Jul
4
2015

Japanese billionaire plans to invest $20 billion in Indian solar power

By: Michael Graham Richard

CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia

This is huge

India might be short on many things, but sunlight isn’t one of those, which makes the country a perfect place for solar power. There’s starting to be some political support for the clean source of energy (India is currently very dependent on coal) up to the highest levels of government, with the new prime minister Narendra Modi wanting to use it as a way to bring power to the 400 million Indians who are currently lacking access to electricity. Modi (pictured below) has set a goal of 100 gigawatts of solar capacity, which would be a big jump from the 4.1 gigawatts that are currently connected to the grid. At about $1 per watt, that is estimated to cost about $94 billion, a substantial sum in any country, and even moreso in India.

Wikimedia/Promo image

But solar in India is also starting to attract the attention of businesspeople with deep pockets, like Japan’s Masayoshi Son, the founder and CEO of SoftBank, a very large global telecommunication and technology company (with stakes in SoftBank Mobile in Japan, Sprint in the U.S., Alibaba in China, etc). He is said to want to invest $20 billion over the next 10 years, working with Bharti Enterprises Pvt and Foxconn Technology Group, to build about 20 gigawatts of new solar capacity in the country. This investment alone could represent about 1/5 of Modi’s solar target.

India has two times more sunshine than Japan and construction costs for solar parks that are half those of Japan, Son said. “Twice the sunshine, half the cost; that means four times more efficient,” Son said. “So it makes a lot of sense to create large-scale solar power generation.”

The solar panels will probably be manufactured in India, and sites in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh states are being considered.

Courtesy: http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/

Jul
2
2015

Smartflower Home Solar System Gives Plug-and-Play Power

By: Patrick Sisson

photo courtesy of Smartflower

If the sun moves, doesn’t it follow that a solar power system should, as well? Based on the concept of a sunflower, the Austrian-made Smartflower POP system wants to be a micro, rather than a macro, solution for those seeking to start moving off the grid. Unshackling solar power from the idea of a fixed array, this portable system can be placed on supports in an owner’s back yard, offering an option its creators hope will allow more people to begin going green.

“Our ambition is to establish the first all-in-one solar system on the market,” says Linnea Nelson, the company’s international marketing manager. “We oriented ourselves after the principle form follows function, and that brought us to the flower blossom design.”

photo courtesy of Smartflower

The design was inspired by a conversation founder and CEO Alexander Swatek was having with friends about the challenges and difficulties of rooftop solar installations. As he began sketching out his ideas on a napkin, the scribbles began coalescing into a portable, adjustable flower-shaped system that follows the sun’s path throughout the day, generating more power than a comparably sized, fixed set of panels.

photo courtesy of Smartflower

Translated to a workable prototype by GP designpartners, the 2.31kw Smartflower system claims to provide a plug & play power source that takes just an hour to set up. For 10,500 euros (roughly $11,759), consumers in Europe can pick up this 750 kilogram (1,653 pound) system that works with bi-axis suntracking and GPS coordinates, generating roughly 45 percent more power than a typical rough system set at a 30 degree angle. According to Linnea Nilsson, the company plans to expand into the United States next year.

Courtesy: http://curbed.com/

Jun
30
2015

Toward Tiny, Solar-powered Sensors

(Nanowerk News) The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things” — the idea that vehicles, appliances, civil-engineering structures, manufacturing equipment, and even livestock would have their own embedded sensors that report information directly to networked servers, aiding with maintenance and the coordination of tasks.
Realizing that vision, however, will require extremely low-power sensors that can run for months without battery changes — or, even better, that can extract energy from the environment to recharge.
Last week, at the Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits, MIT researchers presented a new power converter chip that can harvest more than 80 percent of the energy trickling into it, even at the extremely low power levels characteristic of tiny solar cells. Previous experimental ultralow-power converters had efficiencies of only 40 or 50 percent.

The MIT researchers’ prototype for a chip measuring 3 millimeters by 3 millimeters. The magnified detail shows the chip’s main control circuitry, including the startup electronics; the controller that determines whether to charge the battery, power a device, or both; and the array of switches that control current flow to an external inductor coil. This active area measures just 2.2 millimeters by 1.1 millimeters.

Moreover, the researchers’ chip achieves those efficiency improvements while assuming additional responsibilities. Where its predecessors could use a solar cell to either charge a battery or directly power a device, this new chip can do both, and it can power the device directly from the battery.
All of those operations also share a single inductor — the chip’s main electrical component — which saves on circuit board space but increases the circuit complexity even further. Nonetheless, the chip’s power consumption remains low.
“We still want to have battery-charging capability, and we still want to provide a regulated output voltage,” says Dina Reda El-Damak, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and first author on the new paper. “We need to regulate the input to extract the maximum power, and we really want to do all these tasks with inductor sharing and see which operational mode is the best. And we want to do it without compromising the performance, at very limited input power levels — 10 nanowatts to 1 microwatt — for the Internet of things.”
The prototype chip was manufactured through the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s University Shuttle Program.
Ups and downs
The circuit’s chief function is to regulate the voltages between the solar cell, the battery, and the device the cell is powering. If the battery operates for too long at a voltage that’s either too high or too low, for instance, its chemical reactants break down, and it loses the ability to hold a charge.
To control the current flow across their chip, El-Damak and her advisor, Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor in Electrical Engineering, use an inductor, which is a wire wound into a coil. When a current passes through an inductor, it generates a magnetic field, which in turn resists any change in the current.
Throwing switches in the inductor’s path causes it to alternately charge and discharge, so that the current flowing through it continuously ramps up and then drops back down to zero. Keeping a lid on the current improves the circuit’s efficiency, since the rate at which it dissipates energy as heat is proportional to the square of the current.
Once the current drops to zero, however, the switches in the inductor’s path need to be thrown immediately; otherwise, current could begin to flow through the circuit in the wrong direction, which would drastically diminish its efficiency. The complication is that the rate at which the current rises and falls depends on the voltage generated by the solar cell, which is highly variable. So the timing of the switch throws has to vary, too.
Electric hourglass
To control the switches’ timing, El-Damak and Chandrakasan use an electrical component called a capacitor, which can store electrical charge. The higher the current, the more rapidly the capacitor fills. When it’s full, the circuit stops charging the inductor.
The rate at which the current drops off, however, depends on the output voltage, whose regulation is the very purpose of the chip. Since that voltage is fixed, the variation in timing has to come from variation in capacitance. El-Damak and Chandrakasan thus equip their chip with a bank of capacitors of different sizes. As the current drops, it charges a subset of those capacitors, whose selection is determined by the solar cell’s voltage. Once again, when the capacitor fills, the switches in the inductor’s path are flipped.
“In this technology space, there’s usually a trend to lower efficiency as the power gets lower, because there’s a fixed amount of energy that’s consumed by doing the work,” says Brett Miwa, who leads a power conversion development project as a fellow at the chip manufacturer Maxim Integrated. “If you’re only coming in with a small amount, it’s hard to get most of it out, because you lose more as a percentage. [El-Damak’s] design is unusually efficient for how low a power level she’s at.”
“One of the things that’s most notable about it is that it’s really a fairly complete system,” he adds. “It’s really kind of a full system-on-a chip for power management. And that makes it a little more complicated, a little bit larger, and a little bit more comprehensive than some of the other designs that might be reported in the literature. So for her to still achieve these high-performance specs in a much more sophisticated system is also noteworthy.”

 

Courtesy: http://www.nanowerk.com/

Jun
28
2015

Cisco signs solar power deal for San Jose headquarters

By Pete Carey

Photo: Cisco headquarters (Paul Sakuma, Associated Press)

Cisco Systems announced plans Tuesday to develop a 20-megawatt solar power facility in the Sonoran Desert near the California-Arizona border that will supply power to its San Jose headquarters.

The deal requires little upfront money from Cisco. NRG Renew, the solar arm of independent power producer NRG Energy, will build the facility at a vacant 153-acre parcel at its Blythe location the NRG has been developing since 2010. Cisco agreed to purchase power from the solar farm for 20 years.

Power will start flowing at the end of 2016.

Ali Ahmed, Cisco’s global energy and sustainability chief, said the plan will further Cisco’s goal of using renewable sources for at least 25 percent of its needs by 2017.

Silicon Valley companies — especially those with big, power-hungry data centers — have embraced green energy in the past few years. Apple recently announced plans to power its Cupertino headquarters building, now under construction, with solar energy from a solar farm operated by First Solar in Cholame, in a remote part of Monterey County. Google signed a 20-year agreement with Florida-based NextEra to buy nearly 43 megawatts of electricity from an Altamont Pass wind farm beginning next year.

Cisco already has about 2 megawatts of solar power for some of its facilities around the U.S., including a new system in Boxborough, Mass. The company said it is focusing on its engineering labs, which it described as “the company’s largest consumers of energy and greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions.”

NRG said its Blythe II solar farm is in a location where average temperatures are 90 degrees or higher. It said the new installation’s 20 megawatts will provide enough electricity to power 14,000 homes and will prevent more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a reduction that it said is equivalent to removing 21,000 cars from the road.

NRG is a major independent power producer with about 3 million retail customers nationwide.

Courtesy: http://www.siliconbeat.com/

Jun
26
2015

Save Energy and Save Money – A Definitive Guide


When it comes to cheaper domestic energy solutions, the homeowner is often drawn towards money saving tips, as well as hints on how to use energy smarter.
However, in the past, this has meant reading in the dark and not cooking. The good news is that this in no longer the case! With a combination of change in habits, short and long term investments in your home, you could soon be enjoying lower energy bills.

Update ‘The Old Boiler’
Possibly one of the most expensive pieces of kit in any household is the boiler, and not just in terms of purchase cost. The Internet is awash with hints and tips on saving energy and one that appears time and time again, is the need to have a modern, sophisticated boiler, with a sophisticated thermostat system.
Prices of boilers are no longer as eye watering as you think but still, when the household budget is tight, forking out £400+ can be a big ask. However, the running costs of a modern boiler are far lower and you will reach the other side of winter, toasty warm but with a lower energy bill.

BUT…
Investing in an all-singing, all dancing boiler and thermostat system is all well and good but if the warmth but, if the heat is leaking out of ill-fitted, single pane window and gaps under the front and back doors any gain is literally being lost. Think insulation before you take on a new boiler.
Quick tip – turn the heat down by 1° to save £55 a year. That said, turning it down to a more ambient temperature and layering on the woolly cardigan is not such a bad idea either.

The new system – only when you need it
Older boiler systems and thermostats operated on a clock system. In some cases, this was not a bad thing. You could have the house lovely and warm, waiting for you when you got in from, the kids from school. You could set it for coming on in the morning so no one was cold when they left their bed.
Except, the house may not have been cold at these points and like many other households, you probably switched it off and opened a window. The newer, more modern thermostat systems monitor the temperature in the house.
You set the optimum temperature at which you think you need it on. For example, if the temperature in the house falls to 15°, the boiler will kick in and it will continue to be active until the desired temperature is reached, such as 18°. It will do this at any time of night or day, perfect in so many ways.
But, if you think you could be heating an empty house during the day, then use the drop button on the system that tells the boiler you are not home, and that the lowest temperature has dropped dramatically. It also has ‘frost protection’, so you never have a truly cold house.

Quick tip – become super-savvy by installing a Vortex energy saver in the boiler that through a simple, yet effective scientific principle takes out most of the oxygen in the water, saving the system from corrosion. A super idea that see an extra 30% saving.

BUT…
Look after the boiler and the radiators to get the most out of your system and keep it in tip top shape for longer. Just like a car, there are moving parts that can malfunction and also need some TLC every now and then. Don’t wait for it to break down but get the boiler serviced regularly. Flushing the radiator system every now and then can be expensive, but worth it in the longer term.
Add a little extra, and save a lot more – the exhaust gas from your boiler has heat in it; this is why you get the cloud of light coloured ‘steam’ from the flue. This heat can be recycled back in to the system and used to heat water, saving you another 33%. Most boilers can be fitted with a Passive Flue Gas Heat Recovery Device.

Shower rather than wallow in the bath
We all likes and dislikes; there is nothing better than a soak in the tub after a long, stressful day. However, is you are a daily bath taker you could be paying for this in terms of both increased energy consumption and more water.
‘Experts’ suggest that a 4 minute shower should be the norm – although teenagers struggle with this concept – but a daily bath over the year uses 13,000 litres of water. Far more than the average daily shower over a year.
Saving money on your energy bills is not hard. There are many hints, tips and additional pieces of equipment that can make small savings but, when added together, make a huge financial impact.