Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency
Monday, October 04, 2004
A vision for silicon solar cells: Projections based on current technology and experience curves. Projects decline from about $3 today, to $1.44/w cell price in 2013, and $0.65 in 2023. (Corresponds to my rough projections.) The author also costs out a government program that would offer buyers grid-competitive prices from now forward until costs declined. That subsidy would be 50% of costs today, declining to zero by 2012. The total cost of this subsidy program in the US would be $23B from 2003-2012. 5:42:23 PM
PV Concentrator systems: Survey of technical issues and current players. Conclusions (and an interesting point on policy): "Concentrators have great potential to become the lowest-cost photovoltaic option, producing power in the 7-15 cents/kWh range, depending on system size and location. Concentrator companies should not try to imitate today's flat-plate applications. The most natural markets are for medium-sized systems for grid-support, green power, and portfolio standards, or remove PV±diesel hybrid applications. .. Clearly, any economical application must be either remote, non-grid-connected or dispersed and located near retail grid customers.
One promising application is utility end-of-line grid support in remote regions that are experiencing rapid growth. PV is particularly valuable in this application when the region load is driven by air conditioning so that the demand and resource are well matched. This application requires the participation of utility companies as well as Federal support. Another potential application is remote power systems that are now being served by larger diesel generators. Typical installations are island power systems, large water pumping stations, remote military bases, resorts, and the like. By adding PV to these installations, diesel fuel is saved and engine operating time is reduced. Concentrator PV should be cost- effective in these applications within the very near future. ..
Projected electricity costs from concentrator power plants are about three times the current cost of energy from natural gas power plants. Early concentrator plants will be twice as expensive again. There is nothing that can be done about this without government involvement, period. We need to decide as a society if environmental issues such as acid rain, global warming, and reduced health are important enough to subsidize this difference for a while. Factors of three can't be that big a deal in the broader picture. After all, the price of electricity varies by over a factor of three at various locals in the US. The high costs in the more expensive locals is often a legacy of stranded nuclear power plants, another government program that wasn't entirely successful. The low-cost locals benefit from low-cost hydropower, a government program that was successful." 5:30:15 PM
Compact refrigeration technology
: "Twinbird Corporation are in the final stage of the development work on the Free Piston Stirling Cooler "FPSC-TB40" and expects to have market ready products in Fiscal Year 2003. The TB40 has significant differences to the conventional Rankine compressor or Peltier (thermoelectric) module type refrigeration systems. It is a new type of refrigeration system that uses neither ozone depleting nor global warming gas and no lubrication oil. The cooling technique is based on the Stirling cycle for maximum efficiency. Aside from being environmentally friendly, the unit is also compact, light weight and may be operated on many different power sources such as AC or DC electricity and photovoltaics." Could prove very useful in developing country or off-grid conditions with variable DC power (e.g., solar cells). 4:58:08 PM
OECD Report Calls for Policy Changes to Promote Biomass: "Plants and animal waste could become viable alternatives to fossil fuels in providing energy and materials if governments changed strategies, according to a new OECD report out today. Instead of offering financial incentives or subsidies to stimulate the use of such organic material, known as “biomass”, governments should encourage technical innovation as a way of narrowing the price gap with oil and gas products. ..
According to the report, long-term strategies should be developed that recognise the potential of local resources and encourage the establishment of bio-refineries to recycle a range of farm by-products in addition to using grains, oilseeds and sugar. Such complexes would be capable of producing both energy and materials derived not only from annual crops but also grass, short rotation trees, cereal straws and other by-products. ..
The report also reveals that:
The prices of some niche market bioproducts such as plastics derived from arable crops are already competitive with certain petroleum-based plastics. The car industry, for example, is making increasing use of bioplastics.
Around 7% of heat generation and 1% of total electricity in OECD countries is provided by agricultural bioenergy. In developing countries an estimated 25% of total energy demand is met by biomass, principally in the form of firewood and animal dung.
Because bioethanol, produced from sugar and grains, can be used in existing engines with little modification, it is easier to exploit than other alternative transportation fuels such as hydrogen."