VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy . Sep-Oct 2007

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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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International standards for wave and tidal energy

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the global body for electrical energy standards, is scheduled to develop international standards for wave and tidal energy technology. These standards will help establish this renewable source of energy as a competitive form of electrical energy production. With world production of electricity expected to double over the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Outlook 2006, renewable energy production is expected to increase by 57 per cent.

According to a report of the International Energy Agency report to the recent G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, accelerated deployment of renewables can greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, enhance energy security and further reduce technology costs. It is expected that the new standards, produced by the IEC Technical Committee on Marine Energy Wave and Tidal Energy Converters, will support the IEAs efforts to recommend best practices for the effective integration of electricity from wave and tidal energy devices.

The IEC will help ensure that, as the technologies mature, the international standards will help bring down technology costs to make renewable energy more competitive with existing energy alternatives while ensuring the transfer of expertise from traditional energy systems. The new international standards cover the performance of tidal and wave energy converters, how these converters will plug into electricity grid systems and how they should be tested.


United Nations clears Thai projects on carbon-trading

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change gave its approval for three schemes that will help Thailand join the clean development mechanism project and trade carbon credits internationally. The three schemes are biomass plants operated by the Mitr Phol Group, AT Bio-power, and Khon Kaen Sugar Industry. The rate of carbon credit trading on the world market is US$7 per tonne. Carbon trading is a key market mechanism to tackle global warming under the Kyoto Protocols clean development mechanism. It fixes an economic value on carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, then creates a market to buy and sells the right to emit greenhouse gases. Developed countries look to developing countries to buy these rights.

Khon Kaen Sugar Industry started its biomass electric plant in December last year. It runs on sugar cane and is expected to generate 61,000 t/y of carbon credits. The plant produces 30 MW, 20 MW of which is sold to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The company has been approved to trade credits for 10 years.


Rural Sri Lanka to light up with renewable energy

A new World Bank credit will allow Sri Lanka to tap renewable energy for supplying electricity to 60,000 rural homes and also connect new private sector renewable energy to the urban power grid. The US$40 million dollar soft loan will help boost grid-connecting capacity by 50 MW and extend off-grid electricity services to 60,000 more households and 500 rural micro- and small-scale enterprises. The main aim of the project is to bring electricity to remote communities and individual households through village-led electricity societies and provide solar energy services, the World Bank stated.

A previous project funded by the World Bank provided solar power systems to 3,200 households and nine schools, enabling them to provide computers to school children. About 66,000 homes also switched from kerosene to solar systems, while 750 business enterprises benefited from off-grid electricity for various income-generating activities. This project also helped strengthen the generation supply of the national grid through private sector-owned mini-hydro, wind and other renewable energy projects that feed into the grid. The generation capacity added to the national grid through renewable energy technologies by the private sector has exceeded 55 MW within a period of four years.

The new loan includes refinancing support for grid-connected renewable energy, investments in solar photovoltaic technology and further commercialization of village hydro and other community-based independent grid systems. The credit provided by the International Development Association has a 20-year maturity with 10-year grace period.


Renewable energy utilities thriving in the Republic of Korea

In the Republic of Korea, more and more enterprises are expanding into the renewable energy sector as a new growth engine. Since it seems likely that the oil price will stay high for a long time, Korean enterprises are setting eyes on renewable energy business, such as solar and wind, while simultaneously strengthening conventional energy businesses like the development of oil reservoirs.

In early July, LG CNS launched a renewable energy business team consisting of 30 staffers. It purports to make use of the experience of the company in integrating systems in the information technology field and to manage the renewable energy field, including fund raising for renewable energy businesses and the construction of power plants. LG Group is encouraging expansion into energy businesses on a group level by developing an air cooler/heater system that uses underground heat (LG Electronics) and carrying out business plans (LG International Corp.) based on the clean development mechanism, which allows the trade of the rights to discharge carbon dioxide.

Samsung Corp. plans to set up a solar power plant in Greece within this year. Following this, it will start to enter the business of transforming sunrays into electricity to fully expand into the renewable energy business. Industry watchers expect Samsung Electronics will nourish energy business as a new growth engine following its success in the semiconductor business.

The Hyundai Kia Automotive Group has formed a task force on resource development in Hyundai Hysco and recently underwrote an oil field in Jambil, Kazakhstan. This is the first time the Hyundai Motor has invested in an energy-related business. SK Energy recently began to produce crude oil in Brazil and plans to increase its oil reserve from 500 million barrels as of now to 700 million barrels by 2010.


MHI to license wind turbine technology

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Japan, will license the production technology for its MWT 62/1.0 (or MWT-1000A) wind turbine to Chinas Wuzhong Instrument Co. Ltd. MWT 62/1.0 has a rated power output of 1 MW. The mid-sized wind turbine was selected for licensing as it is difficult to transport large wind turbines to the hilly zones of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region that offers abundant wind energy.

Its optimized blade structure and redesigned blade shape make the MWT 62/1.0, with more than 700 units in operation globally, capable of generating power even at relatively low wind speeds. In an environment where the annual wind speed averages 6 m/s, the MWT 62/1.0 can achieve 20 per cent higher annual energy production (300 MWh/year) compared with MHIs conventional 1 MW wind turbines (MWT 57/1.0 or MWT-1000).


Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles to be on Indian roads by 2020

Indias National Hydrogen Energy Road Map lays down the pathway for the development of hydrogen energy infrastructure, including the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles by 2020, in the country. Mr. Vilas Muttemwar, the Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy, has stated that the ministry is confident of achieving over 10 per cent of the total installed power-generating capacity from renewables by 2012. Mr. Muttemwar also revealed that about a million solar photovoltaic systems are in use for domestic lighting purposes. At pre- sent, the country has the largest programme on renewable energy technologies in the world.

The total power-generating capacity in India as on March 2007 was close to 133,000 MW. Renewable power-generating capacity is about 10,252 MW, which contributes 7.75 per cent of the total installed power-generating capacity. Among renewable power technologies, the major contributions are from wind power (7,092 MW) and small hydro power (1,976 MW), followed by bioenergy (1,187 MW) and grid-distributed renewable power (155 MW).


China for 30 per cent renewable energy

According to the China Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development Report, recent developments in renewable energy in China offer insight into the countrys growing challenges between population, energy and the environment. The report says that the persistent rural poverty in China and periodic power shortages have impressed upon Beijing that renewable energy must be a large part of Chinas economy if it is to complete its economic transformation and achieve energy security.
The report also notes that between 2005 and 2030, China will account for about 23 per cent of the worlds investment in power, spending US$ 1.2 trillion. Chinas ambitious growth target for renewable energy production will need an investment of US$ 100 billion by 2020. The long-term aim is to meet 30 per cent or more of the nations total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. The report examines Chinas developments across renewable energy industry.


Malaysia targets 500 MW from biofuel

The Malaysian government is pushing ahead with its strategy to use biomass for renewable power generation and aims to generate 500 MW by 2010, up from the earlier target of 300 MW. According to Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the Energy, Water and Communications Minister, the strategy include revising the renewable energy power purchase agreement and raising the power purchase price by Tenaga Nasional Bhd. Dr. Lim said that Tenagas decision to buy power generated from palm oil biomass waste at the new price would promote renewable energy. Tenaga is generating about 20,000 MW at present and its earnings will not be affected as the target is only 500 MW by 2010.

Malaysia has more than 400 palm oil mills and the governments plan is for these mills to either generate electricity to sell to Tenaga or for their own use. Dr. Lim also stated the electricity reserve margin was 42 per cent and Tenaga had to pay for that reserve capacity. We will reduce this to 25 per cent by 2013 no more new coal or gas plants, Dr. Lim said, adding that the government wanted more companies to switch to biofuel.


Philippines steps up search for geothermal energy

The Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC), the Philippines, is stepping up the pace of exploration at its US$200 million geothermal project in Mt. Cabalian, Southern Leyte, to increase the countrys power supply. So far, the subsidiary of the state-run PNOC has already drilled three exploratory wells. The drilling of the third well to a depth of 3,104 m was completed last month. The well would be heated up for about a month before PNOC-EDC can determine with some certainty the potential reserves of the geothermal fields in Southern Leyte.

Mr. Manuel Ogena, PNOC-EDCs Vice President, said, We are confirming supposedly with this (third well) a total of 100-110 MW capacity. PNOC-EDC had initially confirmed from the first two wells that the field had enough steam reserves to produce 50 MW of electricity. If the third well confirms viable geothermal reserves, the company will look for joint venture partners for developing the geothermal fields and investors who would undertake construction of the power plant under the build-operate-transfer or other schemes. The government hopes to generate 100-150 MW of geothermal power from Mount Cabalian, with the geothermal plant targeted for commissioning by 2015. A transmission line of more than 80 km will connect the plant to the lines of the National Power Co. in Leyte.


Thailand eyes palm oil as alternative fuel

Thailands Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, in a bid to boost consumption of alternative fuel in the country, has drawn up a plan to develop and enlarge the palm oil growing area during 2008-2012. It plans to increase Thailands palm oil plantation area over a five-year period, with new palm oil trees and fine palm oil seeds grown to replace the old ones. The decision to grow more palm oil is aimed at catering to the rising demand for fuel in the future and to increase the potential of the industry. The government is encouraging motorists to switch to alternative energy as local oil prices have jumped sharply, causing Thailand to spend significant amounts of foreign currency for imported oil.


Investments gust into wind power in China

Mr. Guillermo Ulacia, as chairman and CEO of the worlds leading wind power company Gamesa, has no doubts about his company's aims in China. He says, by the end of 2007, we will invest 35 million in the China industrial project. The Spanish company opened its first plant in Tianjin last September to assemble nacelles, which hold wind turbines designed for an annual output capacity of 700 MW. The nacelle assembly line is only the first step in Gamesas China strategy. It will be followed by a plant to manufacture wind blades.

The Chinese market has become one of the most important markets for Gamesa, with the Tianjin project its second production plant outside Spain, says Mr. Ulacia. Vestas of Denmark and Suzlon of India are also building facilities. Vestas, the worlds largest wind turbine manufacturer, has plans to build Tianjin into its logistics centre for the Asia-Pacific region.

The use of wind power, as a clean and renewable energy source, has seen rapid growth in China in recent years, as has the businesses of suppliers. By the end of 2006, the total installed capacity of wind power in the country was 2,600 MW. In 2006 alone China added a total of 1,300 MW of installed wind power generation. Mr. Shi Pengfei of the Chinese Wind Energy Association estimates that China possesses a 1,000 GW potential in wind energy, 750 GW of it off-shore.



Solar cells with high conversion efficiency

Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Japan, has broken its own record to achieve the worlds highest energy conversion efficiency in practical size (100 cm2 or higher) crystalline silicon-type solar cells. Its proprietary HIT solar photovoltaic cells have achieved an efficiency of 22 per cent (until now 21.8 per cent) at a research level. Moreover, this increase in solar cell conversion efficiency is accompanied by significant reductions in the production cost of the photovoltaic (PV) system as well as in the use of raw materials such as silicon.


Plastic tandem organic solar cells

A discovery made at the Centre for Polymers and Organic Solids at the University of California, the United States, has given a significant hike in efficiency to organic solar cells. Prof. Alan Heeger worked with Dr. Lee Kwang-hee of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea, and other scientists to create the tandem organic solar cell with increased efficiency.

Tandem cells comprise two multi-layered parts that work together to gather a wider range of the solar radiation spectrum at both shorter and longer wavelengths resulting in 6.5 per cent efficiency. This is the highest level achieved for solar cells made from organic materials.

The new tandem architecture improves light harvesting and promises to be less expensive to produce. The cells can be fabricated to extend over a large area using low-cost printing and coating technologies that can simultaneously pattern the active materials on lightweight flexible substrates. The multi-layered device is the equivalent of two cells in series, states Prof. Heeger. The deposition of each layer of the multiple layers by processing the materials from solution promises to make the solar cells less expensive to produce.


Economical process to make non-silicon-based solar cells

In Japan, a team led by Mr. Shigeru Niki and Mr. Shogo Ishizuka at the Centre for Photovoltaics, Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has developed a thin-film technology that can lower the consumption of selenium raw materials below 1/10th of the conventional standard during the manufacture of non-silicon-based CIGS thin-film solar cells. This makes it possible to expect mass production of high-performance CIGS modules. CIGS solar cells use Cu(In, Ga)Se2 as the light absorption layer.

The new technology was developed for the better control and efficient use of selenium raw materials in the multi-source evaporation method at the AIST. The team replaced conventional vaporized selenium with selenium radicals made using RF plasma cracking to produce CIGS thin films. With this technology, on/off control of selenium supply during production of the thin film is possible. As the high reactivity of radical selenium can be utilized, the scientists succeeded in controlling the consumption of raw materials to a tenth of the amount of conventional vaporized selenium. This also meant that safety in handling selenium can be improved. Metal raw materials, except selenium, still use the same conventional vapour of Knudsen-cell source. It has been found that the CIGS thin film produced using the new technology (using selenium radical) shows a smooth and dense surface and has large grains. The small-area solar cells made with the CIGS thin-film technology shows conversion efficiency as high as the conventional CIGS solar cells.


Bio-based prototype solar cell

Biosolar Inc., the United States, has created the worlds first bio-based solar cell. The thin-film, flexible solar cell is manufactured on bio-based plastic substrate by laminating the companys proprietary bio-based substrate on to a crystalline solar cell as back sheet. The processes used to laminate solar cells to back sheets and front cover usually occur at a higher temperature than most bio-based films can withstand. However, Biosolar bio-based films can withstand the harsh environment of the photovoltaic lamination oven.

Working solar cells can be made using Biosolars bio-based film as part of the packaging for crystalline silicon-based PV modules. The three fully functional prototype solar cell modules that use Biosolars proprietary bio-based back sheets have performed to the cell specifications.

Contact: Biosolar Inc., 27936, Lost Canyon Road, Suite #202, Santa Clarita, CA 91387, United States of America. Tel: +1 (661) 2510 001; Fax: +1 (661) 2510 003.


Solar cells with metal wrap through technology

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Germany, have successfully developed a multi-crystalline solar cell prototype with rear side contacts. In comparison to the production of standard solar cells, there are three process stages for manufacturing the metal wrap through (MWT) solar cells that partially shift the front side contacts over to the rear side, thus reducing the front side metallization almost in half.

First, a laser is used to drill holes into the cells. The through connection of the cells is achieved by the subsequent silk screen printing process for the production of the rear side contacts. The silk screen printing paste is used to fill the recently created holes, thus establishing the electrical connection to the front side. Unlike the typical processes, isolation of the contacts reduces additional costs. The rear side contact of the MWT solar cells needs a small modification of the standard process. The first prototype MWT cells achieved an efficiency of more than 16 per cent. This is an increase of up to 0.5 per cent over comparable standard silk screen printed solar cells made of the same multicrystalline material.


Thin-layer solar cells for cheaper green power

The experts at Durham University, the United Kingdom, are developing light-absorbing materials for use in the production of thin-layer solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are used to convert light energy into electricity. The project involves experiments on a range of different materials that would be less expensive and more sustainable to use in the manufacture of solar panels. It focuses on developing thin-layer PV cells using materials such as copper indium diselenide and cadmium telluride.

Professor Ken Durose, Director of the Durham Centre for Renewable Energy, who is leading the research, stated: One of the main issues in solar energy is the cost of materials and we recognize that the cost of solar cells is slowing down their uptake. The Durham team is thus working on manipulating the growth of the materials so that they form a continuous structure, which is vital for conducting the energy trapped by solar panels before it is turned into usable electricity. This will help improve the efficiency of the thin-layer PV cells, and lead to the development of more affordable thin-film PV cells for making solar panels that could be fitted to roofs to help power homes.


New technology cuts the price of solar energy

A test installation that operates with a linear, 100 m long Fresnel reflector has been installed at Almera in southern Spain. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Germany, helped develop the technology.

In sunny countries, it is worthwhile building large-scale solar thermal power plants in whose solar fields thermo-oil is heated. Steam created using a heat exchanger then drives a turbine to generate electricity. Up to now, gigantic parabolic mirrors were used to focus the sunlight on a central absorber tube. Fresnel reflectors offer a low-cost alternative. Flat mirrors arrayed in long rows are so aligned that, with the aid of a small secondary mirror, they focus the sunlight on a tube running along the row of mirrors. Water is vaporized directly in this tube and heated up to 450C at high pressure. Prof. Eicke Weber, Director of ISE, says that linear Fresnel reflectors are cheaper than parabolic mirrors, take up less space and less sensitive to the wind.

The demonstration plant in Almera was designed by Prof. Weber and his team in collaboration with other prestigious research groups. If the Fresnel reflectors pass muster, they can be used in the construction of commercial solar thermal power plants.

Contact: Mr. Karin Schneider, Fraunhofer-Institut fur Solare Energiesysteme (ISE), Heidenhofstrae 2, 79110 Freiburg, Germany. Tel: +49 (761) 4588 5147

Website: www.ise.fraunhofer.den



Developers trying to harness Earths energy

Mr. Gene Kelley at W2 Energy, the United States, believes that wings offer a better answer for capturing wind energy than propellers. They say that their WindWing based on some fundamental concepts, can replace current propeller-driven wind turbines and produce much more energy at a fraction of the cost. The use of a wing, as opposed to a propeller, creates a simpler and more efficient way to capture the energy of the wind, according to Mr. Kelley.

The prototype consists of four wings on one end and weights on the other. The weighted end of the bar is short 1 ft long compared with the 10 ft on the other end where the wings sit. As the lever is built at a 10:1 ratio, the force of the wind is magnified so that 90.7 kg of lift on the wings translates into 1 tonne of useful force.

In practical application, the ratio will be determined by factors such as wind conditions and wing length. A breeze of 6.7 mph starts to push the wing end upwards. When the wings reach the top, a position sensor is tripped and the wings tilt downwards, changing their angle of attack. The wings get pushed downwards until they reach the bottom before the wing angle changes again. The system moves gently, with springs on the central pole that compress as the bar reaches the top and bottom of its movement and springs back to shove the bar in the opposite direction. The up-and-down flapping is less likely to kill birds than a propeller.

With the WindWing, the wings put more surface area in contact with the wind. This gives more lift, which translates into more power. The prototype is 40-60 per cent efficient at deriving power from the wind. More than one WindWing turbines could be stacked on a single tower to get the most out of the different wind speeds. The angle of the wings can be adjusted so that there is a high angle for a light wind and a low one for a strong wind. The design is also scaleable, so that the wings could range from the size of a conference room table to that of a Boeing 747.


New generation wind tower technology

In the United States, NRG Systems Inc. has announced its XHD NOW system featuring the new 50 or 60 m XHD TallTower. The XHD TallTower, which is the foundation of NRGs new system, is its next-generation tower. It is ice-rated under structural engineering standard TIA/EIA 222-F. The 50 m and 60 m towers, use 10 inch and 8 inch diameter steel tubes, respectively, and come with a strong base plate.

Interchangeable parts simplify installation and maintenance throughout the life of the towers and streamline production. The XHD TallTowers also offer multi-anchor layout options. A small footprint can be used for installations along ridge lines or in places where forest or crop clearing has to be minimal.

Contact: NRG Systems Inc., 110 Riggs Road, Hinesburg, Vermont 05461, United States of America. Tel: +1 (802) 482 2255; Fax: +1 (802) 482 2272.


Chinas 1.5 MW wind power generator

The first 1.5 MW wind power generator of China, fully designed and built in the country, has rolled out of the assembly line of Guangdong Mingyang Wind Power Technology Company. The generator, expected to cost at least 20 per cent lower than comparable imported or joint venture products, is designed specifically to weather Chinas climate and is resistant to typhoons, sand storms and extremely low temperatures. The companys production capacity of wind power generators is expected to rise from the current 450 units per year to 1,000 units by 2010.


Wind turbine with compact nacelle

Japans Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has developed and patented a wind turbine generator that sports a nacelle with comparatively less size and weight. The nacelle has its main shaft connected to a rotor head equipped with blades and it integrally rotates with the rotor head. The turbine includes a gearbox that speeds up the rotation of the main shaft. The resulting rotational speed drives a generator. A drive train extending from the main shaft to the generator via the gearbox is installed in the rotor head. The generator is preferably a synchronous one and the gearbox is preferably a traction drive.


Voltage control for wind generators

General Electric Co. of the United States has patented a wind turbine generator control system that has relatively fast regulation of voltage near the individual generators but, at the same time, relatively slower overall reactive power regulation at a sub-station or wind farm level. The relatively slow reactive power regulator is used to adjust the set point of the relatively fast voltage regulator. The faster voltage regulation can be at the generator terminals or at a synthesized remote point.


Multi-megawatt wind turbines

Nordex AG, Germany, is extending its range of multi-megawatt turbines with the introduction of the N100, a 2.5 MW wind turbine specially designed for moderate wind conditions. Nordexs new turbine follows in the footsteps of its N80/2500 and N90/2500. The prominent feature of the N100 is its 49 m long rotor blades, resulting in a large rotor diameter of about 100 m. At 7,823 m2, this produces an increase of 23 per cent in rotor sweep compared with the N90/2500 turbine, making the N100 particularly suitable for weak wind conditions with average wind speeds of 6.5-7.5 m/s. The turbine will be certified in accordance with DIBt2 and IEC 3a. It is supplied in a 50 Hz version, with a 60 Hz version also available for the United States market. Pilot production is to begin in 2008, and serial production in 2009.


Wind turbine designs for low wind speeds

Windflow Technology, New Zealand, is developing three versions of its Windflow 500 wind turbine, in a bid to target international markets. The company is readying for the possibility of supplying turbines to wind power markets in countries such as India and China. But first it needed to design turbines that could operate at lower wind speeds, said Mr. Geoff Henderson, CEO of Windflow Technology. Windflow 500 turbines have been designed to commence generating power at 11 knots, but the wind speeds in China and India are around 8 knots.

Mr. Henderson said wind power is seen as a low-cost renewable option for India and China, where more electricity generation is desperately needed. However, it would be one or two years before Windflow is in a position to enter those markets. Windflow also has plans to design a turbine that could run efficiently alongside diesel generators. Many remote islands relied on diesel to supply electricity and Windflow proposes to design controls where the diesel generator stops completely when the wind power kicks in, thus maximising fuel savings. The company is also designing a turbine that would run on 60 Hz or 1,800 rpm, allowing it to be compatible for the North American market. The existing Windflow turbines run on 50 Hz or 1500 rpm.


Diffuser-augmented wind turbine

Composite Support and Solutions Inc., the United States, has secured patent on a diffuser-augmented wind turbine assembly. In the new invention, the diffuser has a cylindrical central section, which supports a rotor drum that, in turn, supports turbine blades without requiring a central support shaft. Wind energy drives the turbine blades and rotor drum, which drives a generator to produce electrical power. The device can also be operated in reverse as a wind-generating fan by supplying electricity to the generator to act as a motor, according to the patent information.



Oil from algae

Seambiotic Ltd., Israel, has found a way to produce biofuel by channelling smokestack carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through pools of algae that clean it. The growing algae thrive on the added nutrients and become a useful biofuel. Seambiotic has tested its concept at a coal-burning power plant operated by the Israel Electric Company (IEC). The company believes that it can lock up CO2 emissions through a process called biofixation.

According to Seambiotic CEO Mr. Amnon Bechar, An algal pond can produce oil 365 days a year, and much more oil per hectare of land than traditional plant crops. Studies have shown that algae may be one of the worlds most promising biofuels. It is capable of producing 30 times more oil per acre than the current crops used for the production of biofuels. Algal biofuel is also non-toxic, contains no sulphur and is biodegradable. The companys prototype algae farm uses the tiny plants to suck up CO2 emissions from the power plants. Seambiotics eight shallow algae pools are filled with the same sea water used to cool the power plant. A small percentage of gases are siphoned off from the power plant flue and are channelled directly into the algae ponds. The company plans to build its first large-scale biofuel reactor by next year.


Technology for faster biodiesel production

In the United States, researchers from the Cornell University report to have developed a way of producing biodiesel continuously, without the need to fill and empty batch reactors. Biodiesel production involves a reaction called trans-esterification in which the triglycerides and free fatty acids in oils from plants, such as corn or linseed, react with methanol to form methyl esters of 16-18 carbon atoms in length. However, trans-esterification is a slow process and currently the only way to speed it up is to cook chemicals in batch reactors at high temperatures and pressures. Batch production of fuel also severely limits the rate at which biodiesel can be made.

The Cornell team has developed a process to produce the reaction, as the necessary chemicals mix and flow through a pipe. In the plug flow reactor, plant oil and methanol is added continuously at one end while biodiesel flows out of the other. It is possible to achieve speed increase by using a catalyst, such as sodium hydroxide. Hence, instead of taking hours the trans-esterification reaction takes place within 3 minutes.


Cellulosic bio-butanol for blending in diesel fuels

In Japan, the Research Institute of Innovative Technology (RITE) has developed technology for producing cellulosic biobutanol for blending with diesel fuel. Honda Co. has been collaborating with RITE on the development of a production process for cellulosic ethanol. The new RITE-Honda process employs a bacterial strain that ferments sugar to make ethanol and applies Hondas engineering technology to increase the alcohol conversion efficiency significantly higher than the conventional cellulosic bioethanol production processes. RITEs bio-butanol process also employs genetically modified micro-organisms to ferment sugars resulting from the breakdown of cellulosic biomass. Tests carried out have reportedly confirmed negligible effects on the performance of diesel vehicles when the RITE biobutanol was mixed with diesel fuel.


System to optimize biofuel production

Dasgip AG of Germany has developed an efficient system for biofuels production by optimizing its technology for the development of anaerobic micro-organisms. Dasgip, a manufacturer of parallel bioreactor systems, claims that its system permits the continuous monitoring of key variables such as pH value and redox potential, gassing parameters and temperature during the production of bioethanol.

The separate measuring of pH and redox potential is particularly important. In the metabolism of anaerobic micro-organisms, a negative redox potential is vital for specific enzyme activities. As even small changes in pH can influence the redox potential, the pH value is an important parameter that must be monitored individually.

The PH4RD4 module of Dasgip can measure redox potential and pH simultaneously and individually in four reactors. Controlling these parameters simplifies identification of ideal reaction conditions for the cells. The gassing module supplies the bioreactor with up to four input gases, each with its own independent lead, which can be selected as necessary.


Smaller and cheaper biofuel reactors

In the United States, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a fast process to convert sawdust and waste biomass directly into a mixture of gases that can be made into liquid fuels like diesel or burned to generate electricity. If the process can be scaled up, it could be a more energy-efficient method for making biofuels by allowing for small, fast reactors to be located close to biomass sources.

The researchers developed a system that permits transformation of solids directly into a useful mixture of gases. The process begins when small particles come into contact with a 700-800C porous surface and instantly form a mixture of gaseous compounds. These interact with a rhodium metal catalyst that facilitates partial oxidation reactions that both keep the system hot and convert the gases to hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This mixture of gases, called syngas or synthesis gas, can then be burned in a gas turbine to generate electricity or purified and made into a number of different fuels.

The key to this new process is a catalyst bed with the right kind of porous structure that maintains the temperatures as well as movement of materials required for the reactions. The resulting system breaks down the biomass in just 70 ms, which is 10 times faster than other methods for making syngas. Ideally, that means a reactor with a given volume could make 10 times more syngas.


Fuel from bacteria

LS9, the United States, has genetically engineered various bacteria, including E. coli, to custom-produce hydrocarbon chains. To do this, the company modifies the genetic pathways used by bacteria, plants and animals to make fatty acids, one of the ways that organisms store energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms, with a carboxylic acid group attached at one end. Removing the acid component yields a hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.

In some cases, LS9s researchers used standard recombinant DNA techniques to insert genes into the microbes, or they redesigned known genes with a computer and synthesized them. The resulting modified bacteria make and excrete hydrocarbon molecules with the desired length and molecular structure. The process can yield crude oil without the contaminating sulphur that much of the drilled out petroleum contains. The crude would go to a standard refinery to be processed into automotive fuel, jet fuel, diesel fuel or any other petroleum product.


Breakthrough in biodiesel process

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), India, report a new way of using a fungus to substantially accelerate the production of biodiesel, and thereby cut the production cost. The typical process of manufacturing biodiesel involves mixing the ingredients and heating them for hours. The IICT researchers discovered an alternative process, which is more efficient but can also be employed at room temperature. This entails passing the vegetable oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from spores of Metarhizium anisopliae fungus. Lipase, an enzyme produced by the fungus, acts as the catalyst, replacing the heating process and making it possible to produce biodiesel efficiently at room temperature. The process is also cheaper.


Re-esterification process for biodiesel production

Endress+Hauser of Germany has developed a process to produce biodiesel from rapeseed oil through re-esterification with methanol to get rapeseed methyl ester (RME). The re-esterification process takes place in two stages. Phase separators are arranged downstream of two reactors, which are designed as mixer settlers. Through intimate mixing of the reactants, maximum conversion rates can be obtained in relatively short retention times. The methyl ester produced is washed and dried to become the end product, while the glycerine phase is treated with methanol-water for processing into pharma-grade glycerine.

This continuous process ensures consistent, high product quality and boasts low catalyst consumption. The process is also easy to control and warrants high conversion yield rates. It involves constant monitoring of temperature at several points. Endress+Hauser process uses the TMT184 temperature head transmitter equipped with a Profibus-PA interface. TMT184 is a 2-wire transmitter with measurement inputs for thermocouples, resistance thermometers, voltage transmitters and resistance transmitters with 2-, 3- or 4-wire connection. It is available with ATEX Ex ia certification.

Contact: Mr. Trevor Fletcher, Endress +Hauser, South Africa. Tel: +27 (11) 2628 000; Fax: +27 (11) 2628 062





New tidal turbine

Marine Current Turbines Ltd. (MCT) of the United Kingdom is carrying out the third and final test to prove its tidal stream turbine technology. Off the coast of Northern Ireland in the Strangford Lough, it is preparing to deploy a tidal stream turbine, the last step in its Seagen project. The turbine harnesses the power of a constant, predictable and powerful tide. It works by using the force of the tide to spin a rotor, which then transfers that force into a gearbox and onto a generator.

As the tide goes both in and out, the bidirectional rotor blades change their pitch depending on the state of the tide. A patented arrangement aids reverse the pitch of the rotor blades, rather like an old-fashioned aircraft or propeller-driven aircraft. When they want to reverse thrust, the pitch can be truned back to front and blow forwards rather than backwards. Once installed, these tidal turbines will pass the electricity produced to the power grid.

While developing the technology, MCT had to prove its minimal impact to the marine environment that surrounds the turbines. Studies were performed by Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the sea mammals research unit at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. These studies will continue for the duration of the project.


Wave of success in tidal power

In the United Kingdom, the University of Hull has been working on an electricity-generating device, specifically designed for shallow water, for the past two years. On the surface the device looks like pontoon floating on the river, but the finely honed equipment housed beneath the Neptune Proteus is capable of harnessing tidal power.

Researchers report to have made a design breakthrough, improving the amount of energy the device can produce by 50 per cent. They say that ten such machines would meet the citys renewable energy targets for 2010. Neptune Proteus consists of a computer-controlled set of shutters, which directs the flow of water on to a large turbine, like a water wheel, on its side. Neptune Renewable Energy, the company behind its development, is now looking for funding to build a full-scale model. Neptune Proteus has been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible for example it does not need foundations to tether it to the bed of the river.



Long-life fuel cell

Samsung, the Republic of Korea, has announced the launch of a new fuel cell-powered laptop that can last up to a month without needing to be recharged. The new Sense Q35 laptop has the ability to run for eight hours a day, five days a week, for 30 days without recharging the fuel cells that power it. The direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) laptop has a total energy storage of 12,000 Wh. The company claims that the major breakthrough that it has achieved in this new model is to significantly reduce the amount of noise produced by the fuel cells, so that the Sense Q35 is no louder than conventional laptops.


Fuel cell technology for automobiles

Daihatsu Motor Co., a unit of the Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor, has developed a fuel cell technology that uses hydrazine hydrate, a liquid fuel for rocket, completely eliminating the need for platinum in the electrode catalyst, as in conventional fuel cells. Until now, the precious metal has been an essential material in the electrode catalyst in fuel cells for automobiles. Daihatsu fuel cell technology provides several benefits, including resource conservation, low cost, high output, and safe and easy fuel handling.


Self-hydrating PEM fuel cell

In a recent study, scientists from Singapores Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and PEM fuel cell supplier GasHub Technology Pte. Ltd. found that the dehydration of Nafion material at the anode serves to influence PEM fuel cell performance. Maintaining the hydration of the Nafion material at the anode can greatly improve the performance of a PEM fuel cell without any external humidification. The researchers have invented a self-humidifying technique for PEM fuel cells.

The membrane electrode assembly in the self-humidifying device comprises an anode with added nanoscale hygroscopic silicon dioxide and a cathode either with or without added silicon dioxide, with a Nafion membrane sandwiched in between. The nano particles covered with a Nafion polymer layer functions like the proton transport from the platinum (Pt) active site into the Nafion membrane at the anode and from the membrane to the Pt active site at the cathode.

When the water produced by electrochemical reaction at the cathode back-diffuses to anode, the hygroscopic silica adsorbs it. The water back-diffusion also hydrates Nafion membrane. The silica-water bond remains strong due to the Van der Waals force; the water the silica adsorbed is not released even at high temperatures. The silica particles in the active electrode layer (3:6 per cent of silica to Nafion) considerably improve cell performance without external humidification. Using the new invention, GasHub has already launched the worlds first commercialized air-breathing PEM fuel cell stack.


Fuel cell CHP unit

Ceres Power, the United Kingdom, has successfully demonstrated its integrated combined heat and power (CHP) unit. The compact and wall-mountable unit has demonstrated the capability to generate electricity and all of the central heating and hot water requirements of a typical home, avoiding the need for a separate boiler.

The CHP unit uses the same natural gas and electricity connections as a boiler. The operating temperature (500- 600C) of the unique fuel cell technology has enabled the use of widely available and cost-effective raw materials, components, and manufacturing facilities and equipment.


Practical fuel cells for electronics

In the United States, Prof. Ronald Besser of Stevens Institute of Technology, has devised a new system that ensures the compactness of hydrogen-based fuel cells. This new scheme for creating a compact device to efficiently convert methanol into hydrogen could make it practical to use these fuel cells in laptop computers and other portable electronics. Such a device could allow a laptop to run for 50 hours and be recharged instantly by swapping a small fuel pack.

Unlike in previous fuel cell designs, in which the different processing steps are built into successive flat layers, Prof. Bessers design uses a cylindrical design with the layers forming concentric tubes. In this, heat spreads in all directions from a combustor at the centre, facilitating reactions. Aerogels can be incorporated to keep each layer at the optimal temperature. The use of advanced plastics for several of the layers can help decrease costs.

The fuel processor for generating the 20 W of power needed for a laptop or a large radio would be 4.8 cm in diameter and 10 cm long. Adding the fuel cell and fuel storage could mean another 20 cm of length, but the processor would still be small enough to fit in a laptop. Considering the whole package, the system would store about 1,000 Wh/kg; the very best batteries reach only 300 Wh/kg and laptop batteries can be about half of this. Such a system could potentially provide 5-10 times the amount of energy as a battery.


New fuel cell concept

General Motors, the United States, is unveiling the HydroGen4 concept based on GMs existing Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell prototype. HydroGen4s polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack, which features fourth-generation fuel cell technology, consists of 440 series-connected cells that produce up to 125 hp (93 kW) electrical output. A 100 hp (73 kW) 3-phase synchronous electric motor develops 320 Nm of torque and accelerates the vehicle from 0-100 km in a claimed 12 s. The new fuel cell propulsion system is powered by a 47 hp (35 kW) nickel metal hydride (NiMH) buffer battery pack with a capacity of 1.8 kWh.

The HydroGen4 has a fuel storage tank system with three 700 bar high-pressure tanks made from carbon fibre, which can hold 4.2 kg of hydrogen, supporting an operating range of up to 320 km. The prototype has been designed for a life cycle of 2 years or 80,000 km, and can start and run at sub-zero temperatures. The fuel cell itself has an operating temperature range of -25 to 45C.


Sugar-based bio-battery prototype

Sony reports to have succeeded in creating an environmentally friendly prototype battery that generates electricity solely through the chemical reactions of sugar. The bio-cell, which measures 39 mm3, achieved an output of 50 mW, enough to play music on a Walkman. Development is still early for the battery, but the company believes the technology could be the basis for an ecologically friendly source of energy that could potentially replace lithium-ion batteries or fuel cells in the future.

At the anode, sugar-digesting enzymes extract electrons and hydrogen ions from glucose. The hydrogen ions pass through a membrane separator to the cathode, where they react with oxygen from the air and produce water (by-product). Electrons flow around the circuit outside the device producing the electricity needed to power it. The new method does not need sugar or other largely pure sources of glucose to work.


Microbial fuel cell design boosts electricity production

In the United States, biological engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) have designed a microbial fuel cell (MFC) capable of generating about 10 times more electricity than previously achievable from an air-cathode MFC of comparable size. MFC, also known as biological fuel cell, uses bacteria to convert biodegradable materials into electricity. As the bacteria consume the pollutants they shed electrons, which flow through a circuit and generate electricity.

The new design developed by the OSU team involves sandwiching a cloth layer between the anode and cathode parts of the MFC, a configuration that significantly reduces internal resistance, resulting in a much higher power density. In lab experiments, the team could generate 1,010 W/m3 of reactor volume or enough to power sixteen 60 W light bulbs. Previously, the highest level of sustainable electricity generated from air-cathode MFC of 1 m3 was less than 115 W. Recently, the OSU team has generated over 1.5 kW from the same reactor volume. This breakthrough could allow MFCs to be used more widely as sources of sustainable energy and ultimately lead to portable systems for power generation.



Revolution in solar hydrogen

A research group led by Prof. Craig Grimes at the Materials Research Institute, Penn State University, the United States, is only a couple of problems away from developing an inexpensive and easily scaleable technique for water photoelectrolysis the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen using light energy that could help power the proposed hydrogen economy. The team is fabricating thin films made of self-aligned, vertically oriented titanium iron oxide (Ti-Fe-O) nanotube arrays that demonstrate the ability to split water under natural sunlight.

Previous research had reported the development of titanium dioxide or titania nanotube arrays with a photoconversion efficiency of 16.5 per cent under ultraviolet light. Titania, which is commonly used in white paints and sunscreens, has excellent charge-transfer properties and corrosion stability, making it a likely candidate for cheap and long-lasting solar cells. However, as ultraviolet light contains only about 5 per cent of the solar spectrum energy, the researchers needed to find a means to move the materials band gap into the visible spectrum. The team has reported a photocurrent of 2 mA/cm2 and a photoconversion rate of 1.5 per cent, the second highest rate achieved with an iron oxide related material.

The team is now looking to optimize the nanotube architecture to overcome the low electron-hole mobility of iron. By reducing the wall thickness of the Ti-Fe-O nanotubes so as to correspond to the hole diffusion length of iron, which is around 4 nm, the researchers hope to reach an efficiency closer to the 12.9 per cent theoretical maximum for materials with the band gap of hematite.


High-efficiency hydrogen gas system

Fuelcell Energy Inc. in the United States recently announced the scale up of a separation system that extracts hydrogen from a gas mixture while generating electricity. The electrochemical hydrogen separation or the DFC-H2-EHS system was developed for the United States Armys Engineer Research & Development Centre Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. The system enables the pure, extracted gas to be sold as fuel for hydrogen vehicles or other industrial uses.

The prototype of DFC-H2-EHS system successfully operated for over 6,000 hours. It offers up to 50 per cent savings in operating costs, as compared with conventional hydrogen separation processes. Besides, the high efficiency of the fuel cell plant allows for significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions. The EHS system, when combined with Fuelcell Energys Direct Fuelcell power plants, provides a solution for distributed generation of hydrogen and electricity. The overall co-production system is designed to operate using renewable fuel sources such as anaerobic digester gas from industrial or municipal wastewater processing, as well as readily available fuels such as natural gas and propane.


Hydrogen pellets for vehicles

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the United States are developing a new and attractive storage medium that may provide the power of pellets to fuel future transportation needs. The Department of Energys Chemical Hydrogen Storage Centre of Excellence is investigating a hydrogen storage medium that holds promise in meeting long-term targets for transportation use. As part of the Centre, PNNL scientists are using solid ammonia borane (AB), compressed into small pellets to serve as a hydrogen storage material.

Each millilitre of AB weighs about 0.75 gram but harbours up to 1.8 l of hydrogen. Researchers expect that a fuel system using small AB pellets will occupy less space and be lighter in weight than systems using pressurized hydrogen gas, thus enabling fuel cell vehicles to have room, range and performance comparable to todays automobiles. A small pellet (240 mg) of solid AB is capable of storing relatively large quantities of hydrogen (0.5 l) in a very small volume.
The PNNL scientists are learning to manipulate the release of hydrogen from AB at predictable rates. By varying temperature and manipulating AB feed rates to a reactor, the researchers envision controlling the production of hydrogen and, thus, fuel cell power.

Once hydrogen from the storage material gets depleted, the AB pellets must be safely and efficiently regenerated by way of chemical processing. This refuelling method requires chemically digesting or breaking down the solid spent fuel into chemicals that can then be recycled back to AB with hydrogen.


New catalysts may create more and cheaper hydrogen

In the United States, a new class of catalysts created at the Department of Energys Argonne National Laboratory may help scientists and engineers overcome a few of the hurdles that have inhibited the production of hydrogen for use in fuel cells. The team, led by Dr. Michael Krumpelt, used single-site catalysts based on ceria or lanthanum chromite doped with either platinum or ruthenium to increase hydrogen production at lower temperatures during reforming.

Most hydrogen is industrially produced through steam reforming. In this process, a nickel-based catalyst is used to react natural gas with steam to produce pure hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The nickel catalysts typically consist of metal grains tens of thousands of atoms in diameter that speckle the surface of metal oxide substrates. However, the new catalysts consist of single atomic sites embedded in an oxide matrix. As some reforming processes tend to clog much of the larger catalysts with by-products of carbon or sulphur, smaller catalysts process the fuel much more efficiently and can produce more hydrogen at lower temperatures.

Contact: Ms. Sylvia Carson, Media Relations, Communications & Public Affairs, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue, Argonne, IL 60439, United States of America. Tel: +1 (630) 252 5510



Hydrogen from industry by-product

Research led by Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad, a chemical engineer at the University of Toledo in the United States, has developed a method for using nanoscale iron oxide and solar rays to split water and produce hydrogen. Many tonnes of iron oxide are produced every year as a byproduct of the steel industry.

To produce hydrogen, water is piped to a clear quartz cylinder above the solar collector. The heat of the collector turns the water to steam. The steam rushes across the iron nanoparticles in the same airtight quartz cylinder. The iron captures the oxygen from the water. The remaining hydrogen is streamed towards a 12-volt fuel cell powerful enough to light a driveway lamp. The iron that is oxidized during this process can also be reprocessed and reused. The iron nanoparticles can also be used to remove arsenic from water and are currently being tested in a water purification project in Pakistan.


Hydrogen fuel bike

In China, Shanghai Pearl Hydrogen Power Source Technology Co. has introduced a concept bike driven by an environmentally clean hydrogen fuel cell. A battery tank and a pair of hydrogen gas bottles make up the energy system for the bike, making it different in appearance from other electric bikes in current use.

The hydrogen bike also has some other advantages. It only takes 30 minutes to refill the gas bottles, as against the 3 hours to recharge the lead battery in conventional electric bikes. The energy system, including the battery tank and gas bottles, is also about half the weight of the power system on conventional electric bikes. The hydrogen bike costs about US$2,632 but that could be reduced to about US$527 on mass production, making the price more comparable to electric bikes. With two full gas bottles, the bike could be expected to complete a trip of 100 km at a speed of 25 km/h.



Chemistry for Hydrogen Technology

Stressing clean sources of energy, theory of fuel cell operations, hydrogen infrastructure and devices that use hydrogen, this guide prepares readers for future challenges in energy generation, consumption and commercialization of hydrogen-power applications, apart from raising awareness for renewable energy use. The book covers chemistry fundamentals to aid understanding of energy, hydrogen technology, and renewable energies and principles of their uses.

Fuel Cell Engines

This handbook provides an introduction to the basic principles of thermodynamics, kinetics, electrochemistry and material science applied specifically to fuel cells. It covers scientific fundamentals and provides a basic understanding that enables proper technical decision making. The fundamentals are applicable to all fuel cell systems, but special focus is given to polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

Microbial Fuel Cells

This book is dedicated entirely to microbial fuel cells (MFCs). It serves as an introduction to MFC theory as well as a manual for research and maintenance of MFCs. Its accessible and explanatory nature makes it appealing as both a text and a general reference volume.

For the above publications, contact: John Wiley and Sons (Asia) Ltd., 2, Clementi Loop #02-01, Singapore 129809. Tel: +65.6463 2400; Fax: +65.6463 4605


Stationary Fuel Cells: An Overview

This is a useful guide for renewable energy specialists, energy auditors, applications managers, service engineers, building engineers, chemical engineers, consultants and architects. Topics discussed include UPS and back-up power, large stationary/back-up plants, government and NGO support programmes, government policies and the geopolitics of fuel choice, and lead markets and future developments.

Contact: Customer Service Department, Elsevier B.V., 3, Killiney Road, #08-01, Winsland House I, Singapore 239519. Tel: +65 6349 0222; Fax: +65 6733 15 10



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