A ‘Smart Grid’ for Mexico?

(From: Smart Grids Flanders)

With regard to Mexico’s energy sector, the incorporation of a smart grid into its current electric system is of extreme importance and it is for this reason that the agreement signed this week between the CRE (Energy Regulating Commission) and the USTDA (U.S. Trade and Development Agency) is of such transcendental importance.

On Tuesday, June 26th, the USTDA awarded a $405,000 grant to the CRE to support the development of a regulatory framework for smart grid implementation in Mexico. The grant was signed at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City by CRE Chairman, Francisco Xavier Salazar Diez de Sollano, and USTDA Country Manager, Keith Eischeid.

The ‘smart grid’ technology refers to electricity delivery systems that function with computers and technology in order to gather information on the behavior of electricity suppliers and consumers in order to improve efficiency, reliability and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity. Several countries throughout the world are investing time and resources in the development of smart grids and incorporating them into their electricity networks, from power plants and wind farms all the way to the electricity consumers in homes and businesses.

Smart grid systems are especially beneficial for providing improvements in energy efficiency and these systems usually include wires, substations, transformers, and all of the necessary components in electricity provision.

In Mexico, the first steps towards the possible implementation of smart grids took place in 2010 when talk began to spur between the CFE and other government agencies. However, no real advancement had been made until this week.

With the support of the United States, Mexico can now work towards the implementation of a smart grid that will facilitate the integration of renewable energy projects and greatly reduce the country’s current electric waste.

During the signing of the grant, Anthony Wayne, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico expressed his profound agreement with creating an international energy cooperation strategy:

“This is a perfect example of how our two governments are working together to invest in a 21st century clean energy economy. Our commitment to smart grid technology, which supports the Administration’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas and the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, will also create opportunities to develop a highly innovative sector of the economy on both sides of the border.”

According to a report published by El Financiero, the CRE identified ESTA International as the contractor for technical assistance on the U.S. side.

For Mexico, this event represents a huge step towards a stable and sustainable energy future. While the General Law on Climate Change represents the country’s commitment to renewable energy, this event shows how Mexico is read to invest time and resources in improving electricity stability as well as in the integration of renewable energy resources.

Courtesy: www.renewableenergymexico.com

Solar Energy’s Future To Be Found In Nano Technologies?

Bringing down cost is of course the holy grail of pretty much all manufacturing, but in solar energy the issue is particularly acute.

When it first came on the scene was heralded as a major energy source of the future but that dream hasn’t come to fruition, in large part because solar cells remain expensive to make.

image via Solopower

Researchers from North Carolina State University are the latest scientists to tackle this problem and claim they’ve found a way of creating much slimmer thin-film solar cells, without compromising the cells’ performance.

The design of the new cells, according to the scientists, features what they’ve termed a “nanoscale sandwich,” which is unlikely to be very tasty but does deliver a tasty cost reduction via an ultra-thin active layer.

Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research, explained that they created a solar cell with an active layer of amorphous silicon only 70 nanometers (nm) thick.

This was a significant improvement, Cao said, since typical thin-film solar cells currently on the market that also use amorphous silicon have active layers between 300 and 500 nm thick.

Just to be clear, the active layer of the solar cell is the part that does the converting of the sun’s rays into power, either electricity or chemical fuel.

“The technique we’ve developed is very important because it can be generally applied to many other solar cell materials, such as cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, and organic materials,” Cao said in a statement.

The new technique used by the scientists is along very similar lines to the current manufacturing process. The main difference seems to be that the layer of active material, such as amorphous silicon, is sandwiched between two coatings of dielectric material.

The dielectric nanostructures are added in such a way that they create a thin film with elevated surfaces evenly spaced all along it, similar to the crenellations at the top of a medieval castle.

“The nanostructures act as very efficient optical antennas,” Cao added. “Focusing the solar energy into the active material. This focusing means we can use a thinner active layer without sacrificing performance. In the conventional thin-film design, using a thinner active layer would impair the solar cell’s efficiency.”

A great deal of research has gone into improving thin-film solar cell technology. Aside from the NC university research, one other possibility being explored is the use of nanowires.

Nanowires are one-dimensional strips of semiconductor materials only about one-thousandth the width of a human hair. One of the perceived advantages of thin-film solar cells made from nanowires is that they can be manufactured from some of the most abundant materials on Earth, rather than highly processed silicon.

Courtesy: www.earthtechling.com

Home Solar Power Storage — Another Option

Home Solar Power Storage — Another Option (via Clean Technica)

 In addition to the home storage option recently announced by Panasonic, below is another story about a some storage option that could greatly benefit those with cheap solar power on their rooftops in Germany (and some other locations). This is a full repost from the awesome site Renewables International…

Read more »

World Solar Power Goes Parabolic

From a very small base, and from a tiny position in world energy supply, the buildout of global solar power is starting to go parabolic. Last year, according to the just released BP Statistical Review (you must access the Excel workbook for solar data), global solar generation nearly doubled to reach 55.7 TWh (terrawatt hours). | see: Global Solar Consumption in TWh (terrawatt hours) 2001-2011.

To put this power capacity in context, North America generated almost 100 times as much power in 2011 from all sources (coal, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, wind, solar), to reach 5204.5 TWh. By that measure, solar power capacity on a global basis can barely be detected, and is therefore a kind of joke, right? Uhm no, that would be wrong.

As world nuclear power goes into retreat, because of its enormous expense, catastrophe-risk, and complexity, it is power generated by solar that offers easy time-to-completion benefits and project clarity, especially in the developing world. (Indeed, nuclear power again lost primary energy share last year, according to the BP Statistical Review). Moreover, as the world is no longer able to fund economic growth with oil, owing to flat global supply, the industrial economy continues to migrate towards the electrical grid. While this certainly means that coal fired power generation will dominate for the next decade, it’s also the case that a more robust powergrid will become the receptacle for solar power.

While I am not ready to sign on to a Singularity’s version of solar buildout, the possibility that solar power reaches 10% of global power generation by the end of this decade should give you some idea of the new world made possible by plummeting solar voltaic prices, and, the array of other technological advances in capturing the diffuse energy of the sun. To accomplish this gain in primary energy share, solar will need to advance from last year’s 55.7 TWh to approximately 2200 TWh. That probably sounds impossible to most observers, but I would point out that at current growth rates, those levels could be achieved as early as the year 2018.

It is not a mistake that global solar capacity has begun a parabolic move. While many will conclude that demand is the main driver of this growth—and that is not incorrect—it is actually the increasing difficulty and complexity of other power generation construction which is now casting off advantages, to solar power. Do not underestimate the speed of solar.
Courtesy: gregor.us

How A Young Physicist Is Making Solar Power Work, Even When The Sun Is Down

Danielle Fong might have dropped out of junior high, but that hasn’t stopped her from finding a way to potentially drastically change how much power we can get from renewable energy.

It is not unreasonable to expect that the renewable energy collected by the world’s solar panels and wind farms is being stored somewhere, ready and waiting to power our microwaves and hairdryers at a moment’s notice. Bad news: mostly, it’s not. Sure, there are a few methods in practice–expensive batteries that degrade over time, a medieval-sounding technique that involves pumping water up and down a hill–but by and large, if there’s a lot of wind blowing but not enough lightbulbs to use it, that energy simply goes to waste.

Hopefully, that’s about to change. Danielle Fong is the chief scientist (and junior high dropout) behind LightSail Energy, a Berkeley-based team that’s developing compressed-air technology to store the power we don’t use, and return it to the grid when needed. It’s a simple concept: Just use the electricity generated by your solar panel and/or windmill to power a compressor, pushing air into a tank. When you want your energy back, you release the air out of the tank, and use it to drive a generator, creating electricity. “That’s the basic idea,” says Fong. Sadly, there’s more bad news again.
“Eventually, we’re going to replace all of the energy requirements of the world.”

Compressed-air technology has long struggled with efficiency–the heat energy generated via compression has always gone to waste–and that’s the almost part where LightSail’s greatest innovation swoops in. Fong was researching compressor-powered vehicles when she had her eureka moment: “It became clear that what you wanted to do for maximum efficiency was keep the temperature as close to constant as possible in compression and expansion,” she says. “It turned out nobody had figured out how to do that, and I read a Wikipedia article saying it was impossible to do it, and I said, ‘My god, that’s not true. You can just spray water in.’ And then I was like, ‘Wait. I could just spray water in.’ And thus the company and core idea was born.” Read more »