Can a teenager teach the world how to run on free energy? Max Loughan is not your typical 13 year old. The Nevada native isn’t making yet another volcano for his middle school science fair. Instead, he has turned the boiler room in his parents’ home into a laboratory, where he invents things.
Demand for diesel-fueled cars in the US has been soft since GM released its awful, Olds-based diesels in Jimmy Carter’s “malaise era”. Over in Europe, however, it’s been a different story, and diesels – along their high MPG ratings – have led the way. Recently, however, demand for diesel cars in Europe has been in decline.
Now, new technology from Oxford PV promises to drop the price and efficiency of silicon solar cells. The secret sauce in this new technology is perovskite, which is … I have no idea, actually. Luckily for us, Tina Casey, over at our sister site, Cleantechnica, has more details in her coverage of Oxford PV’s breakthrough. Enjoy!
“Turbo Boost” For Silicon Solar Cells Could Seal Doom For Diesel
We were just noticing a report that demand for diesel is collapsing in Europe when along comes a company called Oxford PV with some news that could give that knife an extra twist. The company been developing a cutting edge, building integrated solar cell, but its base technology is also promising for boosting solar cell efficiency in standard silicon solar cells. So promising, in fact, that Oxford PV has just announced that it is switching gears and pushing forward with its “turbo boost” silicon solar cell efficiency solution.
A Turbo Boost For Solar Cell Efficiency
The secret sauce behind the Oxford PV technology is perovskite, and if that doesn’t ring any bells yet it’s fairly new to us, too.
Perovskite refers to a mineral with a distinctive crystalline structure that causes great excitement among solar researchers for its potential to boost solar cell efficiency.
However, there has been one giant stumbling block to commercial development. Conventional perovskite solar cells use lead, so the search has been on for a nontoxic substitute.
CleanTechnica’s first perovskite spotting goes back to 2013, when we noticed that Oxford PV (a spinoff from research at Oxford University) was working on a thin film, translucent solar cell efficiency solution that also lowered costs (including manufacturing costs) and eliminated the use of lead.
By May 2014 Oxford PV had hit on a tin perovskite solar cell. Coincidentally, over here in the US, researchers at Northwestern University also announced a lead-free perovskite solar cell in development that is also based on tin.
In the latest news, Oxford PV has announced that its thin-film perovskite solar cell technology is available for application as an extra “turbo boost” layer for conventional silicon solar cells.
According to the company, the extra layer will ramp up solar cell efficiency by 20 percent.
If that sounds incredible, it kind of is. When you do the math (which Oxford PV has done for us, so we don’t have to bother with all that), you get an “absolute” solar cell efficiency increase that tops out at about 5 percent. Still, a 5 percent increase just from slathering an extra layer on a pre-existing silicon solar cell is still highly significant, especially when you reduce the cost of that extra layer down to the bone.
Solar Cell Efficiency Beats BIPV
Oxford PV originally developed its perovskite solar cell as a glass coating for building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), and we are huge fans of BIPV but we can totally understand why the company decided to give the new perovskite solar cell coating a push forward.
Under current plans, Oxford PV is on track to have its BIPV licensees in production sometime in 2017. The company’s new Chief Technology, Chris Case, expects to have the “turbo boost” application in production much faster than that (here’s that link again):
In two years of R&D, we’ve gone from a conversion efficiency of 5 percent as a standalone solar cell to above 17 percent — and the data is continuously improving as we try new things. We believe this material can deliver conversion efficiencies in the high twenties in a relatively short period of time. Ultimately, it will drive the performance of solar panels to the next level. Based on progress with customer partners, we expect to see prototype panels available in 2015.
Since 2015 is right around the corner it looks like we’re going to find out pretty soon if the new turbo boost thing will happen as predicted.
If it does, it looks like anybody who was predicting the demise of conventional silicon solar cells has some ‘splaining to do. More to the point, those of you
predicting hoping for the global demise of diesel will have lots more to cheer about.
Source | Images: Oxford PV, via Cleantechnica.
The green tubes are starting to cheer over a new white paper from the Edison Electric Institute, which makes the case that electric utilities can get a “quadruple win” by converting their existing gas and diesel fleets to plug-in electric vehicle fleets. That’s great except the last time we checked in on EEI, the organization was lobbying heavily against distributed solar power.
That’s why (before we get too excited), we should take a knee and floor our our pom-poms for a couple of minutes while we take a closer look at the new EV white paper, Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge.
EEI Casts Stinkeye Upon Distributed Solar
Distributed solar power is the wave of the future, but EEI is no big fan of it. The organization has been lobbying in favor of a new tax on the electricity that home solar owners sell to their local utilities, called a Value of Solar Tariff.
EEI has previously drawn attention to the tension between distributed solar and the traditional utility model, and there’s no question that it’s a real thing, so there’s no mystery why EEI would give it the stinkeye. For that matter, don’t be surprised if the micro wind turbine market gets similar pushback from EEI.
EV Fleets And Utilities
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the new EEI white paper. First let’s clarify that we don’t think EEI is trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes with the report itself. The title indicates pretty clearly that the white paper is about utility EV fleets, not individually owned vehicles.
According to EEI, utilities get a quadruple payoff by transitioning to electric vehicle fleets:
According to the paper, electrification of the transportation sector is a potential “quadruple win” for electric utilities and society, and it will enable electric utilities to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and assure the future value of existing assets.
Did they leave out dog bites man? Yes, they did. This is all old news, if you’ve been following the Obama Administration’s efforts to promote electric vehicle fleets, through the Clean Fleets initiative (part of the Clean Cities program) as well as the Workplace Charging Challenge.
Electric Vehicle Fleets: What’s In It For Me?
Where things start going off the rails isn’t the report itself. It’s the header for EEI’s press release about the report, “EEI Releases ‘Road Map’ to Help Expand the Electric Vehicle Market.”
The press release does clarify that EEI’s focus is on expanding EV fleets into the commercial and retail markets, not necessarily into individual EV ownership, but if you’re just skimming headlines for good news, you’re not getting the full picture.
Look at that in the context of EEI’s anti-distributed solar lobbying, and it’s clear that there is one key part of the EV market that the organization is definitely not interested in expanding, and that is the EV market for property owners who have access to on site solar power, aka distributed solar power.
That market has attracted a great deal of interest from Ford, for example, which has partnered with the home builder KB Home to incorporate solar powered EV charging in its new “net zero” models.
Ford has also introduced a connectivity product called MyEnergi Lifestyle, which is aimed like a laser at PEV owners with access to distributed solar power at home.
Standalone solar carports are also set for an explosion into the market.
Don’t get us wrong, electric vehicle fleets are totally a good thing, but in the case of EEI, what’s sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander.
One of the unofficial themes of the World Energy Innovation Forum which I attended recently at the Tesla Motors factory in Fremont was optimism about renewable energy developments. Just several days later, it was announced that all Dutch electric trains could be getting their power from renewable sources by 2018.
A cooperative comprised of various local rail carriers called VIVENS (Verenigd Inkoop en Verbruik van Energie op het Nederlandse S) signed an agreement with the utility Eneco to deliver 1.4TWh of electricity to them. All of it will come from wind farms in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Belgium. A large number of rail carriers of both passengers and freight, including NS, will receive their power from the new contract. NS alone carries about 2.3 million passengers each day, though it also provides service in the UK and Germany. This one carrier has about 30,000 employees. (It claims to have cut energy consumption per passenger per kilometer approximately 30% since 2005 and that about 80% of its riders have indicated that green power for rail is preferable.)
The plan is to gradually phase in a percentage of trains running on wind power each year. For example, for NS, about 50% of its trains will run on wind power by 2015 and 70% by 2016, with 100% being the goal for 2018.
Freight rail plays a central role in the European economy and appears likely to expand, as noted by Wilma Mansveld, Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment. “In the Netherlands, rail transport is facing heavy weather. Yet rail freight grew last year. For example: in 2013 4% more trains passed the border between Germany and The Netherlands. While as many as 10% more trains crossed the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. As you know the Betuwe freight line to the German border was opened in 2007. By January 2014, 100,000 trains had used it. Every year 130,000 trains use the freight corridor between Rotterdam and Genoa. That is the equivalent of nearly 4 million trucks!”
Diesel trains will still be active in the Netherlands alongside electrics, but diesel exhaust has been found to be harmful to human health. Thousands of premature deaths each year have been linked to air pollution from diesel engines. Eventually, through the aging of the fleet, so to speak, and the development of more renewable energy sources, diesel locomotives may be replaced entirely.
Rossi Honda of New Jersey has been doing its part to green up the planet by offering low-emission, high MPG cars like Honda’s Insight and the new, 50 MPG Honda Accord Hybrid– but the Honda dealer is going above above and beyond these days. In fact, Rossi is the first US car dealership (Honda dealer or otherwise) to operate “energy neutral”, meaning it’s operating without pulling electrical power from its local utility grid.
To unplug itself from the grid, Rossi Honda first installed solar panels. That was in 2012, and they’ve been generating as much as 90% of the dealership’s power needs while, at the same time, providing shade and weather protection to cars parked outside. Rossi then replaced its lot lights with more-efficient LED systems, dramatically reducing their power needs enough to achieve their goal of grid neutrality. According to Rossi’s calculations, their energy savings equate to over 300,000-kilowatt-hours annually, as well as 341,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions based on their local grid’s power plants.
For their efforts, Rossi Honda has earned Rossi a “Platinum” Honda Environmental Leadership Award, which the Japanese automaker gives dealerships that achieve grid neutrality or receive LEED certification from the US Green Building Council, as well as a ton of feel-good, warm and fuzzy type press from people like us.
Good on Rossi Honda, then. Congrats on the award, gang- and may the effort you put into greening your store pay off in a massive sales spike … of hybrids and plugins, of course.
Source | Photos: Honda
EcoVolt puts technology developed by the super-brains at MIT to turn brewery waste into biogas that can be used to generate clean, renewable electric power. The company is getting some real-world credibility, as well, now that the Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Cloverdale, California has signed on to be EcoVolt’s pilot brewery. By implementing the new system, Bear Republic can expect to see an ROI of more than 25% … which is probably better than you’re getting out of your 401K.
Tina Casey has more in the article, below, which originally appeared on our sister site, Cleantechnica. Enjoy!
The Bear Republic Brewing Company in Cloverdale, California is the first brewery to sign onto a new brewery waste-to-biogas system that has some A-list credentials to its credit. The system, called EcoVolt, is the creation of Cambrian Innovation, an…
Canada’s taken a lot of heat in recent years for being one of the worst polluters in global history, from the horror of the Albertan tar sands to TransCanada’s “disaster waiting to happen” Keystone XL pipeline. Ontario, however, is working hard to distinguish itself from all that awfulness, and is considering an outright ban on coal-generated electricity. Here’s more on that subject from our sister site, Planetsave.
The city of Ontario may soon ban power plants from burning coal. This is an outright ban, nothing less. According to CTV News, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, alongside Al Gore, announced the proposed ban, which will be introduced by Monday and take…
If you’ve ever wondered about the composition of the electricity delivered to your home (most of us have no clue), there’s one quick and easy way to find out. The EPA’s ‘Power Profiler’ tool has apparently been around for at least 2 years,…
One of the loudest (and most ridiculous) comments you often hear from anti-EV types is that electric cars are just as bad as gas-fueled cars because most electricity comes from dirty sources. Last week, the city of Asheville, NC took a huge step into the twenty-first century by unanimously voting to shift the city’s electrical power supply from Duke Energy and its coal-fired plant on the French Broad River. The resolution calls for Duke Energy to shift away from coal and towards cleaner, more renewable fuels like the ethanol garbage facility in Florida and wind turbines like those used in Europe and throughout the Midwest.
The Asheville, NC vote comes just weeks after the EPA issued a mandate to reduce coal emissions by 50%. Looks like Duke Energy will be cutting theirs by 100% in the most awesome way possible: by shutting down their coal burning energy plant completely.
Nicholas Brown, over at our sister site, Cleantechnica, has more on the story in his article, which we’ve re-printed below. Enjoy!
On Tuesday, the city council of Asheville, North Carolina voted unanimously to shift the city from coal to clean energy. The vote was on a resolution to work with Duke Energy, the owner of a coal power plant in Asheville, to phase out the use of coal…
Capable of generating electricity from diesel, natural gas, ethanol, and even biomass, this new “Cube” generator from University of Maryland startup Redox promises uninterrupted, low-emissions energy from renewable fuel sources. The best part is that Redox claims their Cube can effectively generate power at a fraction of the operating costs of existing alternatives like the Bloom Energy Saver, which made waves as a scalable power system back in 2012.
How much cheaper is the Cube? Redox’ electricity comes in at a cost of just $800 per kilowatt – which is a staggering $9,200 per kilowatt discount on Bloom’s system … assuming, of course, that it works at all.
At the moment, the Cube is a concept – but it’s a concept that is backed by more than $5 million, not including the 25 years of R&D by Eric Wachsman, the scientist whose low-temperature fuel cell research underlies the Redox’s patented technology.
Despite the heavy-hitting science behind the Redox cube project, though, the devices that have appeared on spec sheets and in photographs given out by the company are mock-ups, not working generators. To answer the doubters, Redox plans to turn on its first prototype 25-kilowatt working Cube in December, according to Redox CEO Warren Citrin. “That’s what we’re doing instead of a PowerPoint presentation,” he said. “We’re going to actually show the machine, and overcome all the skeptics.”
Once built, the Redox Cube will be available as a single, small-sized cube (visible in the photos, below, for scale). Larger installations can use several Cubes, installed in stacks or formations like Legos, to meet the power demands of a given area, village, hospital, or office building. It’s hoped that inexpensive, yet highly-efficient generators like the Cube will allow people and communities to break free from the dirty coal, oil, and unicorn-powered “dirty plants” that they’re basically forced to buy energy from today.
We’ll check back in December, then, and see how things go for Redox’ generators. Until then, you can check out some of the science behind the Cube here (PDF file). Enjoy!
An ambitious electric car-sharing program started last year in Paris – long time Gas2 readers may remember the Autolib system, a dense network of charging stations and rentable electric BlueCars. The little silver cars with colorful stickers are supposed to number 3000 by the end of next year, but they seem to be ever so slightly behind schedule, and Paris itself seems a little unsure of whether or not it wants clean zero-emission transportation.
Paris Wants an Electric Revolution
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe sees the Autolib system as the spark for a new era of mobility; in making its own traffic and air cleaner, he hopes to set an example for the rest of the world. He said (according to Auto Motor Und Sport):
“On the day that Autolib becomes the norm for Parisians, all the cities of the world will change.”
Just over 600 of the planned 3000 are already on the Paris streets, but production delays make delivery dates for the remaining vehicles a little uncertain. Of the 1200 charging stations planned, 300 are operational so far.
Zero Emission Traffic
Some 2600 yearly subscriptions have been purchased so far, with customers able to pick up the EVs from one charging station and return them to another. The city is crafting a new tariff system for this year, making it easier for customers to read and understand.
Most Parisians do have the basics down – the Autolib system works much like the beloved Velib bicycle-sharing system. Each user buys a card, which is priced according to how long the card is valid. A 24-hour card costs 10 Euros (around $13.35 USD), a one-week card costs 15 Euros (about $20, USD), and a one-year subscription is just under $200 USD. A one-month card is apparently also in the works.
Not Without Difficulties
The fledgling program is struggling to get off the ground – vandalism is an unexpected source of damage to the electric cars, for example. Critics of the system fear that charging stations will cost the city valuable parking space (although if more people are renting the cars rather than buying their own, this problem solves itself), and both taxi drivers and conventional auto rental companies fear the competition (in which case, get with the program, guys, it’s a competitive world out there and no one is going to hold your hand).
Why, exactly, Paris is so far somewhat slow to accept the electric rental cars is something of a mystery. The little electric cars are emission-free and cleaner than traditional vehicles, and while they’re not quite as maneuverable as a bicycle, they’ll do a much better job of keeping the driver dry in inclement weather.
What do you think of the Autolib system? Let us know in the comments, below.
The non-profit Family Construction and Housing Association (FCHA) has, in conjunction with Wien Energie, has set up the first Austrian electric vehicle charging points with an accounting system in a residential community – in other words, EV charging stations for rent.
Five standard ports plus one quick-charging port are available for rent, one of which has already been claimed. The actual use of the recharging point is calculated in kWh and tracked with a TANKE card provided by Wien Energie. To make the deal just a little sweeter, all the electricity purchased through the EV charging stations is from 100% renewable sources.
Electricity Is Cheaper By The Mile
According to FCHA’s calculations, recharging an electric car is much less expensive than filling a gas tank; electricity costs $4-$5 USD for every 100km (sixty miles), while gasoline is twice as expensive. Looking at the per-year cost, if an EV can go 100km on 15-20 kWh, the typical driver will use between 1500 and 2000 kWh per year. The end cost to the driver is $390-$520/year at current EU electricity prices.
EV drivers renting out their very own charging station don’t incur the cost or hassle of installing the stations, either. Bernhard Raffelsberger, FCHA’s CEO, spoke briefly as to why he chose to go the route of renewable energy sources powering electric vehicles, as reported by Oekonews.at:
“The Construction and Housing Association is set on renewable energy. We’ve already installed a number of solar and photovoltaic arrays. It is also now part of our standard operating procedure to wire parking places to recharge electric cars, in order to be properly equipped for future technology. The construction of EV charging stations in conjunction with Wien Energie and Schrack Technik is only the logical progression of this development.”
Questions or comments? Let us know below.
Source | Image: Oekonews.at.
It’s not exactly pulling power out of thin air, but scientists at Newcastle University are awfully close. They’re using bascillus stratosphericus – a strain of super-high altitude bacteria – to help create a biofilm that doubles the performance of microbial fuel cells. While that’s still a relatively low amount of power, it would be enough juice to power electric lightbulbs or small electronics (like a tablet or vehicle diagnostic computer), and could provide a much needed power source in situations where conventionally-sourced electricity is an impossibility.
By isolating 75 different species of bacteria from the Wear Estuary and selecting the best species of bacteria in a kind of microbial “pick and choose”, the scientists at Newcastle University were able to create a number of artificial biofilms. The one “super” bug in the selection was that B. stratosphericus, a microbe normally found in the upper atmosphere but brought down to Earth as a result of atmospheric cycling processes and isolated by the team from the bed of the River Wear, doubling the electrical output of the microfilm cells from 105 Watts per cubic meter to 200 Watts per cubic meter.
Grant Burgess, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at Newcastle University, explained that “What (the scientists) have done is deliberately manipulate the microbial mix to engineer a biofilm that is more efficient at generating electricity. This is the first time individual microbes have been studied and selected in this way. Finding B. stratosphericus was quite a surprise but what it demonstrates is the potential of this technique for the future … there are billions of microbes out there with the potential to generate (electrical) power.”
The use of microbes to generate electricity is not a new concept. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have been used in the treatment of waste waters and sewage plants, working in a similar way to a battery that uses bacteria to convert organic compounds directly into electricity by a process known as bio-catalytic oxidation. This biofilm then coats the carbon electrodes of the MFCs. As the bacteria in the MFC feed, they produce electrons which pass into the electrodes – electricity!
According to ScienceDaily, this is the first time that manipulating biofilms can significantly increase the electrical output of fuel cells.
Source: Science Daily