Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Perpetual Power? NASA creates submersible that can run nearly forever

Perpetual Power? NASA creates submersible that can run nearly forever — Autoblog Green

Well, it's not exactly perpetual motion or energy, but it's getting closer than most such attempts. Plus, instead of being backed by some sort of random crackpot scientist, this particular project has the backing of NASA and the U.S. Navy. So, what is it? (Take a deep breath.) The Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangrian Observer Thermal Recharging (SOLO-TREC) autonomous underwater vehicle. Says Jack Jones, a JPL principal engineer and SOLO-TREC co-principal investigator:
SOLO-TREC draws upon the ocean's thermal energy as it alternately encounters warm surface water and colder conditions at depth. Key to its operation are the carefully selected waxy substances known as phase-change materials that are contained in 10 external tubes, which house enough material to allow net power generation. As the float surfaces and encounters warm temperatures, the material melts and expands; when it dives and enters cooler waters, the material solidifies and contracts. The expansion of the wax pressurizes oil stored inside the float. This oil periodically drives a hydraulic motor that generates electricity and recharges the vehicle's batteries. Energy from the rechargeable batteries powers the float's hydraulic system, which changes the float's volume (and hence buoyancy), allowing it to move vertically.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wind's latest problem: it . . . makes power too cheap

Wind's latest problem: it . . . makes power too cheap

Bloomberg has a somewhat confusing article about the newest complaint about wind power, but the gist of it is that wind power is an issue for the industry because it brings their revenues down:

After years of getting government incentives to install windmills, operators in Europe may have become their own worst enemy, reducing the total price paid for electricity in Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, by as much as 5 billion euros some years, according to a study this week by Poeyry, a Helsinki-based industry consultant.

Implicit in the article, and the headline (which focuses on lower revenues for RWE) is the worry that wind power will bring down the stock market value of the big utilities - which is what the readers of Bloomberg et al. care about.

But despite the generally negative tone of the article, it's actually a useful one, because it brings out in the open a key bit of information: wind power actually brings electricity prices down!

FTL Solar's Lightweight Solar Fabric

FTL Solar's Lightweight Solar Fabric | Harry Tournemille

FTL Solar's Lightweight Solar Fabric

FTL Solar has combined lightweight, flexible tensile fabric with thin film solar panels to create a highly versatile solar fabric.
Originally designed for military usage (due to their portability), FTL Solar is now going commercial with them, touting them as effective ways to shelter and power car parks, battery charging stations, disaster relief shelters, communication command centers, medical units, temporary housing, research posts, and energy pods for small villages.
In the case of the PowerPark II, each structure can generate roughly 20 kilowatt-hours (KwH) per day. So, for large parking lot installations the numbers can add up quickly.