A group of English engineers have built an advanced heat pump and connected it to an energy storage system using two silos full of plain old gravel that they say is as cheap as pumped hydro, as location-agnostic as a battery - and is super efficient. Using the heat pump as the key, the team built an energy storage system that compresses argon gas to produce a temperature differential and deposits heat and cold into two separate large silos of gravel. Energy is stored in the gravel and when the process is reversed, it can be released.
The contracts secure 1,310 megawatts of solar thermal power from seven projects, the first of which - a 110MW installation in Ivanpah, California - is slated to be online by 2012. Construction is set to begin in "about six months, following approval from the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management," says BrightSource chief executive John Woolard in an interview published on PG&E's Web site.
General Electric has announced that it plans to build a new battery factory in upstate New York with an "initial investment" of $100 million and additional funds requested under the stimulus package. First up for the New York plant, if all of the financing comes through: batteries for hybrid freight trains. It's looking at providing energy storage devices for other applications including utilities, telecoms and load leveling for the smart grid. At full capacity, the new plant is designed to produce 10 million battery cells, or about 900 MW-hours of energy storage per year.
"This innovative 'green' home, featuring solar panels and numerous other energy-saving products, is truly a home of the future," Warren Buffett wrote his shareholders. "Estimated costs for electricity and heating total only about $1 per day when the home is sited in an area like Omaha." The "i-house's" metal v-shaped roof - inspired by a gas-station awning - combines design with function. The roof provides a rain water catchment system for recycling, supports flush-mounted solar panels and vaults interior ceilings at each end to 10 1/2 feet for an added feeling of openness. The Energy Star-rated design features heavy insulation, six-inch thick exterior walls, cement board and corrugated metal siding, energy efficient appliances, a tankless water heater, dual-flush toilets and lots of "low-e" glazed windows.
Leveraging the technical breadth of the IEEE and its open standards development process, IEEE P2030 will provide a knowledge base for understanding and defining smart grid interoperability of the electric power system with end use applications and loads. It will involve the integration of energy technology and information and communications technologies, which is necessary to achieve seamless operation for electric generation, delivery, and end-use benefits that will permit two-way power flow with communication and control.
French start-up Heat2power claim to have a new technology that increases fuel mileage using heat energy otherwise dissipated via the exhaust pipe. There are others that use a similar system, but the company claims that their device captures even more energy. The basics include installing an additional cylinder linked to the crankshaft with a clutch that is powered by exhaust heat. The exhaust gases circulate inside a heat exchanger linked to a closed-circuit filled with compressed air. Hot air enters the additional cylinder. Once it has moved the piston, the air goes to an intercooler and returns to the heating unit forming a closed circuit. The system is compatible with any ICE engine, the company claims. Their numbers also say the device reduces fuel consumption up to 20 percent in urban driving and 35 percent on the highway. Autobloggreen original article here.
Leviathan Energy has completed initial testing on their Wind Energizer unit and is reporting gains in wind turbine output in the ballpark of 30% - and as much as 150% at lower wind speeds. The idea is that by placing site-specific structures at the bases of the turbines you can shape the flow of air in the vicinity of the turbine so that the highest velocities get targeted at the blades. Leviathan's early testing has been conducted on a relatively small scale, using commercially-available small turbines with 3-meter blades but they are planning on exploring opportunities for third-party testing and certification on a commercial scale wind farm. Cleantech's original post.
Treehugger.com has an article from an experienced solar installer giving some personal accounts of what to expect when you get into the field and a bunch of insight into how their business is run. Its a good read for anyone thinking about getting into solar installation.
Sound Gardening is an upcoming concert taking place in Tokyo's scenic Kiyosumi Gardens. The small concert will showcase speaker design firm Taguchi Craft's new portable solar system designed for powering outdoor PA systems and intimate concerts. The system, designed for use indoors and outdoors, includes a moderately-sized solar panel and a charge controller. Framed in environmentally friendly wood paneling, the entire set-up costs just 37,800 yen ($385) to rent and 714,000 yen ($7,270) to buy here and folds up for convenient carrying.
Technology site Dvice is featuring a run down of their top ten concept cities from design visionaries worldwide, each encompassing innovative and sustainable construction techniques, green energy technology, and creativity.
Fortune Online has an article about how San Jose hopes to reduce the $3.5 million spent annually to light it's streets by replacing sodium lights with low-energy LED and by monitoring the whole system through a smart network. The 125-light test, due to launch this summer, will be implemented by hometown smart-grid company Echelon (ELON). The streetlight network will function in a similar way to a smart electricity grid. Using the city's wi-fi network, Echelon's networking technology enables the lights to transfer real-time data about the status and performance of any given bulb. That way, maintenance crews won't have to search for a fried bulb. The city will be able to monitor energy consumption, anticipate outages and dim lights to save energy at the flip of a master switch. Complete article.
A funny thing happened on the way to oblivion - for many scientists today, cold fusion is hot again. "We can yield the power of nuclear physics on a tabletop. The potential is unlimited. That is the most powerful energy source known to man," researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. McKubre is an electro-chemist who imagines, in 20 years, the creation of a clean nuclear battery. "For example, a laptop would come pre-charged with all of the energy that you would ever intend to use. Watch the entire 60 Minutes story here.
Livermore Cinemas in Livermore, Calif., now has a fully operational 132 kW rooftop system which produces 190,000 kilowatt-hours per year to help power the all-digital multiplex cinema. The SPG Solar system offsets 45 percent of the facility's electric use. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, this system will prevent the emissions of more than 3,400 metric tons of greenhouse gases, which is equivalent to removing 625 passenger cars from the road for a year.
One of the world's biggest photovoltaic projects is planned for southwest Florida. Florida Power & Light will spend $350 million to build a 75-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant at a planned city, Babcock Ranch, near Fort Myers. The plant could be the largest in the world if it reaches 75MW output--before somebody else does. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electricity. Electric vehicles, able to plug in for recharge at convenient community-wide recharging stations, will glide along avenues beneath the glow of solar-powered street lamps.
As momentum gathers for the creation of an Internet-like "smart grid" that will do for the electricity grid what the Internet did for home shopping, the WSJ reports the cyberspace wars have begun. The big question is whether the move to a smart grid would increase the country's vulnerability to cyber attacks, or serve as the best form of defense. California-based Electric Power Research Institute has been selected by the Commerce Department to draw up the "roadmap" of the new smart grid. Its main task will be figuring out just what standards should prevail in that brave new world.
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