solar, the United States, has developed new higher-efficiency three-bus cells, which incorporate Kyoceras d.Blue technology that increases the power output of every module without affecting its physical size. The new line of modules KC40T, KC55T, KC65T, KC85T, KC125TM, KC125GT, KC170GT and KC190GT now has a broad power range of 40-190 W. Sold exclusively through a network of authorized contractors and dealers, the new KC line of modules is ideal for all types of residential and commercial buildings. The entire line is covered by Kyoceras 25-year power output warranty.

Contact: Kyocera Solar Inc., Headquarters, # 7812, East Acoma, Scottsdale, Arizona 85260, United States of America. Tel: +1 (480) 94 88 003; Fax: +1 (480) 4836 431.


Solar off-grid energy technology

Blitzstrom GmbH of Germany has announced a novel energy technology based on thin film photovoltaic modules working in combination with an advanced electrochemical energy storage system developed by EN-o-DE Energy on Demand Production and Sales GmbH. Off-grid power supply is heavily dependent on the availability of affordable solar energy modules and a robust, efficient, long-life and low-cost electrical energy storage medium. These requirements, says Blitzstrom, call for a combination of thin film photovoltaic technology and an energy storage system developed beyond the conventional battery systems.

EN-o-DE storage technology has its basis on the Vanadium Redox concept of energy storage, invented in Australia and further developed for Vanadium Instant Energy (VANIE) to meet rural electrification needs. In the VANIE system, the energy is stored in two liquid electrolytes, containing vanadium ions in different oxidation states. For charging and discharging, the electrolytes are pumped through an electrochemical fuel cell. Unlike in conventional batteries (lead acid, nickel cadmium, etc.), both the power and the energy can be independently specified.

The smallest modular unit is 1 kW power and 20 kWh energy. The desired energy level is achieved by the amount of electrolyte in the tanks. The system shows several advantages over conventional batteries, such as instant information of state of charge, instantaneous availability of power, deep discharges, low self-discharge, ease of use, and longevity of electrolyte and major system components. The system provides energy at prices that are competitive with common diesel power generation sets.

Contact: Mr. Bernhard Beck, CEO, Blitzstrom GmbH, Hoheimer Weg 3, 97350 Mainbernheim, Germany. Tel: +49 (9323) 8706-0; Fax: +49 (9323) 8706-19




Economical solar electric generator

Pyron Solar Inc. in California, the United States, has unveiled its Solar Electric Generator, an affordable and clean energy source that is able to produce electric energy from the sun at about half the cost of other systems. It is also compact, being one-fourth to one-twentieth the size of any other solar approach. A 23 ft x 16 in Pyron system produces 6,500 W of electricity, enough to power six average homes, and costs about US$18,000, compared with around US$32,500 for flat-panel systems. The generator produces electricity at a cost of less than US$3/watt, compared with the average solar system cost of US$5/watt.

Pyron Solar is planning large-scale production, with 30 kW and 50 kW systems in the pipeline. In addition, the Pyron system has the potential to produce hydrogen from water opening it up to the hydrogen energy and fuel cell markets.

Contact: Pyron Solar Inc., # 1253, La Jolla Rancho Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States of America. Tel: +1 (858) 454 6371; Fax: +1 (858) 454 7198;



Long-life plastic solar cell

Danish scientists have reportedly built a new type of plastic solar cell that lasts significantly longer than ealier versions and could pave the way for cheaper solar power. While plastic cells cost only a fraction of the more common silicon cells, they are fragile and typically last only for a few days. Our new cell has a life span of 2 years, which must be a world record for plastic cells, said Dr. Frederik Krebs, senior scientist at the states Risoe National Laboratory, which presented its research.

The Danish scientists said they were using a more stable form of plastic as the active substance in the cell. A plastic cell costs about 50 times less than a silicon cell of the same size. However, plastic cells have relatively low efficiency: compared with 12-15 per cent for silicon cells, plastic cells exploit only 0.2-5 per cent of the suns energy. We have focused on durability and succeeded; now we will make it more efficient, said Dr. Krebs.



Helical turbine for quieter domestic wind energy

A German company called MatroW has introduced a novel wind turbine named Wind Wandler to provide a more feasible and quieter domestic wind energy option for urban localities. The helical turbine, designed very different from the more common bladed design, is claimed to be a more efficient form of developing wind energy for domestic users.

The form used for the turbine was originally conceived to work in water. The availability of modern composites allowed it to be made larger and lighter than would have been otherwise possible. The first units produced comprise two spiral vanes made of glass fibre-reinforced materials. The vanes have a diameter of 1 m, length of 1.39 m and sit in a hemispherical yoke that supports them at both ends. Output at 14 m/s is about 1 kW. The disk armature generator is rated at 3.5 kW and, unlike bladed turbines, they do not have to be stopped in high winds. Rotation speed at 24 m/s wind is 1,400 rpm, but remains the same at 30 m/s, as surplus high-speed air tends to spill round the rotating turbine. The turbines turn naturally into the wind.

When the flywheel is going faster than the turbine, it continues to turn the load through the eddy current coupling, but the mechanical clutch is disengaged so that it does not attempt to turn the turbine as well. Coupling the flywheel through an eddy current coupling greatly reduces peak loads on input and output shafts and gears. The wings stretch out, and are curved in the axial plane and a radial direction. The special shape of the spiral wings produces a strong reduction in stream wind loss.
Wind Wandler is claimed to be 53 per cent efficient, as compared with 46 per cent for conventional bladed turbines, and the theoretical maximum efficiency that can be attained is 59 per cent. The turbine is quiet when it rotates because it has no blade tips to shed vortices. Noise level at 1400 rpm is 42 dBA. Without mast, the total weight of turbine and generator is 39 kg. The company is selling the units at a price of 6,300 each.

Contact: Mr. Wilhelm Hermann Josef, Managing Director, MatroW GmbH, Neue Anlage 10, D-68526 Ladenburg, Germany. Tel: +49 (6203) 953300; Fax: +49 (6203) 953301.


Wind energy generator for homes

In Canada, the University of Alberta engineers have designed a wind energy generator employing a simple and reliable controller that is said to be cheaper than competing technologies aimed at domestic users. The generator is currently undergoing tests and analyses.

The traditional problems with harnessing wind energy have been the high cost and the low energy return, especially for small-scale generators, explained Dr. Andy Knight, a professor in the Universitys Electrical and Computer Engineering. A particular problem is that most devices require wind speeds of at least 18 km/h to generate any power. The new wind energy generator could be used in low-wind environments such as 10 km/h. The generators open loop control system can be built with a few, simple electronic components that are fairly cheap and easy to find, use and repair.

Contact: University of Alberta, Elec- trical and Computer Engineering Research Facility, 2nd Floor, 9107 -116 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2V4 Canada. Tel: +1 (780) 492 33 32; Fax: +1 (780) 492 18 11.


Mega wind generator

China is currently grid-testing its first wind generator at a megawatt level, developed by the Xinjiang Jinfeng S&T Co. Ltd., at the Dabancheng Wind Power Generation Site, in the Xinjiang autonomous region. The generator has a fixed power capacity of 1.2 MW, a rotor diameter of 62 m, housing height of 69 m and a head weight of 80 t. The new system is a three-bladed, up-wind, horizontal-axis turbine, which is designed with an adjustable gear, direct drive and synchronous permanent magnet alternator. The wind generator is claimed to be state-of-the-art and to have several merits, including reliability, safety, high efficiency, simplified structure and low maintenance cost.


Cheaper domestic wind turbine

The WS1000 turbine, developed by Windsave in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, is a 1 kW wind turbine designed aimed at domestic users. At about 1,500 apiece, it is much cheaper than comparable systems. In addition, the system is expected to cut electricity bills for an average house by about a third.

The turbines generator is based on an AEG 90 mm frame motor and incorporates a braking system to prevent the turbine from spinning too fast in high winds. It uses rare-earth magnets, and special rotor laminations and windings, for maximizing efficiency and output. The turbine comes with an inverter that plugs into a 13 A socket and synchronizes itself with the mains supply. Costs have been reduced by eliminating any form of energy storage and by cutting off the output if the mains supply fails. WS1000 is currently being field-tested.


Wind turbine design codes

The United States Department of Energys National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has stated that its wind turbine design codes termed FAST and ADAMS can now be used for worldwide turbine certification. Through a joint effort by NREL and Germanischer Lloyd (GL) of Hamburg, Germany, the worlds foremost certifying body for wind turbines, both codes were approved for calculating onshore wind turbine loads for design and certification. The codes were in use in the United States but not accepted by certifying agencies in Europe.

The Fatigue, Aerodynamics, Structures and Turbulence (FAST) code is an exhaustive aero-elastic simulator for predicting both the extreme and fatigue loads of two- and three-bladed horizontal-axis wind turbines. The Automatic Dynamic Analysis of Mechanical Systems (ADAMS) from MSC Software is a general purpose, multi-body dynamics code with unlimited degrees of freedom. It is also used to model robots, satellites and cars. ADAMS is slower than FAST, but more versatile. FAST is limited to standard types of horizontal-axis wind turbines, while ADAMS with AeroDyn can model almost any kind of horizontal-axis wind turbine. Both require the AeroDyn subroutine library to model aerodynamics.

To gain acceptance of the codes, NREL and GL ran a comparison between FAST, ADAMS, GLs DHAT and Garrad Hassans GH Bladed, a widely accepted European code. The latter two codes are similar in design philosophy to FAST. NREL and GL modelled two turbines. To test different features of the codes, they chose different types of turbines. GL stated in its report that the the codes agreed well in comparison. GL granted NREL a certificate for FAST and ADAMS stating that the codes can be considered suitable programs for the calculation of onshore wind turbine loads for design and certification.


Small wind turbines and components

Tinytech Plants, Rajkot, India, has developed modern small wind turbines for home use. The turbines follow either Hugh Piggot design with axial flux permanent magnet generator (500 W) or Kragten design with radial flux permanent magnet generator (1 kW to 7.5 kW). All turbines have three-bladed wind rotor with 2.5 m diameter. Tinytech also manufactures Virya 4.2 and 4.6 wind turbines under licence from Kragten, a Dutch company.

Tinytech also manufactures the following wind turbine components:
  •  Wood blades of 118 mm chord and 1.1 m length, non-taper, non-twisted (GO623 air foil section), suitable for 2.5 m diameter wind rotors;
  •  Wood blades of 200 mm chord and 1.8 m length, non-taper, non-twisted (GO623 air foil section), suitable for 4 m diameter wind rotors;
  •  FRP blades of 312 mm chord and 3 m length, non-twisted, non-taper (GO624 air foil section), suitable for 7-8 m diameter wind rotors;
  •  Free-standing tower of 12 m for 1.5 kW small wind turbines;
  •  Free-standing tower of 18 m for 8 kW wind turbines; and
  •  Various types of guy-wired pipe towers for small wind turbines.

Contact: Tinytech Plants Limited, Tagore Road, Rajkot 360 002, Gujarat, India. Tel: +91 (281) 2480166; Fax: +91 (281) 2467552



Gear units for wind turbines

The Hansen W4 series, from Hansen Transmissions International nv. of Belgium, are planetary gear units for wind turbines in a power range of 500 to 5,000 kW. Hansen wind turbine gears are optimized for low weight and compact dimensions, without compromising performance. A large inspection cover makes inspection and maintenance easy, and the gear unit inside the nacelle can be partly disassembled. All critical spare parts are available at short notice, allowing short repair times.

Contact: Edegem Gear Centre, Hansen Transmissions International nv., Leonardo da Vinci laan 1, B-2650 Edegem, Antwerp, Belgium. Tel: +32 (3) 450 12 11; Fax: + 32 (3) 450 12 20.



Commercial ethanol production technology

The Western Illinois Ethanol Project in the United States will use an advanced processing design, corn dry fractionation, in its US$80 million ethanol plant to be established in Illinois. The developers say that the technology will make its production of the gasoline additive more efficient than conventional plants and create new co-products from corn feedstock. The ethanol facility will produce 50 million gallons of the gasoline additive annually, requiring about 20 million bushels of corn.

The plant will separate the parts of the corn kernel before the kernels endosperm, which carries the starch that is transformed into ethanol, is introduced into the fermenter. The kernels corn germ, which carries high-quality vegetable oil, and corn bran will be separated in the first main processing operation.

In addition to having value in animal feeds, the bran can replace approximately 35 per cent of the natural gas that would be required by the process (about 8,500 Btu/lb). Use of the bran as a heat source can replace half of the plants natural gas requirements. Markets already have developed for corn oil, which can be extracted from the corn germ and whose properties are lower in trans fatty acids than other processed vegetable oils.


A new generation of biodiesel

The NExBTL technology for producing biodiesel, developed by Neste Oil of Finland, marks an important step forward in efforts to meet the growing demand for this type of fuel, as it offers a fuel with excellent properties, particularly at low temperatures, besides valuable production-related benefits. A 100 million plant with 170,000 t/a capacity currently under construction at Porvoo in Finland will employ the new technology.

NExBTL technology is the outcome of an R&D programme launched in 2001, involving a team of researchers from Neste Oil, various Finnish universities and VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland. One of the major strengths of the new technology is that it can use either vegetable oil or animal fat as its raw material. This provides flexibility and cost-effectiveness to input sourcing. The end-product fuel is consistent in quality, has good cold tolerance and storage properties, has a high cetane number and is very low in exhaust emissions.


Clean, cheap and fast biodiesel process

Capital Technologies Inc. (CTI), the United States, is commercializing a new biodiesel production process, developed jointly with the Centre for Advanced Fuel Technology of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), that promises faster and cleaner production of biodiesel at lowered costs. The core of the process is a proprietary solid catalyst that speeds up the overall reaction by a factor of 10, thereby significantly reducing production costs. Further, since the catalyst is not mixed into the feedstock, as in conventional of production methods using a liquid catalyst, the CTI-CMU process eliminates the need for a wash cycle to remove catalytic materials at the end of the process.

The CTI-CMU process can use de-gummed virgin plant oils, animal fat or waste cooking oil as feedstock. The process is continuous, with a constant outflow rate of about 38 l/min from a basic production module. This results in an annual capacity per factory module of some 19 million litres when processing a mixed feedstock of virgin oils and animal fat or waste oils. Using trigylcerides can increase the yield to 34 million litres/year.

Contact: Capital Technologies Inc., c/o Carnegie Mellon University, 700 Technology Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, United States of America. Tel: +1 (412) 268 1000; Fax: +1 (412) 268 4060



Process for making biodiesel production cheaper

At the University of Missouri-Columbia (UMC) in the United States, a researcher is working to make biodiesel production more profitable for producers and more attractive to consumers. The chief science officer of the UMC-based Renewable Alternatives, Prof. Galen Suppes, has developed a process for converting glycerin, a by-product of the biodiesel production process, into propylene glycol. Propylene glycol can be used as nontoxic anti-freeze for automobiles. Prof. Suppes said the new propylene glycol product will meet every performance standard. It is made from domestic soybeans and is non-toxic, unlike the currently used toxic ethylene glycol, which is made from petroleum.

According to Prof. Suppes, the process works at a lower pressure and temperature than other biodiesel processes and creates a higher yield. This technology is claimed to reduce the cost of biodiesel production by as much as $0.10 per litre of biodiesel.



Portable methanol fuel cell system

UltraCell Corporation, the United States, has developed a new fuel cell power source for portable electronic devices that has twice the energy density of lithium batteries. UltraCells reformed methanol fuel cell technology uses a revolutionary micro reformer to generate fuel-cell-ready hydrogen from a highly concentrated methanol solution. This 25 watts UltraCell25TM portable power system has the power density of a hydrogen fuel cell but uses readily available, low-cost methanol fuel in a convenient, compact package. The power unit weighs just 40 ounces and is about the size of a paperback novel.

UltraCells micro reformer technology is designed to work in a user-friendly package that, at the push of a button, self-starts and feeds power as needed. The systems spent fuel canisters can be easily hot swapped, to provide continuous power.

The full UltraCell system includes fuel processor, fuel cell stack, control system, balance of plant and fuel cartridge. The control system uses proprietary control algorithms to adjust pump and compressor settings and manage a steady flow of power. The micro fuel cell generates no excess water, and therefore does not need a water management system, saving size, weight and cost. In addition, the high-temperature membrane assembly from Pemeas Gmbh, which UltraCell system uses in its fuel cell stack, provides high tolerance to CO and impurities.

Contact: UltraCell Corporation, 230-A South Vasco Road, Livermore, CA 94551, United States of America. Tel: +1 (925) 455 9400; Fax: +1 (925) 455 7750



LPG-powered fuel cell

The worlds first residential fuel cell co-generation system to be powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was launched on 1 March 2005 in Tokyo as an environment-friendly and energy-efficient alternative to conventional home energy sources. The ENEOS Eco LP-1 is termed a co-generation system because it generates electricity while, at the same time, producing and storing hot water from waste heat given off by the generation, thereby deriving a double benefit from each calorie of energy consumed. The system, developed by Nippon Oil, can provide enough power and hot water to cover most of the electricity and/or hot water requirements of an ordinary household.

Because it is self-contained, including the fuel source, later versions of the system may also have an emergency back-up feature for times when the electricity supply is cut off by earthquakes or typhoons. In the first year of the launch, Nippon Oil plans to rent the new LPG-based co-generation system to household users in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.


A chemical brightens fuel cells future

While polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are widely considered the most promising fuel cells for portable use, their low operating temperature and resulting low efficiency have blocked their jump from promising technology to practical technology. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, however, have zeroed in on a chemical that could allow PEM fuel cells to operate at a much higher temperature without moisture. This means that PEM fuel cells, which work at temperatures high enough to make them practical for use in cars and small electronics, could be made more cheaply than ever before.

Researchers led by Dr. Meilin Liu, a professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech, has discovered that a chemical called triazole is significantly more effective than similar chemicals explored to raise conductivity and lower moisture dependence in polymer membranes. It is going to have a dramatic effect, said Dr. Liu.

Current PEMs employed in fuel cells have several problems that prevent their wider use. First, their operating temperature is so low that even trace amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) in hydrogen fuel will poison the fuel cells platinum catalyst. To prevent this, the hydrogen fuel is subjected to a purification process that makes fuel cells expensive. At higher temperatures, like those allowed by a membrane containing triazole, the fuel cell can tolerate higher levels of CO in the hydrogen fuel.

While existing PEM fuel cells can work at low temperatures, they are much less efficient than ceramic fuel cells. Polymer fuel cell membranes must be kept relatively cool so that membranes can retain the moisture they need to conduct protons. Heat must be removed from the fuel cells to keep them cool, and a water balance has to be maintained to ensure the required hydration of the PEMs. This increases the complexity of the system and significantly reduces its overall efficiency. PEMs that have triazole are able to increase the fuel cell operating temperatures to above 120C, thus eliminating the need for a water management system and dramatically simplifying the cooling system.


New fuel cell could help power the home

A new experimental fuel cell could help to increase home energy savings and reduce carbon emissions. The fuel cell system, designed by Toyota Motor, could supply both heat and electricity to households and reduce energy consumption by 13.3 per cent. The high-tech device can generate 1 kW of electricity, which then powers a co-generation system that is capable of supplying electricity and heat to four rooms. The system could also reduce the average carbon dioxide emission level of households by 22.7 per cent. The fuel cell technology is under test at a Nagoya condominium to assess the ability of the system to help improve household energy efficiency and combat climate change.


SOFC performance moves into high gear

GE Hybrid Power Generation Systems has kicked solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) performance into high gear, with its researchers developing full-size single-cell SOFC modules that consistently achieve a power density of 404 mW/cm2 at 88 per cent fuel utilization. The cells have also shown stable operation at 95 per cent fuel utilization-a record for full-size planar SOFCs.

The GE cells are fabricated using GEs mass-production manufacturing technique, the tape calendaring process, which supports the US$ 400/kW system cost target of the Solid State Energy Alliance (SECA) programme run by the United States Department of Energy. At this cost, about one-tenth the cost of power-generating fuel cells currently sold on the market, fuel cells would be able to compete with traditional gas turbine and diesel electricity generators for stationary applications and become viable auxiliary power suppliers for the transportation sector.

The compact, fuel-flexible system now runs on methane, and will be able to operate on pipeline natural gas, coal gas, propane and other fuels in the future. To optimize performance and reliability, the system uses an integrated thermal management approach the internal components that generate heat are all connected with those that use it, so that energy is not lost to the environment. The system also employs a flexible control structure, which allows the systems operating characteristics to be easily adjusted.


Safer monomers for fuel cells

Scientists at the National Chemicals Laboratory, Pune, India, have developed two new processes to obtain high-purity diaminobenzidene (DAB), the monomer used to prepare proton exchange membrane for hydrogen-oxygen separation in fuel cells. The processes involve non-carcinogenic raw material, and the use of new catalysts makes it possible to carry out the reactions under milder, safer conditions. The chemicals that are presently used in the preparation of DAB are known carcinogens and the process conditions are potentially unsafe.


Coal-powered fuel cell targets efficiency

A new coal-powered fuel cell developed by a team led by Dr. Douglas Weibel from Harvard University in Massachusetts, the United States may lead to a more efficient way of extracting energy from the fossil fuel than simply burning it. The new design allows electricity to be generated at just 100C, a temperature that is much easier to work with, although the efficiency is a low 7 per cent at present.

In conventional power plants, coal is burned to produce heat, which is then used to drive steam turbines and generate electricity. But during the conversion of one form of energy to another, about 65 per cent of it is lost, says Dr. Weibel. Efforts have been made in the past to use coal in fuel cells but these have required molten carbonate electrolytes that require temperatures between 600C and 900C, which reduce efficiency of the cells and make them prone to corrosion.

The researchers created the new cell by adding iron ions to a slurry of coal powder, mixed into an electrolyte of sulphuric acid. The ferric iron ions get reduced by coal, thus allowing a typical fuel cell reduction-oxidation cycle to take place, generating electricity. However, the cells still produce carbon dioxide, which is very difficult to avoid with coal. Dr. Weibel says that very simple improvements, such as using a finer form of coal powder or improving the design of the electrodes and placing them closer to each other, could make a huge difference to the efficiency of the cell.



Hydrogen generation equipment

A pioneer of hydrogen generation in Japan, Mitsubishi Kakoki Kaisha, has succeeded in developing new high-efficiency hydrogen generation equipment with remarkably improved reliability. The equipment, named HyGeia, is capable of generating pure (99.999 per cent) hydrogen at the rate of 50 m3/hour, while consuming 20 per cent less natural gas, which is the hydrogen feedstock. It is also more compact, requiring only half of the installation space required by the companys previous models. Its operation is completely automated.

The new equipment is expected to be installed at hydrogen-filling stations for fuel cell vehicles, and to be used for the manufacture of semiconductors and silica glass, or heat processing of metals, replacing compressed hydrogen. The company plans to expand the HyGeia product range in terms of generation capacity and fuel sources.


Microbial method for hydrogen production

NanoLogix Inc., United States, has applied for a provisional patent for its proprietary method of synergistically combining a bacteria-based hydrogen production method with excess industrial heat. The bacterial hydrogen production process uses excess heat that is produced during standard hydrogen production to isolate hydrogen-producing bacteria. The process thus reduces the cost of hydrogen production by running two methods simultaneously and conserving energy.

Preliminary data and the results of a study have confirmed laboratory proof-of-concept measurements that it is possible to generate hydrogen using NanoLogix technology. In this study, the bioreactor produced biogas consisting of 50 per cent hydrogen by volume, without any trace of methane. Recently, NanoLogix signed a feasibility study with the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering of Gannon University to develop a bioreactor that produces hydrogen inexpensively utilizing NanoLogixs patented bacterial culturing methods. NanoLogix believes that it has discovered the most likely method for low-cost production of massive quantities of hydrogen as an alternate source of energy.

Contact: NanoLogix Inc., 87 Stambaugh Avenue, Suite 2, Sharon, PA 16146, United States of America. Tel: + 1 (724) 346 1302; Fax: +1 (724) 346 9596.


New hydrogen production method

Researchers in Italy have developed a new technique for producing hydrogen and for purifying polluted gases. The technique involves the release of oxygen from cerium oxide (ceria), a pale yellow-white powder used in ceramics and to polish glass.

Ceria-based materials are oxygen buffers, materials that allow one to efficiently store or release oxygen, thus favouring a high catalytic activity and inducing a set of chemical reactions, which would otherwise require higher pressures and temperatures, said Mr. Friedrich Esch from the TASC-INFM-CNR laboratory in Trieste. The findings could make a major contribution towards energy conservation, increasing the safety of industrial processes and reducing environmental impact.

The researchers, from three different Italian institutions in Trieste, have used innovative technologies in order to obtain these results: scanning tunnelling microscopy that allows one to obtain images of a materials surface with atomic resolution, and numerical modelling, which is used to describe electronic and atomic structure using parallel computing.


Solar technology for hydrogen production

Nearly all hydrogen used today as fuel is produced by expensive processes that require combustion of polluting fossil fuels. It is also very difficult and expensive to store and transport the gas. The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, has tested an innovative use of solar technology to facilitate the economic production of non-polluting hydrogen fuel on a large scale. The new solar technology also tackles the problems of transportation and storage by creating an easily storable intermediate energy source using metal ore, such as zinc oxide.

The chemical process behind the technology was originally developed at Weizmann on a scale of several kilowatts. It was then scaled up to 300 kW in collaboration with scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, Institut de Science et de Genie des Materiaux et Procedes - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, and the ScanArc Plasma Technologies AB in Sweden.

With the help of concentrated sunlight, zinc oxide is heated in a solar reactor to about 1,200C in the presence of wood charcoal. The ore gets split by the process, releasing oxygen and creating gaseous zinc, which is then condensed to form a powder. Zinc powder when mixed with water produces hydrogen for fuel and zinc oxide. The latter is then recycled back to zinc in the solar plant. In recent experiments, the 300 kW installation produced 45 kg of zinc powder from zinc oxide in one hour, exceeding project goals.

The process generates no pollution, and the resultant zinc can be easily stored and transported and converted to hydrogen on demand. The zinc can also be used directly, for example, in zinc-air batteries that serve as efficient converters of chemical to electrical energy. Thus, the process offers a way to store solar energy in chemical form and releasing it as needed. Weizmann scientists are currently studying metal ores other than zinc oxide, besides other materials that may be employed for efficient conversion of sunlight into storable energy.


Catalytic hydrogen production process

Fuel cells are the foremost option today for powering portable electronic equipment. Some of these cells require a readily available source of hydrogen to produce electricity, and providing pure hydrogen when needed remains a problem. Hydrogen is a very light gas and hence, must be stored under high pressure, which necessitates bulky, heavy and cumbersome cylinders. There are also valid safety concerns related to storage of compressed hydrogen gas. Hydrogen produced at the point of use from a readily available source such as methanol would be a better option.

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, the United Kingdom, have developed a novel method for extracting hydrogen from a liquid that contains an amount of methanol. Hydrogen can be extracted from methanol using a process known as steam methane reforming, but this requires heating to temperatures above 300C. Oxford researchers have developed a new catalytic process for releasing hydrogen from a fuel mixture that contains methanol.

The reaction in the process is initiated at a lower temperature before reaching a higher operating temperature. This new method makes it possible to produce hydrogen without the heating requirements of the steam methane method, which might facilitate production of portable fuel cells.


Thermo-chemical water splitting cycle

Researchers at the Chemical Engineering Department of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the United States, have developed a new approach to produce hydrogen by the decomposition of water. The process temperature is significantly below the temperatures of current thermo-chemical cycles. It can be used for the simultaneous generation of pure hydrogen, oxygen and electricity and can use a variety of energy sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear and solar.

There have been many attempts to create thermo-chemical cycles with different catalysts and other reactants, but efficiencies have not come up to the desired levels. The thermo-chemical cycle that the UCLA researchers developed has certain advantages. While thermal decomposition of water usually requires temperatures above 2,000C, the new method can be operated at a relatively low temperature of ~900C.

Furthermore, the decomposition can be powered by a variety of energy sources because of the lower operating temperatures of the process. The innovation lies in the optimization of intermediates, kinetics, operating temperatures, heat removal and control of the rate of reaction, and electricity co-generation.

The invention is at the conceptual stage, although details are known about the cycles reactions. Some of the individual steps in the process have been made and temperatures recorded. Kinetic information about the cycles elements is also known.

Contact: Dr. Vasilios Manousiouthakis, Department of Chemical Engineering, Henry Samuel School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California Los Angeles, #10920 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1406, United States of America. Tel: +1 (310) 794 0558; Fax: +1 (310) 794 0638



Micro fuel cell system for domestic use

Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, Australia, will shortly launch NetGenTM, a micro fuel cell system for domestic applications. NetGen represents a major breakthrough in the development of fuel cell power generation systems for the household. The unit is about the size of a standard domestic washing machine, yet it is engineered to produce 1 kWe of electricity, which is sufficient for most domestic requirements.

NetGen also recovers much of the waste heat to supplement existing domestic hot water and central heating systems. Besides being highly efficient, the unit has low emissions, low noise and hardly any vibration. The fuel cell produces grid parallel power, which can be distributed to other users via the low voltage network. The unit can be monitored and controlled remotely over the Internet providing networked distributed generation.



Electricity from chicken litter

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in the United States has successfully demonstrated that chicken litter can be gasified to produce hydrogen and generate electricity using a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). The research is jointly conducted by GTI, Earth Resources Inc. and the University of Georgia, and funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. According to Mr. Francis Lau, Director of Corporate Development at GTI, the technology has the potential to generate on-site power and heat from a renewable source of energy economically while addressing environmental problems caused by traditional disposal practices. Also, chicken litter can replace fossil fuels that are currently used to provide heat in poultry farms, thus avoiding net generation of carbon dioxide.

Litter from poultry farms is traditionally used in land applications as a fertilizer because it is rich in nutrients. However, the rise in poultry production combined with the decreasing availability of land and the potential deleterious environmental impacts create concern about traditional litter disposal methods. Gasification has the potential to provide a cost-effective and environmentally benign disposal option for the litter while yielding heat, power, fuel (such as hydrogen) and fertilizer.

Hydrogen was produced in a bench-scale fluidized bed gasifier operated at about 845C with chicken litter as feed. Air and steam were used as the gasifying medium. A 5-cell SOFC stack was operated at about 800C on the slipstream from the gasifier. A zinc oxide-based sorbent bed was employed to remove hydrogen sulphide in the fuel gas prior to entering the SOFC stack. The average power density is about 40 per cent of that obtained from reformed natural gas due to this low-Btu (80 Btu/cubic ft) fuel. Post-test disassembly confirmed no carbon deposition on the SOFC nickel anode and did not indicate any unusual state of the stacks active components.

Contact: Mr. Fracis Lau, Director, Corporate Development, Gas Technology Institute, # 1700 S. Mount Prospect Road, Des Plaines, Illinois 60018, United States of America. Tel: +1 (847) 7680 592; Fax: +1 (847) 7680 501



Fuel gas generator uses sewage sludge

Japans Kobelco Eco Solutions, a Kobe Steel group company, has announced that it has developed a fuel gas generator in collaboration with the city government of Kobe. The new device can produce fuel gas (methane) called Bio Natural Gas by the company through the sewage sludge treatment process. Since 2004, Kobelco Eco Solutions has on trial basis supplied the gas to buses and trash collector trucks running in Kobe City.

Contact: Kobelco Eco-Solutions Co. Ltd., 4-78, 1-chome, Wakinohama-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 651-0072, Japan. Tel: +81 (78) 232 8018; Fax: +81 (78) 232 8051.


Device creates electricity and treats wastewater

An environmental engineer at the Washington University in St. Louis, the United States, has developed a device similar to a hydrogen fuel cell that uses bacteria to treat wastewater and create electricity. The upflow microbial fuel cell (UMFC) invented by Dr. Lars Angenent, an assistant professor at the Chemical Engineering Department, is fed continually and, unlike most microbial fuel cells, works with chambers atop each other rather than beside each other. Using the device about the size of a thermos bottle Dr. Angenent has generated electricity and purified artificial wastewater simultaneously for more than five months. However, he says that the device has to be scaled up considerably to handle the large volume of wastewater it needs to treat to churn out enough power.

Dr. Angenent uses a carbon-based foam with a large pore size on which biofilm grows, allowing him to connect two electrodes in the anode and cathode chambers with a conductive wire. In the hydrogen fuel cell, a membrane separates the anode and cathode chambers. When hydrogen meets the anode electrode, it splits into protons and electrons, with protons going across the membrane to the cathode chamber, and electrons passing over the wire connecting electrodes to create a current. Oxygen is added to the cathode chamber, and on the electrode there is a reaction of electron plus proton plus oxygen to form water. A catalyst, such as platinum, is needed on both electrodes to promote the reactions. In UMFC, bacteria form a biofilm on the anode electrodes and act as the catalyst instead of platinum.


Fuel gas production from waste plastics

In Japan, the Research Institute for Environmental Management Technology of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has developed direct gasification technology to obtain fuel gas from waste plastics. The Polymer Decomposition Laboratory Co., Ltd. (PDL) also participated in this project. Although several oil production processes were devised over the past three decades, technical and economic obstacles still remain for a process that recycles waste plastics. The recent breakthrough offers an innovative method to promote a more economical way of feedstock recycling.

Based on the process design by PDL, an experimental module with a horizontally placed moving-bed reactor for plastics decomposition was assembled and operated to ascertain optimum conditions for the effective formation of gaseous hydrocarbons. A mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons such as methane and isobutane were obtained from polyethylene and polypropylene with 70-94 wt per cent. Effective gasification was achieved through steady heat transfer using a screw conveyor and sand mixing with plastics, two crucial features of the gasification module. Mixed gas thus obtained had higher economical value than heavy oil substitutes, a major product of the conventional process of feedstock recycling. Researchers plan to build a demonstration plant and other reactors for precise control of the gas compositions.


High-temperature gasification

Thermoselect SA, Switzerland, has developed a new high-temperature gasification technology that accepts a wide range of wastes to produce purified syngas as well as granulate metals and minerals that can be used in industry and construction. Thermoselects process has the potential to provide an alternative to the conventional practice of landfilling wastes. This process does not lead to the creation of dioxins, furans and other organic compounds.

The process recovers synthesis gas, usable vitreous mineral substances and iron-rich materials from MSW and commercial/industrial wastes. The uninterrupted procedure concurrently gasifies organic wastes while melting down inert materials. Organic materials are converted to synthesis gas with a composition that reflects the thermodynamic equilibrium of the temperature at the top of the reactor, about 1,200C. The high-temperature, oxygen-free environment and a residence time of over 2 s in the upper part of the reactor ensures that the prime constituents of the exiting syngas only occur as the smallest molecular species of hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide and dioxide (CO, CO2) and water.

At an outlet temperature of 1,200C, synthesis gas obtained from the organic fraction of MSW typically comprises (by volume) 25-42 per cent H2, 25-42 per cent CO, 10-35 per cent CO2, 2-5 per cent nitrogen, up to 1 per cent methane, H2S as trace amount and other impurities. Subsequent purification of synthesis gas and process water yields by-products in the form of salt, zinc concentrate and sulphur. Moreover, there is no deposition of ash, slag, chars or filter dusts.

Contact: Dr. Wulf Kaiser, Director, Thermoselect SA, Switzerland.


Waste Management World,November-December 2004

Methane from organic wastes

In the Republic of Korea, research undertaken by Kobiotech Co. Ltd. has resulted in a technology capable of producing clean biogas through high-speed methane fermentation of organic wastes. This project was funded by The Core Environmental Technology Development Project for Next Generation, of the Ministry of Environment.

The new process is highly effective, taking only 12 days for the whole procedure. About 90.6 per cent of COD is removed and 245 l of gas recovered from 1 kg of COD. Economic viability is achieved using a pH controlling liquid for operating the semi-anaerobic hydrolysis/acid fermentation tank. The waste liquid accumulated after fermentation of the organic wastes can be used as fertilizer to raise high-quality crops. Potential uses of the process are:
  • Processing highly concentrated organic wastes and wastewater;
  • A small system can be installed to treat food wastes and even utilize the energy thus generated; and
  • In large-scale applications, the system can treat food wastes in a district and use the methane as an energy source.

A 2.5 t and 10 t 3-stage methane fermentation systems installed at Chosun University could treat 100 kg/d and 400 kg/d, respectively, of food wastes. Methane produced on the campus is used to meet heat requirements.

Contact: Website:



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