Friday, December 31, 2004

Alternative Energy Morocco: Solar Energy Water Heaters

According to Morocco's alternative energy sector has been boosted by three international agreements.

The agreements were signed in Marrakech on Wednesday, a three-party cooperation agreement between Morocco and Italy, on the one hand, and Morocco and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), on the other.

The Agreements aims at developing the Moroccan market of the solar-water heaters (Promasol), through two mechanisms of financing for the promotion of the Moroccan market of renewable energies.

The first agreement relates to cooperation between the Italian Ministry of the Environment and the Territory and the Moroccan Center for the Development of Renewable Energies (CDER), that will benefit from a one million dollar Italian contribution.

The second agreement that sets up the framework of cooperation with the Italian Ministry of the Environment is related to the use of renewable energies in the hotel sector.

Solar water heaters in Morocco rose from 20,738 in 1998 to 111,332 in 2004. For comparison Hawaii has approximately 75,000 domestic installations (each costing about five thousand dollars) and is the leader in the United States for per capita solar water heater installation.

The CDER said that the development of this sector will have a positive impact on industry as it will create more than 1,000 jobs and bring some 1.2 billion Dirhams investments (about 130 million dollars).

Arabic News article on Morocco and Solar Energy Water Heaters

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Geothermal Energy: Hot Dry Rock (HDR) - The Habanero

Hot Dry Rock (HDR) geothermal energy or heat mining has recently been recognized as a new resource according to Irena Knethl's article on alternative energy technology in Australia in the Yemen Times.

Hot Dry Rock technology is capable of generating low cost, base-load power on a large scale.

In Australia the US $5.4m experimental basin represents the largest known geothermal resource in the world and has the potential to supply thousands of megawatts of low cost power. Known resources have the energy equivalent of 50 billion barrels of oil according to the article.

Hot Dry Rock (HDR) does not depend on new technology. It relies on extracting heat from particularly hot granite at depths of less than 5 km (approximately 3 miles) from the surface
The heat is extracted by means of circulating water from a deep surface well, through an engineered underground heat exchanger, with the hot water returning to the surface through the second well.

HDR geothermal electricity should be distinguished from conventional geothermal electricity, such as the power plants installed in the hot spring regions. Conventional geothermal energy is generated from naturally occurring hot water and steam in rocks near volcanic centres. This form of electricity production is well established in many countries. Conventional geothermal power stations are generally limited in size and are often linked to emissions of volcanic gases and toxic elements.

HDR geothermal energy generations differ from its conventional cousin below ground. It relies on artificially creating an underground heat exchanger to extract heat from high temperature locks by circulating water. It uses existing technologies, equipment and skills that were developed for the oil and geothermal power generation industries. The simplest HDR plant consists of one injection well and two production wells. Water from the injection well flows through the underground heat exchanger developed within the hot rocks. The superheated water is brought to the surface under pressure and used to boil an organic liquid. The water cooled by the process is the re-injected into the underground heat exchanger in a closed loop, to extract more heat. The vapour goes through a turbine to generate electricity.

It is thought that a small number of locations around the world have the right conditions for cost effective production of HDR electricity.

Such power plans can only work where there are special geological conditions and very hot granite rock. This rock has to be no deeper than five kilometres as that is the current depth that oil-drilling equipment can comfortably reach. The granite has to be covered by a three kilometre thick blanket of insulating rocks so that the heat does not escape to the surface.

The pilot well has been named “The Habanero”, after the world’s hottest chilli. Outside of volcanic areas, these rocks are the hottest in the world. Hot dry rock geothermal electricity production in Australia will be the deepest and the hottest well ever drilled on mainland Australia and also first deep geothermal well.

It is expected that HDR geothermal will become an important energy source in the next ten years.

Additional Diagram

The article also contains an intriguing snippet about a new wave power "air bag" developed in Australia:

A revolutionary system of extracting energy from ocean waves has been invented in Australia. It uses an underwater air bag coupled to underwater compartments that circulate air. The system is anchored to the sea floor, does not protrude above the waterline, and encourages marine life in the same way as an artificial reef. It uses a flexible air-filled membrane, which moves up and down as waves pass overhead. During compression, a valve opens and air is stored in a lower compartment. While existing wave energy devices use only part of each wave's energy, this new system achieves greater efficiency by focusing more of the wave energy on the device.

A prototype unit exposed to an 80 m wave front has the potential to produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity, which mean a production capacity of 13 million kilowatt hours per year – equating to enough electricity supply 770 to 1.026 homes.

Official Webpage of the Hot Dry Rock (HDR) Project

Yemen Times article on Hot Dry Rock technology plus the wave power air bag and solar tower

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Asia Tsunami: Solar Energy for Disaster Relief

"When natural disasters strike these days, the international response tends to be the same - immediate interest, immediate help but long term neglect."
BBC News

According to William Young, a research engineer at the Florida Solar Energy Center:

"the importance of electricity during and following a disaster is not always appreciated until the power actually goes out. It is not only vital for keeping streets lit, but it is necessary for medical services and communications. "When power lines are down, citizens cannot be promptly informed of hazards, and it's difficult to notify emergency workers of situations that require their attention. Electrical power is also crucial to medical clinics, which must operate such electronic equipment as vaccine refrigerators, other medical equipment, and emergency lighting."

There had been limited use of photovoltaics in disasters until 1989. PV has supplied emergency power following Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Mitch and Luis as well as after the Northridge Earthquake in Southern California.

Several years before Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, USA, PV-powered streetlights had been installed in a Miami suburb. After the storm, all 33 streetlights were still standing and provided the only light in the area until utility power was restored. In response to Hurricane Luis, Miox Corporation provided PV-powered water purification units to the Virgin Islands, USA. The units produce hundreds of gallons of potable water each day.

A viable use for PV is to meet the emergency demands in large-scale disasters, where power will be out for long periods of time and survivor support is difficult to provide due to the extensive area destroyed. Massive infrastructure damage makes refueling generators a challenge, as pumping stations are often inoperable and roads impassable. Power distribution lines are difficult to fix because of the impassable roads, much less transporting materials for reconstruction. When a disaster strikes an island and the port is destroyed, shipping fuel for generators becomes a problem.

PV is a viable source of electrical power for certain disaster relief applications such as low power needs and long term use.

There are inappropriate applications for photovoltaics in response to disasters. The large-scale power needs of sewer and water facilities, hospitals, large shelters, distribution and emergency operations centers are better met with gasoline or diesel generators in an emergency.

William Young's article (pdf) on Photovoltaics: Disaster and Energy Security Applications
(view as html)

Disaster Relief article on the use of Solar Power in a crisis

Article on the technological challenges facing CARE Canada and the Canadian Red Cross (including the use of solar power)

News and information Blog about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts for the Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

Monday, December 27, 2004

U.S. Department of Energy launches Energy Efficiency website

The United States Deparment of Energy has launched an energy saving tips website.

DOE Energy Saving Tips Website

Also CNN has an article on saving money on your energy bill

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Alternative Energy Norway: Funding for Wave Power

Friday, December 24, 2004

Alternative Energy New Zealand: 120MW Wind Farm for NZ

The New Zealand Herald reports plans for a high-tech wind farm that will boost total New Zealand wind power generation capacity by almost 70 per cent were unveiled yesterday by TrustPower.

The 120MW wind farm will cost about NZ$220 million (USD $158m) to build in the Tararua Ranges near Palmerston North. It will generate enough power for 52,000 homes.

By using the latest computerised equipment, TrustPower will need to install just 40 turbines.

Chief executive Keith Tempest said that five years ago generating the same amount of power by wind would have taken 160 turbines.

The new turbines are individually controlled by micro-computers. They are able to constantly readjust the angle of their blades to maximise efficiency as the wind changes direction and strength.

The new plant could be operational by 2006.

Article on New Zealand Wind Power

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mining the Moon: Helium 3 to solve Earth's Energy Problems?

A potential gas source found on the moon's surface could hold the key to meeting future energy demands as the earth's fossil fuels dry up in the coming decades, scientists say.

Mineral samples from the moon contain abundant quantities of helium-3, a variant of the gas used in lasers and refrigerators.

"When compared to the earth the moon has a tremendous amount of helium-3," Lawrence Taylor, a director of the US Planetary Geosciences Institute, said.

"When helium-3 combines with deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) the fusion reaction proceeds at a very high temperature and it can produce awesome amounts of energy.

"Just 25 tonnes of helium, which can be transported on a space shuttle, is enough to provide electricity for the US for one full year."

Helium-3 is deposited on the lunar surface by solar winds and would have to be extracted from moon soil and rocks.

To extract helium-3 gas the rocks have to be heated above 800 degrees Celsius.

Dr Taylor says 200 million tonnes of lunar soil would produce one tonne of helium.

Only 10 kilograms of helium-3 are available on earth.

Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam has told the International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon that the barren planet held about 1 million tonnes of helium-3.

"The moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of helium-3 than all the fossil fuels on the earth," Mr Kalam said.

However, Dr Taylor says that the reactor technology for converting helium-3 to energy is still in its infancy and could take years to develop.

"The problem is that there is not yet an efficient type of reactor to process helium-3," he said.

"It is currently being done mostly as a laboratory experiment. Right now at the rate which it (research) is proceeding it will take another 30 years."

Other scientists say that the reactor would be safe in terms of radioactive elements and could be built right in the heart of any city.

"Potentially there are large reservoirs of helium-3 on the moon," DJ Lawrence, a planetary scientist at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, said.

"Just doing reconnaissance where the minerals are and to find out where helium-3 likes to hang out is the first step, so when the reactor technology gets to work we are ready and have precise information.

"It really could be used as a future fuel and is safe. It is not all science fiction.

"There are visionaries out there and now the question arises where the funds come from. If people get on board to do it there is no doubt it could be done."

Dr Taylor echoed Dr Lawrence's views, adding that there are no funds available for funding non-petroleum energy projects in the United States.

He warns of the exhaustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas on earth.

"By 2050 the whole world will have a major problem. We need to be thinking ahead," Mr Taylor said.

"Right now we are not thinking ahead enough. Some of us are. But then the people who make the decisions and put money on the projects are not. They think only about the next elections.

"If we set our hearts on the moon and have the money to do it, then we do it pretty fast.

"However, it could be done well within 10 years if the sources of finance are generated to get this (reactor) going."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Our Energy Future: An Optimistic Outlook from Big Oil

The president of ExxonMobil, the world's largest energy company, Rex Tillerson gave a recent presentation on the energy outlook for the next few decades in Houston, Texas. Here are a few choice quotes and my comments.

"the total amount of energy used by 2030 will have increased by almost two-thirds"

According to Tillerson, Exxon expects (hopes?) that "by 2030 the share of energy supply from wind and solar will amount to less than 1% of the world's total energy demand."

"The world energy market is huge, and it will take a great deal of investment and a very long time before significant changes are going to be evident in the mix of energy sources that we depend upon for our economic prosperity."

And it will take a lot longer to change the energy mix if the world continues to be reliant on petroleum and becomes increasingly reliant on Liquefied Natural Gas as Exxon would like.

"We still have a fair amount of work to do to help governments and the public to understand that LNG is needed, can be supplied safely, and is a source of new reliable and affordable energy for this country."

ExxonMobil expects trade in natural gas between regions to continue to grow, with its share of total supply rising from 8% this year to 22% in 2030.

According to Tillerson "providing the enormous increase in global LNG that will be needed will be very extensive."

For extensive read expensive.

Tillerson noted that the International Energy Agency estimates LNG investments will total $250 billion through 2030. "When coupled with investments required for all other energy needs, this will present challenges to finance the incredible amount of energy infrastructure that will be needed."

Imagine if instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in building an internationl infrastructure to move around dwindling supplies of a finite resource (i.e. natural gas) the money was invested in renewable energy.

"Even with efficiency gains and new technology or alternative ways to generate energy, oil demand will continue to rise, such that by 2030 it could be almost 50% higher than it is today. That's a volume approaching 120 million b/d of oil. So if something is going to replace it, it's going to have to be very large"

Tillerson isn't kidding. Oil is a finite resource. And yet Exxon would like us to become more dependent on it in the coming decades.

In 2020, Tillerson noted, more than three quarters of oil and gas supply will have to come from new fields and new developments.

"for the foreseeable future, the world will be increasingly dependent upon the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Middle East for energy."

"It is simply a reflection of where resources are to be found and how much energy will be needed to ensure continued global economic growth. There is very little that can be done to materially alter this reality with regard to conventional oil." Tillerson expects non-OPEC production of crude and condensate to peak in the next 10 years.

Beginning about 2010, the call on OPEC increases rapidly and will require OPEC to add more than 1 million b/d/year of capacity," Tillerson forecast. "The resources available to OPEC are adequate to accommodate this increase, and we are assuming that OPEC countries will make investments in a timely manner to meet rising demand."

That's one huge assumption. Let's just be clear that contained in that one sentence is the admission that world economic prosperity and security of energy supply is in the hands of the OPEC producers. I'd like to know on what basis Tillerson can confidently state that "the resources available to OPEC are adequate to accomodate this increase". OPEC reserves are national secrets and are not publicly available or independently audited. What if OPEC reserves aren't enough?

Article on the president of Exxon Mobil's speech in the Oil and Gas Journal

Expose Exxon Campaign

Monday, December 20, 2004

Wind Power "Laddermills": High Altitude Kites to Replace Turbines?

High-altitude kites could be used to generate clean energy at a cost comparable with that of fossil fuel generation , researchers claim.

The "Laddermill" is a chain of controllable wing-like kites attached to a looped cable stretching more than five miles into the sky.

Strong high altitude winds acting on the "kitewings" produce as upward force on one side of the loop and a downward force on the other, causing it to rotate.

The slowly turning cable drives a power generator in the Laddermill base station.

Although the concept sounds far fetched, its developers at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands hope to build a working model in the next four years.

They claim one Laddermill could generate 100 megawatts of electricity, compared with only a few megawatts from a conventional wind turbine.

Winds at 30,000ft are 20 times more powerful than at sea level.

Professor Ockels, an ex-astronaut and head of the European Space Agency's education office, told The Engineer magazine: "Above a certain altitude there is a massive amount of wind power.

"Kites that can tap into that wind can generate a great deal of energy."

Full Size Visualisation of Wind Energy Laddermill

Graph Comparing Wind Power Generation of a wind turbine vs. a laddermill based on height and windspeed

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Alternative Energy Maldives: Solar Power for Water Purification

A solar energy powered, off-grid, water purification project will begin in the Maldives in January 2005, providing local bottled drinking water to be sold to the community on the island of Kulhudhuffushi.

The project, two years in development, is a joint venture between Solco and a local Maldives company.

The Maldives Foreign Investment Services Bureau has identified twenty islands as having suitable water supplies and a sustainable population base for the units.

The units use solar power to draw the water up and pass it through a system of reverse osmosis units to remove all pathogens, metals and dissolved solids, using just 20% of the power of a standard reverse osmosis unit.

Each unit can produce 500 litres of water per day from a single 100 Watt (1 square metre) solar panel. Most systems using reverse osmosis are usually powered by diesel. Using solar power can be both cheaper (based on per litre cost) and avoid air pollution.

Two obstacles to renewable energy powered infrastructures in remote areas have been high up-front capital costs and the difficulties ensuring maintenance of the system. Using a new business model where the water itself is sold rather than the purification equipment have helped avoid these.

This is also applicable in other off-grid island communities such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Solco expect to be able to six litres of clean water for less than 10 cents (U.S.) per person per day.

full text of Edie article on clean water project in the Maldives

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Future of the Car: Plug-In Hybrids?

Toyota Volta Hybrid Supercar

This article taken from the Economist offers a more in-depth discussion of car hybrid technology than is usually found in the mainstream media.

As the article says:

The next step may be the "plug-in" hybrid... unlike the electric cars of the 1990s, none of today's hybrids needs to be plugged in - but if plugging were an option it would be a good idea. Andrew Frank and his team at the University of California Davis' Hybrid Electric Vehicle Centre are working exclusively on plug-in hybrids, which can operate as pure-electric vehicles over short distances (up to 60 miles, with a large enough battery pack) but can switch to a hybrid system when needed. Since the average American driver travels about 30 miles a day, plug-in hybrids could be recharged overnight, when electricity is cheaper to produce, and need never use petrol at all, except on longer trips.

According to studies carried out by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-profit organisation based in Palo Alto, California, plug-in hybrids could be one of the cleanest and most efficient kinds of car.

Economist Article on the future of hybrid car technology

And for a really in depth look take a look at this post on Ergosphere by the Engineer Poet

Green Car Congress Article on hacking the Toyota Prius to make it a plug-in hybrid

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

ItalDesign's Toyota Volta Hybrid Supercar

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Transport: Replacing Oil: South Korean Bullet Train exceeds 218mph

A South Korea-designed bullet train broke the 350 kilometer (218.8 miles)-per-hour barrier in a test run, putting the country at the forefront of high-speed railway technology, officials said.

Only three other countries, France, Germany and Japan, have built trains that can travel at 350 kilometers per hour or faster.

"Bullet" trains could utilise maglev (magnetic leviation) technology which runs on electricity offering an alternative to petroleum based air travel.

Channel News Asia Article on South Korean designed bullet train

How Stuff Works article on Maglev Trains

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Alternative Energy Cambodia: 100% rural electrification by 2020

PHNOM PENH, 12/15 - The Cambodian government plans to electrify 100 percent of rural areas by 2020, in part by using renewable energy technologies according to The Cambodia Daily.

The plan will be carried out in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

According to officials of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Cambodia, with a population of 13 million, currently has 13 percent of rural Cambodians and 54 percent of city dwellers access to the national electric grid.

The rest rely on expensive private generators or batteries for power.

The renewable energy master plan for Cambodia will be completed by 2006 that includes designs for solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric dams, animal-waste bio-gas facilities and plant- waste bio-mass generators.

Solar-powered cooking facilities and cow-manure processing are already in place in some rural areas, the ministry said.

Renewable energy sources will contribute to a cleaner environment and also lower the end price of electricity for the Cambodian poor.

Electricity today in Cambodia costs between 0.09 dollar and 0. 25 dollar per kilowatt hour in the cities and between 0.40 dollar and 0.80 dollar per kilowatt hour in the countryside.

Currently most of Cambodia`s power comes from the burning of petroleum, a costly option that will only worsen as cheap oil runs out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tidal Power India: tidal energy potential in excess of 15 gigawatts

In a written reply India's minister of state for non-conventional energy sources estimated that over 15,000 MW of tidal power potential has been estimated in the country at Gulf of Kachh & Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat and Durgaduani creek in Sunderbans in West Bengal. No tidal energy project has been installed in the country so far.

Globally the major tidal power projects currently in operation are in France (240 MW), Canada (20 MW) and Russia (0.4 MW).

Monday, December 06, 2004

Alternative Energy UK: Tidal Power from Guernsey could provide a third of electricity

A tidal power expert believes the sea around Guernsey could hold enough energy to meet a third of the UK's needs.

Professor Peter Smith of Nottingham University has carried out extensive research into tidal power.

He claims Guernsey has a real opportunity to become a major exporter of electricity.

The Channel islands area is thought to be the best location in the British Isles for tidal power.

It is thought tidal energy could also be used to power a desalination plant and replace Guernsey's existing oil power station.

Alderney's States will decide later this month whether to commit to developing wave powered electricity.

It follows six months of research by the Tidal Energy Panel.

The panel believe a relatively small number of tidal generators would be needed, and even hopes cars on the island could be powered by electricity in future.

BBC News Article on UK Tidal Power

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Alternative Energy Scotland: Solar Energy Bus Shelters for Edinburgh

The Scotsman reports that in a new £20,000 initiative, solar-powered bus shelters that light up when a passenger arrives have gone on trial in the city.

The eco-friendly scheme promises to bring an end to the difficulty of trying to read bus timetables after dark.

It is also aimed at increasing both the security of passengers and making them more visible to bus drivers.

If the Executive-funded pilot project at ten shelters proves successful, the solar-powered equipment used could be installed at more than a thousand others elsewhere in Edinburgh.

City transport leader Andrew Burns today said: "If more people are to use bus services after dark it is essential that we increase the sense of security at bus shelters by making sure that as many bus shelters as possible have lighting. Unfortunately, the cost of providing lighting at all shelters has been extremely expensive due to the costs associated with establishing a power connection.

"A cost-effective alternative is the use of solar-powered lighting at a limited number of bus shelters."

The bus shelters are lit up using energy stored up from solar panels located on the roof. When the infrared sensor detects someone nearby, the light activates and remains on until shortly after the passenger has left the immediate area.

Of the city’s 1600 bus shelters, only the 500 owned and maintained by street advertising company Adshel in the city centre are equipped with lights - which are switched on at the same time as street lighting.

The other 1100, for which the local authority is responsible, do not have lights fitted because the cost is thought to be prohibitive. However, the new equipment is believed to be much cheaper to use in the long term because there are no electricity costs involved.

The equipment is also said to be vandal resistant as it is not obvious where the lighting box is located and there is no power supply to tamper with.

A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council today said: "Illuminating shelters helps to tackle the concerns people have about security, makes passengers more obvious to bus drivers and allows them to read timetable information after dark.

"The financial advantage of solar power is that there is no ongoing power cost. Currently, it can cost in excess of £700 to provide a ground power connection to a shelter.

"Solar powered lighting is a cost-effective solution to increasing passenger security and visibility at night compared to the costs associated with a traditional power connection."

The first solar-powered bus shelter in the UK went on trial in North Lanarkshire last year.

They have since been extensively deployed in cities including Leicester, Birmingham and Plymouth.

Neil Renilson, chief executive of Lothian Buses, added: "The good thing about this is that the lighting equipment is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the conventional lighting that is used.

"It’s far simpler to use this kind of technology because it’s solar-power technology that is used so you don’t have to dig up the road and use existing power supplies."