Posts tagged ‘transport’

July 25, 2013

Solar Trains

Solar-powered cars are known to be widely tested but it may not be common knowledge that there are already a number of trains all around the world that get their energy from the sun.

In Belgium, 16,000 photovoltaic panels are installed on top of a 2.1 mile long rail tunnel, which power about 4000 trains. Electricity consumption of these trains fell by 30 per cent thanks to this development.

Solar tunnel in Belgium

Solar tunnel in Belgium

Also, in India there are two solar trains in operation: The Himalayan Queen and the Shivalik Express are both diesel trains featuring solar panels on their roofs. The Himalayan Queen is fully powered by the solar panels and it can run for two days without sun. Inside lighting on both trains is LED lights and offer solar charging sockets for travellers. By installing solar panels The Shivalik Express has also become significantly lighter and so it consumes less diesel than previously.

Italy’s PVTRAIN project uses the electricity generated by solar panels to power air conditioning, safety systems as well as lights.

Some short-distance trains are also completely solar-energy-powered. In Norwalk, USA at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children a Solar Train offers a ten-minute train ride thanks to 4000 solar cells on its roof. A similar solar-powered train is running In Hungary’s Nature Reserve Kiralyret Forest, where the vehicle was built by the locals.

Besides trains, even railway stations are becoming part of the sustainability revolution. London’s King’s Cross station has just been renovated and is now home to a large number of sustainable and energy-efficient solutions, including an on-site Energy Centre, which should provide all heat energy the development needs, in addition to green and brown roofs, sustainable urban drainage solutions and lower carbon emissions.

All-in-all, solar energy-driven trains are now chugging along on all parts of the world: India, North America, Italy or Belgium. And as solar panels enable lower emissions, decreased costs and even ‘free’ electricity onboard, the spread of such solar trains may even accelerate.

January 15, 2013

Heated pavements – wasted heat or saving resources?

When talking about heated pavements, the first thought that would come to one’s mind would be – what a waste of energy and heat! However many existing schemes in Northern cities could show that these heated ‘roads’ could be beneficial and may even save resources.

A recent pilot project in the Netherlands for example is investigating the possibility to collect and store summer heat underground and release it in the winter months to keep the bicycle lanes ice-free. The benefits could mean less salt used and probably more cyclists on the roads.

In Northern countries, like Norway or Iceland, heated pavements are already well-established – in the latter one mainly fuelled by geothermal energy.

The company ICAX has developed its unique  ‘Solar Road Systems’, which collect the heat in the summer for road heating and de-icing in the winter. Their technology utilises the fact that black tarmac used on the road surfaces can heat up significantly in the sunshine, and by storing this heat – it can be used in colder months – for free. Their first successful trial in the UK took place under an access road to the M1 motorway at Toddington, Bedfordshire. Furthermore, the firm also claims to provide a solution for de-icing runways and parking stands at airports, potentially lowering disruption at busy terminals in snowy conditions.

Another company, Solar Roadways from Idaho, USA [4] has tested specially designed glass panels, with multiple features. These contain LED lights – which could display for instance road signs – , while the heating elements can help melt snow and ice, improving winter driving conditions.
This system is currently quite expensive due to the materials used, but there are also some cheaper alternative methods being investigated. One of these is using photovoltaic panels and cells on the roads, with embedded pipes for storing energy until colder times.

For a small town in Michigan, USA, this idea is nothing new. Here, waste heat from the local power station has been used in the underground pipes to melt the ice on the pavements since the installation of this system in 1988.

Also, there are already many commercially available personal under-driveway and under-pavement melting systems and mats, but these are costly and may not be very environmentally-friendly.

Hence, if cold winters continue to be harsh, heated pavements could be seriously considered as one of the long-term solutions for easing winter problems.
Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse


October 1, 2012

Algae and Energy

Algae have been seen as a promising new source of energy, especially for biofuels. There are several companies who have various solutions on how to utilise algae to drive our engines. 

In general, algae species can be grown in either closed or open ponds, and are used for creating various types of biofuels, including biodiesel, ethanol or even jet fuel. Generally oils are extracted from the algae using various chemical and mechanical methods and later transformed into biofuels. This process also offers another benefit to the environment as algae use carbon-dioxide for photosynthesis and growth, thus can reduce CO2-levels in the atmosphere.

One of the companies in this field, Sapphire Energy has just announced the first phase of a giant algae farm, where the full output shall reach a hundred barrels of algae biofuel a day by 2014.

Another major player in this area is Solazyme, which uses biotechnology solutions to work with algae. The company works with large corporations, such as Chevron, and also delivered about 80,000 litres of algae-based diesel and jet fuel to the US Navy in the year 2010.

There are also various other applications for algae. A pilot project was recently started in Paris where algae are grown on the top and side of buildings. Here the algae clean waste water from the flats, during this process they use carbon-dioxide from the surrounding air and also produce heat while growing, which can be used in the heating system.

Algae thus seem to be a good ‘source’ for energy in the future, either in vehicles or in more innovative ways – for instance at urban heating.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: Wikipedia 

April 17, 2012

Living in a Container

As the world’s population has now reached seven billion, space for housing is becoming scarce, and the amount of household junk collected by us is increasing, some innovative architects decided the combine the good with the useful.

According to some figures there are more than thirty million unused containers piled up in ports all around the world as shipping companies or the owners don’t have the money to send them back to their origin. These containers however are great for accommodation – according to some creative experts.

‘Container housing’ can be a solution for disaster-striken areas, as these ‘boxes’ resist strong winds and can be a safe shelter. One of the flagship initiatives in this area is the SEED
Project, by researchers of the Clemson University.

Some architects want to make containers more attractive for trendsetters and have come up with unique and stylish designs.

These containers have many advantages: besides being durable they are also ‘scalable’, cheap and easy to move.

In the Ukraine and in Kyrgyzstan there are already whole shopping malls developed from shipping containers, which could also serve as ideal offices spaces.

Travelodge, for example, used 86 containers to build a hotel in Uxbridge, London, which
looks just like a normal hotel made of bricks. 

The construction process was faster than normal
and very cost-effective. Also, thanks to the interior decoration guests may not even notice that
they are staying in a container.

Re-cycling unused containers is a great way to save space and waste, and who wouldn’t want
to live in some of these contemporary ‘flats’?

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: Verbus Systems

February 1, 2012

What Exactly Are Fuel Cells?

Everyone has heard a lot about fuel cells – mainly as a promising future energy source for cars and other vehicles, but now Apple has applied for two patents on using fuel cells in their iconic devices, the iPhone and the iPad. The use of these technologies would make it possible to provide small devices with extended battery life of days or even weeks – without charging.

But what is a fuel cell?

Fuel cells are largely like a battery but with a constant fuel supply they won’t run down, hence they don’t need to be recharged. They feature two electrodes inside, with oxygen and hydrogen passing over one of them and thus generating electricity, alongside water and heat. The principle of its operation is more based on chemistry and not on combustion.

Where can you find them?

Fuel cells come in various designs using various chemical components, and they are applied in many fields. Besides the most commonly known market – vehicles, fuel cells are also used in several systems in hospitals, hotels, schools, offices, as well as telecommunications facilities, wastewater treatment plants, landfill plants, breweries or even wineries. As they are light and work well without the need for a connection to the electricity grid, they are also used by the military or emergency services.

And now Apple wants to use them in their devices, which therefore could become smaller, lighter, and don’t need to be charged as often as current ones. There are already some consumer electronics devices available with fuel cells but these are rather bulky.

Some gadgets today can also work with fuel cells, for instance kettles, portable chargers, and a fuel cell sticker has even been developed.

Why are fuel cells so promising?

First of all, due to their technology their carbon emissions are very low. Fuel cells are also highly efficient, reliable, flexible, and scalable. They are also quite light and thus can be used in many applications for which current batteries may be too big or heavy.

This means that they can offer a lot of possibilities for future energy storage, while still being environmentally friendly.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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.


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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