World’s Highest Wind Turbine Will Hover Above Alaska

Photo: Altaeros Energies

By Katherine Tweed

The title for world’s largest wind turbine is constantly up for grabs as manufacturers build higher and bigger to capture more energy from the passing air.

One turbine in Alaska, however, will now spin high above the rest. Altaeros Energies will launch its high-altitude floating wind turbine south of Fairbanks to bring more affordable power to a remote community. Ben Glass, CEO of Altaeros told The New York Times that the company expects to provide power at about $0.18 per kilowatt-hour, about half the price of off-grid electricity in Alaska.

Unlike its earth-bound brethren, the airborne turbine is not intended to supply power for large electric grids. Instead, its sweet spot is serving far-flung villages, military bases, mines, or disaster zones. Various researchers have been developing floating wind turbines for years, but the 18-month project in Alaska will be the first longer-term, commercial project to test the technology, according to Altaeros.

Altaeros’ Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) is an inflatable, helium-filled ring with a wind turbine suspended inside. It will float at a height of 300 meters, where winds tend to be far stronger than they are on the ground. The altitude of the BAT is about double the hub height of the world’s largest wind turbine.

The BAT has a power capacity of 30 kilowatts and will create enough energy to power about 12 homes, the company says. But that’s just the beginning. It can also lift communications equipment such as cellular transceivers or meteorological devices and other sensing equipment. Altaeros said additional equipment does not affect the energy performance of the turbine.

The technology can be deployed in under 24 hours, because it does not require cranes or underground foundations. Instead it uses high-strength tethers, which hold the BAT steady and allow the electricity to be sent back to the ground. A power station on the ground controls the winches that hold the tethers and pulls in the power from the turbine before sending it on to a grid connection. Altaeros has tested its BAT prototype in 70 kilometer-per-hour winds, but because it uses the same technology as other industrial blimps that are rated to withstand hurricane-level winds, it might be able to withstand stronger gusts.

Altaeros says there is a US $17-billion remote power and microgrid market that could benefit from the technology. Many off-grid sites, including small islands, mining sites or military bases, rely on expensive diesel generators to provide some or all of their power needs. There are many projects that are trying to develop integrated solutions to tackle this market, particularly microgrids that integrate some type renewable energy.

The Boston-based startup is hardly alone in flying power stations, either. Last year, Google X purchased Makani Power that makes airborne wind turbines that resemble small airplanes. At the time, Google told TechCrunch that the appeal of Makani was that “They’ve turned a technology that today involves hundreds of tons of steel and precious open space into a problem that can be solved with really intelligent software.” Other airborne wind companies include WindLift, SkySails, Sky Windpower, and NTS.

The $1.3 million project in Alaska is financed by Alaska Energy Authority’s Emerging Energy Technology Fund and RNT Associates International, which is owned by the former chairman of the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, which includes Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company.


Solar Power In A Bottle Thanks To Elephant Energy

Solar Power In A Bottle Thanks To Elephant Energy, USAID, & divi (via Clean Technica)

Living off the grid necessitates and demands innovation. A happy new innovation for some off-grid, energy poverty–challenged folks is solar power in a bottle. The organizations to thank for this new option are the US Agency for International Development…

Read more »

Dubai’s largest ‘Solar Park’ goes live

Dubai has opened a plant capable of generating around 24 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every year. This will be the region’s largest photovoltaic facility to date.

The power plant marks the first phase of Dubai’s $3.3bn ‘Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park’ which has a capacity of 13 Megawatts (MW). It was announced on Tuesday that the plant had gone live as part of a push to diversify energy supplies in the UAE.

The plant is designed to have a lifespan of over 25 years and is currently the largest operating solar PV plant in the region. It was connected to the emirates electricity grid just 195 days after breaking ground in March 2013.

Developed by First solar, the plant spans across an area of 238,764 square metres and will generate approximately 24 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, enough to meet the average annual electricity needs of more than 500 households.

In a statement made by First Solar it was explained that the electricity produced by the plant is anticipated to displace around 15,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, this being comparable to removing around 2,000 cars from the road every year.

The 13-megawatt photovoltaic plant is the biggest of its type in the Middle East and North Africa according to Saeed Mohammed Al Taylor (Vice chairman of the Dubai Supreme council of energy). He added;

“This plant represents an important step in the implementation of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 to diversify Dubai’s energy mix. For the first time, we are harnessing the sun to power growth and prosperity in the emirate, which is a significant achievement,”

Dubai’s enormous Solar Park is projected to ultimately cover 40 square kilometres and create 1,000MW of clean energy for the national grid using both PV and solar thermal technology.

First Solar’s CEO, Jim Hughes had the following to say;

 “Solar PV, with its price and operational efficiencies, is the right fit for the Middle East’s energy generation needs.”

By 2030 Dubai plan to generate 5% of its electricity from renewable energy, 12% from coal and a further 12% from nuclear reactors planned in Abu Dhabi.



Wind and Solar Harvest Enough Energy Now to Pay Back Manufacture Plus Add Storage

Renewable power can pay for its own manufacture via energy produced plus cover the cost of adding batteries

Mar 21, 2014 |By Nathanael Massey and Nature magazine

The road to a sustainable future?
Credit: S.Kawamura/Wikimedia Commons

To be cost-effective, any source of power has to produce more energy than it consumes. Oil companies would hardly turn a profit, for example, if extracting a barrel of oil required the energy output of a second barrel of oil.

The same holds true of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Though renewable projects pay the lion’s share of both their energetic and financial costs up front, they still have to recover those costs over a lifetime of service and continue to produce value if they are to yield a net-energy surplus.

Thanks to dramatic improvements in the manufacture of both wind and solar technologies, that appears to be more than possible. A new study published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science finds that wind and solar not only produce enough power to be energetically sustainable but could support grid-scale energy storage as well.

“What we’re saying is that theoretically, it is now theoretically possible to have this perfect world that’s just based on wind and solar,” said Charles Barnhart, a postdoctoral scholar with the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University and a co-author of the study. Rather than using existing “stock” fuels like fossil fuels, he said, renewables put out enough excess energy to fuel their own expansion.

While the majority of deployed renewables yield surplus benefits, those benefits aren’t necessarily equal, said Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University and co-author of the study, in a release from the institution.

“Within a few months, a wind turbine generates enough electricity to pay back all of the energy it took to build it,” she said. “But some photovoltaics have an energy payback time of almost two years.”

Storage must be a growth industry
The picture quickly gets more complicated when you add the fact that wind and solar power alone can’t provide consistent, uninterrupted power output. One option to smooth that intermittency is grid-scale storage, but all storage systems — be they pumped hydro, chemical batteries or compressed air — come with their own energy costs.

The Stanford report focuses on this combination of renewable energy and storage infrastructure. Even with the addition of grid-scale storage Read more »

Viessmann to Introduce Its Method to Turn Excess Renewable Power into Gas

At Ecobuild 2014 Viessmann will be presenting its power-to-gas solution for addressing the peaks in power generation from weather-dependant renewable energy sources.

Viessmann, one of the world’s leading sustainable heating systems manufacturers, believes its model for storing excess power in the gas grid can pave the way for the UK’s successful transition from conventional to renewable fuels.

“Power-to-gas is a flexible and highly efficient method for converting excess renewable electricity and converting it into methane,” says Christian Engelke, Viessmann’s technical director.

“Excess electricity from wind farms or PV installation can be used to produce hydrogen. The Viessmann methanisation process creates 100 per cent methane which can then be transported and stored into the existing gas grid.

“We believe the methanisation of excess power will make it possible for such power-to-gas plants to contribute to at least five per cent of the UK’s gas requirement. This is also the plan in Germany where the goal is to provide 60 billion kWh of biomethane gas by 2020. This will release the burden of inconsistent supply on the electricity grid and conventional power stations.”

At present, surplus energy generated by the UK’s offshore wind farms cannot be stored or transported elsewhere, forcing the government to sometimes take the highly controversial step of paying wind farm operators to shut down.

Unless greater investment is made in technologies which address the way we heat our homes, most often using gas, says Viessmann, it is hard to see how the UK will be able to meet its emissions reduction goal of 80 per cent by 2050.

By contrast, the German natural gas grid has immense storage capacities. There the production of synthetic methane through power-to-gas technology is presenting real opportunities that Viessmann is already helping to develop.

The company’s pioneering research and development work in this field is being conducted by Viessmann Group company, MicrobEnergy. It has designed pilot installations at Viessmann’s headquarters in Allendorf, Germany, and at a municipal sewage plant that have demonstrated the practicality and efficiency of storing excess power in the gas grid.

Viessmann will be exhibiting information on the process at Ecobuild 2014, explaining the inherent suitability of its power to gas model to the UK due to the country’s heavy reliance on its own gas grid.

“Weather-dependent renewable energy sources, such as wind and the sun, inevitably lead to peaks in power generation and inconsistent supply,” adds Engelke. “As the proportion of renewables in the energy mix grows bigger, however, innovative storage technologies will become increasingly important.”

Power-to-gas involves converting excess power into hydrogen by means of electrolysis. This is followed by what is known as the methanisation stage, during which highly specialised microorganisms convert hydrogen and carbon directly into pure methane.

The microorganisms function at ambient pressure and temperature, and there are no special requirements regarding the purity of the source gases . The required CO2 can be sourced from industrial processes, biogas plants or even the surrounding air.

The synthetic methane obtained in this way can either be held in a gas storage facility and converted into electricity with a CHP unit as required, or can be injected directly into the natural gas grid.

Engelke continues: “The development of a green and sustainable gas is one of Viessmann’s key goals. If countries like the UK are to produce as much 80 per cent of their electricity from green, low-carbon renewable sources, then wind and solar clearly have to become the dominant components of the energy mix.

“In an energy market dominated by big central fossil-fuelled power plants, production can be planned and responsive. With increased dependence on renewables, production is subject to weather conditions and only able to meet energy demand at a local level and for short periods.

“A power-to-gas and storage solution means power generated by renewables can be stored and later released according to demand at a national level. Creating a link between the electricity grid and natural gas grids is therefore an important condition for the successful transition from conventional to renewable fuels.”