Archive for January 31, 2014

Wales gets a new battery

Wales Gets Huge New Water Battery But Loses Good Crack

Wales has moved another step forward with the long-planned construction of a pumped hydro energy storage facility, which will reclaim two derelict slate quarries to store energy from local wind farms. It all sounds very sustainable and it is, partly because the sprawling new facility will re-use existing brownfields and industrial sites. However, the new project comes at a cost. Over the years, the quarries have already been reclaimed as recreational climbing sites, and the new facility will cut off access to hiking routes and crack lines including The Good Crack, Clipopotamus, and The New Salesman among others.

Pumped Hydro in Brief

We’re fans of pumped hydro because it enables energy storage at an enormous scale at a relatively low cost based on a simple, technologically available concept: gravity. There are already hundreds of pumped hydro facilities worldwide, making it the only utility-scale energy storage system currently in common use.

The general idea is to pump vast quantities of water uphill into a reservoir when energy demand is low, then let it run downhill through turbines to provide for periods of increased demand.

The system is symbiotic with intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar power, since it evens out generating spikes while using clean, renewable energy to run the pumps.

Proposed pumped hydro system in Wales.

Quarry for pumped hydro system courtesy of Quarry Battery Company.

Pumped hydro is also an energy storage  solution for nuclear power, since nuclear power stations can’t be ramped up or down to accommodate peak and off-peak use.

The new pumped hydro facility is a project of The Quarry Battery Company. It will be built at two Glyn Rhonwy quarries above Llanberis, linked by a subsurface pipeline. The pumping station will also make use of brownfields, as it will be constructed in an existing industrial area.

The new facility will specifically make use of local wind farms. Adding to the sustainability fest, it will include a dam to be constructed from local slate.

The system was first proposed in 2006, beating out proposals to build an indoor ski centre and a mountain biking centre. The go-ahead for construction was granted just yesterday, on September 2, with completion anticipated in 2017.

The system can store about 1.1 billion litres of water, or the equivalent of about 500 megawatt-hours. Though relatively small for a pumped hydro facility, it fits into the U.K.’s big energy picture of maximizing local renewable energy resources.

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New 225 kW wind turbine

C&F announce 250kW range of wind turbines

Clean Power Solutions are extremely proud to be involved in the latest development of the hugely successful range of C&F wind turbines.  Following the highly successful launch of their 50, 75 and 100kW range of wind turbines, C&F Green Energy have announced the forthcoming launch of their CF250 range of machines. This is the company’s largest and most powerful range of units to date, with outputs ranging from 200kW, 225kW and up to 250kW. The Irish manufacturer of small and medium scale wind turbines developed the range to meet demand for larger scale direct drive, active pitch control turbines from farmers, landowners and investors across the UK.

CEO and Owner of C&F, John Flaherty, said the launch follows a highly intensive period of development at the company, ‘We have invested over £20m to date to develop this comprehensive, world class product range. Customers can avail themselves of megawatt industry technology at competitive prices, with all units featuring direct drive, active pitching blades, active yaw and 24/7 remote monitoring. With exceptionally low noise levels and full rated power being achieved at just 9m/s of wind, interest in these machines is exceptionally strong. Installations of the 50 to 100kW range continue across the UK, with installations in the 250 range set to commence this Autumn.’

Flaherty added, ‘These high performance, ultra low noise wind turbines are built to supersede the competition. Customers can avail of the chance to come and visit our superb wind turbine manufacturing facility in Galway, Ireland. We offer our customers the unrivalled strength of a multinational company with 25 years manufacturing experience. From 11kW to 250kW, our comprehensive range meets the demands of a wide variety of customers. We are currently bringing our 100kW turbine to events across the UK.

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Hydrogen from sunlight

Hydrogen Fuel from Sunlight

In the search for clean, green sustainable energy sources to meet human needs for generations to come, perhaps no technology matches the ultimate potential of artificial photosynthesis. Bionic leaves that could produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, with no by-products other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges. A major step toward meeting at least one of these challenges has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

“We’ve developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light,” says Gary Moore, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator for JCAP. “Our experimental results indicate that the catalyst and the light-absorber are interfaced structurally as well as functionally.”

Moore is the corresponding author, along with Junko Yano and Ian Sharp, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and JCAP, of a paper describing this research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The article is titled “Photofunctional Construct That Interfaces Molecular Cobalt-Based Catalysts for H2 Production to a Visible-Light-Absorbing Semiconductor.” Co-authors are Alexandra Krawicz, Jinhui Yang and Eitan Anzenberg.

Earth receives more energy in one hour’s worth of sunlight than all of humanity uses in an entire year. Through the process of photosynthesis, green plants harness solar energy to split molecules of water into oxygen, hydrogen ions (protons) and free electrons. The oxygen is released as waste and the protons and electrons are used to convert carbon dioxide into the carbohydrate sugars that plants use for energy. Scientists aim to mimic the concept but improve upon the actual process.

JCAP, which has a northern branch in Berkeley and a southern branch on the campus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), was established in 2010 by DOE as an Energy Innovation Hub. Operated as a partnership between Caltech and Berkeley Lab, JCAP is the largest research program in the United States dedicated to developing an artificial solar-fuel technology. While artificial photosynthesis can be used to generate electricity, fuels can be a more effective means of storing and transporting energy. The goal is an artificial photosynthesis system that’s at least 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis.

To this end, once photoanodes have used solar energy to split water molecules, JCAP scientists need high performance semiconductor photocathodes that can use solar energy to catalyze fuel production. In previous efforts to produce hydrogen fuel, catalysts have been immobilized on non-photoactive substrates. This approach requires the application of an external electrical potential to generate hydrogen. Moore and his colleagues have combined these steps into a single material.

“In coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in one material, we can generate a fuel simply by illuminating our photocathode,” Moore says. “No external electrochemical forward biasing is required.”

The new JCAP photocathode construct consists of the semiconductor gallium phosphide and a molecular cobalt-containing hydrogen production catalyst from the cobaloxime class of compounds. As an absorber of visible light, gallium phosphide can make use of a greater number of available solar photons than semiconductors that absorb ultraviolet light, which means it is capable of producing significantly higher photocurrents and rates of fuel production. However, gallium phosphide can be notoriously unstable during photoelectrochemical operations.

Moore and his colleagues found that coating the surface of gallium phosphide with a film of the polymer vinylpyridine alleviates the instability problem, and if the vinylpyridine is then chemically treated with the cobaloxime catalyst, hydrogen production is significantly boosted.

“The modular aspect of our method allows independent modification of the light-absorber, linking material and catalyst, which means it can be adapted for use with other catalysts tethered over structured photocathodes as new materials and discoveries emerge,” Moore says. “This could allow us, for example, to replace the precious metal catalysts currently used in many solar-fuel generator prototypes with catalysts made from earth-abundant elements.”

Despite its promising electronic properties, gallium phosphide features a mid-sized optical band gap which ultimately limits the total fraction of solar photons available for absorption. Moore and his colleagues are now investigating semiconductors that cover a broader range of the solar spectrum, and catalysts that operate faster at lower electrical potentials. They also plan to investigate molecular catalysts for carbon dioxide reduction.

“We look forward to adapting our method to incorporate materials with improved properties for converting sunlight to fuel,” Moore says. “We believe our method provides researchers at JCAP and elsewhere with an important tool for developing integrated photocathode materials that can be used in future solar-fuel generators as well as other technologies capable of reducing net carbon dioxide emissions.”


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Ban Non-Hybrid Cars

British Politicians Aim To Ban Non-Hybrid Cars By 2040

While some American politicians may take issue with the government’s investment in green automobiles, it pales in comparison to the debates taking place in England. There, the Liberal Democrats have proposed a bill that would outlaw all non-hybrid cars from English roads by 2040. It sounds insane, but stranger things have happened.

The Liberal Democrats are the third largest of the three ruling parties in the English parliament, though they hold just 55 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons. They’ve never run the country, though not for a lack of trying, and they are really, really big into the “green” economy. Unfortunately, their ideas usually seem to lack important details, including their recent white paper, “Green Growth and Green Jobs – Transition To A Zero Carbon Britain.”

Ambitious but left with a lot of blanks to fill, one of the key components of the Liberal Dems Britain of the future is eliminating all but ultra-low emissions non-freight vehicles from British roads. That would mean only hybrids, electric cars, or super-efficient diesels would be allowed to drive British streets.

While 2040 is a long way away, this is not the law an industry can adapt to without serious government support. Such a plan would also all but eliminate high-end automobile sales, which would struggle to deliver Prius-like emissions from a Ferrari-esque car. And what of all the classic cars, or older models still on the road? Will these people be banned from driving?

Then again, this is the country that brought us the much-maligned London congestion charge, a costly-but-effective way of reducing traffic and pollution in heavily-trafficked areas. Beijing and Paris are among the other cities working to ban or limit car use in urban areas as concerns about air pollution and quality-of-life supercede the need for automobiles.

The world needs decisive action and creative solutions to combat climate change, don’t get me wrong. But such a policy seems exclusive and poorly considered, and would probably do more to hinder Britain’s economy growth than to aid it. Some automakers could pull out of the English market altogether, and the market for new cars would probably tank.

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Not Bog Standard Bog


How Efficient Can Toilets Become?

The next time you have a moment alone with the porcelain throne, think of this: toilets still take the cake for the most water use of any indoor water appliance, despite significant water efficiency gains in the past few decades.

Toilets used to use multiple gallons of water for every flush, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set the current limit at 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf).

California, as usual, is already out in front of the federal standard and is moving even further. In 2007, the legislature enacted AB 715, which called for water efficiency standards of 1.28 gpf for toilets and 0.5 gpf for urinals.

There is now a proposal to codify the legislative action in the state’s energy efficiency Title 20 standards. The standards will also go one step further and introduce the first-ever standards for replacement valves, which should help accelerate the transition to low-flow toilets, and to introduce even more aggressive standards for urinals: 0.125 gpf.

The replacement valve standard is not as strict as the standard for new toilets and urinals; the valve cannot exceed 1.6 gpf for toilets and 1.0 gpf for urinals. The change to Title 20, rather than just the legislative action, would mean that products cannot be sold in California that do not meet the standards.

The resulting lower water usage is not insignificant for energy costs, either. The California government estimates that nearly three trillion gallons of water per year go to urban uses, which include outdoor and indoor residential, commercial, institutional and industrial applications, along with water that is lost to leakage.

It takes approximately 26.5 terawatt-hours of electricity to collect, move and treat that water. A single residential toilet uses about 35 kilowatt-hours per year.

“Establishing efficiency standards for toilets and urinals will have a significant impact on California’s overall water and embedded energy use,” Tracy Quinn of NRDC wrote in a blog post.

In homes and businesses, toilets still account for about 30 percent to 40 percent of indoor water use, despite the efficiency gains. Toilets, in other words, are the water-use equivalent of an HVAC system’s electricity load.

In California and in other states, low-flow toilets have long been on the market. Also, there’s not much price difference between 1.6 gpf and 1.28 gpf, according to EPA’s WaterSense. The real differences in cost, according to a report by the California Energy Commission, are linked to optional features, not flush volume.

California is not alone in adopting some of the most stringent standards in the nation for toilets. Georgia and Texas also have the 1.28 gpf standard, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. If the federal government followed suit by imposing a similar standard, it would save 92 billion gallons of water and $4.3 billion through 2035.

Driving higher water efficiency for appliances is also just the beginning. Eventually, we will all have to think of the municipal water cycle, and wastewater, differently. In California, one municipality already has plans to recycle wastewater for city use, and maybe eventually to go back into taps.

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Poo 2 Power & Waste 2 Wonga

6 Ways to Convert Poo into Power

The power of poop is sometimes an underestimated one. Thanks to projects involving anaerobic digesters and sewage treatment systems, communities around the world can transform their waste into viable renewable energy. Students and scientists alike are turning to poop as a way to produce clean energy, as well as provide power to off the grid communities.

Power-Generating Toilet
Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University have invented a way to harness poop power at home- with a convenient toilet system. Their No-Mix Vacuum toilet uses suction to reduce water use by 90%, and to gather solid and liquid waste separately. The liquid waste is used for fertilizers, while the solid is sent to a bioreactor and converted to electricity. All in a flush.

Sludge to Power
Deriving power from sewage sludge is a lengthy process, but researchers at the South Korean Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology have developed a short cut. Using sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, the researchers are extracting lipids using heat, which can be converted to biodiesel. Since sewage sludge is plentiful, the process is much cheaper than converting vegetable oils to biofuels.

Poop-Fueled Cars
The town of Chiclana de la Frontera has transformed their sewage treatment plant into a renewable biofuel mega system called All-gas. The sewage flushed by citizens will combine with sunlight and algae, to make biofuel that will run a fleet of 200 cars owned by the town.

Horse Poop to Fuel
Since breaking down corn stalks and grasses for biofuel requires removing lignin and breaking down cellulose, the process can be expensive and complicated to perform. Scientists have discovered that these processes happen naturally in horse manure, thanks to an enzyme living in fungi that thrives within it. That said, using horse poop for biofuel production is exponentially easier, and cheaper than other sources.

Poo Powered Motorcycle
Japanese company TOTO’s Toilet Bike Neo is a three wheeled motorcycle with a 250cc engine, powered by poo. The toilet-top is only for looks though, as the bike is powered solely on animal waste, and can motor on for 180 miles.

Shipping Container Sewage System
Students at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering have converted a shipping container into a portable sewage system for developing and off the grid communities. The system transforms the waste of 1,200 people into usable water and power, with the use of a Supercritical Water Oxidation system using heat and pressure—all contained within a twenty foot shipping container.
These innovative poop projects create clean renewable energy out of total waste, inspiring a future of energy projects that also provide waste management.

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C&F Wind Turbines Help Smash Power Generation Record

UK Wind Energy Sector Including C&F Wind Turbines Smashed Power Generation Record In December 2013
UK’s wind energy sector saw a number of power generation records broken in December 2013. The country’s wind energy projects generated more electricity in December than in any month before that, breaking the previous generation record of October 2013.

According to the data released by trade association RenewableUK, 2,841,080 MWh electricity was generated by wind energy projects in December, thus supplying about 10% of Britain’s total power demand in the month.

Between the 16th and 22nd of December, yet another generation record from the power plants was recorded for a period of seven days. Power plants generated 783,886 MWh electricity, providing 13% of power demand in the country for the given period.

The single-day generation record was also broken on the 21st of December 2013 when wind energy projects generated 132,812 MWh and supplied 13% of the country’s total demand that day.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK was all praise for the record generation realised last month.

This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

The previous monthly generation record was for October 2013 when UK’s wind energy projects generated 1,956,437 MWh, fulfilling 8% of the country’s power demand.

Britain’s wind energy sector has seen tremendous growth in the last few months or so. In its annual review of the sector for the period July 2012 to June 2013, RenewableUK reported that the wind energy installed capacity has increased by 40% to 9,710 MW; the installed capacity had increased to 10,210 MW by the end of November 2013.

For the first time, the country witnessed more offshore wind energy capacity being installed than onshore wind energy capacity. Offshore wind energy capacity grew by 79% between July 2012 and June 2013. The total new capacity added between this period brought £2 billion of economic activity in Britain, according to RenewableUK

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waste 2 wonga

Fife Council to save £1.2m from waste-to-energy initiative

A council in the Scottish Lowlands expects to save around £1.2 million by turning its food and garden waste into energy.

Fife Council has chosen ENER-G to supply a high efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) system for its new anaerobic digestion facility (pictured) at its Lochhead landfill site in Dunfermline.

The plant, which is expected to start power generation later this year, will convert methane produced from 40,000 tonnes of waste into up to 1.4MWW of renewable electricity and heat.

The facility could achieve carbon savings in excess of 7,200 tonnes every year – equivalent to removing 2,400 cars from the road. The project is also expected to improve the council’s recycling rate, which was 55.5% in 2012 for household and commercial waste.

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