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Category Archives: Power generation

With recent announcement of the prestigious award to NREL (National renewable energy laboratory, USA) for developing SJ3 solar cells along with their industrial partner Solar Junction, there is a new hope and expectation that PV solar will become a major source of clean energy of the future.Togather with Hydrogen as an energy carrier, the PV solar hydrogen will certainly be a game changer. With increasing efficiency of solar panel from 17.24% up to 50%, and generating   high pressure hydrogen using improved solid polymer electrolyzer, the sun and water will become the future source of clean energy replacing our decade’s long dependency on fossil fuel. There is also a distinct possibility of converting water into hydrogen by direct sunlight using photo-electrolysis as explained in my earlier article, “Can we duplicate Nature’s photosynthesis for Hydrogen production?”’ dated April 2,2012.

SJ3 solar cell uses tunable band gaps, lattice matched architecture with ultra-concentration tunnel junction to meet the highest conversion efficiency of 43.5% with a possibility to reach an efficiency of 50%.This  conversion efficiency is the percentage amount of solar energy converted directly into electrical energy. Such a high-efficiency is due to the lens focusing the sunlight with 418 times intensity of the sun. There is no other cost involved except the bottom Germanium layer of three junctions with Gallium and a dash of dilute nitride alloy. This small change boosts the bottom band-gap from 0.67 eV (electron volts) to 1.0 eV.The three layered SJ3 cell captures various frequencies of sunlight at various times and conditions achieving the best efficiency of converting photons to electrons.

High pressure PEM Hydrogen generators producing 99.99% purity Hydrogen at higher pressures are already under development. With carbon fiber storage tanks up to 10,000 psi pressure ratings, Fuel cell cars will become commercial reality overtaking Lithium battery powered electrical vehicles.PV solar Hydrogen will significantly alter the transportation and stationary power generation industries in the future simply because hydrogen has the highest heat value and it is absolutely clean.

Age old centralized power plants using fossil fuels with highest carbon emission and water consumption has created serious environmental problems all over the world. Coastal power plants discharge a huge amount of ‘once through’ cooling water into the sea at higher temperature and at higher salinity.Tranasport industries using fossil fuels emit  high greenhouse gases due to age-old, inefficient combustion engines causing global warming. Low humidity, high surface temperatures, dry conditions and lightning are a perfect combination of conditions for bush fires similar to the one witnessed in Colorado mountain ranges.

It is a right time to adopt distributed energy systems so that individual’s houses and business can generate their own power using PV solar and wind Hydrogen with no transmission grids and grid failures. It is time to replace fossil fuel with sun’s light and pure water so that we can hope for a cleaner future. We have all the necessary technologies and we need a will and concerted effort to make these changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live in a carbon constrained world where carbon emission is considered as the biggest challenge of the twenty-first century. We unearthed fossil fuel which Nature buried for millions of years and burnt them for our advantage to generate power and to run our cars. Scientist pointed out that the unabated emission of greenhouse will cause the globe to warm with dire consequences. However this came as an ‘inconvenient truth’ to industries and Governments around the world. The economic consequences of stopping fossil fuels weighted more than the global warming. Governments were in a precarious situation and unable to take a concrete policy decision. Popular Governments were not willing to risk their power by taking ethical decisions and opted for popular decision to keep up their growth. Then the financial crisis became an issue, which has nothing to do with greenhouse emission or global warming. Yet, the economic and industrial growth stumbled in many developed countries and unemployment skyrocketed. Governments are caught in a situation where they need to take a balanced view between an ethical decision and economic decisison.The overwhelming evidence of global warming and their consequences are slowly felt by countries around the world by natural disasters of various sizes and intensities.

Some scientist suggested that there is nothing wrong using fossil fuels; we can continue with greenhouse emission without risking the economic growth by  capturing  the carbon emission and burying  them underground. Carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies became popular and more funds were allocated to them than renewable energy development.Countires like India and China are not in a hurry to discontinue fossil fuels but continue to make massive investments on coal-fired power plants. They neither tried to capture carbon nor bury them, but continue to emit carbon claiming that it is their turn of economic growth and right to emit carbon emission. The chief of UN panel on climate change headed by an Indian has no sayin the matter.Politicians push scientists into the background when the truth is inconvenient to them.

How feasible in the carbon sequestration technology and what is the cost? Even if we can come up with a successful technology of capturing carbon and burying them underground, there will be a cost involved. This cost will invariably be passed on to the consumer which  will  eventually increase the cost of energy. Constraining carbon emission without incurring a cost can only be a dream. Capturing carbon emission is nothing new; Carbon dioxide is absorbed by solvents like MEA (Monoethanolamine) in many chemical industries. The absorbed carbon dioxide can be stripped free of solvent and the solvent can be recycled. This carbon dioxide can be treated with Ammonia to get Urea, a Fertilizer. But the source of Hydrogen can come only from renewable energy sources. That is why ‘Renewable Hydrogen ‘is the key to solve global warming problem. We can produce Urea from “captured Carbon” and ‘Renewable Hydrogen’ so that we can cut a real quantity of greenhouse emission. Carbon recycling is a sustainable solution than Carbon capturing and burying. Countries like India who depend upon import of Urea for their agriculture production should immediately make Carbon recycling into Urea production mandatory. It is a win situation for everybody in the world.

Carbon is the backbone of an organic life on earth. Every life from the smallest microorganism to human beings is made up of carbon. A cycle  called ‘carbon cycle’ that decomposes carbon into carbon dioxide which is used to synthesis Carbohydrates by the  process known as  ‘photosynthesis’ in presence of water and sunlight, as described in the following equation:

6CO2+ 6H2O   + sunlight →  C6H12O6 + 6O2

The oxygen generated during the above process and carbohydrates sustains life of animals and microorganism on earth. These lives consume oxygen and carbohydrates and releases Carbon dioxide by respiration into the atmosphere. The released carbon dioxide breaks down carbohydrates and other organic matters and regenerates carbon dioxide for reuse by animals and other lives. Not all organic matters are decomposed and part of it is stored as carbon biomass in the roots of plants and other organic matters and buried under earth. After millions of years these organic matters turns into fossil fuels under pressure and higher temperature. Carbon is distributed on earth, in water and in atmosphere. Due to increase in population and industrial growth over several decades the carbon dioxide increased gradually in soil, water and atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is also released by natural events like volcanic eruptions.

But the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased rapidly after industrialisation, when industries unearthed buried fossil fuels and burnt. In fact we are burning carbon at a faster rate than it is regenerated. It is purely man-made and it increases the presence of carbon dioxide both in atmosphere as well as in oceans. The rapid increase of green house emission started 240 years ago when industrial revolution started. The consequences of this unabated greenhouse gases due to combustion has caused ‘global warming’ with many consequences.

As I have mentioned in my previous articles, power generation and transportation are the two major industries that emit bulk of the greenhouse emission. Both industries use age-old technologies of combustion. The world has been complacent about fossil fuels and grossly indifferent to industrial pollution for decades. Global warming is looming as the biggest threat of the twenty-first century, yet we are not acting. Politicians deny global warming and they want to carry on the business as usual, at the peril of the future generations.

Powerful countries like US, China and India are reluctant to pass a unanimous resolution to set target for carbon emission, while smaller nations remain as powerless onlookers. These powerful nations can drag the rest of the world with them to face the wrath of the Mother Nature with disastrous consequences for their inaction.

It is quite obvious that world have no choice but switch to cleaner energy sources and leave the fossil fuels buried deep under the earth. A new paradigm shift in the way we generate energy and use them is the key for the survival of mankind. We need to develop Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and Government should encourage innovations in such technologies, while they simultaneously price carbon. In the absence of a concrete legislation and mechanism to penalize polluters, industries will continue to use fossil fuels. A simple cost benefit analysis will show that taxing on polluters and simultaneously introducing renewable technologies will benefit the world in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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