Newest Solar Energy Development Could Be Gamechanging
If you’re keen into reading about new technologies, it’s easy to notice developments all around the world taking place by the day, if not by the hour. The renewable energy sector has been no exception – New gadgets and unique ways to harness energy are making the wildest dreams of today become the legitimate possibilities of tomorrow.
Despite most recent technological advances, if you’re familiar with solar energy it’s easy to find articles validating that the greatest vice of the industry is its inability to compete with the costs and efficiencies of energy mainstays like oil, coal, and natural gas.
With that said, V3Solar is claiming to have created a new solar device that will not only compete with big energy, but the levelized costs of energy (LCOE) will be “two-thirds the price of retail electricity and over 3 times cheaper than current solar technology’. This is a “conservative” estimate, as independent consultant Bill Rever confidently puts it, but tests show the new device is achieving 8 cents per kilowatt hour of generation. On a larger scale, if 8 cents per kWh becomes attainable for solar energy, it would silence the pundits who express discontent about the sector receiving a substantial amount of tax breaks and exemptions that currently aid solar companies.
Because it’s dubbed the ‘Spin Cell,’ most can probably guess one part of what makes the new device so special. The rotating motion of the device works to keep it cool, much like a summer breeze hitting our skin to prevent us from overheating. As a result, its performance is impossible for a regular panel to match. In fact, one photovoltaic (PV) cell can handle a concentration of energy equal to 30 suns, improving the efficiency of the PV by 20% over most standard panels. As V3Solar’s informational video says, “we make the photons dance!”
The Spin Cell also has one more trick up its sleeve – it’s not a flat panel. Their report states, “For too long, the world believed solar was flat…[but] using specialized lensing and a rotating, conical shape, the Spin Cell can concentrate the sunlight…with no head degradation.” In other words, a huge advantage the Spin Cell has over its flat counterparts is its “additive effect of sunlight,” or the ability of the sun to hit the panels from infinite angles, creating a multiplier effect that results in better performance. In comparison, most standard panels are limited by their angle, missing out on the time the sun doesn’t directly face it. (Unless the panels have tracking systems, which are very expensive)
Another huge factor in the Spin Cell’s favor is that the sun can ‘hit’ part of the solar cone practically anytime it shines. Its three-dimensional design eliminates idle time when the sun isn’t hitting an angled panel, further augmenting its effectiveness.
Truth be told, they simply look very attractive too; see for yourselves below. Just imagine the aesthetic possibilities of these. Being only a meter across in size, cities could place one atop every street light, making them self-sufficient, for example.
If the performance calculations hold up under real world settings and if they can make the cones fast enough, it appears V3Solar could be on the verge of something unprecedented. “We simply put a new spin on solar to bring light to the world,” V3Solar’s informational video concludes, and as of now that’s a tough point to contend.
New Wind Turbine to Hit Market in 2013
WHY WE BELIEVE IN THE VERTICAL-AXIS WIND TURBINE (VAWT)
With energy prices spiraling out of control, many businesses are searching for ways to reduce and control energy costs. It is a trend that is also fostering a great deal of interest in renewable-energy options. Wind power is the fastest growing alternative energy segment. It provides an attractive cost structure relative to other alternative energy and distributed generation solutions, such as cogeneration and solar power.
The wind power market has been dominated by large horizontal wind turbines. They have the traditional blade design that looks like a giant fan clustered mostly on “wind farms” located in rural areas. These large systems seriously compromise the ability of many companies to take advantage of wind power right at their building or plant. This is due to the economics of horizontal wind turbines that favor large units, multiple-megawatt installations and current technology dynamics.
However, new technology has come on line that breaks this mold — the vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT). It addresses a number of the technology’s known shortcomings, such as noise pollution, minimum blade speed threshold, bird endangerment and space limitation, while enhancing its advantages.
The vertical-axis design is a compact turbine design that can be sited on location without being intrusive and has been designed to be integrated directly into existing buildings. This size advantage allows structures as small as an office building or as large as a hospital for onsite installation.
Economically, onsite installations dramatically improve the return on investment of wind power, not to mention the rebates now in the offering. Power generated offsite, such as at wind farms, is still subject to transmission and distribution charges. Conversely, onsite solutions take a portion of the organizational power requirements “off the grid.”
A traditional horizontal blade design turbine of similar size requires a greater level of wind speed to generate power. The vertical axis turbines provide omni-directional wind collection. The torque produced allows it to make power while turning at slower blade speeds.
It only takes a 5 mph wind to turn the blade. One benefit of this feature is obvious: It can work at locations with lower average wind speeds. Therefore, the geographic option for using wind energy is greatly expanded; a company may not need to be located on a hilltop or in coastal locations to reap the benefits. Plus, it reduces wind direction limitations, because it can collect wind power on a 360-degree basis. Horizontal blade technology must spend time and energy turning into the wind when the wind changes direction.
The slower blade tip speed has environmental improvements as well. First, it is very quiet when operating. Unlike traditional wind turbines, the vertical axis turbine has the blades connected at both ends, and the blades do not swing by the tower and create noise. Also, with no high-speed wing tips exposed, the vertical axis turbine has a relatively low impact on bird populations.
Courtesy: Sauer Energy
Power Your Home with Your Home
The DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle was unveiled in October 2009. Since then it has been hailed as revolutionary.
But, why is our solar solution revolutionary? First, it’s a residential shingle – in both its installation technique and in the roofing protection it provides. In addition, it generates solar electricity by integrating solar cells into the design. In other words, the shingle is the solar panel, and the solar panel is the shingle.
While they are not yet commercially available, we’re moving along and getting closer to having the DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ SOLAR SHINGLE on U.S. rooftops sometime in 2011. But, we’re not waiting until then to show them off.
Earlier this summer, Dow partnered with Cobblestone Homes to build Michigan’s first Net Zero Energy House using an entire portfolio of Dow’s building materials, including our solar shingles.. You can see them in action, and see what goes into making a home Net Zero Energy, at www.visionzerohome.com.
A Concrete Cure
for Global Warming?
A new technique could turn cement from a source of climate changing greenhouse gases into a way to remove them from the air
By David Biello
The turbines at Moss Landing power plant on the California coast burn through natural gas to pump out more than 1,000 megawatts of electric power. The 700-degree Fahrenheit (370-degree Celsius) fumes left over contain at least 30,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming—along with other pollutants.
Today, this flue gas wafts up and out of the power plant’s enormous smokestacks, but by simply bubbling it through the nearby seawater, a new California-based company called Calera says it can use more than 90 percent of that CO2 to make something useful: cement.
It’s a twist that could make a polluting substance into a way to reduce greenhouse gases. Cement, which is mostly commonly composed of calcium silicates, requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 2,640 degrees F (1,450 degrees C) by burning fossil fuels and is the third largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Making one ton of cement results in the emission of roughly one ton of CO2—and in some cases much more.
While Calera’s process of making calcium carbonate cement wouldn’t eliminate all CO2 emissions, it would reverse that equation. “For every ton of cement we make, we are sequestering half a ton of CO2,” says crystallographer Brent Constantz, founder of Calera. “We probably have the best carbon capture and storage technique there is by a long shot.”
Carbon capture and storage has been identified by experts ranging from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the leaders of the world’s eight richest nations (G8) as crucial to the fight against climate change. The idea is to capture the CO2 and other greenhouse gases produced when burning fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, and then permanently store it, such as in deep-sea basalt formations.
Calera’s process takes the idea a step forward by storing the CO2 in a useful product. The U.S. used more than 122 million metric tons of Portland cement in 2006, according to the Portland Cement Association (PCA), an industry group, and China used at least 800 million metric tons.
The Calera process essentially mimics marine cement, which is produced by coral when making their shells and reefs, taking the calcium and magnesium in seawater and using it to form carbonates at normal temperatures and pressures. “We are turning CO2 into carbonic acid and then making carbonate,” Constantz says. “All we need is water and pollution.”
The company employs spray dryers that utilize the heat in the flue gas to dry the slurry that results from mixing the water and pollution. “A gas-fired power plant is basically like attaching a jet engine to the ground,” Constantz notes. “We use the waste heat of the flue gas. They’re just shooting it up into the atmosphere anyway.”
In essence, the company is making chalk, and that’s the color of the resulting cement: snow white. Once dried, the Calera cement can be used as a replacement for the Portland cement that is typically blended with rock and other material to make the concrete in everything from roads to buildings. “We think since we’re making the cement out of CO2, the more you use, the better,” says Constantz, who formerly made medical cements. “Make that wall five feet thick, sequester CO2, and be cooler in summer, warmer in winter and more seismically stable. Or make a road twice as thick.”
Of course, Calera isn’t the only company pursuing this idea—just the most advanced. Carbon Sciences in Santa Barbara, Calif., plans to use flue gas and the water leftover after mining operations, so-called mine slime, which is often rich in magnesium and calcium, to create similar cements. Halifax, Nova Scotia–based Carbon Sense Solutions plans to accelerate the natural process of cement absorbing CO2 by exposing a fresh batch to flue gas. And a number of companies are working on reducing the energy needs of Portland cement making. The key will be ensuring that such specialty cements have the same properties and the same or lower cost than Portland cement, says Carbon Sciences president and CEO Derek McLeish.
But the companies may also find it challenging to get their cements approved by regulators and, more importantly, accepted by the building trade, says civil engineer Steven Kosmatka of the Portland Cement Association. “The construction industry is very conservative,” he adds. “It took PCA about 25 years to get the standards changed to allow 5 percent limestone [in the Portland cement mix]. So things move kind of slowly.”
Calera hopes to get over that hurdle quickly by first offering a blend of its carbon-storing cement and Portland cement, which would not initially store any extra greenhouse gases but would at least balance out the emissions from making the traditional mortar. “It’s just a little better than carbon neutral,” notes Constantz, who will make his case to the industry at large at the World of Concrete trade fair in February. “That alone is a huge step forward.”
“Could you take this calcium carbonate and add it to Portland cement? You sure can,” Kosmatka says. “Could you add it to the ready mix to replace some of the Portland cement? You probably can do that, too.” That would help to rein in the greenhouse gas emissions from buildings—both from building them and powering them once they are built—that makes up 48 percent of U.S. global warming pollution.
Nor are there any limitations on the raw materials of the Calera cement: Seawater containing billions of tons of calcium and magnesium covers 70 percent of the planet and the 2,775 power plants in the U.S. alone pumped out 2.5 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2006. The process results in seawater that is stripped of calcium and magnesium—ideal for desalinization technologies—but safe to be dumped back into the ocean. And attaching the Calera process to the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants or even steel mills and other industrial sources is even more attractive as burning coal results in flue gas with as much as 150,000 parts per million of CO2.
But Calera is starting with the cleanest fossil fuel—natural gas. The company has set up a pilot plant at Moss Landing because California is soon to adopt regulations limiting the amount of CO2 power plants and other sources can emit, and natural gas is the primary fuel of power plants in that state. According to Constantz, some flue gas is already running through the company’s process. “We are using emissions from gas-fired generation as our CO2 source at the pilot plant where we are making up to 10 tons a day,” he says. “That material will be used for evaluations.”
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has expressed interest in testing the cement, and Dynegy, owner of the Moss Landing power plant, is also intrigued. Although no formal agreement has been struck, “their proposed technology for capturing CO2 from flue gases and turning it into a beneficial, marketable product sounds very interesting to us,” Dynegy spokesman David Byford says. “There are very good technologies for capturing the emissions of other pollutants. The carbon issue is something we are just turning our attention to now, and so far it’s
been quite elusive.”
Courtesy Scientific American.com