Friday, February 3, 2012

New Cleantech Technology News (Say What?)

Aside from the cleantech project, cleantech policy, cleantech consumer product round-ups I’m in the midst of finishing, here’s a round-up of some of the latest news on new cleantech technology:

1. Wind Energy Forecasting Technology Saves Millions of Dollars a Year

“The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has developed a highly detailed wind energy forecasting system with Xcel Energy, enabling the utility to capture energy from turbines far more effectively and at lower cost,” the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research reports. “The system, which Xcel Energy formally took over last month, saves ratepayers several million dollars yearly.”

Basically, the new technology gives wind forecasts that are 35% more accurate. This allows the utility to power down costly coal and natural gas power plants more often. In 2010, the technology reportedly saved Xcel Energy $6 million.

The technology is used in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin.

2. Gamesa Wind Turbine Setting Records in Spain

“Gamesa’s new 4.5 megawatt G128 has posted a new record at a test field in Jaulin near Zaragosa, Spain,” Renewables International reports. “On November 7, it generated 97.34 megawatt-hours in a single day with 100 percent availability.” Since the start of 2011, this prototype wind turbine has fed over six gigawatt-hours to the Spanish grid. “With a rotor diameter of 128 meters and an output of 4.5 megawatts, the new G128 has a 120 meter tower and rotor blades whose diameter exceeds 62.5 meters.”

3. Shakeup in Grid Storage Technology Market, 5 Leaders Revealed

OK, grid storage is probably not something most of you go to sleep thinking about, but it’s important, and there’s a lot going on in this field.

The new Lux Research Grid Storage Tracker reveals that the lineup of leading emerging energy storage suppliers is indeed seeing a significant shake-up. Japanese molten salt battery producer NGK Insulators has historically dominated the grid storage market for emerging technologies (excluding pumped hydro, compressed air, and traditional lead-acid batteries). After capturing over 76% of the total market at the end of 2010, NGK’s market share plummeted to just 53% of operating grid storage projects as of September 30th of this year, according to Lux Research’s Grid Storage Tracker.

2011 Installed Grid Storage
Market Leaders

NGK’s monopoly withered and allowed other players with a variety of technologies to make waves into the grid storage market, including Xtreme Power’s advanced lead acid battery, Beacon Power’s flywheels (although Beacon’s share will drop after filing Chapter 11 last week), and lithium ion batteries from International Battery and A123 Systems. The strong traction of these players resulted in a 56% increase in the number of installed megawatts in 2011 over 2010. Based upon announced and ongoing projects, NGK’s market share will sharply drop by the end of 2012 with A123 Systems capturing nearly one quarter of the market.

4. Virtual Power Plants to Boom

Confused? Read on…

Growing investments in distributed energy resources – renewable distributed energy generation, demand response (DR), energy storage, and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) – will require new business and technology platforms to manage the increased level of diversity and complexity in the delivery of electricity to customers.The increasing variability of both generation (from solar and wind) and loads (due to DR and PEVs) will also require more sophisticated and decentralized decision making. As a result of all of these factors, interest in virtual power plants (VPPs) is gaining significant momentum within the industry. According to a new report from Pike Research, VPP capacity will increase by 65% between 2011 and 2017, rising from 55.6 gigawatts (GW) to 91.7 GW worldwide during that period. A more aggressive growth forecast scenario contemplates that, under certain conditions, the capacity growth could be as high as 126% during the same forecast horizon.

“Virtual power plants essentially represent an ‘Internet of Energy’, tapping existing grid networks to tailor electricity supply and demand services for a customer,” says senior analyst Peter Asmus. “They maximize value for both the end user and distribution utility, primarily through software innovations.”

5. 2011 Clean Energy Challenge Finalists Getting Funding

It’s a long road to commercialization, and many don’t make it, but here are some that might:

… several inaugural Clean Energy Challenge finalists have secured more than $9 million in venture funding, expanded operations and furthered the commercialization of new clean energy technology following their participation in the 2011 business competition.

The top prize winner, Clean Urban Energy (CUE), recently closed a $7 million A-round led by Battery Ventures, a Challenge judge. CUE has also hired 10 full-time employees since its win.

NextGen Solar, the second place winner, is currently completing development of its first functional prototype. The company also presented at the prestigious national Renewable Energy Laboratory Growth forum and was a semi-finalist at the Cleantech Open.

Other notable achievements include:

Thermal Conservation Technologies was among ten companies invited to present at CTSI Defense Energy Challenge. It hired Dr. Pratek Gupta as its first full-time employee, charged with completing the company’s prototype.Intelligent Generation: Presented at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Industry Growth forum and launched a two-phased pilot project with ComEd and PJM.Power2Switch: Hired three full-time employees and launched a new website with energy consumption and analytics functionality.Agentis: Has a live product with more than 78,000 users and is embarking on multiple pilot projects with large utilities.Root3 Technologies: Is conducting a pilot project with the University of Chicago and negotiating an exclusive technology license with Stanford University.Sun Phocus Technologies: Is now generating revenue, conducting two pilot projects, and has partnered with an Israeli manufacturer identified by the Clean Energy Trust.

6. University of Ottawa Students Design New Wind Turbine

“Over at the University of Ottawa, a group of students and professors who dub themselves the ‘Green Engineers‘ have come up with… a wind turbine with two sets of blades each spinning in opposite directions,” Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star reports.

They call it the contra-rotating small wind energy converter. Wind tunnel tests on a prototype have shown that the design is up to 40 per cent more efficient and far less noisy than a conventional single-rotor system.

The benefits of having contra-rotating blades are well known. In fact, the design has existed for more than a century and is widely used, for example, in propeller systems of submarine torpedoes. The concept is also used in airplane and boat propulsion systems, not to mention those remote-controlled toy helicopters you can fly inside your house.

Riadh Habash, professor of technology and engineering at the University of Ottawa, says his team decided three years to apply the same approach to wind turbines and are encouraged so far with the results — so much so that they’re busy building a second prototype that will be mounted next summer atop a building on the Ottawa U campus.

Why is having two blade systems spinning in opposite directions more efficient?

When the wind blows into a conventional three-bladed, single-rotor wind turbine less than 40 per cent of its energy is converted into electricity. The rest escapes, much of it in the air wake that’s created behind the blades. That wake spins in the opposite direction (i.e. counter-clockwise) to those blades.

If a second rotor with another set of blades is right behind the first rotor, and if it is designed to also spin counter-clockwise, it can capture energy from that wake. The end result is a turbine system that harnesses much more energy from the initial flow of wind.

Experiments to date also suggest that a turbine with such a design can operate at lower wind speeds, allowing it to tap into a broader range of wind resources.

The turbine is, apparently, also quieter.

7. Vehicle to Grid Technology to Boom

“Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies, over time, will represent a more and more favorable alternative to investing in new power generation assets,” according to a news release earlier this week. “By 2017, according to a new report from Pike Research, approximately 90,000 light-duty vehicles and an additional 1,500 medium/heavy duty trucks will be enabled with V2G technologies, creating a strong foundation for V2G-based demand response, vehicle to building, frequency regulation, and other ancillary service applications.”

“V2G technologies are currently in the early pilot phase, with much work left to do before they will be ready for full commercialization,” says research director John Gartner. “The earliest adopters will be fleet operators and large consumers of energy where vehicles have established schedules for being plugged in. As the sector develops, V2G will be utilized for an increasing array of grid support services.”

8. Ground-Based Wind Turbine

Next-Gen Wind reports:

“Based off the current patents, NGW created a completely novel ground based wind energy super turbine that can increase wind velocity by 79 percent and produce nearly 2x the energy of a traditional wind tower turbine unit with the same swept area (see data Figure 2). NGW’s super turbine increases the velocity of the wind as it travels through the patented funnel shaped wind collection unit. More specifically, the funnel shaped wind ‘collector’ is increasing volume density of the air mass which is then forced through a smaller tunnel where the multi-blade wind energy collection rotors and generators are located. The resulting concentration allows for optimal generating wind velocities, and provides the opportunity to harvest a larger fraction of the kinetic wind energy passing through the system, when compared to a traditional tower-based wind turbine platform.”

9. GE: Hybrid Gas-Solar-Wind Power Plant is the Answer

“General Electric is pinning its hopes on a new hybrid gas and solar energy generator to help drive down the high cost of solar thermal energy and reduce the need for extra power plants to back up intermittent wind power,” Business Green reports.

“The company last week received approval from the Turkish government to nearly double the output of the world’s first Integrated Renewables Combined-Cycle plant from 570 megawatts (MW) to 1,080MW, and hopes the expanded facility can provide a template for other low carbon energy projects around the world.”

10. High-Rise Rooftops Can be Wind Farms, Too

“Eastern Wind Power (EWP) is a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup that has developed a 50-kilowatt (kW) vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) called the Sky Farm,” EarthTechling reports. “The VAWT is designed specifically to be mounted on the roofs of high-rise buildings. The company has partnered with Siemens to develop its small wind generator and inverter system. The company erected its first prototype Sky Farm at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport in 2010. The turbine is now grid-connected, and producing power for the airport.”

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