Posts Tagged ‘solar’
Barbara Block, Stanford University – using SV2, Plans for SV3
Last December, Liquid Robotics made headlines when one of its Wave Glider aquatic robots completed a “swim” from San Francisco to Australia. It marked the longest distance ever traveled by an autonomous vehicle of any type. The research/surveillance robot was part of a fleet of four that took part in the demo project. One of the others successfully reached Australia later, while the other pair are still on their way to their alternate destination of Japan.
Besides making the much-publicized PacX trans-Pacific crossing, the company’s “base” model of the Wave Glider (the new version of which is now known as the SV2) has been used by a variety of clients in a number of different projects, since its launch in 2009. “We’ve built over 200,” Liquid Robotics CEO Bill Vass told us. “About a third or so are on missions at any one time. A lot more customers are moving to running 20 at a time instead of one at a time…”
Monday, the company announced its SV3 – the new-and-improved version of the existing Wave Glider robot. Like the SV2, the SV3 consists of two main parts that are tethered together.
On the surface is a floating surfboard-like “boat,” that contains the sensors which allow the robot to measure oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, wave characteristics, weather conditions, water fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. Also on board are a GPS unit, a heading sensor, transmitters/receivers and other electronics – all of which are powered by built-in solar cells. Below the surface is a winged platform that catches the underwater motion of the waves, allowing it to paddle itself forward, along with the tethered boat…
More intriguingly, however, the SV3 additionally features a thrust-vectoring electric motor. Its propeller folds out of the way when not in use, but can be lowered and activated (either autonomously or by satellite remote control) when the robot needs an extra push – such a push might be helpful if it encounters doldrums or cross currents, or if a sudden change in its route is required. The motor is powered by a battery that is in turn charged by the solar cells, as with the other electric components.
Solving the problems of autonomous function and durability are the hard bit. Hardware, that is. One of the smartest things they’ve done in the software is designing in a system that can diagnosis a problem that may hinder mission completion – whereupon the Wave Glider changes course and heads for the nearest repair facility. Phoning home about the problem, of course.
A solar filament erupts.
What’s happened to our Sun? Nothing very unusual — it just threw a filament. At the end of last month, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted into space producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun’s ever changing magnetic field and the timing of the eruption was unexpected.
Watched closely by the Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, the resulting explosion shot electrons and ions into the Solar System, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and impacted Earth’s magnetosphere, causing visible aurorae. Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in the ultraviolet image.
If you missed this auroral display please do not despair — over the next two years our Sun will be experiencing a solar maximum of activity which promises to produce more CMEs that induce more Earthly auroras.
What do you need to generate a lot of electricity from photoelectric solar cells? A lot of surface area. What is a lot of the surface of the United States covered in? Roads. Put those two ideas together, and the idea of turning the nation’s highways into solar farms doesn’t sound too odd, does it? Well, maybe it doesn’t until you consider that you’re talking about taking electronics – electronics that are typically somewhat delicate and rather expensive – and purposely putting them on the ground where heavy vehicles will zoom over them at high speed…
Replacing crushed stone and tar with LEDs and capacitors seems so unlikely that when Solar Roadways was awarded $100,000 to construct a small, 12′ by 12′ prototype system in 2009, infrastructure blog The Infrastructionist gave the effort its “Dubious Green Scheme” award and labeled Solar Roadways not just “harebrained” but “totally batshit crazy.”
As it turns out, that initial panel impressed the Department of Transportation enough that Solar Roadways has now been given $750,000 to take it to the next step: a solar parking lot. Constructed out of multiple 12′ x 12′ panels, the smart parking lot will do more than the asphalt alternative. It will warm itself in cold weather to melt away snow and ice. A layer of embedded LEDs can be used create traffic warnings or crosswalks. Electricity leftover from those tasks could be used to charge electric vehicles or routed into the power grid. The electrical components will be embedded between layers of hardened, textured glass – this may sound fragile, but is already tough enough that some areas use the material for sidewalks.
Parking lots, driveways, and eventually highways are all targets for the panels. If the nation’s system of interstate highways was surfaced with Solar Roadways panels, the results would be more than three times the amount of electricity currently consumed. Of course, at $100,000 per 12′, costs would need to come down significant bit before that could happen.
Obviously, the editors never compared the cost of building solar roadways to typical American highway boondoggles. The record is held by a project near and dear to my heart – Boston’s Big Dig. A three-and-a-half mile tunnel that ended up costing over $14 billion.
Plus he’s extrapolating from the first 12′ x 12′ panel. The parking lot project will reduce square foot cost as will further ramping up towards capacity production. All of which he doubtless knows.
Hydro’s energy-neutral test center in Ulm, Germany
A planned building in Norway will be at the most northern location so far to generate more energy than it uses, demonstrating that “green” buildings can work anywhere…
A group including Norwegian aluminum maker Norsk Hydro and Swedish construction group Skanska said it would construct the six-to-seven-story building in Trondheim, with offices and shops covering up to 9,000 sq meters.
The building will use solar panels and sunscreens on an aluminum facade, which will have a new energy-saving ventilation system. It will also draw on geo-thermal energy and use other technologies such as heat pumps.
Over the year, it will generate more power than it consumes.
“This will be the world’s most northerly ‘energy-positive’ building,” Hydro Chief Executive Svein Richard Brandtzaeg told Reuters in a telephone interview of the project, due for completion in 2013.
“If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere,” he said, adding that there were global business opportunities for Hydro in clean energy for buildings that usually emit greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels for heat, light and air-conditioning.
Trondheim, about 300 km south of the Arctic Circle, is on the same latitude as southern Greenland, Alaska and Siberia…
He said that Hydro had helped build an office block for Vodafone Group in Milan for 3,000 people, in which the facade cost 16 percent more than a conventional building but helped halve energy consumption.
“It cost 16 percent more, but the payback time is less than two years,” due to energy savings, he said.
Most folks who hope to ignore efficiencies in alternative energy source try just as hard to block out the fact that these are energy sources which are becoming more efficient and less expensive over time. This is particularly true of solar-generation models which continue to diminish in cost as engineering and scientific advancement accumulate.
The sun unleashed its strongest solar flare in four years Monday night, hurling a massive wave of charged particles from electrified gas into space and toward Earth.
The solar storm sent a flash of radiation that hit Earth in a matter of minutes. Now a huge cloud of charged particles is headed our way. These coronal mass ejections, as they are called, typically take about 24 hours or more to arrive. They can spark spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, at high latitudes and sometimes even into the northern United States…
Class X flares are the strongest types of solar flares that can erupt from the sun…
Last night’s X2.2 flare is the most powerful solar eruption of the sun’s current weather cycle, called Solar Cycle 24…
The Monday flare came on the heels of another, only slightly less powerful, class M6.6 flare on Sunday, Feb. 13. Both events erupted from the same area on the sun, called active region 1158…
Such a flare can bathe the Earth in high doses of ultraviolet radiation and X-rays hurl a huge burst of solar wind in our direction. When this burst arrives at Earth, the electrons and protons from the solar wind come into contact with our planet’s magnetic field, and stream toward the magnetic poles.
The disturbance can create a geomagnetic storm in Earth’s magnetic field.
Get out your tinfoil hats!
The UK-built Zephyr solar-powered plane has smashed the endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The craft took off from the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona at 1440 BST (0640 local time) last Friday and is still in the air. Its non-stop operation, day and night, means it has now gone five times longer than the official mark recognised by the world air sports federation.
The plane has been developed by the defence and research company Qinetiq. Its project manager, Jon Saltmarsh, said Zephyr would be brought down once it had flown non-stop for a fortnight.
“Zephyr is basically the first ‘eternal aircraft’,” he told BBC News…
The military will want to use them as reconnaissance and communications platforms. Civilian and scientific programmes will equip them with small payloads for Earth observation duties.
Their unique selling point is their persistence over a location. Low-Earth orbiting satellites come and go in a swift pass overhead, and the bigger drones now operated by the military still need to return to base at regular intervals for refuelling.
But as Zephyr has now proved, solar UAVs can be left in the sky.
Their solar cells drive propellers during the day and top up their batteries to maintain the craft through the dark hours of night. An autopilot keeps them circling over the same spot.
RTFA. Lots of detail, interesting details.
The most cynical will be expected to focus in military and police use of the technology. Which is a shame. If that’s all you can think of – we probably should have given up on cameras and binoculars.
The barefoot solar engineers, Talsa Miniaka, Pulka Wadeka, Minakshi Diwan, and Bundei Hidreka, live in Tinginapu, in the Eastern Ghats of Orissa. They now have a contract to build 3000 solar-powered lanterns for schools and other institutions and they are training other people in the community.
DUNHUANG, China – As the United States takes its first steps toward mandating that power companies generate more electricity from renewable sources, China already has a similar requirement and is investing billions to remake itself into a green energy superpower.
Through a combination of carrots and sticks, Beijing is starting to change how this country generates energy. Although coal remains the biggest energy source and is almost certain to stay that way, the rise of renewable energy, especially wind power, is helping to slow China’s steep growth in emissions of global warming gases.
While the House of Representatives approved a requirement last week that American utilities generate more of their power from renewable sources of energy, and the Senate will consider similar proposals over the summer, China imposed such a requirement almost two years ago.
This year China is on track to pass the United States as the world’s largest market for wind turbines — after doubling wind power capacity in each of the last four years. State-owned power companies are competing to see which can build solar plants fastest, though these projects are much smaller than the wind projects. And other green energy projects, like burning farm waste to generate electricity, are sprouting up.
This oasis town deep in the Gobi Desert along the famed Silk Road and the surrounding wilderness of beige sand dunes and vast gravel wastelands has become a center of China’s drive to lead the world in wind and solar energy.
The solar arm of Spanish renewable energy and engineering giant Abengoa is already one of the few companies in the world with a working solar power tower — a technology that uses dozens of concentrating heliostats (made of glass or mirrors) that focus sunlight onto a tall central tower. And this morning Abengoa is showing off a next-gen version of the solar power tower, dubbed Eureka, that uses a receiver (the sunlight collection point in the tower) that can achieve much higher temperatures. Abengoa says higher temperatures make the system more efficient, meaning a lower cost of power generation, less land needed and a lower cost of the overall system.
The next-gen project is experimental at this point, covering 16,000 square feet, and producing 2 MW with 35 heliostats and a 164-foot tower. One of Abengoa’s other solar power towers produces 11 MW with 624 heliostats and a 377-foot tower. But Abengoa says that it is “the first high-temperature solar tower in Europe.”
Way cool, which means it’s very hot – of course. I have no experience with this variation on the theme of letting ol’ Sol provide the energy for heating a liquid to steam and driving a generator. But, it certainly seems to be working just fine for these folks in Spain.
The time to completion, the absence of regulations [jive and otherwise] attendant upon nuclear power generation certainly makes this technology a lot more encouraging.
Thanks to Katie Fehrenbacher