Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A History of Solar Energy 1


Solar Energy
In the Beginning

So where does the history of solar energy begin? It is my guess that it could have started when some caveman sat on a hot sun heated rock and burned his ass, perhaps later realising that this hot rock might have uses other than singeing his tush, perhaps he got to fry an egg on it?

Anyway we will never be able to know what our cavemen ancestors did with solar energy, so I may as well move on to the first big solar news story to get written up by the news media of the day.

Place; the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily, Time; 214 to 212 BC. The Romans were besieging the city, which managed to hold out for three whole years! This feat was due, in no small part, to the sheer genius of the hero of this story, no other than the genius, the inventor, the philosopher; (can we have a big hand for) - Archimedes, the most famous citizen of that city.

The cameras in those days were not too plentiful so Archimedes never got photographed
I have included a nice image to remind us of the great man - taken from the Fields Medal

Most school kids have heard some talk of Archimedes and of his genius for mathematics and various inventions, particularly the Archimedes screw for lifting water.

A very naive medieval depiction of the "Claw"

During the siege of Syracuse, it is told that Archimedes came up with some of his most brilliant inventions in order to protect the city from the Roman ships. One of these was a crane like affair called the Archimedes “Claw” which was said to be able to grab and capsize a ship.

But arguable the greatest and certainly the most controversial invention which Archimedes is said to have constructed is a great mirror, or system of mirrors, capable of focusing the suns rays and thereby setting the Roman ships on fire.

Many historians and scientists seriously doubted the stories of Archimedes burning mirror. But in Athens in 1973, a Dr. loannis Sakkas, arranged for 70 flat bronze mirrors to focus the sun's rays on a plywood cut-out Roman galley at a distance of 165 feet. It only took some minutes for the plywood to burst into flame.

Other attempts to prove the legend have been carried out, several would seem to verify the possibility that Archimedes had indeed succeeded. A more recent attempt by the TV series "Myth Busters"concluded it was not a practical proposition.

Focusing the suns rays would become a major preoccupation with later solar energy scientists.

Tune in again soon for part two of this story.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Coming Soon Solar Energy Potted History


Coming Soon,
My Attempt at

A Short History of Solar Energy

Guest writer Barbara Young's recent article on solar panels has had the effect on me of re-kindling a project I had in mind for some time. I had been gathering material, especially visual material, for a short history of solar energy.

So keep an eye out!!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Guest Writer on Solar Panels


I am always very happy to publish pieces by guest writers. Barbara Young contacted me recently and offered the following piece for publication. Barbara is quite evidently a keen sustainable energy enthusiast. She keeps a hobby website herself and writes about her passion to help achieve a greener world through wise energy usage.

I am delighted to publish her post as received, and wish her the very best with her efforts. You will find a link to her site at the end of the piece.

How solar panels work

by Guest Writer; Barbara Young

What is solar energy ?

Solar power is radiant energy which is produced by the sun. Every day the sun radiates, or sends out, an enormous quantity of energy. The sun radiates more energy in one second than people have used since the beginning of time!

The energy of the Sun derives from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is known as a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms. The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to create helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion.

During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. However the helium atom contains less mass than the four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.

It takes countless years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, and just a little over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the velocity of light.

Simply a small portion of the power radiated by the sun into space strikes the earth, one part in two billion. Yet this quantity of energy is enormous. Every day enough energy strikes the united states to supply the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!

Where does all of this energy go?

About 15 percent of the sun’s energy which hits our planet is reflected back to space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted into the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar energy is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The rest could be employed to supply our energy needs.

Who invented solar energy ?

Humans have harnessed solar power for years and years. As early as the 7th century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they'd cause wood to catch fire. Over 100 years ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to produce steam to drive a steam engine. At first of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar power in earnest. One important development was obviously a remarkably efficient solar boiler introduced by Charles Greeley Abbott, a united states astrophysicist, in 1936.

The solar water heater gained popularity at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing right before The second world war. This growth lasted before mid-1950s when low-cost gas took over as primary fuel for heating American homes.

The public and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar energy before oil shortages of the1970s. Today, people use solar technology to heat buildings and water and to generate electricity.

How we use solar energy today ?

Solar power is used in a variety of ways, of course. There are 2 very basic forms of solar power:

· Solar thermal energy collects the sun's warmth through one of two means: in water or in an anti-freeze (glycol) mixture.
· Solar photovoltaic energy converts the sun's radiation to usable electricity.

Five most practical and popular ways that solar power is employed:

1. Small portable solar photovoltaic systems. We see these used everywhere, from calculators to solar garden tools. Portable units can be utilised for everything from RV appliances while single panel systems can be used traffic signs and remote monitoring stations.

2. Solar pool heating. Running water in direct circulation systems via a solar collector is a very practical way to heat water for your pool or hot tub.

3. Thermal glycol energy to heat water. In this method (indirect circulation), glycol is heated by natural sunlight and the heat is then transferred to water in a warm water tank. This technique of collecting the sun's energy is more practical now than ever. In areas as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, solar thermal to heat water is economically sound. It can pay for itself in 3 years or less.

4. Integrating solar photovoltaic energy into your home or office power. In numerous parts on the planet, solar photovoltaics is an economically feasible way to supplement the power of your property. In Japan, photovoltaics are competitive with other types of power. In the USA, new incentive programs make this form of solar technology ever more viable in many states. A frequent and practical way of integrating solar energy into the power of your home or business is through the usage of building integrated solar photovoltaics.

5. Large independent photovoltaic systems. If you have enough sun power at your site, you might be able to go off grid. It's also possible to integrate or hybridize your solar power system with wind power or other forms of renewable energy to stay 'off the grid.'

How can Photovoltaic panels work ?

Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to create photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electrical energy. The power created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the energy into basic voltage and AC electrical energy.

Photovoltaic cells are prepared with particular materials called semiconductors like silicon, which is presently the most generally used. When light hits the Photovoltaic cell, a particular share of it is absorbed inside the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is given to the semiconductor.

The power unfastens the electrons, permitting them to run freely. Solar power cells also have one or more electric fields that act to compel electrons unfastened by light absorption to flow in a specific direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by introducing metal links on the top and bottom of the -Photovoltaic cell, the current can be drawn to use it externally.

Do you know the benefits and drawbacks of solar energy ?

Solar Pro Arguments

· Heating our homes with oil or propane or using electricity from power plants running with oil and coal is a reason behind global warming and climate disruption. Solar energy, on the contrary, is clean and environmentally-friendly.
· Solar hot-water heaters require little maintenance, and their initial investment may be recovered in just a relatively short time.
· Solar hot-water heaters can work in almost any climate, even just in very cold ones. Simply choose the best system for your climate: drain-back, thermo-syphon, batch-ICS, etc.
· Maintenance costs of solar powered systems are minimal and the warranties large.
· Financial incentives (USA, Canada, European states…) can aid in eliminating the price of the initial investment in solar technologies. The U.S. government, for instance, offers tax credits for solar systems certified by by the SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation), which amount to 30 percent of the investment (2009-2016 period).

Solar Cons Arguments

· The first investment in Solar Water heaters or in Photovoltaic Electric Systems is greater than that required by conventional electric and gas heaters systems.

· The payback period of solar PV-electric systems is high, as well as those of solar space heating or solar cooling (only the solar warm water heating payback is short or relatively short).
· Solar water heating do not support a direct combination with radiators (including baseboard ones).
· Some air cooling (solar space heating and the solar cooling systems) are very pricey, and rather untested technologies: solar air conditioning isn't, till now, a really economical option.
· The efficiency of solar powered systems is rather determined by sunlight resources. It's in colder climates, where heating or electricity needs are higher, that the efficiency is smaller.

Barbara Young has a personal hobby website, here is the link: Her work is related to helping people save energy using solar power to lower CO2 emissions and energy dependency.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Electric Cars and Energy Density


An Under-Powered Electric Car

Electric Cars
The Truth about Milage
and Batteries

Petrol gives approximately 9 kWh per litre. Diesel can deliver 10 kWh/L. Now compare this to the 0.25 kWh/l produced by current types of lithium-ion batteries, and you will see one heck of a difference.

Put it another way, if your gas tank was say the size of a large suitcase, a lithium-ion battery, to go the same distance, would have to be some 40 suitcases in size!!

That’s why, despite having lots and lots of space filled up with batteries, in the engine space, under the floor etc. etc., most electric cars are lucky to be able to go for 100 miles on a charge. A diesel car, on the other hand, can go for 500 - 600 miles on a fill.

The latest claim to fame for packing the most energy into a litre sized battery is by Ecolocap, who in their latest set of figures recently published, state that they have achieved the amazing energy density of 1.17 kWh per litre. That’s about 5 times greater than the very best current types of battery can pack in, all assuming that their claim can be substantiated.

If Ecolocap come up with the goods, it will make the electric car a much more a viable prospect for anyone other than the city driver.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ireland has 50% Wind Power


Did you know
Ireland has up to 50%
of it's Electricity
From Wind Turbines?

There is a headline being shouted around the media in the last few days to the effect that; “Ireland will be able to generate up to 40% of its power from wind by 2020”.

The Real BIG News

The real news is that there have been a few rare periods in recent months when wind power has provided up to 50% of Ireland’s electricity.

By January 2010 Ireland had an installed wind power capacity of some 1260 megawatts, that’s three times the 2005 capacity.

Ireland was on or near the top world league in wind power growth in 2008 the growth rate 54.6%.

Bugger All Use - Unless we can Store

All the wind power we have and all the new stuff going into service in the next year or two will not give us either power stability or independence from fossil fuels unless we invest in serious grid balancing storage facilities soon.

Will it be flooded glacial valleys for hydro storage, or will it be some new type of battery storage, or maybe Professor Garvey's compressed airbags?? Who knows what will emerge as the best but we need something right now if only on a fairly small scale.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Nissan turn a new Leaf


Nissan Blow Their Trumpet
Announcing the Leaf EV

Here is what the Nissan publicity people say about the new electric car, interspersed with some of my sarcastic comments. At around €30,000 plus taxes and delivery etc. I don't think I would be rushing out to get one. The mileage per charge is only a joke. We will need the new generation of battery now coming available to make the electric car anything but a novelty.


  • zero tailpipe emissions (You don’t say really!!!!!)
  • 100% electric – no gasoline required - (On an electric car you use no gas? wow!!)
  • high response synchronous AC motor 80kW (80 kW motor but only a 24kWh battery - a bit of an imbalance here don’t you think?)
  • range –100 miles/charge based upon US EPA LA4 City cycle2 (let me see, if I want to drive to Dublin from Kerry, I have to stop about half way and charge the battery and that will take how many hours??)
  • speeds up to 90 mph (sounds good - but for how long can you go before the battery runs down?)
  • 5 passengers, 5 doors (One door per passenger - how convenient)
  • Nissan Navigation System ( Wow- - a SatNav)
  • Nissan Connection powered by CARWINGS (CarWings - Does that mean it will fly too?)


  • 80 kW AC synchronous electric motor24 kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery3.3 kW on-board charger (That means the on board charges would take 7.50 hours to fully charge the battery)
  • Emissions – Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) (Except from the passengers, especially after beans and chips)
  • Power-assisted vented front disc/rear disc brakes
  • "Coasting" regenerative brakes4-wheel
  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
  • Electronic parking brake
  • Front and rear stabilizer bars
  • Vehicle speed-sensitive power-assisted steering

Manufacturers Sales Pitch

Did you ever notice that the people who write advertising blurbs for cars can sound very like estate agents. I never cease to marvel at the spin doctoring skills of these people. They manage to make a tiny dirty little dump of a house sound good; "Ideally situated, compact property, good location, bright airy property with good views."

Translation: Old urban terraced house near gas works, tiny box rooms, outside toilet, no heating, damp walls, drafty and overlooking a stagnant pond.

Yea yea - I am a bit too cynical at times I know.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

NextAlternative Buys High-Tech Korean Firm


NextAlternative Buys
High-Tech Korean Firm

Robert Ireland, the CEO of Next Alternative, who just a week or so ago announced cutting ties with Ecolocap, has announce acquiring 90% of Keosan High Tech Co. Ltd of South Korea.

Among the acquired patents coming with the Korean company, include - - -WAIT FOR IT: an Emulsion-Fuel Machine. Now where did we hear of such technology recently - - let me think - think - think - - - Oh Yes, wasn’t it Ecolocap that has a fuel water emulsion process??

Amazing coincidence is it not? Or a bit of COPY-CAT behaviour maybe?


Saturday, June 05, 2010

What's with Ecolocap and NextAlternative

What the Hell
is going on here???

A couple of days ago the CEO of NextAlternative announced that a "deal" with Ecolocap to distribute their nano-technology battery in the US had been voided.

Strange thing about the affair is that NextAlternative had only last month announced their own nano-technology battery based on lead acid technology, so why the heck would they want to distribute a rival company's product????

Stranger and stranger it gets, and why, tell me - do, would Ecolocap want a direct rival in the nano battery field distributing their battery???? It just does not make any sort of sense to me.

Are we possibly talking the same battery technology being claimed last month by both of the companies??? Or is it different technology, as the publicity would indicate???

It all smells a bit fishy!!! I would be more than a little worried if I had money in either company, seems very odd stuff going on here altogether.

NextAlternative story. Posted 8th May 2010:

Ecolocap recent story. Posted 20th May 2010:


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Oil, Just Add Water for greater Efficiency!!


For Greater Efficiency
Just Add Water!!

EcoloCap, the company I have been writing about recently, the same company that has a viable nano-technology battery about to come on production, have also another WOW factor innovation under their belt.

See my post:

Ecolocap have developed what they call M-Fuel, which is a way of blending oil with water using nano-technology.

I know - I know - it sounds mad but it seems to work - read on:

M -Fuel is an emulsion consisting of 60% heavy oil, 40% water, and a 0.3% stabilizing additive. M-Fuel is manufactured in a Nano Processing Units (NPU), a self-contained device that is sized for output. The NPU’s can be configured to operate in conjunction with an engine or burner to supply M-Fuel on demand, or the stuff can be pre-manufactured and stored.

How it Works

A NPU has three basic components: fuel intake, water intake and a blending chamber, or Nano Generating Unit. The fuel intake unit has the ability to process just about any oil, including diesel, contaminated waste oils, and used cooking oils. The water unit can process any type of contaminated water including seawater, once it is filtered of particulate matter.

The fuel and water are then measured into the Nano Generating Unit which works using an electro-mechanical high-energy field to combine these elements on a sub-micron level.

The water molecules are split into H and O2, and the oil is broken down into sub-micron bubbles. Each bubble absorbs a molecule of H or O2.

Ecolocaps proprietary stabilizing additive acts to coat the molecules, giving them a negative charge, allowing them to quickly disperse within a combustion chamber.

Why it Works

Nano sized oil molecules have a diameter under half a micron. When sprayed into a burner or engine the fuel presents some 10,000 to 20,000 times greater surface area of a normal aspirated oil particle.

This greatly increased air fuel surface area allows the micro oil droplets to burn way more effectively. Combustion releases the trapped H and O2, creating a secondary burn, producing water vapour. The formation of the water vapour acts to cool the burn, and this in turn preventing production of NOx.

Ecolocap claim that their M-Fuels give increased efficiency, reduced emissions by up to 60%, reduced fuel consumption by some 40%, and overall cost cutting by up to 25%.

The Nano Processing Units are scalable, customisable, and can be implemented without modifying existing equipment. The nano fuel can be burned in anything from lawn mowers to super tanker engines.

Applications For the New Fuel

* On-Road Transportation: trucks, buses, public fleets, mass transit fleets, private fleets
* Off-Road Transportation: marine engines, locomotives, construction equipment
* Power Generation: large institutional heat sites, apartments complexes, hospitals, universities
* Industrial: power plants, boilers, furnaces, turbines, boilers, driers, kilns

Here is a modified outline of the company's system benefits listing:

Economical Benefits include:

* Fuel consumption savings
* Ability to burn cheaper and dirtier fuels
* Reduction in maintenance of existing equipment
* Reduced combustion temperature peaks
* Shipping and storage savings
* Qualifies for Carbon Credit Trading
* Complete combustion and oxygen use
* Extends life of equipment

Ecological Benefits include:

* Meets 2030 emission requirements
* Reduces SOx, NOx, CO, and CO2 emissions
* Eliminates particulate emissions of dust and ash
* Reduction in carbon, soot, and smoke build-up
* Recycles any contaminated water
* Recycles contaminated waste oil
* Qualifies for ‘green’ tax credits

Efficient Benefits:

* Increases primary and secondary atomization
* More complete and uniform burning temperature
* Increases thermal efficiency
* Reduces equipment cleaning costs
* Reduces acid mist and particulate formation
* Reduces back-end fouling and corrosion

Fuel and Equipment Flexibility:

* Utilises kerosene, diesel, waste oils, and bio-fuels
* No modification to burners or diesel engines
* NPUs can be sized for output consumption
* NPUs can be computer operated and remotely accessed
* No human intervention needed to operate the unit
* Fast installation and hassle free operation

Now all we just need some independent testing and verification, and then one very large NPU in every local district on the planet to process road and heating fuels. Oil companies take note!!!!!

Hope this is for real - but I do believe there is a major future in Nano Technology applications.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Enercon Turbines Tralee Base


An Enercon Turbine installed near Tralee

Enercon will
Establish Technical Service Base
in Tralee

ENERCON, the German wind turbine manufacturer, has announced that it is to establish a technical service depot in Tralee. This, I think, is appropriate given that many of the new turbines installed around the county in recent times have been Enercons.

The Enercon wind turbine is readily recognisable because it has a fat nacelle or housing behind the rotor. The rotund nacelle is needed because Enercon turbines are a gear free design using a very large diameter rotor that turns at the same low speed as the blades. The design makes the turbine more efficient and less service intensive.

The venture will create about 30 jobs. The facility will be located in Tralee Technology Park. It would be really nice to see Enercon set up a manufacturing facility in Ireland!

From Previous Contact with Enercon

Some time back, when I was making some initial enquiries connected with the "Spirit of Ireland" initiative, I spoke with Mr Robin Borgert Enercons regional sales manager.

The initial stimulation for making the call was I wanted to get a ballpark cost for Enercon’s larger turbines. Some very important pieces of information emerged in the course of the conversation.

1. Enercon would be prepared to move a good part of its manufacturing facility to Ireland if contracted for a large project. This would be very valuable to the country in term of jobs.

2. Enercon, in some installations, use concrete towers, these have several advantages, cheaper, less stress mechanically, lower maintenance, and interestingly (from an Irish perspective) can be produced locally.

3. Enercon offer a 12-year maintenance agreement, as distinct from Vestas and Siemens who both offer 5-year contracts. The gearless design has a longer life and less maintenance. The initial cost 0.6 cent per Kw/h rising to 1.2 cent per Kw/h in the latter years.

4. Enercon E70 has an installed cost of €1 to €1.1m per megawatt. The larger machines have a higher cost. (Price at the time)