Archive for August 2009
You are browsing the archives of 2009 August.
You are browsing the archives of 2009 August.
The latest effort to store clean power from wind and solar energy resources comes from California, where a leading utility is hoping to put emerging technology to work.
A report in the San Francisco Chronicle describes how Pacific Gas and Electric is working on a facility that would transform the energy from clean power resources into compressed air that would be stored in underground porous rock and then used later to power turbines.
The utility has reportedly applied for a $25 million federal grant to develop the technology, which has also been tested in places, such as Alabama and Germany. According to the newspaper, the utility envisions using windmills to produce about 300 megawatts of energy for as long as 10 hours during nighttime hours when wind levels are at their strongest. During daylight hours or during any lull in wind activity, the stored compressed air could be tapped for supplemental power.
As noted in the story, because the system relies on a naturally occurring geological phenomenon, location is a factor:
If it proves economical, it could be replicated anyplace with appropriate rock formations underground as well as strong sunlight or strong wind.
“You need the right geology, but it’s not a really rare geology,” said PG&E spokesman Jonathan Marshall. “If we can move this forward, it can be done around the country.”
Some solar thermal facilities in California and elsewhere also use molten salt to maintain heat levels and keep turbines running, in off peak-production hours.
By increasing the storage capacity and time for solar energy and wind power, it will resolve one issue that the industry has long been working to improve upon.
The National Geographic News has an interesting story about a project in Cairo, Egypt, that is successfully introducing solar power (albeit on a small scale) in several poor areas of the city. The nonprofit Solar CITIES project has installed 34 solar-powered hot water systems and five biogas reactors since 2003.
“Our program is unique, in that we’re implementing rural-type solutions in an urban environment,” says project leader Thomas “T.H.” Culhane, an urban planner and 2009 National Geographic emerging explorer.
“It’s the kind of stuff you would do in the Peace Corps in an African village, but we’re doing it right smack dab in the slums of a city.”
The group had to develop a unique approach to making the installations work.
“The problem with professional solar hot water systems is that they’re made for cities with continuous water,” Culhane says.
By contrast, Solar CITIES’s water heaters use a city’s water when it’s available but draw from a backup storage tank when it’s not.
The setup consists of an insulated rectangular box covered in clear glass or plastic on one side. Inside the box are copper tubes wrapped in sheets of aluminum, which are painted black.
Sunlight striking the darkened aluminum is converted to heat, which is then used to warm water flowing through the pipes. The glass sheet on top of the box prevents the heat from being carried away by wind.
The biogas reactors use garbage to generating gas that can be used for cooking stoves. The hot water systems can be used in tandem with the reactors to maintain optimal temperatures.
The administration was a little slow in posting their updates yesterday, so that’s why there wasn’t a post about this on Friday.
We still below $.5 billion in payouts from DOE and NSF. Remember: Vote in our poll on when DOE will cross the $1 billion mark.
Also, the DOE upped its promised spending over the last few days by$160 million and here are some of the most recent new projects:
The NSF numbers indicate that it has allocated another $190 million. That’s good news, I guess, but again it is not immediately clear where the money has been allocated.
Department of Energy (4.8% paid out):
National Science Foundation (1.3% paid out):
Western Troy Capital Resources announced that it plans to form a wholly owned private corporation to provide small nuclear reactor electric power generating stations for installation in remote locations in Canada and other markets.
Rex Loesby, CEO of Western Troy says, “As we worked through the feasibility process for our MacLeod Lake Project, we evaluated a number of electric power options. One option is a small nuclear reactor. We found there are a number of small reactor designs in operation and under development around the world and there looks to be an opportunity to work with one or more of these reactor designs to develop the technology specifically for remote communities and mine sites in Canada. Some of these small reactor designs have operated for decades without safety issues, nuclear reactors do not release carbon emissions and there are communities and mines in remote locations throughout Canada that would benefit greatly from clean, safe and relatively low cost electric power.”
But all is not cast in stone as yet. Western Troy’s proceeding will depend on a wide range of factors. Suitable technology is just one. The regulatory environment of the potential customers is another, and the financial issues are still very uncertain.
Yet the opportunities are profound, especially in remote areas. Loesby says, “What started out as an engineering exercise quickly grew into an idea that could be revolutionary for the development of northern communities and resources in Canada. We have begun to see this as much more than a commercial venture, but an opportunity for Canada to lead the world in clean energy development for remote sites.”
While Western Troy’s efforts are not a sure thing to bare fruit, this is good news for those who work in reactor development, construction and installation. Most of any small reactor installation is going to be modular, factory built, transportable, radioactive friendly and essentially proliferation proof.
The company says it has already met with representatives of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to begin exploring regulatory issues, and has retained a group of Canadian science advisers, including several former scientists and engineers from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.