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Solar thermal collectors

A solar thermal collector is a solar collector designed to collect heat by absorbing sunlight. The term is applied to solar hot water panels, but may also be used to denote more complex installations such as solar parabolic, solar trough and solar towers or simpler installations such as solar air heat. The more complex collectors are generally used in solar power plants where solar heat is used to generate electricity by heating water to produce steam which drives a turbine connected to an electrical generator. The simpler collectors are typically used for supplemental space heating in residential and commercial buildings. A collector is a device for converting the energy in solar radiation into a more usable or storable form. The energy in sunlight is in the form of electromagnetic radiation from the infrared (long) to the ultraviolet (short) wavelengths. The solar energy striking the Earth's surface depends on weather conditions, as well as location and orientation of the surface, but overall, it averages about 1,000 watts per square meter under clear skies with the surface directly perpendicular to the sun's rays. A solar bowl is a type of solar thermal collector that operates similarly to a parabolic dish, but instead of using a tracking parabolic mirror with a fixed receiver, it has a fixed spherical mirror with a tracking receiver. This reduces its efficiency but makes it cheaper to build and operate. Designers call it a fixed mirror distributed focus solar power system. The main reason for its development was to eliminate the cost of moving a large mirror to track the sun as with parabolic dish systems.

A 15-meter diameter Auroville solar bowl was developed from an earlier test of a 3.5meter bowl in 19791982 by the Tata Energy Research Institute. The test showed the use of the solar bowl in the production of steam for cooking. The full-scale project to build a solar bowl and kitchen ran from 1996, being fully operational by 2001.

A Stirling engine is a heat engine operating by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas, the working fluid, at different temperature levels such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. Like the steam engine, the Stirling engine is traditionally classified as an external combustion engine, as all heat transfers to and from the working fluid take place through the engine wall. This contrasts with an internal combustion engine where heat input is by combustion of a fuel within the body of the working fluid. Unlike a steam engine's (or more generally a Rankine cycle engine's) usage of a working fluid in both its liquid and gaseous phases, the Stirling engine encloses a fixed quantity of permanently gaseous fluid such as air. Typical of heat engines, the general cycle consists of compressing cool gas, heating the gas, expanding the hot gas, and finally cooling the gas before repeating the cycle. The efficiency of the process is narrowly restricted by the efficiency of the Carnot cycle, which depends on the temperature difference between the hot and cold reservoir.

The dish/Stirling system is a renewable energy source that generates power by using parabolically arranged mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a small focal receiver, thereby heating a gas chamber connected to a piston and drive shaft. The drive shaft powers a generator which produces electricity to be distributed to a grid.

Solar Dish Engine Unlike conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar cells which register at between 10% and 18% efficiency, dish/Stirling systems are capable of converting around 25% of available energy from sunlight into electricity. Dish/Stirling systems are commonly called Solar Thermal Electric systems, to distinguish them from conventional solar

panels. Dish/Stirling systems are mounted on motorized pedestals programmed to ensure the mirrors continue to face the sun throughout the day. A dish/Stirling system includes two components; the solar dish, which is simply a parabolic mirror or set of mirrors, and a Stirling engine, a closed-cycle engine that operates silently using any heat source. Efficiency for the Stirling engine approaches maximum theoretical efficiency for any engine, known technically as Carnot cycle efficiency. The Stirling engine uses a fixed volume of gas that never leaves the chamber. An alternating heating/cooling cycle ensures that there is a constant supply of cooled gas to be heated by the thermal energy source. Since there is no exhaust in a Stirling engine, they are ideal for use on stealth vehicles such as submarines. Because Stirling engines can produce electricity using any thermal energy source, dish/Stirling systems sometimes use combustion to generate heat during the night when no solar rays are available.

Advnco/Vanguard 25 kW dish/Stirling system installed at Rancho Mirage, California.

Parabolic trough collector is generally used in solar power plants. A trough-shaped parabolic reflector is used to concentrate sunlight on an insulated tube (Dewar tube) or heat pipe, placed at the focal point, containing coolant which transfers heat from the collectors to the boilers in the power station. It is the most powerful type of collector which concentrates sunlight at a single, focal point, via one or more parabolic dishes arranged in a similar fashion to a reflecting telescope focuses starlight, or a dish antenna focuses radio waves. This geometry may be used in solar furnaces and solar power plants. In dish stirling power plant designs, a stirling engine coupled to a dynamo, is placed at the focus of the dish, which absorbs the heat of the incident solar radiation, and converts it into electricity.

Solar Power Generation and Storage System Using Parabolic Reflectors

Abengoa Solar owns Europe's first commercially operating concentrating solar power plant in Seville, Spain. The 11 MW PS10 Solar Power Plant uses a form of concentrated solar thermal technology.

The solar updraft tower is a renewable-energy power plant. It combines the chimney effect, the greenhouse effect and the wind turbine. Air is heated by sunshine and contained in a very large greenhouse-like structure around the base of a tall chimney, and the resulting convection causes air to rise up the updraft tower. This airflow drives turbines, which produce electricity. The turbines are more closely related to the pressure-staged hydroelectric turbines than to the speed-stepped wind turbines.

Transparent roof admits the short wave solar radiation component and retains longwave radiation from the heated ground. Thus, when solar radiation passes through the transparent roof it is absorbed by the ground elements and it converts into heat energy. To produce electricity during the night, tight water-filled tubes are placed under the roof. The water heats up during the daytime and emits its heat at night. The Solar Chimney efficiency is directly proportional to the ratio between the height of the chimney and the outside temperature.

SunVention The Solar Power Village

Envelope Power Greenhouse (EPG) is a light-weight structure covered with a special fluoropolymer foil. The foil is transparent for the full spectrum of the solar radiation including the UV-portion, thus no need for pesticides commonly employed in conventional greenhouses. In addition, the UV-radiation provides the aroma thus greatly improving the quality of the produce. The optical system mounted in the roof of the greenhouse concentrates the direct solar radiation onto receivers thus extracting heat from the greenhouse protecting it from overheating; the heat generated at a high temperature level is captured in vegetable oil as the heat-carrying medium. An insulated pipe system transports the oil to a hot-oil storage tank. Hot Oil Storage stores hot oil at a temperature of up to 220C. A tank with 2,000 liters of oil has the capacity to store about 75 kWh of useable heat. This saves about 500 kg (1,100 lbs) of wood used in energy-inefficient fire places. This energy is enough to provide 500 people with heat for cooking, to lift water from wells and to generate electricity for about two to three days. In periods of no sunshine the oil can also be heated up with biomass. The Stirling engine, the cooking stove or the system to generate hot steam for disinfection are all powered by the hot-oil storage tank. Medium-temperature Stirling engine transforms thermal energy into mechanical work and this already at temperatures of 150C (300F). The Stirling engine provided with 50 kWh of heat energy generates electricity of about 1 kWhe for about 10 hours. The mechanical work generated by the Stirling engine can also be used for corn milling, to pump water or for cooling.

SunPulse is a low-temperature Stirling engine to pump water. It is powered by unconcentrated solar radiation and thus works independent of the hot-oil storage tank. The system pumps about 4m3 (1,056 gal) water from 10m (33ft) depth. Part of the pumping system is a hydraulic ram which in combination with Sunpulse can pump water from up to 60m (197ft) depth.

Sunvention testbed Tamera Solar Village (Portugal) Water Disinfection Systems can be employed together or on a stand-alone basis. CleanPhoton disinfects water with solar radiation in combination with catalytic effective surfaces. UVitt is powered by electricity which generates UV-radiation of high intensity for disinfection

Hybrid systems can be defined as a combination of different, but complementary energy supply systems at the same place. Fluctuation of energy supply and intermittent delivery of power can be avoided by the use of hybrid systems. A system using complementary energy supply technologies has the advantage of being able to supply energy even at times when one part of the hybrid system is not available. There are many types of hybrid systems derived from the combination of different renewable technologies and, often, including also diesel generating set. ie. photovoltaic/wind; wind/diesel; wind/ photovoltaic/micro hydro; wind/small hydro; small hydro/biomass; wind/photovoltaic /biomass, etc. A common hybrid system suitable for developing countries consists of: A primary source of energy, i.e renewables A secondary source of energy for supply in case of shortages ex. Diesel A storage system to guarantee stable output (battery) during short periods of time and/or meet peak demands. A charge controller which regulates the state of load of the battery Installation material (safety boxes, wiring, plugs etc) Appliances (TV, radio, etc) DC/AC inverters may also be needed.

Microhydropower Systems
Microhydropower systems usually generate up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of electricity. Most of the hydropower 10-kilowatt systems are used by homeowners and small business owners, including farmers.

The Pelton wheel uses the concept of jet force to create energy. Water is funneled into a pressurized pipeline with a narrow nozzle at one end. The water sprays out of the nozzle in a jet, striking the doublecupped buckets attached to the wheel. The impact of the jet spray on the curved buckets creates a force that rotates the wheel at high efficiency rates of 70%-90%. Pelton wheel turbines are available in various sizes and operate best under lowflow and high-head conditions.

The Turgo impulse wheel is an upgraded version of the Pelton. It uses the same jet spray concept, but the Turgo jet, which is half the size of the Pelton, is angled so that the spray hits three buckets at once. As a result, the Turgo wheel moves twice as fast. It is also less bulky, needs few or no gears, and has a good reputation for trouble-free operation. The Turgo can operate under low-flow conditions but requires a medium or high head.

Wind Power Systems

Vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) are a type of wind turbine where the main rotor shaft is set vertically and the main components are located at the base of the turbine. VAWTs offer a number of advantages over traditional horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs). They can be packed closer together in wind farms, allowing more in a given space. VAWTs are rugged, quiet, omnidirectional, and they do not create as much stress on the support structure. They do not require as much wind to generate power, thus allowing them to be closer to the ground. By being closer to the ground they are easily maintained and can be installed on chimneys and similar tall structures. Drawbacks for the early designs (Savonius, Darrieus and giromill) included the pulsatory torque that can be produced during each revolution and the huge bending moments on the blades. Later designs solved the torque issue by using the helical twist of the blades.

The Solar Kitchen

The Cuisine Solaire Pour Tous, or Solar Kitchen, the collective kitchen of Auroville, takes its name from the huge solar bowl that is incorporated to harness solar energy for cooking. The ferrocement base of this stationary bowl is already built and faces south. It is 15 meters in diameter and 7 meters above ground level. The sun's rays, trapped by a huge hemispherical mirror, focus on a cylindrical boiler which follows the sun's position by means of a computerized tracking device. On a clear day, sufficient steam at a temperature of 150C can be generated in this boiler to cook two meals a day for 1,000 people.

Scheffler Solar Cooker

The concentrating reflectors track the movement of the sun, reflecting the light of the sun and concentrating it on a fixed position. In some configurations the reflected and concentrated sunlight enters a nearby kitchen directly to strike a cooking pot or frying surface. In other configurations, the concentrated sunlight is used first to create steam which is transported by pipes to a nearby kitchen. A heliostat is a device that reflects sunlight in a fixed direction as the sun moves. Scheffler's heliostat has a concentrating reflector turned clockwork powered by gravity or photovoltaic panels. The rotating reflector produces a converging beam of sunlight aligned with its axis of rotation, which is parallel to the axis of the earth. The converging beam of reflected sunlight enters the kitchen through a hole in its wall. When the rotating reflector (in this case the primary reflector) is placed on the polar side of the kitchen, a fixed secondary reflector inside the kitchen redirects the beam upward to the bottom of a pot or frying surface. The rotating reflector turns at a rate of one revolution per day (15 degrees per hour) to keep the reflected beam aligned with the axis of rotation as the sun moves.

Each morning, the operator rotates the concentrating reflector back to a starting position in which the reflected beam is aligned with the axis of rotation of the reflector, and starts the clockwork mechanism. Every few days the operator adjusts the angle between the axis of rotation and the concentrating reflector to accommodate the seasonal variation in the height of the sun. Once the reflected beam is aligned with the axis of rotation of the concentrating reflector and the clockwork is in motion, the reflected beam remains aligned with the axis of rotation all day. The concentrating reflectors track the movement of the sun, reflecting the light of the sun and concentrating it on a fixed position. In some configurations the reflected and concentrated sunlight enters a nearby kitchen directly to strike a cooking pot or frying surface. In other configurations, the concentrated sunlight is used first to create steam which is transported by pipes to a nearby kitchen.

Egypts first Scheffler Community Kitchen at El Sherouk Farm near Alexandria. The shape of the concentrating reflector approximates an off-axis section of a paraboloid. The seasonal variation in the height of the sun requires changing not only the angle between the concentrating reflector and its axis of rotation, but also the shape of the reflector. The geometry of the framework supporting the reflecting surface is designed so that the action of changing the angle between the concentrating reflector and its axis of rotation stretches or squeezes the horizontal dimension of the concentrating reflector to flatten it or to make it more dished. The reflecting surface of the concentrating reflector consists of a number of facets, usually flat glass mirrors. A concrete pad and a welded steel space frame provide support for the concentrating reflector. The area of the concentrating reflectors in the configurations shown above is usually about 10 square meters, delivering approximately 2 kW to the cooking pot or solar receiver.

The reflector may be positioned on the equatorial side of the kitchen. From this position, reflected sunlight travels upward along the axis of rotation, eliminating the need for a secondary reflector.

Dish Type Solar Cooker

The concentrating type parabolic dish solar cooker will be useful for individuals in rural as well as urban areas and also for small establishments like dhabas, tea shops etc. The solar cooker has an aperture diameter of 1.4 meter and a focal length of 0.28 meter. The reflecting material used for its fabrication is anodized aluminium sheet that has a reflectivity of over 75 %. The tracking of the cooker is manual and so has to be adjusted in 15 to 20 minutes during the cooking time.

It has a delivery power of about 0.6 KW that can boil 2 to 3 liters of water in half an hour. The temperature achieved at the bottom of the vessel could range from 350 to 4000C which is sufficient for roasting, frying and boiling. A cooker with about 40% thermal efficiency can meet the needs of around 15 people and can be used from one hour after sunrise until one hour before sunset on clear days. It can be easily dismantled and assembled.

Waste to Energy
Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Organic waste such as dead plant and animal material, animal dung, and kitchen waste can be converted into a gaseous fuel called biogas. Biogas originates from biogenic material and is a type of biofuel. Biogas is produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biodegradable materials such as biomass, manure, sewage, municipal waste, green waste, plant material, and crops. Biogas comprises primarily methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and may have small amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), moisture and siloxanes. The gases methane, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide (CO) can be combusted or oxidized with oxygen. This energy release allows biogas to be used as a fuel. Biogas can be used as a fuel in any country for any heating purpose, such as cooking. It can also be used in anaerobic digesters where it is typically used in a gas engine to convert the energy in the gas into electricity and heat. Biogas can be compressed, much like natural gas, and used to power motor vehicles. In the UK, for example, biogas is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17% of vehicle fuel. Biogas is a renewable fuel, so it qualifies for renewable energy subsidies in some parts of the world. Biogas can also be cleaned and upgraded to natural gas standards when it becomes biomethane.

Methane Generator Systems

The biogas digester is the system component where the animal, human and other organic wastes are introduced, usually as a slurry with water, to break down anaerobically. A storage container is used to hold the gas produced, from which it is piped for burning as a fuel. Variable volume storage (i.e. flexible bag or floating drum) is easier, cheaper and more energy efficient than high pressure cylinders, regulators or compressors. When the digester is emptied, the spent effluent is dried for later reuse as a fertilizer.

The two main digester types of digesters are the continuous and the batch. Continuous digesters have a constant throughput of material, and batch digesters extract the gas from a contained batch of material, which is then emptied and a new batch added. As firewood for cooking has become scarce, millions of small scale continuous digesters are in use in developing countries, especially India and China. Digesters tend to be larger-scale in developed countries, taking animal slurries and human sewage. The Indian cylindrical pit Methane Generator Design has become a popular choice around the world due to its reliability and simplicity. It comprises two basic parts: a slurry tank and a covered by a gas cap or drum to capture the gas released from the slurry.

Algae fuel
Algae fuel might be an alternative to fossil fuel and uses algae as its source of natural deposits. Several companies and government agencies are funding efforts to reduce capital and operating costs and make algae fuel production commercially viable. Harvested algae, like fossil fuel, release CO2 when burnt but unlike fossil fuel the CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere by the growing algae. High oil prices, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources, and the world food crisis, have ignited interest in algaculture (farming algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels, using land that is not suitable for agriculture. Among algal fuels' attractive characteristics: they do not affect fresh water resources, can be produced using ocean and wastewater, and are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. Algae cost more per unit mass (as of 2010, food grade algae costs ~$5000/tonne), due to high capital and operating costs, yet are claimed to yield between 10 and 100 times more energy per unit area than other second-generation biofuel crops. One biofuels company has claimed that algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two car garage than a football field of soybeans, because almost the entire algal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, or oil.

Algae cultivation
Algae can produce up to 300 times more oil per acre than conventional crops, such as rapeseed, palms, soybeans, or jatropha. As algae have a harvesting cycle of 110 days, it permits several harvests in a very short time frame, a differing strategy to yearly crops (Chisti 2007). Algae can also be grown on land that is not suitable for other established crops, for instance, arid land, land with excessively saline soil, and drought-stricken land. This minimizes the issue of taking away pieces of land from the cultivation of food crops (Schenk et al. 2008). Algae can grow 20 to 30 times faster than food crops.

Most companies pursuing algae as a source of biofuels are pumping nutrient-laden water through plastic or borosilicate glass tubes (called "bioreactors" ) that are exposed to sunlight (and so called photobioreactors or PBR). Running a PBR is more difficult than an open pond, and more costly, but also more effective. Algae can also grow on marginal lands, such as in desert areas where the groundwater is saline, rather than utilize fresh water. Because algae strains with lower lipid content may grow as much as 30 times faster than those with high lipid content, the difficulties in efficient biodiesel production from algae lie in finding an algal strain, with a combination of high lipid content and fast growth rate, that isn't too difficult to harvest; and a cost-effective cultivation system (i.e., type of photobioreactor) that is best suited to that strain. There is also a need to provide concentrated CO2 to increase the rate of production.

Closed loop system

Another obstacle preventing widespread mass production of algae for biofuel production has been the equipment and structures needed to begin growing algae in large quantities. Maximum use of existing agriculture processes and hardware is the goal. In a closed system (not exposed to open air) there is not the problem of contamination by other organisms blown in by the air. The problem for a closed system is finding a cheap source of sterile CO2. Several experimenters have found the CO2 from a smokestack works well for growing algae. To be economical, some experts think that algae farming for biofuels will have to be done as part of cogeneration, where it can make use of waste heat, and help soak up pollution.

Boris Petrovic. Whole Earth System Scientist and Noospheric Philosopher. engineer of teleautomation systems, a researcher into Tesla's "World system", Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere and magnetic reconnection. Boris is an associate of The Serbian "Nikola Tesla" Society in Belgrade, the Tesla Science Foundation in Philadelphia and founding member of the Noosphere Forum. He worked in a number of embedded tech and automation systems start-ups as a software engineer and architect. As a founding member of the Google Lunar X Prize Team Synergy Moon, he is involved in private space exploration, focusing on outer-space settlement. Through cooperation with the International Scientific Research Institute for Cosmic AnthropoEcology in Novosibirsk and the Foundation of the Law of Time in Oregon he works on the study of cosmic consciousness, access to intensified consciousness and altered states, including nonlinear time and telepathy. Research of Teslas wireless energy transfer, in his Belgrade laboratory, uncovers the potential energy field of instantaneous locality that underlies our reality, and facilitates communication with Earths cosmic neighborhood. Currently, he is involved in ecological and cultural projects in biosphere design and self-sustainable communities, promoting the integrated model of self-sustainable habitat in Portugal the Tamera Solar Village and working in Brasilia through the Brazilian Ecovillage Movement focusing on new models of living systems and long-term survival of the human species and civilization.