Bentley Systems: The Year in Infrastructure and the 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure

Join CEO Greg Bentley, Bentley executives, Siemens, and AEC Advisors for their latest insights on December 1st and 2nd during the Year in Infrastructure.

Throughout the virtual event, Bentley Systems and its partners will celebrate the digital advancements in infrastructure and sustainability by spotlighting the winners of the 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure.

You are invited to attend the event to learn how the people behind the award-winning projects made amazing impacts in cities, energy, mobility, project delivery, and water.

Bentley Systems Chief Executive Officer Greg Bentley, Chief Success Officer Katriona Lord-Levins, and Chief Product Officer Nicholas Cumins will share their insights on infrastructure trends, sustainability, and advancements in going digital.  Hear from Siemens, AEC Advisors, and other industry experts that are making impressive infrastructure advancements in cities, energy, mobility, project delivery, and water.

On December 1, the event will focus on how going digital advances the resilience and adaptation of our organizations and infrastructure assets, including by honoring extraordinary examples.

On December 2, the conference will focus on how going digital advances global projects and skillsets, including by presenting the much anticipated 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure recognizing the outstanding projects in their categories as judged by independent jurors.

 For a sneak peek, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkBD6KpL9r8

 To register for the event, use the link:  https://yii.bentley.com/en for the Year in Infrastructure and the 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure virtual event is now open.  Registration is FREE for all participants.

 

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3 innovations for off-grid power storage

Over the past decade, the idea of a closed-loop off-the-grid home that draws its power from batteries has gone from that of an improbable wish to a very real option for many homeowners. And what’s driving this change may surprise you. Over the past several years, incredible advancements in battery technology have transformed the effectiveness, efficiency and commercial availability of these off-grid battery systems.

From increased charging and energy storage efficiency to more efficient solar panels to chanrge these off-grid batteries; today’s home charging systems are truly superior to previous eras of off-grid energy. And this, in turn, has made the prospect of home battery systems more compelling for homeowners who are not only looking to save on recurring electricity bills but who are also looking for a resilient alternative to traditional power.

Solid-state vs lithium-ion

One of the most impactful innovations in battery technology over the past several years is the commercial availability of solid-state batteries. And to showcase the tremendous potential in solid-state battery technology over the traditional lithium-ion battery, it’s important we first discuss lithium-ion’s place in the battery market.

Lithium-ion

Lithium-ion batteries have been a longtime battery staple. At a very rudimentary level, lithium-ion batteries work on the following basic battery chemistry technology.

 

Chemical changes of the charge and discharge cycle.

In a traditional lithium-ion battery cell an anode and a cathode are separated by a liquid electrolyte solution. In charging a lithium-ion battery, electrons are separated from the cathode side to the anode side through a conductive wire. This is done by applying an electrical charge to the battery and inducing an electrochemical reaction. Following a charge, electrons are “stored” in a state of higher potential energy and thus, when you attach the battery to a new electric circuit, the electrons can discharge to the lower state of energy while powering electronics within the circuit in this process.

Solid-state

Building on the lithium-ion battery, solid-state batteries are constructed in the same manner, however, in these batteries, the liquid electrolyte fluid is replaced with a solid electrolyte. The typical materials found in solid-state batteries are ceramics, oxides, sulfides and phosphates to facilitate this design.

Benefits of the solid-state battery

To understand the efficiency of solid-state batteries, and thus the value of solid-state batteries over lithium-ion batteries, it is important to address some key considerations. Here, metrics such as size (or energy density), weight and the charge will be critically important to understand the enhanced efficiency of solid-state batteries over lithium-ion batteries.

  • Size: Solid-state batteries are capable of producing 2.5 times more energy density than today’s lithium-ion battery. Here, this means in the same size constrains the solid-state batteries can store and deliver 2.5 times more energy.
  • Weight: Since solid-state batteries provide a higher energy density of 2.5 times that of today’s lithium-ion batteries, they can lighten a payload by 2.5 times.
  • Charge times: Solid-state batteries are not only higher in energy density, but they are also able to charge much more quickly than today’s lithium-ion batteries. In fact, today’s solid-state batteries are able to recharge four to six times faster than current lithium batteries.

Bring all of these factors together and get the ability to store more energy, in smaller spaces while also recharging more quickly. This all points to today’s commercially available off-grid batteries meeting the energy requirements of today’s modern home, while being packaged in a commercially viable off-grid home battery.

Lithium-carbon dioxide battery

Recently, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have made a battery technology discovery that is set to revolutionize off-grid battery technology. In late 2019, a team of researchers were able to demonstrate their design of the first lithium-carbon dioxide battery. This technology, spearheaded by Amin Salehi-Khojin an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, exemplified success in a theoretical design that many battery scientists were chasing for many years. Per Salehi-Khojin, “Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems.”

This innovation marks a major advancement in the development of lithium-carbon dioxide batteries, progressing more efficient and effective off-grid storage systems, and shows promise in offering high-efficiency eco-friendly battery storage mechanisms.

Zinc manganese battery

Dongliang Chao and Professor Shi-Zhang Qiao, another team of researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, revealed their recent battery innovation research regarding a new battery approach.

Based on the chemical mechanism of non-toxic zinc and manganese, these battery researchers were able to show a new battery technology that is designed on much less expensive materials. In fact, Chao and Qiao’s battery technology promises to cost a fraction of what it costs to develop the traditional lithium-ion battery. According to the team of researchers, they believe these zinc-manganese batteries could cost somewhere around $10 per kWh compared to the $300 per kWh cost for traditional lithium-ion batteries.

What does this point to? With new innovative battery technologies such as Chao and Qiao’s zinc manganese battery, consumers will begin to see off-grid battery storage come down in price.

Moving forward

Between the innovations in solid-state batteries over lithium-ion batteries, the advancement in lithium-carbon batteries, and the advancement in zinc manganese, it’s plausible to assume that the commercial viability of off-grid battery storage is going through a massive technological reformation. Building on the fact that today’s battery technologies have already fundamentally changed the way consumers leverage off-grid batteries over even the last few years, we’re almost sure to see a major increase in the adoption of off-grid battery storage in consumer’s homes.

Author:  Dalton Hurst

Smart City Tech Is Being Built Into Planned Communities

Planned development communities like New Haven in Ontario, Calif., are highlighting urban technology applications and features as signature amenities as consumer expectations reach well beyond standard pools and parks.

A gita robot delivery cart follows a pedestrian in a planned development community known as New Haven in Ontario, Calif.  Submitted Photo: Brookfield Residential

 

Robot carts and drone deliveries are just some of the baubles planned development communities are dangling as the sort of high-tech amenities residents are not only welcoming but expecting.

“Amenities isn’t just what we think of traditionally, in the vein of swimming pools, parks and playgrounds. It also includes technology,” said Caitlyn Lai-Valenti, residential senior director of sales and marketing at Brookfield Residential.  “It includes retail, and the walkability component for our residents as well.”

Brookfield is the developer behind New Haven, a master-planned community in Ontario, Calif., boasting hundreds of homes, along with retail and commercial space.  More than 350 homes in the community were sold in 2020 alone.

Some of the smart city technologies being made available to residents include drone delivery by DroneUp, ferrying goods from the New Haven Marketplace — a new retail area — to resident homes.  New Haven will also feature “robot carts” by gita, a self-operating enclosed cart about the size of a wheelbarrow, that can follow pedestrians with groceries or other items. Residents can also hop on a three-wheeled electric scooter by Clevr Scooters.

New Haven, which is part of the larger Ontario Ranch, was developed as a “gigabit community,” offering super high-speed broadband to support any number of smart city applications as well as the increasing work-from-anywhere trends following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move to build in high-speed communications infrastructure is similar to other developments like National Landing, another planned community to be developed in the Washington, D.C., metro region.  National Landing is being developed in partnership with AT&T with 5G to support next-gen smart city technologies.

“To achieve the experiences of tomorrow, a strong, consistent, robust and secure network must be in place so that innovators know how their applications can interact today and how they can expand over time,” said Shiraz Hasan, vice president for AT&T Partner Exchange and Ecosystem Innovation.

National Landing is viewed “as a canvas for smart city innovation,” Hasan added.  “We believe a network like what we plan to deploy will improve experiences in everything we do with commercial business, government, retail, transportation and so on.”

“The opportunities could become endless in terms of expanding the experiences,” said Hasan.

Other planned development communities like Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., are also partnering with urban technology companies to test and deploy systems to improve transportation and other aspects of living in the communities.  In addition to exploring technology related to traffic management, The Orlando Utilities Commission, Tavistock Lake Nona and Hitachi have jointly applied for a U.S. Department of Energy grant to explore energy load balancing at the building.

“So it’s not taking each of the individual energy sources and saying, how can you manage the load?  How can you balance the load between solar and photovoltaic and wind, and traditional? Yes that’s important,” said Dean Bushey, vice president for global social innovation business at Hitachi, in an interview with Government Technology in early June.

Homes in the New Haven community in California are all built with myTime and myCommand smart home services, which interface with smart home platforms from Amazon, Google or Apple.  The community also features ENE HUB (pronounced “any hub”), which are multi-functional streetlights equipped with USB charging ports, environmental sensors, Wi-Fi, wayfinding and more.

“So it really kind of provides a lot of different uses in the space,” said Lai-Valenti.

Brookfield includes an “innovation hub,” which is an internal team dedicated to researching and testing the various smart city technologies launched in the communities.

“We have a new technology group that’s always looking at all these different pieces,” said Lai-Valenti.

Developers behind the National Landing project in Washington see the community as a form of “living lab” where urban technologies can be tested and deployed and is “part of our evolving strategy to truly enable the use cases of tomorrow,” said Hasan.

 

Published in Government Technology

Author:  Skip Descant

Global Internet Energy Usage

Power Consumption that Supports our On-Line Habits

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 but given the fact that in 1990 only half a percent of the world’s population was online, the world on the web has grown astronomically.

By 2000, nearly half of the population in the United States were using the internet to gain information, but the majority of the world still had very little or no access to the internet.  According to Our World in Data, 93% in the East Asia and Pacific region had zero online access, alongside 99% in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2016, 76% of the US population were online, which seems quite a low figure when looking at the percentage of other country’s populations that were online around this time:

  • Malaysia 79%
  • Spain and Singapore 81%
  • France 86%
  • South Korea and Japan 93%
  • Denmark and Norway 97%
  • Iceland 98%

While online development saw rapid progress in these countries from 2000 to 2016, there are still some countries in the world where virtually nothing has changed since 1990.  In countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Niger and Madagascar, fewer than 5% of the population are online.

But still, the growth of access is rapidly increasing across the world, with a remarkable 640,000 new users appearing online for the first time on any given day over the last 5 years – this works out as 27,000 new users every hour.

 Online habits and its energy consumption

Having gained an insight into the availability of the internet throughout the world, it’s now time to look at what it’s most frequently used for.

It’s of no surprise that just over half of all worldwide internet traffic (50.3%) generated in 2020 was done so using mobile phones – which is slightly lower than both 2018 and 2019, which saw 52.2% and 53.3% mobile traffic share respectively.  This slight dip is thought to be due to the coronavirus pandemic, with more people working from home and most likely using desktops or laptops more so than mobile phones to access things such as email apps.

Daily time spent with the internet by device per capita is still heavily in the mobile phone’s favor, however, with Statista reporting that the average person spends 155 minutes on their phone daily, compared to just 37 minutes on a desktop computer.

Social media

It’s of no surprise that more than half of the world (4.66 billion) uses social media.  It’s probably fair to say that if the necessary devices and the internet are available within a location, its population will use some form of social media.

As of January 2021, Facebook tops the charts with 2.74 billion users, followed by YouTube with 2.29 billion users and Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion.  Instagram had 1.22 billion users at the start of 2021, and Chinese messaging platform WeChat was the fifth most popular form of social media with 1.2 billion users.

It’s not just the power we as consumers use to run our devices, but the power-hungry data centers used behind the scenes to power our favorite “scroller” sites.

Take Facebook, for example.  The company’s electricity usage has soared significantly in the last ten years. In 2011, it was taking 532GWh (gigawatt hours) to power the world’s most popular social media site.  By 2019, Facebook was using a colossal 5140GWh (5.1 terawatt hours).

What’s the energy consumption of other social media giants?

  • Each tweet on Twitter emits 02 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere
  • There are 50 million tweets sent on average per day, which means there is 1 metric ton of CO2 released daily
  • A billion hours watched on YouTube produces 11.13 million tons of carbon dioxide
  • Using Facebook daily for a whole year uses the same amount of CO2 as drinking one barista-made latte.

Cryptocurrency 

We’re not talking about the internet use of people selling and buying various cryptocurrencies online, but rather the internet power it takes to mine the cryptocurrencies.

But what exactly is crypto mining?  “Mining” for cryptocurrency is extremely energy-consuming, as it involves optimized computers running constantly to crack calculations to verify transactions.

A BBC News article published in February 2021 stated that the collective energy consumption worldwide for mining cryptocurrencies exceeded the annual electricity usage of the whole of Argentina, according to analysis done by Cambridge University.  Researchers said crypto mining consumes an estimated amount of 121.36 terawatt-hours of electricity a year, and will only increase the more cryptocurrencies increase in value.

With the rising value in cryptocurrencies, it’s not just the newcomers that will further increase electricity usage, but the ones who are already mining.  As the value goes up, nothing is stopping current miners from rigging up more machines to mine crypto, creating some kind of crypto-mining farm in their own homes and fully taking advantage of the crypto surge that seems to be dominating the internet.

Other facts and statistics about cryptocurrency’s energy consumption:

  • Bitcoin consumes around 110TWh per year which is 0.55% of global energy consumption
  • The CCAF (Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance) reckons 39% of Bitcoin’s energy consumption is carbon neutral, as of 2020
  • China is responsible for 10% of global Bitcoin mining in the dry season and 50% in the wet season.

Cloud computing

The world is quickly transitioning to cloud storage, with the share of all data being stored on the cloud growing exponentially over the last five years.

The share of corporate data from organizations around the world in 2015 stood at 30%, which grew by 20% to 50% in just five years with the aim to improve both reliability and security.

While data centers around the world are required to power the cloud computing we take for granted, Pike Research, a clean technology market intelligence firm, suggests cloud computing could actually lead to a huge reduction in the world’s energy usage.

Pike estimates cloud storage growth will decrease energy “from the current rate of 201.8 terawatt hours to a 2020 rate of 139.8 TWh, resulting in a 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years.”

While cloud-computing facilities still consume a colossal amount of power, they provide the service for many different customers, compared to enterprise data centers that are built, owned and operated by companies and are optimized solely for their end users – most often housed on the premise of the company itself.

 

Published in Energy Helpline, July 25, 2021

Elisha Adams, Consultant | Researcher, Digital Content & Media

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Climate Change and Architecture: Self-Cooled Buildings Lower Temps

Around the world, climate change and architecture are turning cities into ovens.  Higher-than-average temperatures — combined with heat-absorbing infrastructure such as concrete, asphalt, steel and glass — can cause a dangerous phenomenon called the heat island effect. Using air conditioning only exacerbates the problem.  From Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Zeehan, Western Australia, urban areas record summertime temperatures that are 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (oF) hotter than the surrounding countryside.  As global temperatures continue to rise, tens of thousands of people could die each year from heat-related causes alone, according to the World Health Organization.

 

Fortunately, the future of architecture is taking on a cool change.  Dozens of innovative building and urban designs, many of which take their cues from ancient civilizations and biological systems, are reaching maturity — and they could help keep local temperatures down while using less energy overall.  From passive techniques that capitalize on shade and evaporative cooling to creative innovations inspired by insects, sources of creativity seem endless.

Climate Change and Architecture

Reducing the urban heat island effect starts with cooling individual buildings.  Air conditioners may seem like an easy solution, but these relatively small appliances consume tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity globally.  Researchers estimate that by 2050, more than 4.5 billion AC units will be in use, eating up 13% of the world’s electricity and producing 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, reports The Guardian.  Employing passive cooling techniques could keep buildings comfortable without a heavy carbon footprint.

In India, architects Manit Rastogi and Sonali Rastogi, who founded the firm Morphogenesis, have demonstrated an intriguing model that draws from the past.  For the Pearl Academy of Fashion headquarters in Jaipur, a city of 3 million in northwest India, the architects used centuries-old architectural techniques to keep this modern building cool, reports Treehugger.  They clad the exterior in a lattice screen set 4 feet away from the exterior wall.  The outside layer, reminiscent of a traditional jaali, acts as a thermal buffer.  Architects designed the building to be raised above a vast pool of water.  The pool was inspired by ancient stepwells that date back to between 200 and 400 A.D.  It acts as a thermal sink and provides evaporative cooling to the structure above.  Together, these techniques keep the academy 20 oF cooler than the outside air.

Bio-Inspired Design

Most people look upon termites with scorn.  These insects are known for burrowing into wood and eating homes from the inside out.  But termites are accomplished engineers.  In the sweltering deserts of Africa, Australia and South America, colonies build giant, naturally cooled towers of mud that, when dry, maintain a comfortable temperature inside, even when it’s well over 100 oF outside.

Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce took inspiration from these crafty critters, reports National Geographic.  He found that termite towers, usually between 20 and 40 feet tall, are all built with a skinny, boat-shaped footprint that narrows at the top.  These structures always face north-to-south, which exposes the widest part to the sun during the coolness of dawn and dusk and shows little surface to the sun when it’s overhead.  Strategically placed pores and a chimney-like structure allow air to pass up from the cool depths, venting warm air out the top.

Pearce borrowed from the termites when designing a building called Eastgate in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare.  It’s made from brick and concrete — materials that can absorb a lot of the sun’s heat without rising much in temperature.  Exterior grooves along with hundreds of small rectangular shapes greatly increase the surface area, which reduces the building’s ability to retain daytime heat and improves its ability to quickly shed heat at night.  Airways at the base of the structure pull in cool air and circulate it upward through the building, where it warms and then vents through chimneys.  Temperatures inside the building hover around 82 oF during the day, no matter what the thermometer says outside, and drop to 57 oF at night.  Pearce has employed biomimicry architecture for several other buildings and continues to improve on his designs.

Cooling Urban Streets

Reducing the heat of individual buildings is a step in the right direction.  Coupled with innovations in street design, urban architecture can transform a concrete jungle into a cool oasis.  Recently, Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates and one of the hottest cities on the planet, sponsored a global design competition encouraging creative ideas that could counter the urban heat island effect.  More than 300 entries submitted from teams in 67 different countries offered cooling solutions for a city where summertime temperatures regularly exceed 100 oF for extended periods of time.  Ten winning entries, announced in October 2020, each received $10,000 in prize money.

Their results were stunning, reports Arch Daily.  A palm tree-inspired concept titled “The Oasys” combines structures shaped like 30-foot palm leaves with real trees.  The towering leaves provide shade and are also solar powered to run misters for pedestrians and landscaping below.  A proposal, titled “Sa’af Al-Nakheel,” envisions a multilayered courtyard featuring gardens, canopies and vertical walls interwoven with dried palm fronds to produce a dappled shade.  The misters would also keep things comfortable through evaporative cooling.  “Circadian Clouds” imagines a large, airborne shade structure that floats overhead.  Made of dozens of individual geodesic globes, each would reflect sunlight by day, illuminate the space at night and together become a public art element.

But climate change and architecture can come together in less whimsical ways.  Yale Environment 360 points to the many efforts around the world increasing the reflectivity of rooftops by painting them white or incorporating reflective materials into roofing materials.  A new kind of coating developed by researchers at Columbia University contains tiny pores that reflect 96%-99% of all wavelengths of sunlight and, when applied to the exterior of buildings, cools them down, reports Smithsonian Magazine.  Even a solution as simple as covering a building with ivy can lower local temperatures and relative humidity, according to House Beautiful.

In a world faced with the inevitable rise of global temperatures, the future of architecture demands innovations to cool cities.  Looking to the past nature and to solutions already found in nature could give architects the tools and inspiration they need to turn down the heat.

 

Author: Tracy Staedter

Published in NOW magazine – Northrop Grumman, July 2021

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Flower power: How One Company is Beautifying the Wind Turbine

Tulip-shaped ‘eco-art’ turbines address common complaints about noise, danger to wildlife and ugliness

Flower Turbines designed a product that’s suitable for built-up areas.

Photograph: Jan de Groen

Tulips and flowers could help harness the power of the wind, after a green energy company came up with its own spin on wind power in an “eco-art” design.

Flower Turbines, based in the US and the Netherlands, has installations across Rotterdam, Amsterdam, parts of Germany, Israel and Colombia.  The company aims to democratize green energy for everyone and make small windfarms a leading player in the green energy industry.

The turbines pose no danger to birds and other wildlife, particularly in urban settings, the company claims, and they create noise at a low frequency undetectable to humans.

Opponents of windfarms often cite noise concerns along with aesthetic complaints.  Dr Daniel Farb, the CEO of Flower Turbines, hopes to have solved this problem with an “eco-art” design.

“Big turbines are very efficient, but for some people they’re an eyesore,” he said.  “They definitely produce noise, flicker and some degree of environmental degradation.  I was looking for a way to solve these problems, to make wind energy available for everybody.

The turbines create noise at a low sound level that is undetectable to humans. Photograph: c/o flowerturbines.com

“I felt that there had to be a missing solution that would work for the combination of houses, large buildings, the environment – close to people.  In other words, how could you make something that could be quiet but also efficient?”

The company has also looked into expanding into e-mobility, creating wind- and solar-powered electric bicycle charging stations.

Roy Osinga, the European director of Flower Turbines, said: “Our product – compared to big windmills – is silent, and good-looking, which makes it very successful for building in cities, because nobody wants to live next to a turbine which is up to 200 meters high making a lot of noise.

“Solar power doesn’t perform that well at night, or during the winter.  The turbines that we are delivering are a good match with solar energy, because wind and solar have natural opposite panel patterns when they produce energy.

“We are not a competitor or an alternative for the big energy companies.  We are a solution provider for companies and corporations that really want to pivot their business towards sustainability.”

Europe is working towards becoming climate-neutral by 2050.

In the UK, most of the offshore workforce, including in wind power, could be involved in delivering low-carbon energy by 2030.

 

Author: Rhi Storer, the Guardian

Maxeon signs deal for 1 GW of modules for $1 billion solar project

Burns & McDonnell completes work on a 50 MW solar project for CenterPoint Energy, Fourth Wave to spin off its GeoSolar Tech unit, and Sunwealth secures financing for its LMI solar expansion.

photo courtesy of Burns & McDonnell

 

Maxeon Solar Technologies said it will supply around 1 GW of its bifacial Performance 5 UPP solar panels for the $1 billion Gemini solar plus storage power plant project approximately 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.  The project is being built and will be owned and operated by Primergy Solar.

The agreement calls for nearly 1.8 million modules to be supplied over a four-quarter period starting in the second quarter of 2022; project completion is planned by the end of 2023.

The Gemini Project is a 690 MWac solar photovoltaic plus a 380 MW/1,400 MWh battery energy storage project.

The Gemini project will be one of the largest operational solar power system in the U.S. when completed.  It is expected to provide a foundation to support the start-up and initial operation of Maxeon’s new Performance line module capacity for the U.S. solar power market.  Using large-format G12 mono-PERC solar cells manufactured in Malaysia, and module assembly in Mexicali, Mexico, this project is expected to take a significant portion of the expected output of Maxeon’s new capacity during the first year of operation.

Burns & McDonnell completes Indiana project

EPC firm Burns & McDonnell said it recently completed construction of CenterPoint Energy’s 50 MW utility-scale solar project near the Ohio River in southern Indiana.

The Troy Solar power plant uses First Solar 440-W thin-film photovoltaic modules and consists of approximately 150,000 solar panels distributed across 300 acres. Modules are mounted on a NEXTracker single-axis tracker enabling the modules to track with the sun to maximize energy generation.

Burns & McDonnell was hired after the project’s first engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contractor exited the market. The company provided engineering, detailed electrical, civil and structural design, procurement specifications, and construction execution services.

GeoSolar spin off

Fourth Wave Energy said that GeoSolar Technologies filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the spin-off of GST from Fourth Wave. Following the spin-off, GST and Fourth Wave will be two separate and independent public companies.

As part of the spin-off agreement, GST received all commercial rights to the GeoSolar Plus technology and patents in exchange for the issuance of around one share of GST common stock for each outstanding common share of Fourth Wave.

The GeoSolar Plus system is designed to reduce energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions in residences and commercial buildings. It is made up of a number of components including solar/PV and geothermal and is designed to produce more energy than it produces with no carbon.

 

By DAVID WAGMAN, PV Magazine

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Scientists gain an atom-level view into Perovskite cell efficiency

Using Department of Energy laboratories, scientists learned at the atomic level that a liquid-like motion in perovskites may explain how they efficiently produce electric currents.

A team of scientists studied the inner workings of a perovskite material to better understand the material’s behavior at the atomic scale.  Their work revealed that a liquid-like motion in perovskites may explain how they efficiently produce electric currents.  A perovskite solar cell is one type of solar cell.  Solar cell efficiencies of devices using these materials have increased from 3.8% in 2009 to 25.5% in 2020 in single-junction architectures, and, in silicon-based tandem cells, to 29.15%, exceeding the maximum efficiency achieved in single-junction silicon solar cells.  Perovskite solar cells are the fastest-advancing solar technology as of 2016.  Perovskite solar cells have become commercially attractive because of the higher efficiencies and relatively low production costs.

The scientists explained that when light hits a photovoltaic material, it excites electrons, prompting them to “pop out” of their atoms and move through the material, conducting electricity.  One problem is that the excited electrons can recombine with the atoms instead of traveling through the material.  This can cut the amount of electricity produced relative to the amount of sunlight that hits the material.

Perovskites do well at preventing this recombination, the scientists said.  Their work aimed to uncover what mechanism causes this and how more efficient solar cells can be developed.

Duke University led the effort that included scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The team studied one of the simplest perovskites, a compound of cesium, lead and bromine (CsPbBr3).  They then used X-ray scattering capabilities at Argonne’s Magnetic Materials group’s beamline.

The team captured the average positions of the atoms in a perovskite crystal at different temperatures.  They found that each lead atom and its surrounding cage of bromine atoms formed rigid units that behaved like molecules.  In particular, the units oscillated in a liquid-like manner.

One theory to explain how perovskites resist recombination is that these distortions in the lattice, or crystal structure, followed the free electrons as they traversed the material.  The electrons might deform the lattice, causing the liquid-like disturbances, which prevented them from falling back into their host atoms.  The researchers said this theory may offer new insights into how to design optimal perovskite materials for solar cells.

The data also indicated that molecules in the material oscillated within two-dimensional planes, with no motion across planes.  This two-dimensional nature could also help explain how the perovskite can prevent electron recombination, contributing to the materials’ efficiency.

To investigate the motion of the atoms directly, the team used neutron scattering capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Neutron scattering confirmed the pattern seen in the X-ray scattering experiment.  It also showed that it took almost no energy for the molecules to oscillate in two dimensions. The researchers said this helps to explain why the excited electrons could deform the lattice so easily.

A paper on the study, “Two-dimensional overdamped fluctuations of the soft perovskite lattice in CsPbBr3,” was published in Nature Materials in March.  Computational studies to support the experiment were performed at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley National Laboratory.  The research was funded by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering division.

Author:  David Wangan, PV Magazine

Images: Dennis Schroeder/NREL and Duke University

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SMART Competition and the Collaborative Learning

The SMART Competition was originally designed as a team-based program that integrated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and provided a hands-on, career technology based real-world engineering experience (CTE).  The Smart Education Foundation, host of the SMART Competition, has a goal of positively influencing the motivation of students to pursue architecture and engineering careers.  Using professional tools, provided by Bentley Systems, students completing the competition have a set of marketable skills sought after by companies all over the world.

According to Michelene T. H. Chi & Ruth Wylie, researchers at Arizona State University, students learn better from interactive activities where they talk, act, deliberate, and reflect compared with passive and (superficially) active behaviors, such as taking verbatim notes while listening to a lecture.  Asking open-ended questions, peer teaching, and group problem-solving are some of the most effective ways to promote deep learning.  Collaboration also helps students develop interpersonal and teamwork skills, which are key 21st century competencies.

ICAP framework Chi and Wylie explored and findings published in Educational Psychologist, defined the cognitive engagement activities based on students’ overt behaviors and proposes that engagement behaviors can be categorized and differentiated into one of four modes: Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive. The ICAP hypothesis predicts that as students become more engaged with the learning materials, from passive to active to constructive to interactive, their learning will increase.

The SMART Competition engages students in each ICAP learning experience: Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive.  Student teams download materials, conduct research, learn design tools and methodologies, create facilities and complete real-world simulations as they redesign elements of the campus they are provided.

The SMART Competition encourages students to follow their “academic nose” to develop solutions buried within the SMART acronym:  Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technology.

SMART’s use of Bentley’s OpenBuilding Designer and Energy Simulator software enables teams to use reality modeling methods to address Green Building Design, Energy Conservation, Localized Power Generation, Intelligent Power Distribution, Architecture, Sustainable Technology, Transportation and Electric Vehicles.

The SMART Competition (www.smartcompetition.org) is a global STEM and Career and Technology Education (CTE) education program.  The competition is open to all high school and university students.  The competition is designed to attract all students without regard or bias of gender, race, geographic, socio-economic or academic performance level.

For additional information, contact Michael Andrews, m.andrews@smartcompetition.org

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Transparent Solar Panels

Imagine a world where we could generate electricity using the surface of our windows, smartphones, our car’s sun roof or the glass roof of our office building.  What sounds like a far-away dream, is on its way to become reality thanks to transparent solar panels.

Conventional solar panels, more specifically solar photovoltaic panels, absorb sunlight and convert photons (particles of sunlight) into usable energy.  The difficulty with making transparent solar panels is that the sunlight passes through the transparent material.  This means that the process that generates the electricity in the solar cell cannot be started because no light is absorbed. This article presents two interesting attempts to overcome this obstacle: partially transparent panels and fully transparent panels employing organic salts, detailing the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels of these kinds.

Partially Transparent Solar Panels

Heliatek GmbH, a German company, has developed partially transparent solar panels, which absorb 60% of the sunlight they receive.  The efficiency of these panels is 7.2%, compared to an efficiency of 12% for conventional solar photovoltaic panels of this manufacturer.  The efficiency is reduced because only 60% of the light is absorbed by the panel while the remaining 40% is transmitted through the panel.  Heliatek hereby shows how the solar energy production can be adjusted by adjusting the balance between light transmitted and absorbed.

Office buildings with large south-facing glass areas are already employing tinted glass to reduce the transmitted sunlight.  The partially transparent solar panels have a high commercial potential for situations like these.

Fully Transparent Solar Panels

Although partially transparent solar panels are suitable for the previously mentioned cases, they are not perfectly suitable for clear windows or touchscreens.  A breakthrough achieved by the Michigan State University where scientists produced a fully transparent solar panel that resembles normal glass could however fulfill this need.

The fully transparent solar panel may by definition not absorb visible sunlight.  However, researchers at Michigan State University used organic salts that absorb specific invisible wavelengths of light, such as ultraviolet light.  This light is then transformed and the material of the panel moves it to its edges, where stripes of photovoltaic solar cells convert it into electricity.

The efficiency of the fully transparent solar panels is currently about 1% with an estimated potential of 5%.  Compared to the average efficiency of 15% for conventional solar panels, efficiencies of 5% and 7.2% for the fully and partially transparent panels respectively are still quite low.

However, solar panel efficiency does not mean everything.  In practice it only means that the less efficient panel needs to be larger than the more efficient one in order to produce the same amount of electricity.  As transparent solar panels can be integrated into windows in buildings, it means that the lower efficiency is overcompensated by the potential areas of employment.

 

article written and published by GreenMatch

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