Archive for January, 2012

January 27, 2012

Commercial ‘kite-flying’ saves energy

Imagine you are on-board Admiral Nelson’s ship on a bright sunny day and watching those great white sails flapping in the wind. And now imagine these sails on one of today’s enormous container ships. Some cargo companies are now looking at these traditional methods to save energy and reduce fuel costs.

Sea transportation gives about 90 per cent of world trade, and the shipping industry emits about 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Therefore energy savings and emission reductions are crucial within this market segment.

The first trial on the MV Beluga SkySails used a 160-metre kite in 2008, on a route between Germany and Venezuela. With this special attachment the company managed to save 20 per cent of the fuel.

The kite for the trial was developed by SkySails, which in 2011 received its second Sustainable Shipping Awardin the category “Environmental Technology of the Year” for their innovation.

SkySails

Since 2008 the company has partnered with a number of transportation companies, and even Cargill, one of the major shipping firms, has agreed to attach “sails” to some of their ships next year, including the world’s largest kite of 320 m2.

Another market player is the B9 Energy Group, which is planning to market renewable-energy driven ships, combining biofuel and wind energy used by sails for powering their vessels.

Furthermore, there are some companies who have taken things one step further and combine solar and wind power on large cargo ships. Eco Marine Power is developing the Aquarius Wind and Solar Power System, which should include several rigid sails and solar panels, always positioned in the best direction. According to initial estimates the solution would reduce fuel consumption by 10-20 per cent, while the prototype is planned to be tested for the first time in 2012.

As more and more companies believe that peak oil has been reached, fuel costs are rising, operation costs are becoming ever more crucial and global consumption does not seem to decrease, more and more cargo companies may opt for cost-saving sails. Sailing may become a widespread commercial shipping solution – once again.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: SkySales

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January 17, 2012

Solar Energy in the Himalayas?

The majority of solar panels are installed in warm countries with plenty of sunshine but according to a recent studypeople living in higher regions, where it’s cold and sunny, can soon benefit from solar energy, too.The study investigated the feasibility and efficiency of PV cells at high altitudes like the Himalayas, the Andes or Antarctica, and concluded that these could be used even more efficiently than in ‘traditional regions’ due to the specific conditions.  

Here, up in the mountains, the atmosphere is thinner and so less energy is lost, enabling more available light for the solar cells. Also, the cold environment helps keeping cells of certain materials (e.g. silicon) cool, allowing improved efficiency.

Another advantage is the free renewable energy that could improve the everyday lives of local, poor communities.

Solar systems in Tibet

The first such solar systems have already been set up in Tibet.

Recently, Suntech Power announced its plans to develop a 10 MW solar power plant in Tibet, after the company already installed a solar system in a base camp on Mt Everest and donated several solar systems to schools as well as communities in the region.

Earlier this year, another company, OSolar also launched a state-of-the-art tracking solar installation in Lhasa with great potential for energy efficiency.

Challenges

There are some opinions that these cells are not developed for the humidity and pressure they would have to face on those hillslopes but the study suggested that such cells would still have good efficiency in such conditions.

It should also be noted that some of these cold regions have harsh weather phenomena like hail or strong winds, which can physically harm solar cells [6].  In existing small-scale solar systems in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, components are sturdy, so they can withstand such severe conditions.

Despite these challenges high-altitude solar power may be one of the areas with the most potential for harnessing the Sun’s power.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse
Image: Corbis – Source: Discovery News
January 1, 2012

Hygroelectricity – Power From the Air

No, it’s not a typo. Hygroelectrcitiy is a new type of renewable energy that scientists are researching and experimenting with.

But what is it? Hygroelectricity is basically power collected from the charged droplets in humid air

The theory was introduced last year by Fernando Galembeck Ph.D from the University of Campinas in Brazil at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).  According to him air particles are not neutral as it is currently thought but can become charged. He proved this in his laboratory with silica and aluminium phosphate particles, which became negative and positive – respectively. These particles are generally present in the air surrounding us.

According to his idea, this energy should be later available for specially designed collectors (similar to solar cells), which can transfer the energy to be used in homes or, for instance, in cars.

But Dr Galembeck is not the first one trying to harvest energy from the air. Nikola Tesla already investigated atmospheric electricity, with special focus on lightning.

Benefits

Besides obvious advantages, hygroelectricity can be an alternative energy resource in humid climates, primarily the tropics, where access to electricity may be an issue today.

Also, the research into charged particles in the air can help scientists to  understand lightning, and even prevent injuries and damage by through using hygroelectronic devices on buildings to retrieve the charge out of the air.

Challenges

One of the biggest questions regarding hygroelectricity is how much energy can actually be harvested, which according to some experts is rather small. Also, collection designs have not yet been developed.

Also, the electric charge of water particles is still a very controversial topic, and not all professionals believe that the lab results can work the same way in real life.

Despite these challenges however, scientists agree that it could be a very promising research area, which could bring great results in the future.

 

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image by vegadsl

 

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