Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ground-breaking solar energy system (?)

What do we know about solar energy? What do you think of? 

PV (photovoltaic) panels that produce electricity come to mind, or solar thermal  systems that give bath-loads of hot water for anyone who has installed them.

Then there's concentrated solar power, of which there's a nice photo and description from wikipedia here. Basically these are huge rows of curved (parabolic) mirrors that reflect sunlight to a static tank of water or oil throughout the day.  The heat generated creates steam to drive a turbine to make electricity.  

I thought that was as far as we had gone with solar systems, until I came across this radically different concept they call the Sun-Pulse.  Invented by the German physicist and inventor, Jurgen Kleinwachter, it has been built and tested in Tamera since 2008.  So, here's how it works: 

- solar energy in the form of sunlight is collected in pipes erected on a structure (in their case a greenhouse but it could be flat panels on a roof, or a series of parabolic mirrors beaming the light at a centralised tank, just like in the concentrated solar power system);

- vegetable oil is the selected medium to be heated because it has a boiling point far higher than water, so it can be heated to over 150 degrees C or higher (can't remember exactly, doesn't matter right now).  

- the veg oil is allowed to circulate around a Stirling Engine.  OK this in itself is a wonderful invention and concept all by itself - invented in 1813 by a Scotsman!  Basically it's an engine that runs on the temperature difference between two points.  There are two pistons that are driven up and down as gas is expanded when heat is applied to the "hot end" of the engine. Cold water is pumped to the cold end to maintain the temperature difference.  The pistons move and drive a flywheel, which can be connected to a generator to make electricity, or a pump to move water, or a tank to hold compressed air, and so on.  Again wikipedia has the basics here

Now, the beauty of this system we visited in Tamera was its simplicity despite the complex design and mechanics.  We were shown around by Douglas Baillie and Janos Valder, both seriously competent scientist-technicians in their own right. Douglas comes with a PHD in physics from Heriot Watt University in Scotland, which speaks for itself. 

Douglas beside the stirling engine. The insulated pipes carry the hot oil to and from the stirling engine. The
circular fly wheel on the right is rotated as the engine runs. 
 Douglas explained that all this was built on a fairly low budget, using recycled metal and basic membranes.  

Nikita, right, researching for his essay...

Inside the greenhouse Douglas explains how the "Fresnel" mirrors direct sunlight to the copper
pipes that carry the oil. 

The stirling engine here powers a 2.5KW electrical generator, but the system can do so much more, including: 

-  circulation of hot oil to a kitchen area to cook food
-  compress air for running tools
-  mechanical energy to run rotational tools or for milling, etc. 

Here's a video that explains the whole set up in 9 minutes

Later I was in touch with Jurgen (the inventor) who has started to work with a company in Germany to produce smaller, more efficient system. Jurgen explained that they have started to use the pumping capacity to capture air, remove the nitrogen to create oxygen in tanks which can then be used for welding. He is also confident that the heat can be used to run heat pumps that could run fridges. Imagine the possibilities: the capacity to create cooling in hot climates. Ice for cold stores, vaccination programmes, storing food and so on. 

Solar water pumping, Stirling-style

Next we were introduced to the Sun-Pulse Water. This is based on a similar principle: solar heat is collected in a basic dish (see photo) which runs a stirling engine, itself connected directly to a water pump.  

The team say the calculated pumping capacity for this puppy is a whopping 400,000 litres per day at negligible head, up to 80,000 litres / day from 10m depth and 15,000 l/day from 50m - in a site that has around 2,000 sunshine hours per year (in other words, forget most of the UK).

This is serious stuff. In Pakistan last year there were lakes of standing water for 7 months after a flood, inundating a massive area, as far as my eye could see in some places.  Diesel driven dewatering pumps were used but local authorities quickly ran out of money for fuel so the impact was limited.  Could this thing really move that much water in a day? (4m litres in ten days of sunshine). If so, bring-it-on...

Janos, standing beside the Sun-Pulse Water engine / pump - built with a few spare parts
bits of motorbike, some old metal and sticky back reflective foil. 

Economic analysis and comparison

The question now is to compare the costs of construction and operation against other solar or renewable energy systems.  Take your average rural village in Pakistan where the electricity supply is utterly unreliable: on average, people receive only around 4 to 6 hours per day - for which they pay around $7 per month per family.  In a village of 100 households that's around $40,000 spent over five years.  With rampant inflation that's likely to be closer to $60,000 in five years.  And remember, that's for just a few hours of power per day.  

In most villages people use this power for a bit of light, charging mobile phones and fans for the extreme heat (well over 45 degrees C for about half the year). 

So, let's assume that the community decides to apply for a micro-finance loan to erect an alternative power supply.  Their options are limited to solar PV, which would be quite expensive, and would be limited to the provision of electricity (12v or 240v if an expensive and energy-hungry inverter were bought). 

If a sun-pulse were installed, it could, potentially, provide adequate electrical power but also mechanical energy for pumping water, driving machines to allow for a vast range of micro livelihoods and, as discussed, cooling for food processing, storage etc.

That's in theory.  Now we need to put it into practice.  Our plan is to write a research proposal whereby Jurgen, Tamera and a local NGO in Pakistan would team up with a local university and a local community to build a test system. 

Funding is going to be needed to kick-start this whole process.  Training in system construction and design could take place in Tamera and later in-country, technical support and guidance from Jurgen and his colleagues in Germany and implementation, testing and research carried out in the community in Pakistan.  
The question of capital investment is really critical for this or any other energy project. I've been inspired by the work of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which pioneered a system of providing loans to landless poor in that country.  Then they stared Grameen Shakti, which is promoting solar PV energy systems to rural poor on a credit basis, with massive ambition to reach 15 million people by 2015.  Surely something like this could work in Pakistan and other countries to allow poor communities to access the money they are going to pay anyway over the coming years for electricity and other energy services.  

So that's the idea.  Now we have to see if it's feasible - and to find out if the Sun-Pulse offers better economics that solar photovoltaic power for people out there struggling with serious energy insecurity.  


kai zimmer said...

Nice blog. Thanks for sharing this information.
Solar Shop

Warner Carter said...

Solar energy is routinely used on nearly all spacecraft today. This technology on a larger scale, combined with already demonstrated wireless power transmission (see 2-minute video of demo), can supply nearly all the electrical needs of our planet. diy solar water heater

Alisya Baker said...

The Green Directory has the most comprehensive selection of Green, Eco, Sustainable, Fair Trade and Environmentally Friendly Companies, Products and Services. Use the eco directory to find green, eco, fair trade, recycled and sustainable businesses, services, news,Eco Housing ,events, articles and guides.

William Duke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erwin M. said...

This man deserves to be praise for his great invention about solar. With solar energy, everything is possible. Another one great example of solar invention is the Solar Heater For Pool.

Fred Duffler said...

Thank you for information about solar energy system. Great work, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, lot of information is available here, Solar power system can be used to power whole buildings and any surplus power can be routed to the public grid. Thanks for sharing

Angela Navejas said...

Nice Info! Except, it is the work of every citizen of the world to help in the shielding of the atmosphere for future descent as well. So, think about solar systems it will be helpful for your home.

High Efficiency Solar Panels | Solar Power System Canada

Anth ony said...

Thanks for sharing this blog.I like this blog very much. really such an nice and decent information shared here with awesome stuff.More info visit:-

hammad tariq said...

Thanks for sharing such informative stuff.system

Ewan Lane said...

Nice start guys...I went through the website and I found that you made decent point for Keep up the topic that everyone can choose one of the best. Thanks. energy audit

Annie Khan said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog post ... system

annie swati said...

Great content. I strongly believe content should be genuine...................... solar pv

annie swati said...

Great content. I strongly believe content should be genuine...................... solar pv

Anth ony said...

I like your blog on this topic is well-written and original. Your information is really interesting to all readers. Hope you continue to keep up with this blog and will provide us some more information like this.Solar Energy California.

Procuro Terreno said...

Hi Magnus. I saw your posts on a Portuguese permaculture forum, and wondered if you could help me?

I am also in Portugal, looking for a quinta to live off-grid and I am struggling to find a Portuguese eco-builder (registered and licensed in Portugal). There don´t seem to be any! Or at least, I dont know how to hunt one down via the internet.

I have no building skills and I am on a tight budget, so I was thinking of renovating a stone ruin (smaller than yours appears though!)

I hope to end up with a passive-solar eco-home with green roof adapted for harvesting rainwater for drinking.

I am hoping you will have come across the resources I will need during your time here, and would be willing to forward them to me? I am very hard of hearing, so e-mails are best, or failing that mobile phones so I can send texts.

Very many thanks for your help!
Warmest wishes

zeenat khan said...

yes this is a good discussion ..I will bring it to others that have solar panels for salesolar panels for salexM

Jamesh Smith said...

I must say that you are a great blogger and really described well Solar Panel Services .Also Going Green Renewables is known for its fine solar panel services in Slough, England. All products are smartly designed to meet the electricity requirements in home perfectly. Moreover, all the products and services have a minimum of 5 years of guarantee that is insurance-backed too.

rishan safar said...

congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!! go

Sugandha Shukla said...

Nice Info! It is a known the matter of fact that climate transformation brought about by the rigid increase in greenhouse gas dilation from coal-run power plants is beforehand impress the world.

Solar Panel Manufacturer India | Solar Panel Manufacturer in India | Solar Panel Manufacturers in Delhi

David Belliveau said...

Every couple of months has me searching to see if Sunvention or Tamera or anyone that has anything to do with these big stirling engines and I come away fairly empty.

Does anyone have any idea when we'll be able to buy plans or watch detailed construction videos?

It seems like quite a shame that something that looks like it works so nicely is still a mysterious device to most everyone who may be interested.

I'm remodeling my broken down house and would like to live off-grid. Since I don't have a solar cell fab plant, it sure would be nice to have a few of these powering the building.

magnus wolfe murray said...

Hi all,
"Procuro Terreno" (land buyer) sorry I haven't been back to you or anyone in months. To answer your question re eco builders.. it's really hard to find experienced ones, for sure. Have you tried the Spanish straw bale network? There is also a Portuguese "permacultura e transicao" forum, which is worth looking up. I've been living in Pakistan until recently so have been a bit out of things. Good luck though.

magnus wolfe murray said...

David Belliveu,
Good question! And I've been on to the inventor, Jurgen Kleinwasser, for years now, to get me either a price for a ready made product or desgins or training in how to build one. But they are still working on all that, so it's not exactly ready just yet.
I'd suggest getting in touch with Tamera as they might be running a workshop on this stuff at the end of August this year.

David Belliveau said...

It's too bad they haven't freely publicized the drawings for this system.

This seems like a natural open source project that would benefit greatly from many eyes and brains working on it to make it better.

I guess I could take the time to figure out how it works and try to build it myself. It doesn't look like there's any hidden magic.

Time to hit the garage.

David smith said...

Nice blog...Contact Prosolar Hawaii for Solar Power System For Small House.

James Brown said...

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...
solar installation

zulfiqar ali said...

we are expert in manufacturing the electric appliances. we make many parts which related the electric world. we are serving in solar panels manufacturing, DP panles and DP, motor control panels, manual power factor , PFI, LT switchgear, feeder pillars, power distribution board and its type, generator cubical body, cable laders, cables trays and UPS , UPS panels and cabinets. Email us to get our services "" and call us to +923004546662 or +923134546662. thank you for interest.

Solar Energy said...

Very good post with nice video that show how solar energy is used to generate electricity.We also deal with the similar type system of generating electricity. and are among the top solar panel kit supplier in Delhi at affordable cost.You can also visit our site in order to know us in detail.

Blogger said...

You may be eligible for a new solar energy program.
Discover if you qualify now!

Caezar poulin said...

Thanks for sharing fabulous information. It' s my pleasure to read it

Solar Albuquerque

yayi pabon said...

Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post.

Solar Las Vegas