Friday, February 17, 2006

News Review (1 of 6): Advances in Renewables (Cheaper PV, Wave Power Hub)


This past couple of weeks there have been a number of advances in renewable energy technologies, and the progress towards commercialisation of these products.

Photovoltaics seem to be getting cheaper and hitting new performance bests every time I look! In the past few days alone there have been two reports of new and cheaper methods of manufacture. A 5 micrometer thick PV active alloy has been produced at the University of Johannesburg. This approach requires Zero silicon, and is not only more cost effective than current PV systems but is also expected to last up to 20 years, with an energy payback time of less than two, due to its simple construction. The people behind this have commercial backing and given the claimed cost advantages this bodes well for a nascent PV market, with huge potential at the right price.


"One of the world leaders in solar energy, German company IFE Solar Systems,
has invested more than R500-million in the South African invention and is set to
manufacture 500 000 of the panels before the end of the year at a new plant in
Germany."
In a radically different approach PaloAlto Research Centre (continued...)has produced a hybrid of concentrated solar power and photovoltaic-usually concentrated solar is associated with thermal, but not this time. I think the interesting part of this is the greater efficiency you get at high levels of light intensity (up to 40%) and also the reduced amount of silicon required which is a huge cost benefit at current prices!


"The current installed cost of the flat-plate photovoltaic systems is about $7
per watt, but our approach should produce electricity for about half that amount
or less.
These companies are both claiming to offer very significant reductions in cost, bearing in mind the tremendous growth of PV in recent yearsparticularlyly in Japan and Germany it looks very likely that things are really going to take off in the next five years. This is a very promising sign for a micro-renewable, affordable PV offering a very important piece of the distributed energy networks requirements.


"The photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules market in Japan, estimated to be 640
Megawatts (MW) in capacity or 209 billion yen in value of shipment, will rapidly
grow to 2,350 MW or 665 billion yen in value in fiscal 2008 by recording an
average growth of 30 to 40% every year"
I think the key with Renewables is that the term is inadequate. It has to be the case that when people say "surely we can't get al our energy needs from renewable energy", that this is a absurd statement. Renewables must be so diverse and cost effective at so many different levels that there will always be a sufficiently diverse mix to meet a regions energy requirements.

Wind farms, concentrating thermal, solar panelsconcentratingng PV, PV, micro-wind, biomass CHP, geothermal, tidal...wave. Many of these technologies are only at thbeginningng of there commercial development. Wave power is still experimental, this is why it is so significant that the Ugovernmentnt are developing a "wave-hub".


This offshore grid connection will be developed in co-operation with several medium sized businesses who are developing wave power but need somewhere to test it. A recent Ugovernmentnt study found that up to 20% of the UK energy needs could be produced from tidal and wave power combined, and that having such a developed offshore manufacturing base the UK is ideally placed to produce marketable products, for a business that could develop to a similamagnitudede as wind power. The hub is planned to be placed 10 miles of the cost of Cornwall in England.

Postscript; Climate Change, NewsA, RenewablesA

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