Category Archives: Tech

US Navy Provides $3 Million In Fuding For Wave Energy Project

It’s been a while since we checked into the US Navy wave energy test site in Hawaii, but our friends over at Columbia Power Technologies steered us in that direction to check out their new StingRAY wave energy converter. The device, which is slated for utility-scale wave energy generation, will get its first full open-water demo at the facility. The US Navy has funded the project through its Naval Facilities and Engineering Command to the tune of $3 million.

Those of you familiar with wave energy (and its sister, tidal energy) know that this emerging alternative energy field is fraught with challenges, especially when you’re talking about utility-scale development. While the kinks are being worked out you’re going to see a lot of variation in design, so let’s take a look and see how Columbia Power’s StingRAY works that out.

Basically, wave energy converters rely on the natural movement of waves to drive a piston up and down, move a drive shaft, or stir up some other form of mechanical motion. The mechanical energy gets converted to electricity by a generator and there you have it.

That sounds simple enough, but aside from Scotland, which seems to have taken the ball and run with it, the global wave energy field hasn’t been keeping up with other forms of alternative energy, most notably wind and solar.

That could be about to change. The wave energy field seems to be taking some lessons learned from wind energy, as demonstrated by the StingRAY wave energy converter. The heart of the converter is a direct-drive system that eliminates excess moving parts, along with permanent magnet generators.

The StingRAY is built from corrosion-resistant composite materials, and it is designed with modularity in mind to reduce the cost of maintenance and repair. Also helping to build in efficiencies and lower costs is a single-point mooring system.

The generators convert the wave energy to electricity, which is then stabilized for grid compatibility before being sent off the device via cable. Columbia Power envisions an offshore “substation” to assemble the electricity from multiple devices before sending it to the grid

The StingRAY was designed with an eye toward avoiding some of the aesthetic concerns that can bedevil offshore wind farms, most notably in the case of the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts.

As you can see from the photo, and the “waterline” indication on the schematic, the StingRAY has a low above-water profile, which is practically nothing when compared to offshore wind turbines. The system was designed for deployment in depths of more than 60 meters, typically located at least a mile or more offshore.

Don’t hold your breath for the full scale demo project to hit the water — it’s slated for 2016 — but in the meantime you can check out more projects at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS — cute, right?).

Full Article @ CleanTechnica

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New Toyota Fuel-Cell Car Could Power Your Home

It may be hidden behind a fuzzy grey triangular panel in the trunk, but the 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car offers a novel and innovative feature that could let it power your home for a day or two in the event of an emergency.

Toyota executives say they haven’t decided whether to offer the power-out capability on the 200 Mirais that will be sold in the U.S. next year.

A power-out jack and associated energy station, not currently offered on any passenger cars, would likely offer a unique selling proposition that underscores the Mirai’s ability to generate emission-free electricity–and quite a lot of it too.

The energy capacity of the fuel-cell vehicle’s 5 kilograms of hydrogen, compressed at 10,000 psi, is more than 150 kilowatt-hours.

While a portion of that energy is lost in the conversion from hydrogen to electricity, the Toyota press materials say that’s enough to power a household for up to seven days.

That would like not be a typical U.S. household–using 32 kWh a day–but a typical Japanese one, at a considerably more modest 10 kWh.

The plug itself uses a CHAdeMO connector, and would connect to an energy station that converts the high-voltage direct current from the Mirai’s fuel cell into the 100-volt alternating current used in Japanese buildings.

Full Article @ Business Insider Via Green Car Reports

Essess – Startup Gets $10.8 Million In VC To Detect Energy Leaks

Over the past few years, Essess Inc. has deployed cars mounted with imaging sensors to drive around the U.S. creating heat maps that show which homes aren’t sealed properly, wasting energy and their owners’ money.

The startup, which told Venture Capital Dispatch it raised $10.75 million since its founding in 2011 from venture investors, is now rolling out its technology for use by power utilities.

The idea is that utilities could use the information collected and processed by Essess to tell their customers where exactly their “house envelopes” are leaking, and what fixes could improve the seal.

This approach, according to Essess Chief Executive Thomas Scaramellino, could help utilities and customers make improvements in energy savings that are larger and longer-lasting than simply replacing an old lightbulb with a more efficient one, for example.

Essess, whose roots are in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is joining a growing number of startups that are going after the billions of dollars that utilities in the U.S. must spend on energy-efficiency programs under state mandates.

The goal of the tech companies is to lower the cost of analyzing which buildings are most wasteful and pinpoint the reasons remotely, in order to avoid in-person and expensive energy audits.

Essess has a high-tech method, with a focus on the “building envelope.” It’s using advances in robotics, computer vision and machine learning, and collects more than three terabytes of data each night, the CEO said.

Heat leaking from window frames, doors and poorly insulated attics and walls can make people uncomfortable and power use inefficient. The company’s approach allows it to gather a lot of information about many homes quickly, and yet produce very specific home-by-home results. It can pinpoint exactly where air is leaking in each individual home, the company says. It says that it can do thermal scans of entire utility service territories in days or weeks.

Full Article @ WSJ

Indiana Utilities Offering Cheap or Free Electric Vehicle Charging

Through January 31, 2017, Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCo) will bill nothing to EV owners in its territory who have installed a separate meter to charge their vehicles if they do it between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Another Indianapolis utility charges $0.023 per kilowatt-hour for overnight charging, making the cost of driving a Tesla Model S less than $0.01 per mile, according to Green Car Reports.

In addition to free nighttime charging, NIPSCo is also offering a $1,650 voucher for meter installation to the first 250 customers who do so. To date, 125 customers signed up for this “Rider 685” program.

Chadbourne and Parke Partner Keith Martin recently pointed out that Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Chair Ann Berwick has called transportation electrification a potential “salvation” of utilities because of the way it would revive the diminishing demand for electricity. And Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning has said, according to Martin, that transportation electrification could make utilities better investments by driving demand for electricity.

Full Article @ Utility Dive

NYC Building LinkNYC – Provides Free Highspeed Secure WIFI For Everyone

In 2015 New York will begin work on LinkNYC, a project that replaces the aging and seldom used payphone system with futuristic glowing pillars called Links.

These Links will serve as Wi-Fi hubs that provide 24/7 free internet access at gigabit speeds. The connections will be encrypted and should be secure according to the press release: “We encourage you to continue to use end-to-end encryption, such as HTTPS, for any sensitive matters or data. The network will also prevent peer-to-peer security threats by eliminating the ability to communicate device to device.”

As if that wasn’t good enough, the Links also offer free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., free mobile-device charging, and a touchscreen interface for accessing directions, city services, etc… They also provide easy access to 911 and 311.

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Commercial model on the left, Residential model on the right

 

Sounds expensive right? The whole system is ad-supported and will apparently cost tax-payers nothing. So presumably these Links will be bombarding you with ads day and night, but it’s not as if that’s not happening already right? All-in-all it may be a fair trade, assuming the ads are visual only and not overly intrusive. This new platform may prove seriously valuable for local advertisers and marketers.

“LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers and visitors,” according to a press release from CityBridge and LinkNYC.

Up to up to 10,000 Link installtions are planning, though not all may offer free gigabit Wi-Fi.The first Links should be operational by the end of 2015.

 

Images by LinkNYC

Storing Energy In Spinning Flywheels

For centuries, spinning wheels have been used to store energy. That’s how potter’s wheels work, with the energy in the disk helping maintain a consistent velocity. Flywheels are also key components of steam engines, where they convert energy from pistons into consistent rotational motion. Even toy cars with friction motors make use of flywheel technology.

But it is only recently that large cylindrical flywheels have been used to quickly store and release electric power, as a way to keep complex power grids in balance.

One Canadian company, Temporal Power Ltd., is on the leading edge of this technology, making flywheel storage devices that are now being used to add stability to Ontario’s electricity system. In a windowless two-storey building just outside of Harriston, Ont., 150 km northwest of Toronto, 10 of the company’s 4,000 kilogram solid-steel flywheels are sunk into cement vaults in the ground. Linked to the province’s power grid, they rapidly charge and discharge to help maintain the right balance of power as demand fluctuates.

These kinds of installations could become commonplace in the coming years, because every power grid in the world – and especially those with high proportions of renewable power – will likely need more means of fine-tuning the balance between electrical production and demand.

Temporal’s flywheels are, essentially, mechanical batteries that store power in the form of kinetic energy as they spin – unlike normal batteries that hold power as chemical energy.

A Temporal flywheel is “charged” using an electric motor that turns a huge rotating steel cylinder. The motor converts electric power to the mechanical momentum of the rotor, and the rotor speeds up. To release this stored power, the motor switches to become a generator, as the slowing rotor transfers its energy back into electricity.

A flywheel can almost instantaneously switch back and forth between loading up on power and releasing it – a characteristic that makes the technology attractive to electrical system operators that constantly need to balance supply and demand.

“We respond to a grid-wide imbalance of energy,” said Temporal chief executive officer Cam Carver. “Sometimes you have too much and you want it off, sometimes you have too little and you want more. It’s a constant balancing act.” Flywheels are ideal for this delicate task, he said, and they operate will little power loss.

Read Full Article @ The Globe And Mail

New Supercapacitors May Allow Electric Cars To Store Energy In Their Body Panels

magine opening up an electric car and finding no batteries. An absent-minded factory worker or magic? Perhaps neither. If nanotechnology scientists led by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are on the right track, it may one day be a reality as cars are powered not by batteries, but their body panels – inside which are sandwiched a new breed of supercapacitors.

Electric cars have a lot of advantages. They don’t directly use fossil fuels, they have zero emissions, and the high-end ones perform like a supercar, with an acceleration that leaves your back teeth at the starting line. The drawback is that they depend on very heavy batteries. At the low end, there are lead-acid types that weigh a staggering amount, while the high end vehicles use lithium-ion batteries that aren’t much lighter. In theory, lightweight supercapacitors should do a better job with their ability to hold much higher charges, but in practice, aren’t quite there yet.

It’s a matter of energy density. Lithium-ion batteries have a lot of energy, but are limited in how fast they can discharge it. Supercapacitors can release energy in large bursts, but don’t store as much as a Li-ion battery. The trick is to combine the two in the short term, while figuring out how to store more in the supercapacitor in the long term.

QUT is working on new lightweight supercapacitors, which are a thin, strong, high-energy density film made of two all-carbon electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. This film is intended to be set in car body panels, roofs, doors, bonnets and floors. The idea, in the short term, is to combine them with Li-ion batteries, where the supercapacitors can store enough energy to charge the battery in minutes.

Read Full Article At Gizmag