Xcel Energy launches wind-to-battery project

February 29, 2008

Energy Daily: Xcel Energy soon will begin testing a cutting-edge technology to store wind energy in batteries. It will be the first use of the technology in the United States for direct wind energy storage.

Integrating variable wind and solar power production with the needs of the power grid is an ongoing issue for the utility industry. Xcel Energy will begin testing a one-megawatt battery-storage technology to demonstrate its ability to store wind energy and move it to the electricity grid when needed. Fully charged, the battery could power 500 homes for over 7 hours.

“Energy storage is key to expanding the use of renewable energy,” said Dick Kelly, Xcel Energy Chairman, President and CEO. “This technology has the potential to reduce the impact caused by the variability and limited predictability of wind energy generation. As the nation’s leader in distributing wind energy, this will be very important to both us and our customers.”

Xcel Energy has signed a contract to purchase a battery from NGK Insulators that will be an integral part of a project. The sodium-sulfur battery is commercially available and versions of this technology are already being used in Japan and in a few US applications, but this is the first U.S. application of the battery as a direct wind energy storage device.

The 20 50-kilowatt battery modules will be roughly the size of two semi trailers and weigh approximately 80 tons. They will be able to store about 7.2 megawatt-hours of electricity, with a charge/discharge capacity of one megawatt. When the wind blows, the batteries are charged. When the wind calms down, the batteries supplement the power flow….

Wind turbine from below, Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons

Solar poised to heat up

February 29, 2008

Environmental Research Web: The projected global market for photovoltaic solar energy in 2012 is 11 GW, compared to 2.3 GW in 2007. That’s according to Winfried Hoffmann, president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and chief technology officer of Applied Materials’ Solar Business Group. Hoffmann was speaking at the EPIA’s 2nd International Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Investments held in Frankfurt, Germany, on 19 and 20 February.

Grid-connected systems will make up a large part of this market, with Germany, the US and Spain leading the way. The EPIA’s projections assume that adequate public policies are put in place or consolidated. “Public support will be required until solar photovoltaic electricity reaches grid parity by becoming cost competitive with retail electricity prices, firstly in more sunny countries such as Italy or Spain and progressively throughout Europe by 2020,” said Hoffmann.

In 2010, the EPIA predicts that production capacities will be 18 to 20 GW, with thin film products taking about a 20% share. While silicon-based systems have higher efficiencies – at 12 to 21% – and so can output more power per square metre, thin film products, which are up to 10% efficient, are less expensive per peak watt.

“The main bottleneck in the development of silicon-based products in recent years has been a shortage of raw material,” says the EPIA. “Nevertheless, many new players have entered this market and new production plants are being set up. Therefore its availability is increasing and supply should meet demand from 2009 onwards.”

In 2007, for the first time more silicon was assigned to the solar industry than to the semiconductor industry. “This temporary situation of shortage has lead many companies to invest in other technologies such as thin-film or to increase the supply of raw material,” says the EPIA.

This image shows the Sun as viewed by the Soft X-Ray Telescope (SXT) onboard the orbiting Yohkoh satellite, NASA Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheres, Wikimedia Commons

3Tier signs multiple contracts for FirstLook assessment

February 28, 2008

North American Windpower: 3TIER, an independent provider of wind, solar and hydro power assessment and power forecasting, has announced that seven companies have signed contracts worth more than $400,000 within the last three months for the company’s FirstLook assessment for wind.

“FirstLook simplifies and shortens a traditionally complex assessment process, but still delivers the thorough, detailed information we need to move quickly on a project,” says Sean Finnerty, senior vice president of Competitive Power Ventures (CPV). CPV, a wind developer with projects in the U.S. and Canada, says it uses the FirstLook tool and reports to identify potential sites and obtain the information they need to acquire land for their projects.

Many of the FirstLook contracts are bundled deals in which the companies are purchasing multiple reports for a discounted price. Individual FirstLook Professional reports cost $2,500.

Important event: Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, March 4-6

February 28, 2008

Triple Pundit: With energy costs, efficiency, security and climate change looking like they will be on corporate and political agendas for quite some time to come, government officials and executives from industry and commerce are increasingly networking to find ways of reducing energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions – both operationally and by implementing organizational polices and best practices.

Cabinet level officials from more than 70 countries will be gathering alongside representatives from private sector, non-governmental organizations, the media and the public in the nation’s capital March 4-6 for WIREC 2008, the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.

Conference focal points are organized around four themes: Market Adoption and Finance; Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development; Technology, Research and Development; and State and Local Government Initiatives, each intended to provide a forum for examining policy initiatives that can facilitate a rapid ramping up renewable energy sources.

“This agenda has both the breadth and depth necessary for international leaders to address energy security, environmental quality, and wealth creation in rural areas.” said Thomas C. Dorr, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, in a media release.

In addition to the ministerial level meeting, ACORE (American Council on Renewable Energy) and 14 domestic and international renewable energy trade associations are organizing the trade and business side of the conference and exhibition. “What makes WIREC distinct from other renewable energy conferences is the participants,” Dorr added. “For the first time, all of the crucial stakeholders in renewable energy will gather in one place at one time—from energy and agriculture ministers to rural cooperatives and from academia to Fortune 500 companies. We have all of the necessary elements to make a significant impact in renewable energy deployment.”

WIREC 2008 is the third global ministerial-level conference on renewable energy, following events in Beijing in 2005 (BIREC 2005) and Bonn in 2004 (Renewables 2004). The first renewable energy International Action Plan, which contains 197 non-binding commitments to foster growth in renewable energy, resulted from the Bonn conference

Public release of a corresponding set of voluntary renewable energy pledges from participants, dubbed the Washington International Action Program (WIAP), is expected following WIREC 2008. Pledges may include specific commitments, the development of a suite of policy instruments, program launches or any combination of concrete steps aimed at fostering greater renewable energy development and use….

US Capitol, “Kmccoy,” Wikimedia Commons

New NanoMarkets report projects printed electronics market will reach $30.1 billion in 2015

February 27, 2008

PRNewswire: Markets for displays, signage, lighting, RFID tags, sensors, solar panels, batteries and other products manufactured using printing technology will reach $30.1 billion by 2015 according to a new report from NanoMarkets. The report, Printable Electronics Market Outlook: An Applications-Based Assessment, notes the progress that the printed electronics industry has made in the last few years and goes on to project which printed electronics applications will generate the most revenues in the next seven years. Details about this report are available at http://www.nanomarkets.net. Key points from this report:

— Printed electronics products are now in full-scale production. E-paper displays and RFID antennas are being routinely printed and such products are expected to generate $5.6 and $12.6 billion in revenues respectively by 2015. E-paper, in particular, has emerged as something of a killer application for printed electronics, demonstrating that printing technology can produce complex electronics products that can generate real revenue. NanoMarkets analysts also expect that as improved manufacturing equipment and materials become available further product opportunities will emerge.

— Printing also seems certain to have a major role in the manufacturing of next-generation photovoltaics with novel CIGS and nanoparticle inks being used to create low-cost, high efficiency solar panels on flexible substrates. Projected sales for printed solar panels will reach $2.5 billion by 2015. Printed electronics will also make a contribution to energy savings through printed OLED lighting, an emerging cost effective approach to solid state illumination. This type of lighting is expected to reach $1.7 billion in sales by 2015.

— Printing is no longer viewed as a wholesale fabrication technology. Instead, it is increasingly seen as an essential tool for manufacturing the new generation of flexible and large area electronics products. As products move from the lab to the fab, manufacturers are combining fabrication technologies, printing certain layers while using more conventional, sputtering, deposition and even optical lithography approaches on other layers.

Harvesting wind far from shore

February 27, 2008

Ecogeek: …A Norwegian company called Sway is developing a deepwater system that will allow turbines to be situated farther out to sea where winds can be steadier and stronger, and where the turbines are hidden from all save a few passing ships. “The SWAY® system is a floating foundation capable of supporting a 5MW wind turbine in water depths from 80m to more than 300m in some of the world’s roughest offshore locations.” This could allow wind farms to be farther off shore where they would be out of sight.

Off-shore wind turbines have needed to be situated in relatively shallow waters to be able to have sufficient footings to anchor and support them. This new deep-water turbine uses a floating tower to support the turbine, and is anchored to the sea bed with a single tension rod. Because the turbine body floats itself, the rod only needs to help the structure resist the forces of wind and waves, but does not need to support the entire structure.

The SWAY concept, which is covered by several patents, is based on a floating elongated pole extending far below the water surface with ballast at the bottom part. Since the center of gravity in this manner is placed far below the center of buoyancy the tower has sufficient stability to resist the large loads and weight from the wind turbine placed on top of the tower.

The more compelling part of the Sway system is that it keeps the tower upright against the wind forces that would otherwise overturn it. (The wind pressure on the rotor for a 5MW turbine is approximately 60 tons.) The Sway tower maintains a nearly vertical configuration, and only tilts less than 1 degree from its equilibrium position in storm conditions so as not to lose power.

There is some added cost in situating these turbines further from shore and from the end energy users. But the tradeoff with political acceptability and availability of wind may make these turbines more than useful for providing wind power. Sway wind-power towers could also be used near off-shore oil and gas rigs, and provide clean power for their operation, instead of the diesel generators these platforms utilize presently.

Diagram from Sway’s website

Ranking green commercial space in the US

February 26, 2008

GreenbuildingsNYC: According to a report that was released last month by the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego, Los Angeles is first among U.S. cities when it comes to LEED- or Energy Star-certified commercial office space. The CoStar Group provided the data upon which the report was based and ranked cities by the total amount of their square footage that has earned either the LEED or Energy Star designation; no breakdown appears to be readily available that segregates the figures according to individual rating system.

Los Angeles topped the list with 100 buildings and 26.2 million square feet while Houston checked in at #2 with 46 buildings and 21.1 million square feet. Also in the top five were Washington, D.C. with 61 buildings and 19.8 million square feet, New York City with 11 buildings and 12.3 million square feet, and San Francisco with 30 buildings and 11.9 million square feet. There’s always much more to any set of statistics than initially meets the eye, and the figure that jumps out at us here is the ratio of buildings to square feet. Obviously here in Gotham a fewer overall number of commercial buildings get built to much greater heights and increased density than cities like sprawling Los Angeles or height-capped D.C. Still, it’s interesting to see where the Apple ranks among American cities in terms of sheer square footage, and we’ll be curious to see where Gotham falls on future compilations once projects like 1 Bryant Park (Bank of America), 11 Times Square, and the Greenwich Street towers at the former World Trade Center site are complete.

Early green roof project — the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 16th century engraving by Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck, Wikimedia Commons