Scientists at the University of Michigan are rethinking the role of electric cars in the future. What if, instead of sucking up resources, those cars could serve as storage for alternative energy, and put that energy onto the grid when it's most needed? The "vehicle-to-grid integration" idea is one that could help stabilize the grid, and reduce the need to build more power plants. The basic idea is to use the batteries in plug-in electric hybrid vehicles as extra storage space for grid energy, such as energy from renewable resources like sun and wind. Read more here .
Here is what the future may hold if roadmaps, predictions and policy targets all come true. 2010: 5.2 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions emissions from 1990 levels is achieved by those countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol. 20 percent of California's electricity comes from renewables. Toyota releases a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. 2018: 100 percent of U.S. electricity comes from solar, wind and other renewables (Gore's prediction). $255 billion spent per year (more than four times what is currently spent) on biofuels, wind power, solar photovoltaics, and hydrogen fuel cells. $150 billion invested by this date by the U.S. government on climate-friendly energy development (Obama's plan). Read More.
According to Skywindpower.com, the energy in the high altitude winds is more than enough to meet the world's energy needs, it is non global warming, and the means of capturing this energy are available through a little further development of technologies that do not require any fundamental scientific breakthroughs. Truly high energy winds are at altitudes miles above us, not just at a few hundred feet where they can be tapped by rotors on towers. The total swept area for a Flying Electric Generator of the same megawatt rating as a ground based wind turbine is typically about a quarter as much. Yet the Flying Electric Generator would produce far more megawatt hours of electricity per year due to the much higher high altitude wind speeds and constancy. Read More.
An inch-long array of some of the tiniest solar cells ever built has been successfully tested as a power source for microscopic machines, a new study reports. Instead of using silicon, Xiaomei Jiang and her colleagues from the University of South Florida turned to a polymer (a long organic molecule made of repeating structural units). The polymer they selected has the same electrical properties as silicon wafers, but can be dissolved and printed onto flexible material. Jiang and her colleagues made 20 tiny cells - each the size of a lower case "o" in standard 12-point print - and joined them together in an array to power a microscopic chemical detector. Read more here.
The Solar Roadway™ is a series of interconnected Solar Road Panels™ that you actually drive on. The idea is to replace all current asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels™ that collect and store solar energy to be used by our homes and businesses. When multiple Solar Road Panels™ are interconnected, the Solar Roadway™ is formed. These panels replace current driveways, parking lots, and all road systems, be they interstate highways, state routes, downtown streets, residential streets, or even plain dirt or gravel country roads. Panels can also be used in amusement parks, raceways, bike paths, parking garage rooftops, remote military locations, etc. Any home or business connected to the Solar Roadway™ (via a Solar Road Panel™ driveway or parking lot) receives the power and data signals that the Solar Roadway™ provides. Here is a youtube presentation and there is lots more info on the SolarRoadway website .
The ocean harbors abundant energy in the form of wind, waves and sun. All of these could be sampled on something called an Energy Island: a floating rig that drills for renewables instead of petroleum. The Energy Island would have an OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) plant at its center, but spread across the 2,000-foot-wide (600-meter-wide) platform would also be wind turbines and solar collectors. Additionally, wave energy converters and sea current turbines would capture energy from water moving around the structure. One of these hexagonally-shaped islands could generate 250 megawatts. Read more here.
At a time when U.S. gasoline prices were arcing beyond $4 a gallon nationwide, Sapphire Energy said it had proven the feasibility of using algae to make "green crude" that can serve as an identical substitute for crude oil. Sapphire said its product, unlike other biofuels, could enter the pipeline at any petroleum refinery for processing into gasoline and other fuels. Sapphire's process has been used successfully to make the three most important fuels, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, and all three products have been independently certified to meet fuel standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Sapphire's concept calls for creating enormous algae "farms" throughout the desert lands of the southwestern United States. Read more here.
Boeing and Air New Zealand have announced that they will carry out the first flight test of "second generation" sustainable biofuel in an airliner on 3 December. The planned test will be carried out using an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 flying from Auckland. During the flight, one of the jumbo's four Rolls-Royce engines will run partly on biofuel. The juice to be used in next month's Antipodean test will be made from jatropha nuts. The hardy jatropha is said by its advocates to be capable of growing usefully in arid regions unsuitable for food crops, and in this case - according to Boeing - the nuts have been "sourced from nonarable lands in India and Southeastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania)". Other ideas for gen-2.0 jetfuel biomass include algae farmed on water, various kinds of fungus, even domestic garbage. Read more here.
Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb. The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground. The goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world. The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Read More Here.
A new fiber-optic laser system can measure wind speed and direction up to 1000 meters in front of a wind turbine, giving the massive machines enough precious seconds to proactively adapt to gusts and sudden changes in wind direction. The device, developed by Catch the Wind, a startup based in Manassas, VA, could improve the efficiency of wind turbines and keep them from breaking down. A prototype of the new laser-based LIDAR system, shown here, can horizontally project three invisible laser beams up to 300 meters in front of a wind turbine. Small particles in the wind are detected as they cross the beams. Catch the Wind claims that its laser system can boost turbine power output by 10 percent by improving orientation accuracy. The pitch of the blades can also be adjusted in advance of the wind to reduce wear and tear on turbine gearbox components and blades, lowering repair and maintenance costs by up to 10 percent and extending the operating life of a wind farm, the company says. Read more here .
Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU), Tianjin University in China and Chromasun, a Silicon Valley company with strong Australian connections, will join forces to create roof-mounted solar trough concentrator systems that they believe will be more cost-effective and efficient than previous models. The prototype measures 1.7 x 1.5 x 0.2 meters and incorporates seven mirrors that focus sunlight onto receiver tubes. Crystalline Si micro PV cells - with an efficiency of about 20% under concentrated sunlight - will be fitted to the receivers to operate under concentrated x20 - x30 sunlight with water cooling being used to deliver heat to the hot-water tank. Read more here.
Current solar panels -- which convert energy from the sun into electricity -- absorb only about two-thirds of available sunlight. But surfaces treated with a coating developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, can harvest 96.2 percent of sunlight. An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it - meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power. Read more here.
Years-old, off-the-shelf technology uses compressed air to drive old-fashioned car engine pistons instead of combusting gas or diesel fuel to create a burst of air to do the same thing. On highways, the CAV can cruise at interstate speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses outside air to keep the tank filled. The motor isn't finicky about fuel. It will burn gasoline or diesel as well as biodiesel, ethanol or vegetable oil. Even if it used only regular gasoline, the air car would average 106 mpg, more than double today's fuel sipping champ, the Toyota Prius. The air tank also can be refilled when it's not in use by being plugged into a wall socket and recharged with electricity as the motor compresses air. More info here.
PV-Thermal hybrids have recently become popular because these systems make more effective use of valuable solar roof space. The Hybrid collector effectively more than doubles the per square foot power output of PV alone. This is done by producing heat for hot water or space heating as a byproduct, in effect, a solar co-generation process. On its own, Solar Thermal usually produces over 4 times the energy of PV in thermal terms. A thermal collector covered with PV is going to work at lower efficiency because most of the direct sunlight is blocked by the cells. If the thermal portion of the Hybrid collector was working at only 25% efficiency, the gross energy output would be doubled. Now add to that increased PV panel efficiency and decreased cooling load and you have a real winning combination. Read more about this idea.
For homeowners interested in reducing their personal carbon footprint through solar power but wanting to start off on a smaller scale than a whole-house option, an exciting, energy-saving solution will be available soon from heating and air conditioning leader Lennox Industries. Expected to be available in 2009, Lennox' new SunSource™ system is the industry's first integrated, solar-assisted residential heating and cooling system - and it uses just a single 190-watt solar panel. Featuring a patent-pending design, the innovative system is currently in full operation at multiple test sites throughout the country. The single 190-watt solar panel provides power to assist the fan motor that moves air across the outdoor coil, a key part of any home comfort system. Read more.
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