Tag Archives: Solar

Generating power at night, the flip side to solar

Nuclear energy has been in the news lately, and its proponents have once again cited the intermittent nature of renewables as a compelling reason to embrace nuclear. They say that only nuclear can wean us off fossil fuels fast enough given the imminent climate crisis.

My argument has always been that renewable technology is still in its infancy and that the sector will explode with new tech in the near future. This post is about one such possible ‘new tech’ – thermoelectric generation.

I can’t explain the science, but I can say that this new direction in power generation would work at night, while solar is unavailable. You can read the complete article here:

https://newatlas.com/energy/thermoelectric-generator-renewable-energy-cold-space/

The amount of power generated was miniscule, but this experiment sought only to prove that the principle was sound. Scaling up the process and making it robust enough for commercial applications will take a while, but then so does setting up a nuclear power plant.

My money’s on the new tech rather than the old.

cheers

Meeks

 


Bathing in a bucket…

And no, this is not research for some scene in a story. This was me, after I discovered that we had no hot water…

not. I wasn’t smiling at all.

As usual, Murphy’s Law was working overtime in Warrandyte this morning. For starters, it’s been damn cold the last couple of days, cold, rainy and overcast. The worst possible weather for my solar hotwater system.

Me: Not a problem. The instant, gas hot water booster will kick in…any second now…hello?

Except that the instant, gas hot water booster did not kick in. Went out to check, and I see a cryptic machine message blinking in red on the display. Panic? No, ring the manufacturer.

“Have you tried to reset the system?”

Me: “Um…no. How?”

I now know how to reset the system but…it didn’t work, did it?

“Let me check the plumbers in your area. I’ll get back to you shortly.”

Me: still waiting…

In the meantime, I had to go out so a clean up of some sort was absolutely necessary.

Me: cold shower? Not on your nelly…that water is effing freezing!

Thank god the kettle still works. Boiled up about 2 litres of water. Poured it into a bucket in the shower. Added a bit of cold…and got to work.

In case there are any time and motion experts out there, I can now say with absolute certainty that it is possible to bathe in a bucket. Not pleasant, but doable. Start at the top and finish with the feet.

And on that note, I’ll quit while I’m a head.

Meeks


Micro-grid for Kalbarri in Western Australia!

As exciting as Elon Musk’s bet, and subsequent giant battery may be, there is a hell of a lot more going on in Australia that never gets a mention. Not sexy enough I suppose. Well, I think micro grids, renewables and batteries are very sexy so have a look at this:

This is the proposed plan for a micro grid in Kalibarri, WA. Kalibarri is a rural community which relies on power coming in via the Geraldton Feeder. Just one single source of power. When that power goes down, Kalibarri goes dark. Kind of hard to run homes, not to mention businesses, without power.

But all that will be a thing of the past once the micro grid is up and running. It will include power from the windfarm as well as power contributed by individual homes running solar panels. All that power will charge a 2 MWH [megawatt hour] battery, and the Geraldton Feeder will be there as well. All that equates to power security for a community that has had anything but. On a national level, the Kalibarri micro grid is also an example of what Australia can do in spite of the idiots in Canberra.

You can read the whole story here:

https://westernpower.com.au/about/media/contract-awarded-for-kalbarri-s-renewable-microgrid/

And now a big thank you to Dawn who found out about this development and sent me the URL. Dawn is a Silversmith who loves cheering people up. She would call this a cheeryuppy story and I couldn’t agree more!

Keep smiling, only four more days ’till the weekend. 😀

Meeks


Coal vs solar? No contest in China

The world is quickly abandoning coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. But that’s not the end of the road for coal mines—in many countries they’re coming back to life as solar farms. Over the weekend, the world’s biggest floating solar project began operating in the eastern Chinese city of Huainan, which accounted for nearly 20%…

via Dead coal mines everywhere are being reincarnated as solar farms — Quartz


Solar sunglasses…yes, please!

I don’t usually wear sunglasses, but I’d definitely wear these:

The frames are standard, but the lenses collect solar energy which is transferred to the electronic gadgetry hidden in the arms. That gadgetry could be enough to power small wearables such as hearing aids. For me though, the most exciting part is this:

Organic solar cells were chosen instead of more traditional silicon cells because they’re transparent, flexible, lightweight, and can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and colors. Each solar cell lens weighs about six grams, is 1.6 mm thick, and was made to fit into a set of commercially-produced sunglass frames.’

The blue highlights are mine, and they’re exciting because the same cells could also, in time, be used on windows. Imagine how much energy could be harvested if windows became solar panels as well as roofs? And think of all those huge skyscrapers – perfect realestate for solar farms. 🙂

You can read the complete article on NewAtlas. Just follow the link below:

http://newatlas.com/solar-lens-sunglasses/50732/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=0033755d27-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-0033755d27-92416841

Happy Friday 🙂

Meeks


Email to the PM re #Adani

I just sent this email to the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull:

Just for the record, I do not know the PM, but I did ‘chat’ with him by email after he lost to Tony Abbott, way back when. At the time, I wanted to congratulation him on being a man of integrity, even if he was a Liberal. I still receive updates from his staff.

And that brings me to the second point I want to clarify: I know the PM won’t read this email of mine. It is quite possible that his staffers won’t read it either. In all likelihood, the subject line of ‘Adani’ will be more than enough to get it binned sight unseen.

But…

I know Climate Change is real.

I know its caused by us, and

I know that our long-term survival requires that we do something about it.

Digging up more coal is not the answer. And neither is paying a ridiculous amount of money to gain a very few jobs in Queensland. The 10,000 jobs bandied about were never a reality. The truth is that if Adani goes ahead, we’ll be lucky to get 1500 jobs.

$900,000,000 [the cost of the rail link] divided by 1500 equals $600,000.

Think about it, one job will cost us 600,000 dollars.

I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.

If you agree, please pass this on. The more Australians who know what’s really involved, and get angry, the better our chances of actually stopping this madness. Trickledown economics has never worked, especially when it comes via the Cayman Island tax haven. We really are smarter than this.

Meeks


#Solar powered micro-grid + #Tesla batteries = the future?

Just found this amazing article on New Atlas. It concerns a small island being powered almost exclusively by a micro-grid made up of solar panels and Tesla batteries. The batteries can be fully charged in 7 hours and can keep the grid running for 3 days without any sun at all:

Why do I find this so exciting? Distributed systems, that’s why.

“And what’s that?” you ask, eyes glazing over as you speak.

In computing, which is where I first heard the term, a distributed systems is:

a model in which components located on networked computers communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages.[1] The components interact with each other in order to achieve a common goal.

Distributed computing also refers to the use of distributed systems to solve computational problems. In distributed computing, a problem is divided into many tasks, each of which is solved by one or more computers,[3] which communicate with each other by message passing.[4]

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_computing#Introduction]

Okay, okay. Here are some nice, juicy examples instead:

  • the internet,
  • your mobile phone network
  • MMOs [massively multiple player online games] like the one I play,
  • virtual reality communities, and even
  • the search for extra terrestrial intelligence [SETI].

There are heaps more examples I could name, but the point is that all these systems rely on the fact that the power of the group is greater than the power of its individual components. In fact, the world wide web could not exist at all if it had to be run from just one, ginormous computer installation.

So distributed systems can be insanely powerful, but when it comes to powering our cities, we seem to be stuck on the old, top-down model in which one, centralised system provides energy to every component in the system – i.e. to you and me and all our appliances.

Opponents of renewables always cite baseload as the main reason why renewables won’t work in highly developed countries. What they don’t tell you is that to create baseload, they have to create electricity all the time. That means burning fossil fuels all the time and creating pollution all the time.

Centralised power generation also does something else – it concentrates the means for producing this energy in one place, so if there is a malfunction, the whole grid goes down. But that’s not all. If all power is produced in one place, it’s all too easy to strike at that one place to destroy the ‘heart’ of the whole system. It can happen. If you read the whole article on New Atlas, you’ll learn that the supply of diesel to the island was once cut, for months. When the diesel ran out, so did the electricity. Now imagine an act of sabotage that destroys the power supply to a city of millions. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s just a matter of time.

By contrast, distributed processing means that you would have to destroy virtually every component of the system to shut it down completely. A good example of this is our road system. In most areas, if one part of the road is closed for whatever reason, we can still get where we want to go by taking a detour. It may take us a little bit longer, but we get there in the end. Something very similar happens with the internet. Digital information is sent in ‘packets’ which attempt to find the quickest route from point A to point X, usually via point B. However if point B goes down, the packets have multiple alternate routes to get to X. Why should power generation be any less efficient?

In the past, electricity could not be stored, so it had to be generated by big, expensive power plants. That volume of electricity still can’t be stored, but in the future, it may not have to be. I foresee a time when neighbourhoods will become micro-grids, with each house/building contributing to the power needs of the whole neighbourhood. Surplus power generation will be stored in some form of battery system [it doesn’t have to be Tesla batteries, but they obviously work well in distributed systems] to provide power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More importantly, the type of micro-grid used could be flexible. Communities living inland with almost constant sunshine would obviously use solar, but seaside communities might use wave power, others might use hydro or geothermal.

But what of industry?

I may be a little optimistic here, but I think that distributed power generation could work for industry as well. Not only could manufacturing plants provide at least some of their own power, via both solar and wind, but they could ‘buy in’ unused power from the city. The city, meanwhile, would not generate power but it’s utilities companies could store excess power in massive flywheels or some other kind of large scale storage device. And finally, if none of that is enough, companies could do what utility companies already do now – they could buy in power from other states.

In this possible future, power generation would be cheaper, cleaner and much, much safer. All that’s required is for the one-size-fits-all mindset to change.

Distributed is the way of the future, start thinking about it today. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


#Solar still – cheap and efficient

Yet another example of solar technology surging ahead for use in under-developed countries. This particular device is super efficient at distilling pure water from contaminated or salt water:

Rather than heating the bulk of a body of water, the new device focuses its energy on just the surface water, which evaporated at 44° C (111° F). That allows the still to reach a reported efficiency of 88 percent, which the team believes is a record for thermal efficiency. As a result, the device could produce between 3 and 10 liters (0.8 and 2.6 US gal) of purified water per day, compared to the 1 to 5 liters (0.3 to 1.3 US gal) per day possible with most commercial stills of comparable size currently available.

The device also does something else, it provides self-sufficiency:

“The solar still we are developing would be ideal for small communities, allowing people to generate their own drinking water much like they generate their own power via solar panels on their house roof,” says Zhejun Liu, co-author of the study.

http://newatlas.com/inexpensive-efficient-solar-still/47652/

I live in a big city with all the amenities required for modern living, but a part of me longs to go off grid. Ah well, maybe one day. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


#Solar power changing the face of poverty in India

Large, corporate power suppliers often cite baseload [the amount of energy needed to satisfy the minimum energy demands of a given society] as the reason for dismissing solar power. Solar panels/arrays don’t work at night so solar must be useless for baseload.

On the surface, the need for baseload power does appear to leave solar out in the cold, but…all baseloads are not the same. In India, there are tens of millions of people for whom baseload equates to just one light bulb. These are the people living in distant rural areas, or city slums, or simply on the pavement. They are poor in a way we in the West cannot even imagine because, despite their poverty, they have to spend a significant portion of their tiny monthly incomes on kerosene for their lamps, or batteries for their torches. All because they are too poor to tap into the electricity grid.

And this is where Piconergy comes in. Founded by a group of young, well-educated, clever young men, Piconergy has created a super small-scale solar power plant called the Helios [from the Greek word for ‘sun’]. This is the product description from their website:

Product Features

–  Strong and sturdy Power Box which can be easily carried around and/or wall mounted, housing our battery management system & a 6V 4.5 Ah Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology based sealed maintenance free battery.

–  5 Watts-peak Solar PV Module with 4m cable & connector.

–  Three LED Light Bulbs producing up to 200 lumens each with 3m cable & switch to cover maximum area for illumination.

–  USB port for charging mobile phones.

–  Optional SMPS Adapter to charge battery from grid supply.

And this is the product:

helios-product-piconergy

Piconergy are making the Helios available to families in the slums of Mumbai:

  • so the children can study at night,
  • so cottage industries can make more products to sell,
  • so families do not have to live in the dark

I cannot tell you how much the dedication and commitment of the young men at Piconergy warms my heart. They are not just talking about social inequality, they are doing something practical to help. But my admiration for them goes beyond questions of social conscience – I want a Helios for myself!

Why? Why would a middle class woman in Australia with solar panels on her roof already want such a small-scale solar device? I’ll tell you why. I want my own Helios because the solar panels on my roof are tied in to the grid. When the grid goes down, my solar panels are turned off as well. In a word, they become USELESS.

I cannot tell you how many times we have sweltered during a 40 degree day because the grid was down. No aircon, no fan and no landline telephone. If our mobile phones aren’t charged then we are literally isolated from the outside world. And then there are the nights when we need torches and candles just to get to the bathroom. Again, because the grid is unreliable.

After the fire that destroyed homes south of the river a couple of years ago [in Warrandyte], SP Ausnet is finally putting in heavy duty powerlines and some underground cabling, but for now we continue to lose power, and I continue to keep torches and candles dotted throughout the house.

For us, the potential for sudden, energy poverty is very real, and I intend to do something about it. More on that later.

For now, though, if you care about those less fortunate than yourselves, may I suggest you give Piconergy a boost in social media. After all, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’

cheers

Meeks

Piconergy:

http://www.piconergy.com/

https://piconergy.wordpress.com/about/

care@piconergy.com


Floating #solar power plants!

I first read about floating solar power plants in Quartz, and just had to share. Here are a couple of amazing video clips that prove this is not sci-fi!

The second video clip is not as slick as the first and has no sound at all. BUT. It shows time lapse photography of the plant being put together in a week!

And just in case you think these are just weird one-offs, here’s one from India. 🙂

The thing I like most about this concept is that it is cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it puts clean, green energy within the grasp of the poorest countries. With it, they can embrace technology and make a better life for their people without having to go the dirty-fossil-fuels path.

I predict that these countries will be leading the way in clean energy within 30 years while my own country will still be talking about waiting for the rest of the world ‘to do something’ about climate change…

-face palm-

Meeks


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