Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photovoltaic energy from French Solar Cell Company

Dr Roland Einhaus from Apollon Solar (France) will speak on "Overview of Apollon Solaras R & D Activities" at the ANU in Canberra, 11:30am, 30 April 2010.

Overview of Apollon Solaras R & D Activities

Dr Roland Einhaus (Apollon Solar, France)


DATE: 2010-04-30
TIME: 11:30:00 - 12:30:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room ...

Presentation of Silicon activities and discussion of module work ...

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Solar Power in Spain

Rebecca Dunn of the ANU Solar Thermal Group will talk about a recent visit to solar power stations in Spain, at the Australian National University, Engineering Building #32, Engineering lecture theatre, Canberra, 12 Noon, 14th October 2009:
  • Torresol Energy 17MWe power tower plant which includes 15 hours of molten salt storage (under construction).
  • Andasol 1, 2 and 3 plants, each 50MWe with parabolic trough concentrators and 7.5 hours of molten salt storage (Andasol 1 is operational, 2 is being commissioned, 3 is under construction).
  • Abengoa Solucar platform which includes PS10 (11MW) and PS20 (20MW) - the first commercial power towers operated.
  • Plataforma Solar de Almeria - a solar research facility for a range of different solar technologies.
  • Wolfgang Scheffler - inventor of the Scheffler dish, a fixed focal point dish used for solar cooking and power generation in India and Africa.
  • Julich Air Receiver power tower.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What to do about CO2, Canberra,

Emeritus Professor Stephen Kaneff will talk on "What to do about CO2", 11 March 2009 at the ANU in Canberra:

What to do about CO2
Emeritus Professor Stephen Kaneff

DATE: 2009-03-11
TIME: 12:30:00 - 13:30:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room

Human activity over the past three centuries is causing increasing impact on aspects of our environment, which has been relatively quasi-stable for the past few thousand years. During this short time, much infrastructure has been established by human effort and currently appears increasingly in jeopardy. Agriculture and other aspects which maintain livelihood also appear problematic.

Many means for ameliorating environmental changes due to human activity are basically known and technologically available, but few are being implemented or proposed for implementation. On the other hand, some potentially more complex and less promising, involving the collection and sequestration of CO2 by means yet to be developed and validated, are receiving attention and resources

This presentation outlines an array of practical means for handling the problems of CO2 by recourse to various disciplines both in concert and individually, with some emphasis on the employment of renewable energies. CO2 is a valuable material in itself and, while its generation can be avoided in the production of our energy needs, when it exists it can be used as a raw material in other processes and products, avoiding its introduction to the biosphere

Applying known science and technology for processing CO2, and employing, as appropriate, approaches for avoiding its production, given the determination and resources of amounts already expended in existing industries, it is apparent that the emission of CO2 to the biosphere by human activity could be brought into balance within less than 30 years (ie. no nett emissions) and thereafter an actual reduction of existing atmospheric CO2 could be achieved.

Emeritus Professor Stephen Kaneff, B.E., PhD.

Main interests: Energy conversion and applications, especially in relation to the collection, concentration, transport, storage and utilisation of solar energy - directed to the realisation of systems for providing a solar driven chemistry (environmentally more-benign than currently provided by fossil-driven chemical systems), as well as the provision of readily accessible products such as electricity, fresh water and more-direct uses of process heat.

Established R & D within the Department of Engineering Physics, Research School of Physical Sciences, ANU, in December 1970. Significant advances have included the first commercial solar power station (providing energy to the township of White Cliffs); a community power station successfully operated at Albuquerque (NM, USA); and the SG3 grid-connected large dish collector system at Sullivan's Creek. Other large collectors have also been developed.

These technologies, in conjunction with other renewable energy approaches and means stemming from other disciplines, have pointed to the application of solar-derived energy to constitute one of the very few practical opportunities for ameliorating present problems stemming from the increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity. This has formed a basis for work over the past 3 years, resulting in the identification of concomitant problems and their magnitude and investigation and development of practical large-scale approaches for not only countering increases in environmental degradation, but, by applying existing resources, actually reducing existing degradation.

Benign approaches have been identified and could, given decision and determination, be implemented to increasing, even timely extent. Many other approaches await adequate R & D.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ACT Solar Power Station Industry Consultation

The ACT Government has invited Industry Consultation ACT Solar Power Facility (a proposed solar power station in Canberra). A Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study was released September 2008. PricewaterhouseCoopers are assisting the ACT Government with the next phase of the process. Documents were to be provided online by Monday 17 February 2009 (sic) but are not yet available.
Tender Number: T09130
Description: Industry Consultation ACT Solar Power Facility
Opening Date: 14 Feb 2009 10:00am
Closing Date: 10 Mar 2009 2:00pm ...
Additional Information: Documents will be available on Monday 17 February 2009 for download.
Project No: 2009.0195
Special Requirement/Notes: The ACT Government is seeking feedback on an intended call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the planning, design, construction, ownership, financial management and facility management of an ACT solar power facility. The closing date for any feedback is 2:00PM Tuesday 10 March 2009. The EOI is scheduled to be advertised on 28 March 2009.

Exhibition Room ACT Legislative Assembly Civic Square, London Circuit Canberra ACT 2600

The Industry Consultation Session will be facilitated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who are assisting the ACT Government with the EOI. The Industry Consultation Session will present an overview of the project and seek feedback from potential EOI respondents for the development of a solar power facility in the ACT. ...

From: Industry Consultation ACT Solar Power Facility, ACT Procurement Solutions, Shared Services, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT Government, 2009

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Solar air conditioning

Diagram of operation: refrigerant pumped to high pressure, heated by solar collectors, fluid enters the ejector at supersonic speed, temperature and pressure drop, refrigerant in second circuit evaporates in the evaporator providing cooling effect, two refrigerant streams mix and are recompressed by a sonic shock wave before flowing to the condensorDr Mike Dennis at the Australian National University is developing a Solar air conditioning system for homes which runs from the same type of solar panels used for water heating. This would provide hot water and room heating in winter, as well as cooling in summer. This uses an "ejector jet pump" (aka "Steam jet cooling") based on a well know principle used in industry, but not for domestic air conditioning. The system is not entirely solar powered, but will need only about 150W of power, compared to a conventional 2,000W air conditioner. It occurs to me that a computer CPU gets hot enough to heat water, as noted in my spoof "co-generation web coffee appliance" proposal . Thus air-conditioning might be powered by the waste heat from computer data centres.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Data centre and solar power station for Canberra

A consortium of Sanctuary Energy, Wizard Power and Springfield Land Corporation has proposed a $220 million data centre and solar thermal power station for Canberra. This is separate to the Canberra Technology City (CTC) consortium of ActewAGL, Technical Real Estate, Galileo Connect and CB Richard Ellis proposal for a data centre and gas fired power station.

Previously I criticised the CTC proposal (mostly for the way it was presented) and suggested a data center with roof mounted solar power station. The new consortium didn't tkae up my idea of putting the power station on the roof (they propose to use a separate site), but are proposing to use ANU's thermal solar technology.

There is also a suggestion to site a data centre at Cooma, near Canberra. Of course, provided the site is in Australia, so that Australian law applies to it, and it has access top a fibre optic backbone, it does not matter how far the site is from Canberra. The new Mach Technology Data Centre just opened at Noosa in Queensland would do just as well (it has a fibre optic link to Brisbane).

One a handful of staff is needed at a data centre. The users of the computers in the centre never need visit it (in almost three decades in the ICT industry I have only been into a large computer room a handful of times). It would be preferable for security reasons to ban visitors and keep the exact location secret.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Solar powered lawn mower

Renew Magazine: Issue 105 October 2008, features an article by Shaun Williams on how he converted his lawn mower to solar power: "How I converted my carbon pumping grass-gasser into a thermo-nuclear turn trimmer". He approached this task in much the same way he converted his car to electric power. He removed the petrol motor from an old lawn mower, replaced it with an electric motor, added a battery in a metal toolbox and bolted a solar panel to the handle. The mower can be simply pointed towards the sun to recharge. Obviously this is not the most efficient use of a solar panel, it would be more efficient to put it on the roof so it could power more than a mower. But it is an interesting demonstration of how straightforward the engineering of the technology can be.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Combined data center and solar power station for Canberra

A study commissioned by the ACT Government and ActewAGL has found that a large-scale solar power plant is feasible in Canberra: "Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study". If re-elected, the government will seek expressions of interest to build the plant. As suggested to the Chinese government in 2003, I propose the plant be built on the roofs of new data centres and warehouses in industrial parks. This will allow the land under the plant to be put to use, provide power for the data center and industrial buildings. It would also overcome environmental problems with the previously proposed data centre for Canberra.

Building Design

The complex would use a standard industrial building design, with a roof strengthened to hold the solar collectors. Most buildings would be initially used as low cost warehouses and only fited out as data centers when required. The data centers would use a proven, simplified modular design for equipment, which would be placed on a simple sealed concrete floor. The height of the warehouse building would be used to reduce air conditioning requirements with proven low cost techniques.

Data Center Customers

Scientific customers, such as ANU's supercomputer center and government agencies, could be large scale tenants to anchor the development. Some ancillary office space could also be provided.


To allow for backup data supplies and exploit the daily solar cycle, the center could be twinned with centers in other time zones. While concentrator solar power stations can store energy, there is still a peak power supply during the day. This peak power could be most efficiently utilised by the data centre under the collectors. A center in another time zone, such as near Perth, would have a peak at a different time of day and could take over some of the processing load from Canberra, as well as providing a backup.


The feasibility study raised the issue of the visual intrusiveness of a large field of solar collectors. If placed on top of a warehouse, in industrial parks, the collectors would be less visible. The industrial park could be designed to high environmental standards, retaining natural vegetation around the buildings to soften the visual impact, with the buildings coloured to blend in. In addition the opportunity could be taken to collect high quality water from the complex, for use in Canberra.
Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study
Executive summary

This Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study was undertaken for ActewAGL and the ACT Government (the joint parties) by PB. Its purpose was to investigate solar power generation technologies, identify an appropriate solar technology for the ACT, and establish the economic viability of a solar power facility.

Technology for producing electricity from solar energy is technically proven for both PV and solar thermal technologies. 354 MW solar thermal plants, using trough technology, have been operating in the USA since the 1980s and new plants of this type (between 50 MW and 70 MW) are now coming into service in the USA and Europe. Other solar thermal technologies that are not yet in commercial use are power towers, paraboidal dishes and Fresnel systems. Large multi-megawatt PV plants, to approximately 50 MW, are now in operation. Solar technology is expensive, and significant financial assistance from government is available to the developers and operators of new plants. There is significant local community and market support for solar power generation.

This study identifies a 22 MW project that uses solar thermal trough technology, similar to new overseas plants, as the best option for the ACT. This technology has been chosen because of its substantial operational record (more than 20 years), lower cost compared to other solar technologies, and use in new commercial plants in the USA and Europe.

The plant will produce enough electricity for approximately 10,000 Canberra homes and the project cost, before government assistance, is estimated at $141 million (including land and infrastructure). A site of 120 ha will be required and if engineering, planning and environmental work commenced immediately, it is envisaged that a plant could be
commissioned by 2012.

An alternative option is a large PV cell-based plant. To produce the same amount of electricity (that is, to service 10,000 homes), 75 ha of land would be required and the plant would have an electrical capacity
of 57 MW. This would be one of the largest PV plants in the world but the risks would be lower than the solar thermal plant, reflecting the more mature status of PV technology, its predictable performance and
cost. However, the total project cost of $424 million is high.
It is recommended that this pre-feasibility study be followed by a feasibility study that includes engineering studies, ongoing commercial evaluation, financial modelling and environmental and planning studies.

A staged study, extending over eighteen months, could be conducted and lead directly into procurement and construction. However, trough technology is not cost effective for a staged development at the size
of the proposed ACT plant. Even though the solar field is modular, the balance of the plant is not suitable for staged development without incurring significant additional costs. A financial evaluation of the solar thermal project, assuming 100% equity funding, a 9.5% Weighted
Average Cost of Capital (WACC) and a 20-year project life was undertaken, Key results were:
  • a levelised electricity cost of $106/MWh for a net project cost of $47 million. This is for a plant cost of $2,500/kW, which is forecast for the technology in Australa, and allows grant funding of 50% of the project capital cost;
  • the relatively high cost of generation is due to the high capital cost of plant itself, the high proportion of infrastructure and land (38% of project cost) and the relatively low productivity (measured by the 42% capacity factor).
  • larger plant size would significantly improve the economics by spreading the infrastructure costs over a larger productive plant and capturing economies of scale of the production plant itself. For example, doubling the plant to 44 MW would lower electricity cost by about 25%;
  • 57% grant funding was required to reduce the levelised electricity cost to $95/MWh which is the expected Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) electricity selling price;
  • higher solar radiation levels such as at Mildura would lower levelised electricity cost by about $50/MWh, or 17% (before rebates); and
Government grants and subsidies have been fundamental to the facilitation of the growth of solar energy generation around the world. The requirement for government support also applies to this project. This
project would appear to fit well with current Australian and ACT Government policies (such as the move toward zero/low carbon emissions and renewable generation) and it supports ActewAGL regulatory
requirements for renewable energy.

The Sun is a reliable but intermittent and diffuse source of energy. There is strong daily and seasonal variation and availability, and it may be limited by cloud cover. To extend power generation beyond periods of sunlight and to allow a steady supply of heat, two approaches to solar thermal plant energy storage were proposed:
  • storage of heat at the plant and use of this heat when direct sunlight is not available. This would give an extra four to six hours operation without the Sun shining; and
  • use of natural gas as an auxiliary fuel to supply heat as an alternative. If this is supplied by the waste heat from a cogeneration plant, an additional 47 MW could be generated by a gas turbine. The use of gas auxiliary fuel does not affect the eligibility of solar generation as renewable or green energy under the current regulatory arrangements, but may have some impact on community perceptions.
The solar thermal plant would occupy a significant area and unless it is well-shielded, it is likely to be a prominent visual feature. It would combine the physical features of the large solar field with a small
thermal power station, possibly with a gas boiler or small gas turbine for back-up. While the solar technology itself is considered to be relatively benign, it is likely to require consideration environmental issues, that are similar to those raised by a small gas-fired power station with the additional issues raised by the large land area and visual amenity.
Formal evaluations of potential sites for the solar facility will occur only if the project is found to be viable and progresses to a more detailed study, at which time such sites would undergo a rigorous environmental and planning assessment.

From: Executive Summary, "Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study", Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia, (PB 2158583A-RPT001-Qpc, 2 September 2008

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Point-of-Use Electric Water Heaters

Delving into the issue of how to avoid wasting cold water while waiting for the hot to arrive, I found there are small "Point of use" indoor electric water heaters. There are
tankless models and ones with tanks. The tank less models are rated by their flow (in litres or gallons per minute) and the ones with tanks by the tank capacity.

The tank less ("instant") units have the advantage that they can heat water continuously, but require more power to do this than is available from a normal power point (they have to be specially wired). The units with tanks can be plugged into a normal power point, but only supply a limited about of water.

The units are designed to be used on their own, or placed at the end of a long line from a larger hot water system. For this purpose the smallest units (2 gallons, or about 8 Litres) would seem suitable. In my case the point of use hot water system would supply the first 4 Litres of hot water, at which point hot water would arrive from the main system and the unit's thermostat would cut out. The unit would not need to heat the remaining water arriving and would have its supply of hot water replenished. But it would use power keeping the 8 Litres of water hot, when the tap was not used for extended periods.

US Model point of use water heaters:
  1. Point of use water heaters
  2. water heater point of use tankless
  3. water heater point of use with tank

ps: Some bloggers have suggested turning the thermostat down or hot water system off when not needed to save power. It should be noted that authorities in Australia require a minimum temperature of 60°C to inhibit the growth of legionella bacteria. Also some of the POU heaters are designed for use with one tap and cannot be plumbed to several, nor connected to a shower.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Electric Trace Heating For Domestic Hot Water Pipes?

Hot Water Temperature Maintenance Self-Regulating Heating CableMy apartment shares a central gas boosted solar hot water system with the rest of the block at "City Edge" in Canberra's Inner North. This results in low hot water bills and minimal green house gas production, but wastes water. Perhaps I should install Electric Trace Heating, which would increase the energy use, but lower the water waste.

Water is heated by a large solar collector on the roof and when the sun is not shining by a large gas burner in the basement. The water is continuously pumped throughout the building, so it is hot when it gets to my apartment. But then there are several metres of pipe between where it arrives at the apartment and the taps. About 4 Litres of cold water has to come out of the internal plumbing before the hot water reaches the shower.

My efficient Australian made "Ecoshower" shower head uses only about 7.5 litres a minute, or 22.5 Litres for a three minute shower. So the cold water wasted is increasing the shower water consumption by 18%. In the kitchen this is a bigger problem with many litres of cold water going down the drain before the hot arrives.

By the way, a
s a subtle reminder to only have short showers, I have set the bathroom "tastic" heater to turn off after three minutes. So you see the light dim slightly to remind you you have been in too long. This is done using a motion sensor/timer, so the heater comes back on automatically when you step out of the shower.

As well as wasting water, the cold water is increasing my hot water bill. There is a meter on the hot water pipe and I am charged for a share of the building gas bill, according to how much water is used. So I am charged gas use for the cold water coming out of the pipe, before the hot water arrives. In my case this might be as much as 50% of the cost.

Electric Trace Heating (also known as Heat Tape and Pipe Heating Cable ) uses a fat flat electrical cable with a resistive element built in, which gets warm when current is put through it. A length of the cable is taped along the hot water pipe, between the normal hot water supply and the tap. Insulation is then wrapped around the pipe, and the cable plugged into an ordinary power point. A few watts of electricity is used to warm the pipe (about 14 Watts per metre). The cable is manufactured from a material which automatically regulates the temperature, so having its own built in thermostat and is designed for a set temperature.

I saw Thermon’s Warmtrace System on display at the 2006 Canberra Spring Home and Leisure Show , but haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere. Presumably the element only draws maximum power when the water in the pipe is cold, so it would not add much to the heating bill (or greenhouse effect).

Heat Tape seems to be common in the USA for preventing pipes from freezing. Amazon.com has Heat Tape for about $4 per meter. But note that the anti-freezing tape may heat to a lower temperature than that needed for domestic hot water. Also the USA uses a lower voltage than Australia and US tape can't be used in Australia. Also many of the tapes do not appear to be self regulating: they have a thermostat installed somewhere along the pipe, which would be less able to regulate the temperature.

There are also some practical problems with the heat tape: you have to run it along the length of the pipes and so need to be able to get to them where they run through the walls. The tape needs to be carefully installed, following detailed procedures. Also there has to be a power point handy somewhere to plug the tape into.

So the questions I have are:
  1. Is heat tape used for domestic hot water in Australia?
  2. Is the saving in water worth the increase in energy use?
  3. How much energy does the heat tape use in actual conditions?
Another option would be to install small electric water heaters near the taps. These would heat the first few litres of water.

Of course this all assumes that there is a reasonable charging system is used for the cost of the gas used for hot water. At present most of the bill I get is not for the cost of the gas used, but a fixed minimum charge. As a result there is little financial incentive to reduce energy use. It would be more cost effective to disconnect the solar and gas system and replace it with a conventional electric heater. This would be bad for the environment, but cheaper to run, as there would be no separate gas bill with its high minimum charge.

One interesting possibility would be to replace the complex pumping system and gas booster of the central solar system with the heat tape. At present water has to be continuously circulated with a pump to have hot water available. The pumps do not use much electricity, but when the sun is not shining, it is gas heated water which is being circulated. If the tape was installed on the pipes, that would remove the need for the pumps. It may also remove the need for the gas booster. Electricity is more expensive and less greenhouse friendly than gas, but this is only needed as a supplement and might make solar systems more practical.

See also:

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sustainable House Day 13-14 September 2008

Sustainable House Day is on 13th & 14th September 2008 with visits to passive and active solar design houses, schools, community and commercial buildings. Canberra venues include Bonython, Gilmore and Hawker primary schools, Trevor Pearcey House (an office building) and houses in Ainslie (House 1 & House 2), Bywon and Harrison (House 1 & House 2), Hawker, Jerrabomberra, Karabar, Lyneham, Lyons, Narrabundah, O’Malley, Swinger Hill. Check for time and other details:
Sustainable House Day, 13 & 14 September 2008
10am to 4pm

Check out these great sustainable houses opening in your neighbourhood!

$5 per person per house or $10 a family,
funds raised go towards running the event.

For more information and additional events and activities please click here:
Sustainable House Day Supporting Events...

From: Sustainable House Day, ANZSES Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society, 2008

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

From robot vision to Solar Energy in Australia in NZ

Chris JOHNSONChris Johnson from ANU will be talking next week about solar energy and robot research in an attempt to get New Zealand students to come and study at the Australian National University.

I suggested he simply point out that several ANU students and graduates have got research jobs at Microsoft and Google. ;-)

Also ANU has run an innovation course to teach researchers how to commercialize their discoveries. Also people turn up at ANU and ask for help getting things to work, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Building the Future: from robot vision to Solar Energy

Associate Professor Chris Johnson, from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, spins a vision of the future that is now in view, from automated high speed parking of cars, pervasive computing in the home of the future, Big Dish solar power, and affordable, efficient Small Trough photovoltaics. Chris will also give an overview of the world class research fields available to PhD students and undergraduates in the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

where and when:
all sessions are 4-7pm for the whole ANU event - I am on at various times in this slot as noted, 45 minute subslots

Mon 21 July 4pm Christchurch Hotel Grand Chancellor, Cashel St
Tue 22 July 5.30pm Dunedin Otago Museum
Wed 23 July 4pm Auckland The Langham hotel, 83 Symonds St
Thu 24 July 5.30pm Wellington Wellington Convention Centre, 111 Wakefield St

Associate Professor Chris W. Johnson, PhD, MIEEE, MACS
Acting Deputy Dean (Education)
ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
R205 Ian Ross Building, North Rd
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Solar Energy Research at the Fraunhofer Institute Germany

Professor Eicke R WeberProfessor Eicke R Weber from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems will give a free seminar at the ANU in Canberra 29 July 2008.

Contact: kim.burgess(a)anu.edu.au


Solar Energy - Fraunhofer Institute Germany

Professer Eicke R Weber (Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems)

DATE: 2008-07-29
TIME: 19:30:00 - 20:30:00
LOCATION: Engineering Lecture Theatre

Professor Eicke R. Weber is the Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and Professor of Physics and Applied Sciences at the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany. The ISE institute has a staff of approximately 670 people and an annual budget of more than 36 million Euro. It is one of the world's leading research institutes in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The focus of Professor Weber's research is the analysis of lattice defects in Si and compound semiconductors. Recently he specifically studied how ('good') solar cells can be produced from upgraded metallurgical ('dirty') silicon with high metal content. url: www.fraunhofer.de


Professor Weber studied Physics at the University of Cologne, Germany. From 1983-2006 he lectured at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of California, Berkeley - since 1991 as Professor of Materials Science. In 1990 he was appointed visiting professor at the Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan and in 2000 at the Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. In 1994 he received an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award. From 2004-2006 he served as the chair of the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Graduate Group in Berkeley. He served as president of the Alexander von Humboldt Association of America (AvHAA) from 2001-2003 and in 2003 he was elected founding president of the German Scholars Organization (GSO). In 2006 he received the Award of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande) of the German President.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Flexible Australian solar panels for military use

They didn't take up my suggestions for lightweight solar panels for the F-35, or solar generating windows for the Bushmaster vehicle, but ANU's Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems has won a defence contract to develop solar panels for the military.
Elongate Solar Cells for Energy Generation (The Australian National University) – Flexible solar panels with high efficiency under both normal and subdued light and with high power-to-weight ratios. These solar cells would allow soldiers to generate power in the field and reduce the need for batteries. The technology may be suitable for incorporation into wearable textiles. The proposal builds on extensive solar research undertaken by The Australian National University. ...

From: Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program Collaboration, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), 20 June, 2008

Building solar panels into wearable textiles is a very difficult task. Solar cells are fragile and shiny. This makes them difficult to combine with military camouflage clothing. It would be a lot easier if the cells were built into something less flexible other than most clothing. Here is an alternative suggestion:

Low observability conformal solar panel matrix

The Low observability conformal solar panel matrix (LOCSPM) consists of thin SLIVER solar cells embedded in a resin fiber matrix. The matrix allows light to reach the cells, while supporting the cells and blocking reflections and radiation from them. The matrix consists of a grid which forms a high strength lightweight support. The matrix is composed of material which absorbs stray visible, infrared and radar frequency radiation.

The standard matrix is rigid, but can be made in shapes to conform to military equipment, such as the cases for radios and other electronic equipment, the covering of a helmet, protective vest, boots, vehicle or shelter roof panels. The matrix can be made in standard camouflage colors and patterns. The matrix can contribute to the ballistic and structural properties of the equipment it is attached to, proving protection from blast fragments and additional strength.

Flexible panels are also possible. For large scale non-mobile applications the panels can be made to track the sun for increased efficiency.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Problems of Uncertainty in Power Networks with Renewables

Professor Ian Hiskens from University of Wisconsin-Madison will talk on the problems renewable energy systems and plug-in electric cars will cause for the electricity grid at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, 14 April 2008:


Problems of Uncertainty in Power Networks with Renewables

Prof. Ian Hiskens (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

DATE: 2008-04-21
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

Renewable generation and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are set to play an important role in future power networks. This will present a significant change from current systems that are dominated by centralized generation. Accordingly, existing analysis tools are not well suited to assessing the dynamic performance of power networks that incorporate highly distributed generation and storage technologies. Aggregated models of the distributed resources will be necessary, though such models will be highly uncertain. The seminar will present computationally feasible approaches to assessing the influence of uncertainty on the dynamic behaviour of nonlinear systems, with a focus on power networks. A process of ranking parametric influences will be considered. It will be shown that trajectory sensitivities can be used to obtain accurate first-order approximations of trajectories that arise from perturbed parameter sets. These approximate trajectories provide an efficient means of generating an uncertainty envelope around the nominal trajectory.

Ian A Hiskens received the BEng (Elec) and BAppSc (Math) degrees from the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, Rockhampton, Australia in 1980 and 1983 respectively. He received the PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newcastle, Australia in 1991. He is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. From 1980 to 1992, he was with the Queensland Electricity Supply Industry, where he held the positions of EMS Security Applications Engineer and Planning Engineer Transmission Systems. From 1992 to 1999, he was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and from 1999 to 2002 a Visiting Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His major research interests lie in the analysis of nonlinear (hybrid) systems, in particular system dynamics and control, and numerical techniques. Power systems form his primary applications focus. He is involved in numerous IEEE task forces and committees, is past Chair of the Technical Committee on Control of Energy Processing and Power Systems within the IEEE Control Systems Society, and past Chair of the Power Systems and Power Electronic Circuits Technical Committee of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. He was an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems-I: Regular Papers from 2002 to 2005, and is currently an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology. He is the Treasurer of the IEEE Systems Council. Professor Hiskens is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, and a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Green Power in Germany

Hans-Josef Fell, a member of the Germany Parliament, who initiated the German Renewable Energy Sources Law, will be talking on solar energy at the ANU in Canberra, 15 May 2008:


Solar Energy Feed-In Tariffs

Hans-Josef Fell (Member of Parliament - Germany)

DATE: 2008-05-15
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: Engineering Lecture Theatre

Hans-Josef Fell, Member of the German Parliament (Greens), arrives in Australia as Envoy on behalf of the International Renewable Energy Agency (an initiative of the German government), advocate of the immensely successful renewable energy feed-in tariffs, and highly compelling critic of emissions trading schemes as substitute for action. Fell is one of the fathers of Germany's Renewable Feed-In Legislation and Solar Roof Programs, and has been instrumental in setting up the Energy Watch Group - it has commissioned a study by the Ludwig B�lkow Insitute demonstrating that oil production has peaked in 2006 and that the global oil-gas-coal-uranium 'superpeak' is expected before 2015. Hans-Josef will speak about his experiences with the feed-in legislation in Germany and will take questions from the audience.

From: Solar Energy Feed-In Tariffs, CSES SEMINAR SERIES, ANU, 2008


Saturday, March 22, 2008

National Folk Festival

Greetings from the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The National Library of Australia is providing an internet cafe and WiFi alongside the union concert (with Senator Lundy comparing). Apart from the music there are displays with an ecological theme. One was from ANZSES with solar energy displays.

One of the more unusual acts, is the House Howlers, an a cappella singing group made up of journalists from the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, including Karen Middleton. They sing satirical songs about politicians.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Solar garden lights an environmental hazard?

Solar garden lightsAccording to a pamphlet I picked up at the hardware store, the rechargable Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries in many solar powered garden lights only last 2 years. Apart from not represeting good value for money, Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. Ideally a wired light should be used, but failing that, using nickel metal hydride (NiMH) "Pre Charged" would be better.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Renewable Energy for Australia

A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020The document "A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020" was released by a coalition of environment groups on 23 April 2007. As the title says, it proposes a renewable energy target for Australia. The report has received a lot of press criticism for not costing the proposals. But it is much better thought out than proposals from the federal government for incandescent light bulbs to be banned, or by state governments to put in desalination plants.

The report is sponsored by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, and Climate Action Network Australia. Unfortunately it is provided as an environmentally unfriendly 28 page, 525 KB PDF document. Here is the Executive Summary:
Climate change threatens the human, economic, and environmental future of Australia. Temperatures are set to rise by up to 6°C by 2100 unless we act now. Even a 1°C rise would see drought increase by up to 70 per cent in NSW, and regular bleaching of over half of the Great Barrier Reef. The actions we take, or fail to take, in the next fi ve years will decide whether we cross the threshold of dangerous climate change.

Any plan for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions entails a major roll-out of renewable energy technologies. Countries around the world have introduced ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce emissions and ensure that they get a slice of the rapidly growing renewable energy market. Australia is missing this opportunity.

A 25 per cent by 2020 legislated renewable energy target would see Australia join the global clean energy revolution. Combined with medium energy efficiency measures, the target would conservatively deliver:
  • 16,600 new jobs, n $33 billion in new investment,
  • 15,000 MW new renewable capacity,
  • 69 million tonnes reduction in electricity sector greenhouse emissions (almost as much as the total emissions from road transport), and
  • enough renewable electricity to power every home in Australia.
More than 17,000 Australians are already employed in renewable energy or energy efficiency, despite the lack of government support for these industries. A 25 per cent target would increase the number of clean energy jobs to over 33,000.

Australia has plentiful renewable energy resources, and a quarter of our electricity could easily be supplied by a mixture of hydropower, bioenergy, wind, and solar. This would prepare us for a further transition to clean energy after 2020.

With a 25 per cent renewable energy target, our electricity prices would still remain among the cheapest in the world. A 25 per cent target, coupled with medium energy efficiency measures, would add around $64 to the average household annual electricity bill, or $1.25 per week. In contrast, current projections for business as usual electricity use could see average household electricity bills increase by $234 per year.

In order to make sure that we realise these benefits, Australia needs:
  • A national legislated target for 25 per cent of electricity to come from renewable energy by 2020.
  • A national target for zero electricity growth by 2010, followed by annual average reductions reaching at least 1.5 per cent by 2020, and supporting measures to achieve it.
  • Urgent amendment of National Electricity Market regulation so network expansion costs can only be passed on to consumers if companies demonstrate that demand management or energy efficiency are not alternatives.
  • A fixed price for solar PV electricity going into the electricity grid (called a ‘feed-in tariff’), sufficient to ensure householder investment.
In addition to the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, other actions will be required to reduce electricity sector emissions to 30% below 1990 levels. Introducing a price on carbon, improving the efficiency of fossil fuel power stations, significantly increasing co-generation, and fuel switching will all be necessary.

From: The Executive Summary of "A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020", by Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and Climate Action Network Australia, 23 April 2007.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Triple Glazed Solar Cell Window Panels?

Photovoltaic trough concentrator window panelHad a query asking when the Sliver solar cells would be available. Assuming the money for research and development is available it will be years before you can buy a Sliver solar panel.

The major cost with solar panels is the silicon used for the solar cells. The Sliver design minimizes this by using thin slices ("slivers") of silicon. But perhaps this could be reduced further. I suggested building the cells into glass window panels of Shanghai offices and apartment blocks.

One way to reduce the amount of silicon used is to use a reflector to concentrate more sunlight onto the cell. This can be done with a trough concentrator above a long strip of cells Normally the trough is about a metre wide and several metres long and is mechanically steered to keep it facing the sun.

But the sliver cells are made in long thin strips. So they could be individually mounted above miniature trough concentrators each a few mm wide. Making thousands of tiny reflectors for one solar panel would seem like hard work. But they could be made all at once from a sheet of aluminized mylar plastic pressed to the shape. This would look like a shiny silver chocolate box liner (with indentations molded in for each chocolate). Mylar is already used in some solar panels.

The mylar sheet would be sandwiched between two sheets of glass provide a multiple functions:

  1. Hold the sliver cells in place: The Mylar would be molded to form mounting points to hold the individual slivers in place.
  2. Trough concentrator: The mylar would be curved to form a miniature solar trough concentrators (about 10 mm wide) for each sliver. The concentrators would be shaped to reflect concentrated sunlight onto both sides of the cells (Bifacial concentrator) for most of the day without the need for the panel to be mechanically steered.
  3. Insulation: The Mylar would provide an additional layer of glazing to insulate the building panel.
  4. Filtering: The reflective coating of the Mylar would prevent excessive sunlight entering the building.
  5. Transmissive: The Mylar would be semi-transparent, allowing the panel to be used as a window, with the solar cells forming a decorative pattern.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Sliver Solar Cells for Military And Domestic Use

Andrew BlakersProfessor Andrew Blakers presented an inspirational talk today, on the Australian National University's sliver solar cell technology. But what is needed is more research funding to develop the technology into a usable product. Andrew sees the cells being cheap enough to be installed by individual householders and businesses, as well as for solar power stations.

At present solar cells are cost effective for remote locations off the grid, such as Illawong Lodge and Kings Canyon:
Illawong LodgeIllawong Ski Tourers manages Illawong Lodge, located at about 1600 metres altitude in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, Australia. Illawong is several kilometres from the nearest roads, power, gas, water, sewer, telephones, ski lifts, and other services. ...

The first hut built here in 1925-26 was called Pounds Creek. ... The lodge consists of four small rooms with a roof and walls of iron, floor of wood, lined. It includes an innovative high-country solar power system for lighting.

From: Illawong Ski Tourers
Kings Canyon Solar Power Station
Kings Canyon is a high-profile tourist resort in Central Australia's Watarrka National Park in the arid zone. The remote resort previously relied on a diesel-fuelled power station. ... Peak power demand in the Northern Territory closely matches solar availability, with the peak occurring early afternoon. The PV system provides peak load and is run in tandem with a smaller diesel engine. Battery storage is not required since the diesel engines supplement ...
From: Kings Canyon Solar Power Station, Australian Business Council - Sustainable Energy 2006
However, research funding is likely to come for more exotic applications first. The first uses for solar cells were military and remote uses in telecommucations.

Some which the sliver cells might be applied to are:
  1. Solar Building Panels for China: The usual location for solar collectors on buildings is the roof. However, high rise buildings have only limited roof space. An alternative would be to use the same micro-louver technology as for military vehicles (below) and build the cells in to wall and window panels. Sun facing vertical panels would have cells arranged horizontally facing up towards the sun. For windows, sufficient space would be left between the cells to allow the occupants to have a view out the window. The cells could be made in aluminum frames as a direct replacement for domestic and commercial cladding, balcony balistrades and windows. Such panels could be used by the million for Shanghai offices and apartment blocks.
  2. Lightweight solar panels for the F-35 Lightening II JSF: Sliver cell panels could be incorporated into the sun shields used to protect aircraft cockpits on the ground. This would have the dual function of cooling the cocpit and providing power to keep the aircraft batteries charged. The sliver cell shades would be light, flexible and compact enough to be stowed aboard the aircraft for deployment. Research for this could be funded under the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project.
  3. Solar generating windows for military vehicles: Military vehicles, such as the Australian ADI Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle have difficulty keeping the occupants cool in desert regions and supplying sufficient electrical power for equipment. These vehicles have flat armored windows which could be fitted with sliver cell panels. The cells could be arranged as micro-louvers to shade the interior of the vehicle, while optimizing solar collection to power equipment. The silver cells have an anti-reflective coating which would enhance the situational awareness of the occupants of the vehicle, while reducing the visible and infrared signature. The ability to generate electricity would reduce the fuel consumption of the vehicle and its sound signature when stationary, as the diesel engine would not need to be run as much.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Australian solar cell technology, 27 October 2006

Andrew Blakers
Back in March I mentioned an inspirational talk by Professor Andrew Blakers on Australian solar cell technology. He is giving another talk in Canberra next week.

Press reports, from as far as Turkey, indicate the technology will be developed offshore:
Origin Energy has confirmed commercial manufacture of ANU's solar sliver cell technology is poised to go offshore, possibly to Germany or the United States, to capitalise on government investment incentives for solar energy in those countries. ...

From Journal of Turkish Weekly, 3 Oct 2006
I don't see this as a bad thing, as long as Australia gets a reasonable payment for licensing the technology. Perhaps Professor McKibbin's "Architecture for International Cooperation on Climate Change" would make it cost effective to manufacture the cells in Australia. The cells could be used to charge our electric cars and run our houses.


Professor Andrew Blakers (Director, Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems & ARC Centre of Excellence for Solar Energy Systems, ANU.)

DATE: 2006-10-27
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

The worldwide solar energy industry is doubling in size every 18 months, driven by concerns about global warming. Photovoltaic technology is likely to be a substantial component of future electricity supply. About 95% of solar cells are manufactured on crystalline silicon substrates. However, the current shortage of hyperpure silicon is constraining the industry. Possible solutions include thin crystalline silicon solar cells, non-silicon materials and solar concentrator systems. The talk will describe the technological and commercial problems and opportunities of the PV industry, and will include a survey of Australia's position.

Photovoltaic research and commercialisation in the Australian National University will be described. Recent work shows that Sliver solar cell technology is capable of cost reductions of three quarters compared with current photovoltaic technology. Standard materials and techniques are used in novel ways to create 20% efficient thin single crystalline solar cells with superior performance and sharply reduced cost. Sliver technology is a disruptive technology within a well-established conventional industry. PV and hybrid PV/thermal solar concentrator systems are also under development at ANU. This is a multidisciplinary endeavour, and brings together solar cell physics & technology with materials, mechanical, electrical and control engineering. Solar concentrators have good economic prospects in Australia and elsewhere once the cost of carbon emissions is internalised into fossil fuel costs.

Professor Andrew Blakers is the Foundation Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Solar Energy Systems. His research interests are photovoltaics, solar energy systems and energy policy. Particular interests are Sliver solar cell technology (which he co-invented with Klaus Weber) and solar concentrators. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering, the Institute of Energy and the Institute of Physics, and has published approximately 200 papers and 10 patents.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Australian Solar Cells to Power Indian IT Boom?

Professor Andrew Blakers
This morning I attended an inspirational talk by Professor Andrew Blakers on Australian solar cell technology:

"... Sliver solar cell technology is capable of cost reductions of three quarters compared with current photovoltaic technology. Sliver technology was invented at the Australian National University (http://solar.anu.edu.au).

Standard materials and techniques are used in novel ways to create thin single crystalline solar cells with superior performance and sharply reduced cost. Sliver technology is a disruptive technology within a well-established conventional industry, and has an excellent chance of dominating the burgeoning worldwide photovoltaic industry.

First generation Sliver technology is being commercialised in Adelaide by Origin Energy (http://sliver.com.au). ANU is developing a second generation Sliver technology which offers large technical and manufacturing improvements over first generation technology. ..."
From: "The Extraordinary Prospects for Sliver Solar Cell Technology", Prof Andrew Blakers, CSES SEMINAR SERIES, 2006-03-10 <http://cecs.anu.edu.au/seminars/showone.pl?SID=147>.

The clever bit about the technology is that it is uses existing silicon material and processes in a more efficient way. Instead of using a whole silicon wafer as a solar cell, they slice it into thousands of thin strips (slivers) and so get more electricity out of the same amount of material. As well as helping the environment, this could earn billions of dollars for Australia.

One use for the cells is in window panes. As the cells are thin slivers, they can be used as window shades, letting some light through and turning the rest into electricity.

One use which occurred to me might be in India, where there is a shortage of electricity. Offices and cyber cafes have large banks of batteries to supply electricity during blackouts. Cheap solar cells could be added to charge the batteries and supply surplus to the grid. The cells could also be used to charge the batteries of the electric cars being made in Bangalore.

One issue I raised at question time was regulatory impediments to energy conservation. My smart apartment is in a building with a computer controlled solar boosted gas hot water system. The cost of gas used is therefore very low. But the gas company, with the blessing of the the ACT government regulator, charges each apartment in the complex the same amount as if we each had a gas connection. As a result I am penalized for using solar power.

Professor Andrew Blakers is an inspiring speaker with a grasp of the economics as well as the materials science involved. He was asked if the Australian government had expressed interest. Unfortunately, while the Greens and the ALP politicians have been along to talk to him (as well as the Governor General), none of the relevant government ministers have bothered to visit.

ps: If the Ministers do visit, I recommend lunch at the Purple Pickle cafe on the ANU campus. Today is a stunning autumn day. Pedalling alongside Sullivans Creek to the seminar, there was a vista of cloudless blue sky, water, ducks and students ambling to lectures. Oxford and Cambridge Universities may have their dreaming spires, but it is a lot more pleasant most of the time and just as beautiful here in Canberra.

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