MIT Researchers Design a Solar-Powered Desalination Device for Rural India.

A woman and her son, who live in Chellur, India, walk home with the reverse-osmosis-treated water she bought at Chellur’s community desalination plant. Photo: John Freidah/MIT

By: Alissa Mallinson

The air was hot and gritty. Shehazvi had to squint to see past the sun into the edge of town, past the cars and motorcycles whizzing by, past the scorched earth, to where old buildings stood beautiful in their own way, muted pinks and oranges still curving and curling in all the right places. No rain again today.

She and her daughter climbed out of the rickshaw and walked down the alley that leads to their home, 200 rupees lighter than when they left for Jalgaon city earlier that day. That’s how much it cost every time she took her daughter to the doctor for stomach pains. The culprit? The salty drinking water.

“Excessive salt intake can be quite detrimental to one’s health, both in the short and long term,” says Maulik D. Majmudar, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

But there is no grocery store in Shehazvi’s rural Indian village where she can stock up on bottled water. There is no on-demand tap of drinking water that’s already been prepared for her safety and comfort. There is no reliable electricity.

The Cost of Clean Water

Shehazvi is a teacher and resident of Mhasawad, a village of about 8,400 people that flanks the Girna River in Maharashtra, India. Unable to watch her daughter suffer further pains from drinking salty water, she recently started paying 30 percent of her monthly income to receive treated water from a reverse osmosis (RO) plant. With an average salinity 75 percent lower than that of the untreated town water, the treated water is worth the cost to Shehazvi.

“The water that is supplied is contaminated, and my daughter was always in pain,” she says. “I had to repeatedly take her to the doctor in Jalgaon, and it was very expensive. So I started buying filtered water. Now the stomachaches and the illnesses are gone.”

But despite the benefits, most of the residents of Mhasawad can’t afford RO water, from which bacteria and salt have been filtered out, and thousands of people in the village regularly drink water with a salinity level above 1,200 parts per million (ppm). To put that into perspective, the World Health Organization recommends levels under 600 ppm, and the water in Cambridge, Massachusetts, usually doesn’t get above 350 ppm at its worst.

“Everyone wants to drink the clean water,” Shehazvi says. “But what do they do if they can’t afford it? I only get paid 2,000 rupees per month and buying this water has been difficult.”

If the lower-income households can’t afford the RO-treated water, they definitely can’t afford the health costs associated with drinking salty water. One man living in Mhasawad says he spends around Read more »

Mauritius Takes Great Step Forward for Wave Power, Microgrid Design

By: William Steel

Australian marine energy developer Carnegie Wave Energy has embarked on an ambitious project in the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius to establish new benchmarks in microgrid solutions tailored for high penetration renewable energy.

“The Mauritius project will clearly show how islands can achieve very high penetration of renewables by using a combination of wave energy, solar PV, wind energy, battery energy storage systems and smart microgrid control systems,” Project Manager Neil De Tisi told Renewable Energy World.

In meeting its goals, the project will showcase several innovative solutions split over the main island of Mauritius and the island of Rodrigues.

While the microgrid will serve to demonstrate how multiple sources of renewable energy may be effectively incorporated into an isolated grid, it will also provide a test bed for deployment of Carnegie’s latest generation of wave energy capture technology, CETO 6. The microgrid will also incorporate a new desalinization plant — being developed by Mak Water — to serve the neighboring island of Rodrigues.

The project’s scope includes provision of a renewable energy road map for Mauritius, outlining the technical and financial feasibility of high penetration renewable energy.

Installing CETO 6 Wave Energy Technology

Aiming to replicate successes of their flagship Garden Island project in Australia, the developers plan to outfit the microgrid with CETO 6 technology.

CETO 6 generating components are housed in a fully submerged buoy tethered to the seabed, with each unit rated to 1 MW. The technology will be installed in Blue Bay on the southeastern coast of Mauritius — a site selected on account of existing wave energy data indicating it to hold the strongest wave resources in the region.

Seeking to refine their understanding of this energy potential, however, Carnegie recently announced successful deployment of a wave-monitoring buoy that will collect fresh data over about six months. Jessica Kolbusz, analysis engineer at Carnegie responsible for the assessment, told Renewable Energy World that this data will “provide validation of our [existing] wave resource model,” but will also inform much about the final design and scope of the microgrid.

“Wave resource assessment is a necessary first step, but undertaking this concurrently to microgrid planning and the renewable energy road map is really beneficial, as it provides opportunity for designing a very effective, climate friendly solution from the ground up,” Kolbusz said.

Presently, it’s uncertain how many CETO 6 devices may be incorporated into the microgrid, but Carnegie is optimistic about the project’s potential.

“The project represents a really big step forward for Carnegie, and offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the CETO wave energy solution,” Kolbusz said.

In regards to what’s new with the latest iteration of CETO technology, Kolbusz explained: “The key development with CETO 6 is that it incorporates complex hydraulics and generator components directly into the offshore system. This removes the need for additional pipelines to shore and reduces hydraulic losses. In terms of infrastructure to shore, all that’s needed is a transmission cable.”

Microgrid Design

Supporting Carnegie as partner on the project is Australian microgrid specialist Energy Made Clean, which holds a portfolio of grid-connected, commercial-scale solar PV projects and microgrids.

That experience, Carnegie’s De Tisi believes, is important to the success of the project.

“Carnegie’s alliance with Energy Made Clean means the first stage of installing solar PV with battery storage and a smart control system can be completed and would allow for the integration of the wave energy converters at a later stage,” De Tisi said.

The early stages of the project are being supported with a grant from a partnership between the Australian and Mauritius Governments of AUS $800,000 (US $600,000).

Carnegie believes the project will set a highly valuable, but attainable, benchmark for other countries and regions that stand to benefit from microgrid solutions.

“There’s great potential for this kind of solution being introduced to other island nations, where there’s high demand for water and energy security,” Kolbusz  said. “Combining multiple sources of renewable energy in a grid like this is really a well-rounded solution. This is especially true for Mauritius.”


Solar Powered Smart Flowers Are New Focus for Cape Wind Champion Jim Gordon

Pioneer of offshore wind in the U.S. Jim Gordon takes financial stake in Austrian SmartFlower technology.

By: Jennifer Runyon Chief Editor

An innovative solar plus storage solution that was launched in Europe about 2.5 years ago is coming to the U.S. The product is called “SmartFlower” and it looks like a gigantic sunflower with a short, fat stalk. The company said it has sold about 1000 units into 20 different European countries since launch.

The SmartFlower wakes up at sunrise, fans out its solar panels to 194 ft² and automatically cleans itself in preparation for capturing the sun’s rays. SmartFlower then turns to face the sun at a 90°angle, and follows the sun throughout the day using dual-axis tracking to maximize solar energy yield. One SmartFlower produces the equivalent of a 4 kW rooftop system, according to the company.

Energy harvested during the day is stored in the lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP) batteries and managed through a “smart” energy management system that helps the homeowner decide when to use power from grid, the battery or the solar panels. The company is working on more smart features that that, for example, might enable the system to decide what to do if there is too much power — perhaps suggesting the homeowner turn on the air conditioner or the pool pump.

Founder and managing partner Alexander Swatek explained that the panels are high-efficient monocrystalline cells and are also produced in Austria (as is the rest of the product).

“We use a very special technology of 2mm hardened glass, which you can bend in any direction and it doesn’t crack, which is very important for outdoor usage,” he said.

From Utility-Scale Wind to Residential Solar

While the product itself is quite interesting and has won numerous design awards including the Red Dot 2016 Award and the Green Good Design Award for 2016, what’s also interesting is that the man who is passionately fighting to keep offshore wind project Cape Wind viable, is behind the company’s move to North America.

Jim Gordon has been trying to get his 130-MW offshore wind farm built off the coast of Massachusetts since 2001 and has successfully defeated 26 lawsuits against the project all filed by citizen groups who don’t like the aesthetics of the project. The Koch brothers have supported the opposition. In 2015 the project lost its PPAs because it had not begun construction and just the week, the project suffered another loss as the federal appeals court threw out two of the government approvals for the project.

Gordon remains hopeful that Cape Wind will one day come to fruition but for now he’s throwing his passion for clean energy toward the SmartFlower.

“I saw this on the internet about 3 months ago and the next day I hopped on a plane to Vienna, Austria,” he said. “The very next day.”

Gordon wrangled a meeting with founder Swatek and insisted that he become an investor and bring the product to the North American market.

“I like to be on the leading edge,” said Gordon, adding: “For so many years I’ve been dealing with environmental regulators and bureaucrats and NIMBYs (not in my backyard). I want to leapfrog over all of that and I want to empower the individual.”

The Smart Flower puts clean energy in the hands of the homeowner, business, or municipality. “It’s in your hands to make a decision,” said Gordon.

“A billion and a half kilowatts of clean power have been kept from the public because of Bill Koch and his cronies. All I have to do is sell 350,000 of these to make up that billion and a half kilowatts,” he said.

With a price tag of US $16,900, the product’s price point is right in line with a typical 4-kW system in most parts of the U.S. Plus, it comes in eight color choices and takes just a few hours to install said the company.

The SmartFlower was on display at Intersolar North America in San Francisco from July 12-14 and is considering exhibiting at Solar Power International in September.


Solar Panels Study Reveals Impact on Earth

Researchers found that solar parks altered the local climate, measuring cooling of as much as 5 degrees Centigrade under the panels during the summer but the effects varied depending on the time of year and the time of day. Credit: © jgolby / Fotolia

Researchers have produced the first detailed study of the impact of solar parks on the environment, opening the door to smarter forms of farming and better land management.

Environmental Scientists at Lancaster University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology monitored a large solar park, near Swindon, for a year.

They found that solar parks altered the local climate, measuring cooling of as much as 5 degrees Centigrade under the panels during the summer but the effects varied depending on the time of year and the time of day.

As climate controls biological processes, such as plant growth rates, this is really important information and can help understand how best to manage solar parks so they have environmental benefits in addition to supplying low carbon energy.

Their paper ‘Solar park microclimate and vegetation management effects on grassland carbon cycling’ is published in the Journal Environmental Research Letters.

Increasing energy demands and the drive towards low carbon energy sources have prompted a rapid increase in ground-mounted solar parks across the world.

This means a significant land use change on a global scale and has prompted urgent calls for a detailed understanding of the impacts of solar parks on the fields beneath them.

Dr Alona Armstrong, of Lancaster University, said the new study raises some key questions for the future.

She said: “Solar parks are appearing in our landscapes but we are uncertain how they will affect the local environment.”

“This is particularly important as solar parks take up more space per unit of power generated compared with traditional sources. This has implications for ecosystems and the provision of goods, for example crops, and services, such as soil carbon storage. But until this study we didn’t understand how solar parks impacted climate and ecosystems.”

“With policies in dominant economies supporting solar energy, it is important that we understand the environmental impacts to ensure we get more than just low carbon energy from the land they occupy.”

The authors of the study say understanding the climate effects of solar parks will give farmers and land managers the knowledge they need to choose which crops to grow and how best to manage the land; there is potential to maximise biodiversity and improve yields.

Dr Armstrong added: “This understanding becomes even more compelling when applied to areas that are very sunny that may also suffer water shortages. The shade under the panels may allow crops to be grown that can’t survive in full sun. Also, water losses may be reduced and water could be collected from the large surfaces of the solar panels and used for crop irrigation.”


Germany: First 15 MW Steag Storage System Complete

By: Ian Clover

Located in Lünen, the first of six large-scale storage projects has now been installed and has begun its test run. The project aims to install 90 MW of lithium-ion storage capacity across Germany by next year.

The 15 MW storage system, powered by LG Chem lithium-ion batteries, is now in place and ready for testing at the siet in Lünen, Germany. Steag

German energy provider Steag has finalized the installation of its inaugural large-scale battery system next to a power station in the town of Lünen.

The 15 MW storage system uses LG Chem lithium-ion batteries and is the first of six test projects planned for across Germany over the next 12 months. The 90 MW, €100 million project is scheduled to begin commercial operation in early 2017, with this pilot test plant poised for commercial connection later this summer.

Construction of this storage project began at the end of March, and this testing stage marks a significant milestone for what will, once complete, become one of the world’s largest storage projects. The 15 MW storage system is located across one hectare and comprises 11 containers and all associated transformers and auxiliary equipment.

Steag, which is based in Essen, will complete the remaining five storage systems over the coming months, locating each one close to its own power plants as a means of providing primary control power – essentially stabilizing network frequency during moments of short-term fluctuations in the grid. “Using the existing plant sites provides synergies in the infrastructure and therefore keeps the investment costs low,” said a Steag statement.

The power plant sites include Lünen, Herne and Duisburg-Walsum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Bexbach, Fenne and Weiher in Saarland.