Archive for the ‘Hybrid RE Systems’ Category

WWOOFing, permaculture & spherical cows

For the past couple of months, I’ve had a really fun a time practicing problem solving requiring the consideration of a spherical cow, er back of the envelope calculations, whilst designing a schema for implementing hybrid renewable energy systems on a commercial, organic farm in the Napa Valley of California.

I have been performing the duties of a WWOOFing Acolyte, learning about permaculture while applying my sustainable development knowledge in the field which includes developing a commercial application schema for installing small wind turbines in the built environment. Additionally, I am looking at opportunities for installing photovoltaics and biomass waste recovery systems. Thanks to Dr. Kubiak at the RLP AgroScience Institute for AgroEcology in the Rhineland-Pfalz area of Germany, my interest in biomass has been heightened to not only look at utilization of an anaerobic digester for farm and vineyard waste, but also utilizing the grape pomace as an effective mold and mildew mitigating agent.

My aim is to mindfully identify and address how ecosystems respond to change, how to facilitate public engagement by telling a story that resonates with all stakeholders, to help the environment and to learn how to mitigate the decline of biodiversity. The goal is to build on and better understand how my multidisciplinary insights apply in a real-world setting, and in identifying and understanding the landscape and culture of all stakeholders. And ultimately, I aim to provide big picture, sound, pragmatic and as-green-as-possible renewable energy technology recommendations that minimize any potential impacts on the landscape and culture being served, so an environmentally and socially accountable end can be ultimately achieved.

More to come soon…

More thoughts on the Portland, OR, USA 12W Bldg wind turbine array

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to walk past the 12W  building in downtown Portland, OR, USA. The day was blustery, so it was a treat to watch these downwind machines yaw into the wind. I know, I know, I am a geek.

Last summer, I had an opportunity to speak with the project architects about the energy production of this urban ‘wind farm.’ Indeed, the energy yield of 1%/annum is rather low; far less than expected for urban wind turbine installations. And ja, perhaps a 4-5%/annum yield would really mean something, especially if it were a part of a hybrid system, say accompanying a PV array.

Aside: From my vantage point yesterday, it appeared as if there might be a PV array installed since I made my last pass this building in late summer last year. Perhaps these architects took my advice?

Right, so ZGF is testing the production of electricity. And perhaps now they are investigating the vibrational and noise effects of putting four turbines on top of a building since I planted this seed on them last summer. I pointedly told them vibration and noise could end up being the bane of this real-world experiment. I had shared with them what I had learned from the decommissioning of wind turbines on the high-rise buildings due to the aerodynamic noise generated in the Warwick Wind Trials results, such that the wind turbines formerly installed on the 45m high Eden Court in the Warwickshire, UK had to be permanently switched off in October 2008 due to noise complaints by the inhabitants. I last heard there was a moratorium on installing wind turbines on buildings in the Midlands of the UK because of these results. Be a shame if this happens in Portland, too.

Typically, wind turbine supports/masts are installed directly into the vertical support structures of the building to make them stronger. Beats the hell out of me why they didn’t do this, especially since there was obviously intent to do this in their early drawings. Installing the wind turbines directly on the rooftop makes an ideal opportunity for different frequencies of harmonics, precipitated by the wind, “making parts of the building hum and vibrate.” The harmonics shift and cause different portions of this structure to vibrate as the wind rises and falls, compromising the quality of life for the inhabitants of this building. Annoying to say the least. And at worst, could compromise this installation, requiring a decommissioning and a missed opportunity to study the potential of installing small wind turbines in the urban/built environment.

I asked these architects last summer if the results would be publicized for public consumption, and so I could have a go at analyzing their data. I understand that the building was officially commissioned back in Nov 2009. I am still waiting to see the data that is produced by the on-board inverter, user-monitored two-way wi-fi interface of the Skystream 3.7 wind turbines. I have been known to be “blind”, but I could not locate anything last time I trolled their web site. And, I stopped contacting them, because I was under the distinct impression I had unearthed some discomforting ideas they weren’t too keen on addressing, although I am always one for providing workarounds and solutions.

As I am learning, most designers tend to quietly dismiss a project’s failings, and don’t repeat installations like this. And so, as with folks in the USA not paying attention to the results of the Warwick Wind Trials, I have to wonder as if the poor decisions will only be repeated here.

Some have wagered that this installation will be taken down within another 12 months. I would like to think this will not be the case. But only time will tell, eh?

Small-scale distributed hybrid RE systems opportunity == Haiti

It’s been over a week now, and I haven’t seen any interest in some of the RE discussion forums I am a part of on offering an assist to rebuild Haiti. This saddens me. I may be ‘blind’, but sans the Solar Light Electric Fund, who already has solar panels in a warehouse in Haiti, and who had/has aspirations to perform more PV installations,  I have not seen any feeds on the RE community scrambling to offer assistance to Haiti on the ground, yet.

I see this as a long-overdue opportunity to help & rebuild an infrastructure. An opportunity to perform my part as a global citizen.

Witnessing the events since a week ago, the first thing on my mind after assisting the survivors was what kind of efforts were being made to rebuild the infrastructure–electricity capacity in particular. I listened to this report today on Democracy NOW! by Amy Goodman who’s on the ground in Haiti. Comments came from a  Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health contingency in the main hospital in Port-au-Prince, that doesn’t have adequate electricity to keep running 24/7,  so they can perform life-saving surgeries.

With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need

This is a week well after the initial earthquake! I won’t get into the politics of why I ‘know’ this is transpiring…

If anyone wants to collaborate and help me make way to Haiti in the coming months, I’ll gladly donate my time to help site, design, make recommendations for implementation of sustainable development including hybrid RE systems (solar, wind, micro-hydro, biomass–whatever technology is appropriate for the geographically predisposed location).

And I’ll stick around and help provide labor and install, too. I’m beyond past ready to get out from behind the computer. The Solar Electric Light Fund’s slogan is Energy is a human right. A human right, INDEED!

Hybrid RE Systems–Nudge, Nudge. When is the USA going to get on the ball?

I am confounded. To the best of my knowledge, a great deal of companies in renewable energy (RE) are not collectively using the operatives ‘hybrid renewable energy’ in their marketing and educational language in the USA. I mean, it just makes sense, since the sun does not shine 24/7–typically, when the sun is down, the wind is comparatively gusty. PV, altho it’s ‘sexy’  and wind is prosperous at this time, alone they are not a panacea.

To achieve a better overall electricity supply, it’s just makes common sense to integrate two or more renewable energy technologies–be they wind-solar, wind-solar-biomass, wind-biomass, solar-biomass, etc. This, of course, will depend on one’s geographical predisposition and renewable energy resource availability.

Aside: I figured this out back in 2000 when I had my epiphany whilst a Sr. Systems Administrator at Preview Travel/ during the Y2K ‘unevent’ in San Francisco, CA. My company was located just a few blocks from the Embarcadero, in a part of San Francisco where insolation was primo. It bothered me a great deal that we could spend 10’s of 1,000s of dollars, er ~$75,000.00 for a three day rental of a back-up battery generator, half a city block long, to ensure our security of electricity supply. When we should have, instead, spent all that moola on a PV array to match our peak load, daytime requirements on our low aspect ratio building for our web server farm and 350+ nodes for our end-users. Not to mention, it’s also possible an urban wind turbine could have been installed to handle the nighttime power requirements for our 125 web server farm, database and Liebert UPS. A perfect justification for a hybrid RE system!!

So, once again, the EU is ahead of this USA in this regard. I recently came across this web site: Hybrid systemsSkip to main content

And on the educational tip, universities like Loughborough University/CREST, Oldenburg and Kassel, DE, as well as The School of Renewable Energy Science in Iceland offer graduate level course work in in hybrid renewable energy systems. So far in the USA, to the best of my knowledge, only the Oregon Institute of Technology offers a RE Engineering program; but, it is a four year undergraduate program.

I mean, it’s going to take an amalgam of renewable energy technologies to keep the lights on and CPUs fired-up when the end of oil arrives, so that a certain quality of life standard can be maintained/attained in the future, anyway. Generating electricity close to where it will be used is an attractive option, enhances the security of supply, not to mention the carbon footprint reduction benefit. Sans the folks who have installed off-grid, hybrid renewable energy systems and the group at NREL performing research, what is the rest of this nation waiting for? Can you say distributive hybrid renewable energy systems?

I know. I know. Probably isn’t going to happen until relative cost of petrol/natural gas go up and the demand for renewable energy goes up in the marketplace.

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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