New Technology will Enable Properties to Share Solar Energy

Dr. Mahmoud Dhimish’s research will mean low energy bills for consumers. Credit: University of Huddersfield

In the UK alone, some 1.5 million homes are equipped with solar panels, and it has been estimated that by 2020 the figure could soar to 10 million, with the prospect of lower energy bills for consumers and massive reductions in CO2 emissions. Now, a University of Huddersfield researcher is developing new technologies that could enable clusters of houses to share their solar energy, rather than simply exporting surplus electricity to the national grid. Also, new systems for fault detection will enable householders to monitor and maintain the efficiency of their panels.

Prize-winning PhD student Mahmoud Dhimish is spearheading the project, supervised by lecturers with expertise in high performance computing, engineering and electrical supply. The research is aided by a solar panel, or photovoltaic (PV) system that has been installed at the University by its School of Computing and Engineering.

“Currently, individual consumers generate electricity from their PV installations and if they are unable to use it, they export it to the network. PV outputs vary unpredictably – as do the electricity demands of each consumer – so supply and demand is difficult to match,” said Mahmoud Dhimish.

Therefore, his doctoral research – which has already led to a sequence of articles and presentations – is investigating the possibility of reducing the need to export unused energy to the grid by making use of “demand diversity” among adjacent dwellings.

A form of energy storage shared by the connected houses and the use of the ‘Internet of Things’ to monitor and manage their electricity demands will form part of the solution.

A major dimension of Mahmoud’s work is the development of a new algorithm that will enable the rapid detection of faults in PV installations. He has carried out pioneering work on the impact of micro-cracks in the performance of solar panels, using the facilities of the University of Huddersfield’s High Performance Computing Research Group to carry out his analysis.

The research could lead to the development of monitoring units operated directly by households or remotely via the Cloud.

Outputs describing the work have included the recent article Fault detection algorithm for grid-connected photovoltaic plants, in the journal Solar Energy. It is co-authored by Mahmoud Dhimish and his PhD supervisor Dr Violeta Homes, who is Subject Area Leader for Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Huddersfield, where she leads the HPC Research Group.

Also supervising are Dr Bruce Mehrdadi, who is MSc Engineering Programme Leader, and lecturer Mark Dales, whose career has included 30 years in the electricity supply industry, and who took charge of the installation of the School of Computing and Engineering’s own solar panels.

Mahmoud Dhimish – who is Jordanian-Russian – earned awards that included a Chancellor’s Prize for his University of Huddersfield MSc in Electronic and Communication Engineering. He was immediately awarded a scholarship for his PhD research in renewable energy system. He has further co-authored articles awaiting publication and has also lectured on the subject to undergraduates.

Courtesy: https://phys.org/news


Study Demonstrates a Better Way to Store Renewable Energy

Wind farms are a common source of renewable energy that needs to be stored. Credit: University of Arkansas

In an effort to find better ways to store renewable energy, physicists at the University of Arkansas, in collaboration with a scientist at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, have shown that antiferroelectrics can provide high energy density. The findings may lead to storage devices that improve the efficiency of wind and solar power.

Because the production of renewable electricity may fluctuate from second to second, any device designed to store it must cope with constantly changing loads and still achieve high energy density relative to size. Batteries, supercapacitors and other technologies that can achieve high densities typically cannot react quickly enough to changing conditions. Traditional electrostatic capacitors can react quickly, but can’t hold enough energy for large-scale use.

U of A researchers Bin Xu, a research associate in the Department of Physics, and Laurent Bellaiche, Distinguished Professor of physics, along with Jorge Íñiguez at LIST, showed that antiferroelectrics may be able to achieve both goals. They published their findings in May in the journal Nature Communications.

Antiferroelectrics are materials in which adjacent dipoles – positive and negative charge centers separated by a very small space – are ordered in opposite direction of one another. Ferroelectric materials, by contrast, have adjacent dipoles ordered in the same direction.

Antiferroelectrics become ferroelectric with the application of a high enough electric field. By exploiting this characteristic, researchers predicted that high energy density and efficiency can be achieved in antiferroelectrics, in particular with the rare-earth substituted bismuth ferrite material used in this study. The paper explored improving the storage performance with further manipulation of the electric field. They were also able to create a model that explains the connection between energy density and the electric field, which points toward further research in the future.

Courtesy: https://phys.org/news


Secretly Solar Roof

By: Elena Comelli

The solar panels can be designed to look like any type of construction material — terracotta, stone, cement or wood — in order to blend in with the building’s architecture.

Image Courtesy: http://www.dyaqua.it

An Italian company is making photovoltaic roof tiles that perfectly mimic materials such as terracotta, stone and wood

In historic centres and buildings throughout Europe, obtaining permission to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) roof can be complicated. Aesthetic landscape constraints are often so strict that the limitations become prohibitive, unless the solar cells are invisible.

Hence, many have tried hiding or embedding solar roof panels in a material that resembles what is often used for roofing, stone paving or to clad blind walls. Elon Musk’s Tesla, for example, came up with a glass-layered shingle. Products like these are more or less invisible from the street—but from a certain height one can see the dark cells, an unacceptable idea in places such as the renowned Paris roofscape.

Now Dyaqua, a small family-owned company in Vicenza, Italy, has created a product called Invisible Solar, a PV roof tile unlike anything else on the market. And it has sparked an immediate boom.

Dyaqua inserts the PV cells inside a polymeric compound that mimics common building materials such as stone or wood so that the solar cells are completely invisible to the human eye.

“Since we started production a few months ago, we can’t keep up with orders, not only from Italy, but from France, Spain and the United States,” said Giovanni Quagliato, a Vicenza-born artist specialised in creating epoxy resin artwork, who discovered the secret to giving a totally natural look to polymeric compounds, while keeping them transparent to light.

The compound can be transformed to look like any building material, whether terracotta, stone, cement or wood. It is non-toxic and recyclable, built to withstand high static loads and resistant to atmospheric agents and chemical solvents. “It’s all about density: it has to be enough to fool the eye, but not too much, so as not to block the rays of the sun,” explained Quagliato. Years ago, he launched a production line of LED lights called Medea, based on the same technology. He then went on to create PV systems with his line Dyaqua, launched in collaboration with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).

“The principle is the same: in the lamps, the light comes from the inside and must go outwards, while in PV tiles, the rays of the sun come from the outside and must penetrate the transparent material and reach the solar cells,” Quagliato explained. Applying this theory, however, was no easy task. Achieving the ideal concentration took years of hard work. The prototype’s efficiency was then tested by an independent scientific body. The tests confirmed an impressive performance of 70 peak watts per square meter, or about half the performance of a classic photovoltaic module.

Invisible Solar is available on the market for 7 euros per watt, against 1-2 euros per watt for standard PV modules. “You have to keep in mind that these are handcrafted products, designed specifically for historical centres: prices can often vary from 1 to 7 euros even for regular tiles and historic centre roof tiles,” Quagliato noted.

For now, Dyaqua survives on the production of LED lamps. The photovoltaic products are not financially sustainable, because they require an exorbitant amount of manual work. So far, there aren’t any machines capable of replacing the careful hand of man in applying different layers of resin at varying densities, both above and under the photovoltaic cells, with the right curvature for the perfect roof tile. The creation of flat surfaces resembling stone or cement is simpler, but it is still a delicate task that cannot compare to the industrial production of ordinary tiles or solar panels.

“To accelerate production and keep up with demand, we would have to invent machines that integrate or replace manual work,” said Quagliato. Only in this way can mass production be achieved, contributing to lower prices and increased product competitiveness with large producers, such as Tesla’s Solar Roof.

But Dyaqua lacks the funds to invest in a machine. Quagliato’s children, Matteo and Elisa, launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo, attempting to raise USD 20,000 to pay for one. “Invisible Solar is my dream of a healthy world,” noted Matteo, “where technology has the natural appearance of our landscapes.”

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com


Solar Paint Offers Endless Energy From Water Vapour

By: David Glanz

Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen – the cleanest source of energy.

Video: Peter Clark

The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry.

But unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen.

RMIT lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said: “We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air.

“Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate.

“Our new development has a big range of advantages,” he said. “There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapour in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”

His colleague, Distinguished Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen was the cleanest source of energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapour can then be absorbed to produce fuel.

“This is an extraordinary concept – making fuel from the sun and water vapour in the air.”

The research has been published as “Surface Water Dependent Properties of Sulfur Rich Molybdenum Sulphides – Electrolyteless Gas Phase Water Splitting” in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

Courtesy: https://www.rmit.edu.au


Are Green Energy Technologies Actually Realistic and Cost Effective for the Busy Modern Family?

We can notice the growth of green energy technology use both in homes and several establishments. As we move forward to a world of high technology and energy conservation, we can say, a great number of people are joining the green energy revolution. However, many people still ask, is renewable energy cost effective and truly attainable by the modern family? We can say yes. Performing the correct measures when planning and using green energy technologies will help individuals create an efficient home renewable energy system.

Calculating Energy Needs

A modern, busy family likely has a substantial need for electricity in their everyday lives. Especially for those who own big homes, the demand for energy can be higher than the average. To ascertain the cost-effectivity of green energy technologies, the crucial and most initial step is to make a thorough examination of the electricity needs. Calculating your electricity needs will help you determine these factors that are important in building your home renewable energy system:

1. The size and cost of the green energy technology that will be used.

2. Fluctuation of your daily and yearly energy needs.

3. Ways you can do to reduce the use of electricity if needed.

When calculating your electricity needs, you must be able to conduct a load analysis of the wattage and the daily use of all your plugged-in electrical devices. Some loads like refrigerator and lights use power consistently, while others, such as power tools only consume electricity occasionally. These electrical devices that require energy intermittently are called selectable loads. If you are willing to use selectable loads only when there is extra energy available, you can use a smaller green energy technology for your home.

If you desire to improve the cost-effectiveness of your home renewable energy system, take measures to reduce the daily use of your electricity. This way, you can buy and install a smaller and less expensive system, while effectively distributing electricity throughout the house.

Knowing the Requirements

Building your own source of renewable energy, especially if you’re residing in a suburban area, requires the permission of your state or community. You must be able to follow the set of codes and regulations before and while you’re using your own source of energy. These regulations will affect what kind of system you will use and how your system must work. The requirements for utilizing green energy technology can come from your local officials, local renewable organization or your state energy office.

Your system will undergo inspections to assure its safety. Building inspectors and electrical examiners will make sure your system conforms to the existing standards. Your home renewable energy system may also undergo tests, and may be required to pass electrical and plumbing inspections. You may check with your building code office prior to creating or purchasing green energy technology to learn about the requirements. You will likely get approval if you or your installer, follow the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Choosing How Your System Works

There are two ways how your home renewable energy system can work: through a grid-connected system, or a stand-alone (off-grid) system.

Those who are living in a city, or in a residential or busy area, mostly prefer a grid-connected system. They connect their renewable energy system to the grid and use it to reduce the amount of energy they acquire from the grid. This system also allows people to sell the excess power they produce back to their electricity provider.

On the other hand, some people who are living in remote areas usually go for stand-alone systems. They use their own home renewable energy systems in place of the power provided through the grid.

Both grid-connected system and stand-alone systems require the use of balance-of-system. Balance-of-system consists of tools or equipment to safely transmit energy. Grid-connected systems need these tools to comply with the power provider’s requirements, which may include materials, conditioning equipment, and safety equipment. While a stand-alone system’s balance-of-system may comprise of safety equipment, batteries, conditioning equipment, meters, as well as instrumentation.

Picking the Right Green Energy Technology

There are several technology options available today that you can choose from as part of your system. It is of great significance to have a basic understanding of how your chosen technology works before you acquire them. The following technologies can be used alone, or combined with other technologies, or in conjunction with fossil fuel:

• Solar power systems

• Wind power systems

• Micro hydropower systems

• Hybrid solar and wind power systems

About the Author:

Elena has always been passionate about helping others get the most out of their life and reach their fullest potential. Elena is the digital marketing manager at www.greenr.cab. When she’s not writing, Elena enjoys travelling to exotic places around the world.