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.
In a typical household, over 12 percent of the power bill goes on the small amounts of power consumed by devices in standby mode. Are you a gamer? Well ratchet that figure up considerably further. TrickleStar have a device to save that waste. The TrickleStar™ Universal Standby Power Saver reduces the standby energy consumed by PC and TV Peripheral equipment. The product has inbuilt current sensing circuitry to sense when a PC or TV is on or Off. When the PC or TV is on the product will switch On all peripheral devices. Conversely when the PC or TV is Off, the product will switch Off all peripheral devices. The product is easy to install and provides simple automation to reduce wasteful standby energy consumption. More info at TrickleStar
The Power Electronics team from Swansea University's School of Engineering has developed one of the world's most advanced Smart Electricity Meters. The Smart Meter is to be the focal point for a consumer's personal energy queries. It monitors their energy consumption, giving information not just through a traditional power reading, but in a user-friendly way by displaying animated graphics of money on a large clear screen on the meter. It also goes one step further than most other potential Smart Meters in that it monitors individual power circuits in the home, including upstairs lighting, downstairs lighting and kitchen sockets. The team believes there is also the possibility to monitor individual appliances when the technology is adopted further. The presentation of consumption information is complemented by the ability to show power generated from micro-renewable technologies in a 'plug and play' manner, similar to the wind turbine currently commercially available, and generic solar panels. This is an effort to provide a simple, easy to set up method for people with no expertise in Power Electronics. Read more .
The Karma will do 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds with a top speed beyond 125 mph (200 km/h) but only has a 50-mile range per charge on lithium-ion batteries. The driver will be able to select between two modes of driving. The first mode is Stealth Drive, which is the quiet economy mode for optimal relaxed and efficient driving. Evidently, the car moves so quietly the company will be offering optional interior and exterior speakers with a menu of "car noises." I kid you not. By flipping the second paddle behind the steering wheel, the car will switch to Sport Drive, which will access the full power of the vehicle. To be offered fourth quarter next year, the Karma will be built in Finland and priced at $80,000. http://www.fiskerautomotive.com/ . More photos http://www.fiskerautomotive.com/vehicles/downloads/
The wheelchair's fuel-cell system is a 24V 250W PEFC Air Cooling External Humidifier. It drives at a max. speed of 6km/h and the driving range is 10hours, 60km (H2 Storage 190g/4 canisters) and 5hours, 30km (H2 Storage 100g/2 canisters). With the Japanese population aging rapidly, the fuel-cell wheelchair and cart applications have a bright future. Promoted as "Eco" fuel-cell powered means turning the "silver market" into green. Read the full story at TreeHugger.
Starting next year drivers in the Los Angeles and New York areas will be able to lease a fleet of 500 all-electric Coopers from BMW's Mini division. The Mini E, as it's called, will be able to travel 150 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 95 miles per hour. The Mini E will be a two-seater. The space usually taken up by back seats in a gas-powered Mini will be taken up by lithium-ion batteries. While the initial start may be quick, the Mini E will accelerate up to 62 miles (100 kilometers) per hour in 8.5 seconds, which is about average for a modern car. CNN report.
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