Sunday, June 26, 2016

Boston Dynamics releases robot SpotMini, Creepy and cool. (video)

By: Eugene Wilkie

It has been fun and interesting to watch the team at Boston Dynamics. Their progression of robots has been amazing. Well they have done it again with their new SpotMini.

From YOUTUBE page: SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot, weighing 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.) SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built. It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance. For more information about SpotMini visit our website at

Monday, June 13, 2016

On Kodiak Island, flywheels are in and diesel is 99.8% out

Margaret Kriz Hobson, E&E reporter

KODIAK, Alaska -- Darron Scott, CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association, unlocked the door to a small building on a gravel road along Chiniak Bay and pointed to two innocuous metal boxes tucked into a corner beyond a bank of computers.
"Those are the flywheels," Scott said, turning on a computer screen to follow the ebb and flow of the system's electrical output.
More than a mile down the coast, a 340-foot-tall electric crane operated by Matson Inc. shipping company lifted a series of heavy metal cargo containers from the shore and transferred them onto the deck of a waiting ship.
Each time the regenerative crane raised a container into the air, it pulled electricity from the flywheel energy storage system. As it lowered its load, electricity flowed back to the flywheels.
"It's sort of like a Toyota Prius," Scott explained. "When you hit the brake [on the car], you actually make power, which goes back into the battery.
"Well, the crane does the same thing," he said. "When the crane drops the load, it will actually inject power back into the flywheels, which helps speed them back up again. The flywheel has just enough time to get recharged as the crane gets ready to pick up the next box for the next lift."
KEA's two flywheels can each store up to 1 megawatt of electricity. That's enough power to lift a heavy cargo container from the dock and move it to the ship.
Matson's $10 million electric gantry crane, which looks like a giant praying mantis perched along the island coast, began operations in Kodiak just this winter. The new machine is twice the size as the rusty, 40-year-old diesel-powered machine that it replaces.
Company officials say the new crane, the largest in Alaska, is designed to accommodate the new generation of wider container ships. The process of loading a vessel can take four to eight hours, depending on the size of the shipment and the weather conditions, according to Scott.
KEA was initially reluctant to agree to provide power to the shipping company's energy-gobbling electric crane. After all, the cooperative's electric grid is designed to supply energy to the region's 13,000 residents, as well as the city's small businesses, massive fish processing plants and U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. It also serves the island communities of Chiniak, Pasagshak and Port Lions.
On an average day, KEA's customers use about 17 MW of power, with demand climbing to 20 MW during the island's peak fish processing season.
Scott said the initial request to install a large electric crane came from Horizon Lines Inc., which owned the local shipping company before it was acquired by Honolulu-based Matson.
"The company called us a few years ago, and our first reaction was, 'No. We're not set up for this,'" Scott said, referring to the vast amount of energy the crane would draw. "We have to balance our electric system at all times. And the crane has the ability to go from 0 to 2 MW [of electrical demand] in a couple seconds."
But after studying the project and the potential solutions, KEA joined forces with Matson and the city of Kodiak to buy the $3 million flywheel system to manage the crane's fluctuating electricity demand.
The flywheels are just the latest addition to the company's impressive lineup of renewable energy systems. Roughly 76 percent of KEA's electricity comes from hydroelectric energy, with wind providing another 23 percent. The utility also relies on a storage battery system and the flywheels to back up its variable wind systems.
In total, the electric cooperative provides a remarkable 99.8 percent of its power from renewable sources of energy. The shift away from diesel energy has been good news for Kodiak residents, who now pay less per kilowatt-hour of electricity than they did in 2001.
It's also brought Kodiak praise from high places. During President Obama's visit to Alaska last fall, he applauded Kodiak as "the first in the world to put flywheel and battery energy storage together to stabilize its variable electric power from wind turbines."

Cutting back on a costly diesel habit

Kodiak Island, the nation's second largest island, is a lush, green 3,600-square-mile landmass with snow-capped mountains and rocky bays. The island is accessible only by boat or airplane and is located about 250 miles south of Anchorage at the edge of the Gulf of Alaska.
Inhabited by Alutiiq natives for thousands of years, the island was settled by Russian trappers in the 18th century.
After the Japanese bombed the Aleutian Islands during World War II, Kodiak became the heart of the U.S. government's Alaska military operations. Remnants of concrete lookout posts, gun emplacements and other installations are still scattered across the island.
During Alaska's devastating 1964 earthquake, the island was hit by a 30-foot tsunami that killed 15 people and wiped out several communities and businesses. The quake also changed the shape of the island, raising some coastal lands by as much as 30 feet.
Since then, Kodiak has grown into one of the nation's top five fishing ports in both volume of seafood caught and monetary value. Fish processing plants dot its shoreline, and commercial and recreational fishing boats fill the harbor. The island is also known for the Kodiak bears that crowd the rivers during the region's abundant salmon runs.
When KEA's Scott moved to Kodiak in 2000, the electric cooperative was providing almost 70 percent of the community's power needs from the Terror Lake Hydroelectric Generating Station, a hydro unit fed by a remote high-altitude lake located 25 miles outside of town.
The other 30 percent came from diesel generators powered by expensive fuel oil that was regularly brought to the island on barges.
Kodiak's hydroelectric unit was one of four dams built in southern Alaska in the 1980s by the Alaska Energy Authority to lower the communities' reliance on expensive diesel power.
In 2001, Kodiak, along with the other Alaskan communities served by the dams, bought the four hydropower units from the state and created the Four Dam Power Pool Agency to operate the systems.
Eventually, KEA acquired the local Terror Lake unit from that group and assumed sole control of the local hydro operation.

Cleaner power that's also cheaper

Kodiak's hydropower success led the KEA board to investigate other sources of clean, low-cost renewable energy. In 2007, the board adopted a bold vision statement proposing to generate 95 percent of the utility's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
"We were looking at the price of diesel, which was going up," Scott explained. "At the same time, you had the pollution issues. Wind looked like the most likely avenue to go, because hydro and wind have some good synergies.
"We have very strong winds," he noted. "When we were talking to General Electric about purchasing the wind turbines, their sales rep came down here and we took him up to the site. The wind was so strong that we had to stand basically at a 45-degree angle. We were really only out there for a minute or two before he said, 'Yeah, I'm good.'"
In 2009, KEA installed three 1.5-MW wind turbines on Pillar Mountain, a 1,200-foot hill that rises up behind the city of Kodiak. Three years later, the company added another three turbines to its lineup, along with a 3-MW battery storage system.
To build those renewable projects, KEA was able to ride the wave of funding opportunities that were then available at the state and federal levels. The wind turbines and the backup battery system were funded through a series of grants from Alaska's Renewable Energy Fund. That program is expected to be defunded by the Alaska Legislature this year as a result of the state's fiscal crisis.
The electric cooperative also secured a low-interest loan from the federal clean renewable energy bond program.
KEA estimates that power from the company's Terror Lake station costs 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Wind energy is a little more expensive at 11 cents per kWh. But the two renewable sources are significantly cheaper than diesel generation, which costs 28.9 cents per kWh, given an average cost of diesel fuel at $3.50 per gallon.
Scott said the company still maintains four diesel generators on "hot standby." But thus far, those units have been turned on only during maintenance work on the hydropower facility and every few months to make sure they're still functioning.

Finding reliability in renewables

In recent years, the Kodiak electric cooperative board has revised the company's long-term vision statement. KEA now promises to use renewable sources of energy for at least 95 percent of the electricity it sells its customers for the foreseeable future.
That will require the company to find new sources of renewable energy to serve Kodiak's expanding fish processing industry. The cooperative is already working on a plan to enlarge its hydroelectric system, which now has three turbines delivering power to its customers.
"Right now, we're looking at diverting some nearby creeks through a tunnel" into Terror Lake, Scott explained. "That would add a lot more water and a lot more energy to the system." The company also plans to install a fourth hydroelectric turbine.
The project is designed to increase KEA's hydroelectric output by roughly 25 percent, enough to handle anticipated growth on the island through the late 2020s. The company is now pulling together the permits for the expansion project and hopes to begin construction in 2018. Under that timeline, the new system could begin operations a year later.
Scott said he is frequently asked when the electric cooperative will add more wind turbines to its hillside fleet, which has become a symbol of Kodiak's eco-friendly reputation. But he explains that despite Kodiak's history of strong winds, energy from the turbines is not always reliable.
"If we went too much further with the wind, we'd have situations where the lights would go out because it's just too variable at times," he said.
"We had an issue last November," Scott recalled. "We had hydro and wind running just like normal. And just over a couple of seconds, all the wind stopped. The wind went from 20 miles an hour to nothing in just a matter of two or three seconds."
But KEA's system was equipped to handle the abrupt change.
"Everything came up. The flywheels fired, the batteries fired, the hydro started picking up over time, and everything worked perfectly," he explained. "And we stayed above our trip points. Because the next line of defense is that you start turning people's power off to keep things stable. And obviously we don't want to go there.
"We've never had to go there due to a wind incident so far," he said. "And we'd rather not have to do that."
After they enlarge the company's workhorse hydropower system, they may consider more wind turbines. At the same time, Scott said he's also watching promising technologies like wave and tidal power.
Kodiak has several promising wave and tidal power spots, he noted. "But neither one of those technologies has really been commercialized yet," he said. "So we'll keep an eye on it."
By contrast, Scott doesn't consider solar energy to be a viable option in stormy, foggy Kodiak, where rain or snow falls during more than half of the year.
Scott said the company's renewable program appeals to the wide variety of Kodiak Island residents, who work primarily for the Coast Guard, fishing industry and shipping companies.
"We're a cooperative that's owned by the folks up here," he noted. "Part of the community is very concerned about the environment. And then there are some folks that are equally concerned about the cost, because they've got businesses to run. Well, our costs now are cheaper than they were 15 years ago.
"So it's kind of a win-win for both parties," he said. "The lights are more reliable than they were before. The cost is lower. And the environment is a whole lot better off."

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


brazil biggest solar power plant Latin Americanl

The new plant should provide energy to 268,000 homes by the time it's fully operational in 2017

In the Northeastern state of Bahia, the Italian company Enel Green Power is building what will be the biggest solar power plant in Latin American, with a potential annual production of roughly 550 gigawatts per hour. It is enough to meet the energetic needs of more than 268,000 homes.
The power company is investing $400 million in the Ituverava Plant, which should be fully operational by the end of 2017. Forecasts about Brazil’s increase in demand for electricity state that consumption will rise an average of 4% per year until 2020.
But the energy used in Brazil is much less “green” that it could be – especially in terms of solar energy. Our country is one of the few in the world receiving more than 3,000 hours of sunlight per year. In the Northeastern region, the daily average is even higher. However, only 0.0008% of the electricity produced in the country comes from solar powered plants. Experts point to the lack of incentive and clear public policies to stimulate the use of solar energy as the main reason for the underachievement.
Still, even with all of the underused solar energy potential, 42% of the energy produced in Brazil comes from renewable sources including wind, sun, and biodiesel.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dubai's DEWA seeking partners to build 1,000MW of solar power plants

By Staff writer  Thursday, 2 June 2016 3:52 PM


Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA
Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA

Dubai Electricity & Water Authority is seeking partners to help build 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power plants as part of the emirate's plan to diversify its energy sources.

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA announced plans to launch projects to generate 1,000MW by 2030 as Dubai aims to provide 7 percent of its total power output from clean energy sources by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050.

DEWA said it intends to build the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project in the world, using the independent power producer (IPP) model.

The state-owned utility firm said it has released a tender for leading international CSP consultants to submit their proposals for advisory services for the first 200MW project of the CSP plant which will be operational by April 2021.

DEWA added that it will generate 1,000MW by 2030 in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world that uses the IPP model. It will produce 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030.

The 13MW first phase became operational in October 2013, and the 200MW second phase will be operational in April 2017. When it's completed, the project will achieve a reduction of approximately 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

Al Tayer said: "We will continue to build clean and renewable energy projects in Dubai to support the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, and the Dubai Plan 2021, to make Dubai a city whose environmental elements are clean, healthy, and sustainable."

Chile is producing so much solar power, it's giving it away for free

Market forces often produce strange quirks in the economic system, like the one we’re seeing in Chile this year: the country is producing so much solar power that it’s being sold for… nothing at all.
While it’s incredibly encouraging to see so much expansion in the country’s renewable energy output, this huge amount of supply does actually cause problems for the companies looking to invest in solar energy.
Solar capacity on Chile’s central power grid (called SIC or Sistema Interconectado Central) has more than quadrupled over the past three years to 770 megawatts – good news for the environment and customers paying their electricity bills.

Read more

SolarWindow™ Claims Better Than Conventional PV By 50 Fold With 1 Year ROI

By: Eugene Wilkie

Dr. Scott Hammond with NREL Researchers, Holding a Blue-Green Tinted SolarWindow™ Module, Able to Generate Electricity, Under Development for Skyscraper Glass

Solar Window Technologies Inc. - SolarWindow™  has been busy engineering some of the greatest break through solar technologies I have seen. SolarWindow™ has records of 50 fold better generation than conventional photovoltaic. That is a stunning claim but on top of that it is a see through window product that can be retro-fitted or new and it is much lower cost!

This is from their site:

Engineered to outperform rooftop solar by 50-fold. Works in natural, shaded, and even indoor light.

SolarWindow™ can be applied to all four sides of tall towers, generating electricity using natural, shaded, and even artificial light. Conventional solar simply does not work in shaded areas or perform under artificial light.
The result?  SolarWindow™ can outperform today’s solar by as much as 50-fold when installed on a 50 story building, according to independently validated power production calculations.

What's our secret? Look up.

Look up along the sides of any of today’s tall towers or skyscrapers and you’ll see glass.  Lots of glass.
Our secret is the application of SolarWindow™ coatings to the many vast acres of window glass on a tall tower, turning an entire building into a source of clean, renewable energy.
Conventional solar systems cannot be applied in this way, and are instead limited to only a handful of square feet on congested rooftops. These very small tower rooftops are often crowded with service systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and elevators.  These spaces are also expected to offer tenant-amenities such as rooftop gardens and pools, and other high-footprint features.
Traditional solar also requires direct sunlight and cannot operate in shaded areas, a key advantage for SolarWindow™ applications where all four sides of a tower becomes a clean power-generator.
Importantly, our engineers have designed and tested SolarWindow™ to generate electricity from artificial light such as the fluorescent systems found inside offices, schools, and commercial buildings. Today’s solar systems do not perform well indoors or under artificial light.

These are ground breaking claims for the solar industry! As I look at all the different issues we have had to overcome over the 30 years I have been in the industry, I am intrigued with the ability to apply a see through layer to glass that allows for energy production. When you add the ability to outperform conventional PV by 50 fold it is a "holy grail, technology disruptive, breakthrough kind of moment." 

The first question of course is financial viability of the product. I am just going to post from the SolarWindow™ site their claims as it is absolutely stunning and completely changes the scenario of how quickly we get to grid parity and how we can quickly install solar to replace fossil.

Under one year, Industry’s fastest calculated financial return.

SolarWindow™ achieves payback within one year, according to first-ever independently validated financial modeling results.
To produce the equivalent amount of power with conventional solar systems would require at least 5-11 years for payback and at least 10-12 acres of valuable urban land.
Unlike the many acres of expensive downtown real estate required for solar array fields, SolarWindow™ systems can be installed on the readily-available vast window glass surfaces on tall towers and skyscrapers.

How is this possible? Liquid electricity.

Exponentially out-performing today’s solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is made possible when engineers apply electricity-generating SolarWindow™ coatings to glass. These see-through liquids create electricity-generating glass windows, successfully prototyped in the most aesthetically appealing colors in demand by building architects.

Electricity-Generating SolarWindow™ Module, Being Developed in Architecturally-Neutral Color

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When one looks at how quickly can SolarWindow™ get to market it is clear that due to the materials SolarWindow™ is using it should be a fairly low impact process so once again I will just post from the SolarWindow™ site.

Earth-abundant organic materials. Liquid coatings ideal for high speed production.

SolarWindow™ modules are created by applying ultra-thin layers of liquid coatings on to glass and flexible plastics. These liquid coatings produce ultra-small solar cells and form groups called ‘arrays’. Because of the family of materials we use and the way in which we architect our design, the final product is generically referred to as an ‘organic photovoltaic solar array’ (OPV).
Importantly, our liquid coatings are primarily made of hydrogen and carbon – two of the most abundant materials found in nature.

What makes our organic liquid coatings so good? Performance.

We use organic materials (polymers) which are dissolved into liquid form.  We apply these liquids to surfaces such as flexible plastics and glass to produce see-through products which generate electricity.
Our approach works.  Here’s how.
We avoid fabrication using raw materials which are difficult to process or cannot be turned into liquids.  Applying liquid coatings on to glass surfaces makes our SolarWindow™ technology ideally suited for high speed roll-to-roll and sheet-to-sheet manufacturing. High-speed manufacturing techniques result in lower production costs.
Our methods do not require expensive high-temperature or high-vacuum production techniques inherent to conventional solar.
And, by manipulating our liquid coatings we’re able to produce a color wheel of architecturally-aesthetic varieties while remaining see-through. Traditional solar cannot be produced in this way.
The result?
When applied to glass, SolarWindow™ modules appear with a pleasant neutral-tint.  They are aesthetically appealing and not disruptive to the eye, seemingly passive.  SolarWindow™ modules invisibly capture energy from the sun and other light sources while quietly generating valuable electricity.
But, how does this compare to today’s solar?
In comparison to conventional crystalline and thin-film PV technologies, our SolarWindow™ coatings have numerous advantages:
  1. Designed to generate electricity on glass, enhancing the performance of today’s typically insulated commercial and residential windows. Traditional solar cannot be applied to glass windows.
  2. See-through, with high level of ‘visible light transmission.’ Traditional solar is not see-through.
  3. Able to generate significant electricity from natural, artificial or even shaded light. Traditional solar does not work in artificial or shaded light.
Currently available solar cells are largely made of silicon wafers, an expensive and brittle material that can limit their commercial usability.
Other newer generation, lower-cost, flexible thin film solar materials such as amorphous silicon, copper-indium-gallium-selenide, and cadmium telluride, often require high-vacuum and high-temperature production techniques, and are thick, bulky, and impossible to see through when compared to SolarWindow™

In conclusion I would like to point out their real journey is just going to get started as the implications of their discoveries filter into the market. The fact is we have much more window square footage than rooftop in metro areas which are often the most energy intensive consumers on the grid. Even when there is available rooftop there are a multitude of structural, permitting and actual feasible space issues.