Sunengy, with a chance of typhoons

Yes, it floats on water, and has a Fresnel lens from the local high school projectionist club, but what about typhoons and lesser gales? No mention of that. Somehow, this bullet point from the Overview page doesn’t seem reassuring:

Floating the system on water reduces the need for expensive supporting structures to protect it from high winds. The lenses submerge in winds above 60km/hr and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency.

I see deep water horizons in the future.

Sunengy, Australia partners with Tata Power to build the first floating solar plant in India

Indian trial of a unique Australian solar system will move it towards full production

 

0.28 scale aluminium prototype

Australian solar power company Sunengy Pty Limited has entered into a partnership with India’s largest integrated private power utility, Tata Power that will allow it build a pilot plant for its low-cost, floating-on-water, solar technology in India by the end of this year.

Sunengy Chairman and Executive Director of Business Development, Peter Wakeman, said that Tata Power, a flagship company of Tata Group, has partnered with Sunengy for its interest in its patented Liquid Solar Array (LSA) technology. Mr Wakeman said the deal was significant for the future use of solar globally because it allows Sunengy to demonstrate the practicality of its technology in one of the world’s most promising solar power markets.

The LSA was invented by Phil Connor, Sunengy Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer and a passionate advocate for solar power for 45 years. Mr Connor said that when located on and combined with hydroelectric dams, LSA provides the breakthroughs of reduced cost and ‘on demand’ 24/7 availability that are necessary for solar power to become widely used. The LSA uses traditional Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) technology – a lens and a small area of solar cells that tracks the sun throughout the day, like a sunflower. Floating the LSA on water reduces the need for expensive supporting structures to protect it from high winds. The lenses submerge in bad weather and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency and life-span. According to Mr Connor, hydropower supplies 87 percent of the world’s renewable energy and 16 percent of the world’s power but is limited by its water resource. He said an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area and supply an additional six to eight hours of power per day. Modelling by Sunengy shows, for example, that a 240 MW LSA system could increase annual energy generation at the Portuguese hydro plant, Alqueva, by 230%. “LSA effectively turns a dam into a very large battery, offering free solar storage and opportunity for improved water resource management,” Mr Connor said. “LSA needs no heavy materials or huge land acquisitions and is effectively cyclone proof,” he said. “If India uses just one percent of its 30,000 square kilometers of captured water with our system, we can generate power equivalent to 15 large coal-fired power stations.”


Mr Banmali Agrawala, Executive Director, Tata Power said “In our quest to deliver sustainable energy, Tata Power is consistently investing in clean and eco-friendly technologies. We have partnered with Sunengy, Australia for a pilot plant in India, which is concentrated photovoltaic solar technology that floats on water. This nascent technology will be demonstrated in the natural environment; it utilises the water surface for mounting and does not compete with land that can be used for other purposes.”

Mr Wakeman said that the primary market for LSA is the provision of industrial scale electricity via hydropower facilities. Other markets include mining sites as well as villages and remote communities reliant on diesel power generators.

Construction of the pilot plant in India will commence in August 2011. Sunengy plans to establish a larger LSA system in the NSW Hunter Valley in mid 2012 before going into full production.

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98 thoughts on “Sunengy, with a chance of typhoons

  1. “. . . an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area . . .”

    That’s quite a claim — will be interesting to see if the figures bear out.

  2. “Modelling by Sunengy shows…”

    That is the first thing that trips my BS alert.

    I really get the impression that these things are designed with all the nifty tracking and submerging tricks just so they appeal to the innercity sandal wearers who are happy to lobby the government to subsidise projects which are unlikely to stand up in the real world.

    I doubt they expect for a moment that this is going to be viable, it is just a tax milking device.

  3. OT but I am very confused. This graph posted on the Blackboard purports to show global warming. What amazes me is that from 1980 to 1998 there seems to be significant cooling. I thought according to Hansen it was way above anomaly?

    There is warming from 1998 to 2007 but then it cools again please help LOL

  4. It might work if the rotating motors are durable enough and easy to repair or replace. Inexpensive is the key. I wonder if it is inexpensive enough. I don’t like calling it a battery. It obviously ain’t a battery. I’m not sure I can tell the point of such a statement. Anyway, I suspect solar will eventually be adopted in large scale economically, but it will still only be a specialist, never able to meet much of the overall need.

  5. I can just imagine the clutter along the Indian coastline after a bunch of traumatized, and submerged, solar panels come ashore during a tsunami, scything their way inland on the front of the wave.

  6. “effectively cyclone proof” Sort of like effectively unsinkable? And hey… it’s “like a sunflower”

    Jeesh.

  7. I’m all for these trials as long as my tax dollars aren’t used to pick winners like an addicted gambler.

    “It’s the 15th of December 2013, in the news today, the $125 million Sunengy solar power plant at Wivenhoe Dam was smashed to pieces today by debris rushing in with flood waters.”
    “In what’s been called a one in a thousand year rainfall event, the dam levels rose from 75% to a critical 245% in just 48 hours.”
    “A spokesman for Sunengy blamed the dam operators for opening all the floodgates causing the solar panels to be flushed out. Many panel parts were found 15km down river in numerous Brisbane backyards.”

  8. Anyone who thinks that floating something on the water is the way to protect it from high winds is … well … breathtakingly ignorant of the real world. Submerged or not, waves will rip the carp out of that setup. And any wave will destroy the focusing of the system. What a joke.

    It’s a scam to attract investors, it’ll never work. Tata Group should run, not walk, the other way.

    w.

  9. Anthony: thank for posting most of my OT postings. My dad was a meteorologist and I know he would be spinning in his grave with this AGW stuff. However this graph of satellite temps from 1980 (used to justify AGW) is very, very telling.

    http://processtrends.com/images/RClimate_UAH_Ch5_latest.png.

    My bet is that it will also be removed by the person at the blackboard, even after he removed the other one. BTW not necessary to post this if is getting to heavy/irrelevant.

  10. Did they say how they were going to plug this into the grid? Whatever they said, don’t believe it.

  11. Tata Group didn’t get where they are today though altruism. As the Indian government rarely use their own money, is the UN being tapped for development funding for the Indian project?
    Can any of the Aussie posters give an idea of just how much Aussie taxpayers money is being poured into the Hunter Valley project?

  12. Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm
    Anyone who thinks that floating something on the water is the way to protect it from high winds is … well … breathtakingly ignorant of the real world.

    I can’t wait to see the “kite” effect of that lens when the wind is coming from the opposite direction to the sun.

  13. Tata….hmmmm…now were did I hear that name before? Tata, Tata?

    Why is it that the name Pachauri comes up in my mind? And “smutty novel” ?

  14. Precision optics floating on impure water?
    They evidentally have never owned a boat and would not have the foggy what I am talking about. ☺

  15. Salt crystals anyone?

    Even “fresh” water contains dissolved salts and splashes will result in them coating the photovoltaic cells.

  16. I hesitate to pass judgement on the technical feasibility of the project simply because it looks like their *intent* is to have these built in Hydropower dam reservoirs… this would give easy access for repair, and if they have a bouyancy system that submerges them when the winds pick up, then it’s unlikely that hydropower reservoirs are going to *frequently* have large waves…

    OTOH, I have almost zero confidence in the long term ability of this project to generate significant amounts of power… who is going to clean these lenses… and how, when they develop buildup from the things living the water they submerge in? Have these people ever looked at a boat hull under the waterline? It doesn’t take much or take long, either… And not just on top of the focusing lens, but on the actual photovoltaic cells as well… If we build them in the desert someone has to go around periodically and clean them off… it’d seem like it would be a *lot* harder working on cleaning a raft of these things.

  17. This story was well worth posting even on the sole criteria of allowing Anthony to strut his stuff as a subbie.
    “Sunengy, with a chance of typhoons”
    They don’t come much better than that!

  18. There are many reasons why solar generated energy (I know some will quibble about the word ‘generated’, but solar is no different than water in this respect) is good and beneficial, but transmission is not one of them. It is insanely expensive and wasteful. On the other hand, warming a swimming pool, hot wash water, etc, is an incredibly efficient use of solar energy. Likewise the micro-generation of electricity in calculators, similar electronics, remote communication devices and lights, etc is perfectly justified and market proven. I have several calculators in excess of 25 years that function perfectly with photovoltaics. And the same will work for single buildings, and I suspect as a booster for transmission and communication lines one day.
    But the day when it is more than a “feel good” source of transmitted electricity for a city is a very long way away.

  19. Oh dear!

    The lens will last about one week before they are so coated in salt rime that they will be little more than useless.
    It is nothing more than a pipe dream money siphoning technique, money goes in one end of the scam and when the scam is found to be unworkable the money has already mysteriously disappeared and the scamsters have come up with other far more fantabulistic ideas.

    I have an idea for producing electricity with a magic wand and all I need to for this miracle to work is full funding, lets say a million bucks and ten years, if it doesnt pan out at least I got the million bucks.

  20. Bulldust says:
    That submerging trick … how well does that work against ocean vessels and fauna?
    I was wondering this too. The whole thing looks so fragile that any ship hitting it would probably smash it to bits possibly without the crew even noticing.
    As for fauna there’s the obvious big ones of whales, sharks and squid. There’s also the likes of barnacles to consider how do you renew antifouling paint on these things?

  21. This idea is not new. Pyron solar – http://www.pyronsolar.com/ – San Diego area offers something similar. The original idea was to use shallow ponds to provide cooling, avoid excessive costs for mounting/reduce the energy needed for tracking, and use a Fresnel/TIR lens to concentrate onto a triple junction cell. However, this is still a 2 axis tracker that has to maintain on-sun alignment.
    This concept was not originally intended for open or deep water.
    Various Patents have been filed, and Pyron has 20 kW prototypes under development.
    As with any alternative energy concept – caveat emptor. Do you prefer the Amonix billboard size concentrator arrays? Its a very similar concentrator design, just a different package. It ultimately comes back to return on investment. Just don’t use my tax money to subsidize any of this.
    By the way, where does the electrical power come from when the sun is not shining?
    Fossil fuels work just fine. Plants love the CO2 and there is no such thing as CO2 induced global warming.

  22. We should not denigrate this idea out of hand, even with Tata involved. We need to generate more power somehow if we are to raise the living standards of the 2050 projected 9.2 billion world population and there were probably many detractors of coal-fired power stations/nuclear/hydro/etc before they became the norm.

    I notice from the Sunengy site that they have a map of areas of the world with lots of sunshine hours. What they haven’t done is reduce the areas to locations with sufficient water bodies to run their system, water being required for cooling, cleaning and support of the entire structure. Most of Australia is rated 3000+hours of sunshine per year but there is very little water in the outback (if we assume that the current floods are not the norm).

    As well as the problems raised by others, will the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’ also raise its ugly head when the water they sit in increases in temp as it is being used to cool the collectors. Would someone with knowledge of the ideal environment for algae growth like to comment?

    Perhaps they have thought of all of our reservations – one would hope so – but there is nothing on their site to indicate this.

  23. I hit the buffers at the statement –

    “…and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency.”

    In the Gulf, the sea is used routinely as a heat exchanger for power stations, refineries and more recently for monumental air conditioning systems chilling air in high rise structures built to maximize heat gain in the interiors… Since the infamous Climate Models claim that CO2 is causing the ‘Greenhouse’ warming, and that increasing sea temperatures will accelerate this through the release of more CO2 and the increase in water vapour, this must surely negate, eventually, any offset of CO2 from generating power in this manner?

    It is interesting to note that the heat exchangers in the Gulf have already caused ecological changes in the sea around them and this is spreading and increasing as the gulf appears to be warming. Sea temperatures there have, I am informed, increased overall by about 1°C in the last thirty years.

    Having witnessed a typhoon topple a Container Loading Crane in a harbour supposedly outside the ‘normal’ Typhoon/Cyclone belt, I have serious doubts as to the chances of something like this proposed system surviving a serious storm. In the classic words of one of my school masters, “Interesting idea, but needs considerably more practical application and thought.”

  24. “The lenses submerge in winds above 60km/hr”

    What is the depth of a wave base? A depth equal to three times the wavelength of waves.
    Just how deep can they submerge this to avoid the torsional affects?

    If it is a shallow submersion, then the structure would have to be more (pardon me) “Robust” than the flimsy prototype. Much more.

    Maybe it’s just me.

  25. It’s fun to dump on somone’s project, but in reality this was never intended for the ocean, rather for (small?) lakes where hydropower already exists (presumably to connect straight up to the grid).

    As such, conceptually I don’t have anything against putting solar panels on water.

    However, being familiar with many things aquatic, I see a lot of weed, scale buildup, algae, corrosion and guano in the future of this. Fresh water means less salty than the sea. It doesn’t mean clean like comes out of your tap. As already said, even a mild breeze across the surface of a lake – which is the norm for all lakes – will have these things keening over in a very unprecise manner.

    I noticed someone earlier posted a 20kw system under development. If that is true, well, 20kw. You’d be better off having your Prius hauled up a hill by a horse and letting it run downhill with wires trailing out the back. That’s pretty carbon neutral (methane, not so much) and you’d get a good 20kw out of the regen braking system.

  26. Clearly a lot of readers missed the fact that these are to be put in man-made lakes behind hydroelectric dams and not on the ocean.

    Waves, salt, whales and large ships should not be a problem. Wind should not be a problem as andthing dragging in the water (power line) would anchor it.

    I see other problems, but would anyone be unhappy if it did work? Solar is very expensive, but I would love to have the chance to run large (many km2) arrays in space and send the energy down. Lots of problems with that too, but it would be cool.

  27. Renewable energy is artwork or it is nothing!

    Renewable energy is free … as is coal, oil nuclear … you just have to find a way to convert that free energy to usable power.

    Renewable energy is the future … only because when we run out of all other better alternatives, we will be returning to the past.

  28. You know, If I were a small critter looking for a warm spot, I’d likely sit on that solar cell when the sun was weak. Then, as the sun comes out, SPFAT! Then, I was another critter looking for BBQ critter to eat… SPFAATRR. Repeat until covered in carbonized critter bits…

    I’m also picturing the result of gulls perching on the lenses doing what bird do when the do do what they do…

  29. I think the scheme is supposed to pump water back to the reservoir for the hydro. Could be wrong of course.

    DaveE.

  30. Even in the worse case scenario, if these are on inland water ways and they do get hit by an exhausting Typhoon, if the design is right then storm damage should be quick and easy to repair one would think. And such events relatively infrequent. Regards the salt deposits, the amount of salt from these fresh water areas would not be more than traditional solar arrays placed near a coast. No one suggested these arrays would be maintenance free so I can’t not see why there is so much automtic derision. It looks interesting, feasible and worthwhile. I think we are all tending to assume any “alternative” energy initiative is “crackpot” without too much thought these days.

  31. Eric Anderson says:
    “. . . an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area . . .”
    That’s quite a claim — will be interesting to see if the figures bear out.
    ——————————————————————
    Benmore hydro dam in NZ generates 540 MW, area of reservoir 75 km2.
    i.e. 7.2 watts per square metre of reservoir.
    Solar could possibly beat that!

  32. If these are to be installed on lakes then storms may not be a problem but the Norwegian experience must be borne in mind. the Norwegians built a power station floating off their coast. It was 600Mw so fairly large and power was derived from water temperature difference between deep water and surface water. The first winter storm and it disappeared never to be found. It remains on the sea bed somewhere.

    Solar panels are not very efficient. Unless the latest very expensive technology is used which pushed efficiency to about 20% they are stuck with normal cells at 9% efficient. We get 1.3Kw per sq.m from the sun so you can work out what poor power you can get from solar panels. (Unless you are Spanish and have a diesel generator on site to give 24 hour per day solar power.).

  33. I can see many reasons why it could be a good idea. You do not care about stopping things growing in your hydro damns and reservoirs, because you will typically use that water for drinking anyway (at least here we do). Also you have already got a power grid to hydro, and almost certainly to reservoirs in some manner too. That already knocks out two of the main issues with solar – the loss of sunlight to the plants etc, and the need for power to be transmitted.

    As for the rest, the problems are not insurmountable. I am sure lowering into the water, if far enough, would prevent damage. I agree that cleaning may be an issue, especially as whatever chemicals may be used will end up in drinking water. That model is obviously just a toy, not the real thing, however, or it would not last a week. I suspect it is just a prototype for demos.

    All in all, not a bad idea. If it can be cleaned, it may even work. Whether it is cost effective, I suspect not, but I would not speculate much as I have no data to work with.

  34. John Kehr says:
    March 31, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Clearly a lot of readers missed the fact that these are to be put in man-made lakes behind hydroelectric dams and not on the ocean.

    Having lived on the banks of Lake Kariba in the ’60s, in the Zambezi River valley, strong winds running along the 200+ mile valley produced waves every bit as equal in size to rough tropical ocean weather, except the waves were a lot closer together, really nasty if you were in a boat. Then there were thunderstorms, water spouts and many other hazards such as weed, wildlife and so on. This system wouldn’t stand a chance. Hydroelectricity from this dam provides most of Zambia and Zimbabwe, solar would be the equivalent of very expensive small change.

  35. Stephan says: “OT but I am very confused. This graph posted on the Blackboard purports to show global warming. What amazes me is that from 1980 to 1998 there seems to be significant cooling. I thought according to Hansen it was way above anomaly?
    “http://processtrends.com/images/RClimate_UAH_Ch5_latest.png
    “There is warming from 1998 to 2007 but then it cools again please help LOL”

    Stephan: The graph of UAH TLT anomalies you linked has a different base period than the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index (LOTI) data, which is why it is straddling zero. And while the GISS trend over that period is higher than the UAH TLT anomalies, the UAH TLT anomalies do have a significant postitive trend. My last post that included UAH TLT anomalies showed a positive trend of 1.4 deg C per Century:

    The graph is Figure 5 from this post:

    http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/rss-msu-tlt-anomalies-february-2011-update-and-a-look-at-version-3-3/

  36. The idea fails for me if Tata is involved, apart from myriad impractical aspects. Why not build more hydro damns? I know the Green Mafia hate hydro dams and won’t allow the electricity generated by them to classified as ‘renewable energy’, which is wildly illogical.

  37. “Modelling by Sunengy shows, for example, that a 240 MW LSA system could increase annual energy generation at the Portuguese hydro plant, Alqueva, by 230%.”

    A 1 GW flashlight battery could essentially power an electrical vehicle, (and at the same time providing enough “juice”, hehe so to say, to power the actual 3W Power LED in the flashlight,) for hundreds and hundreds of miles:es. 0_O

  38. Just wait until the playgrounds of the fishermen, waterskiers and other recreational water users are taken away.

  39. Or they could use conventional energy that does not take up millions of lots of land and apparently sea area to fix a problem that does not exist.

    Botch or bodge would probably fit into this idea. Fixes for global warming comes under creating a problem that does not exist then pretending to fix it with something that does not work. And promoting the crap out of it to convince people the lie is true. In a sane world such behavior would be prosecuted.

  40. B Tisdale point taken and you are correct. Still, there are now heaps of base periods hanging around, and they seem to be changed frequently, what a joke. The only base period we can trust seems to be the Armagh, Eire, one which shows no warming.

  41. B Tisdale: In my view your graph is still only showing warming from 1995. The line fit is highly contentious. Most data before 1995 is still showing below 0C anomaly, in fact it looks like a death flat line, so again we have another baseline problem there.

  42. And I thought that the Australians had plenty of experience of noxious water weed problems. Want to make the weed grow faster? Put a mettle structure in the water.

  43. I hate to dismiss these things. They should work fine, but it is just hard to imagine them cheap enough to be cost effective and worth keeping repaired. There are lots of sound objections above, but what worries me more is the lack of specifics. How much power per unit? They speak of MWs per installation. Really? Can they produce 100 W per square meter? They will need tens of thousands for MWs. Just doesn’t seem practical in an economic sense.

    It seems to me there is too much hand waving, too little specifics, too little attention to detail with the language used, and too many questions. It seems the main selling point is the fact that they do not take up land surface area, but isn’t the water surface area used for something at least some of the time? I suppose I’m leaning toward scam.

    It does seem the Indian government is not subsiding with tax money. That is a positive.

  44. brc says:
    March 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

    E.M.Smith says:
    March 31, 2011 at 1:15 am

    Ah yes, seagulls.

    One reason I always wear a hat when near or on the water.

    Maybe these lenses could be equipped with spritzers and wiper blades. . .

    /Mr Lynn

  45. I think the birds would absolutely love it if it didn’t keep sinking.

    If the water would stay calm, the reflection off the water should help some.

  46. John Kehr noted, but it bears repeating, that this is meant to augment hydroelectric production. Anthony’s reference to typhoons triggered the salt water imagery.

    Also, the photo here is a prototype/test element. The real installation would build many of these on an array of floats that suggest all sorts of interesting interaction with wind and waves. Like how are they going to anchor a lightweight structure made out sails?

    At least collecting the power from a large array is more sensible than from a flock of individual elements. Servicing the arrays could be interesting. Perhaps they can be lifted out of the water. I don’t know about utility crews, but us EEs are taught it’s not a good idea to work on live electrical things while standing on a wet floor. Maybe if they only did service at nighttime….

    Anthony should have used http://sunengy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/LSA-bank.png – then we could all ooh and ahh over the lame (non existent) attempt to photoshop in an image of a fresnel lens.

    Okay research project. They’ll learn a lot of things that don’t work and probably run into a few interesting unintended consequences.

  47. The one good feature of this scheme is that it can be tested for all of the potential problem areas with a small investment, since it appears to be modular. It looks like the main problem will be fouling from the normal “scum” that forms quickly on anything exposed to lake water. This would either require an anti-fouling coating (which normally requires renewal) or periodic cleaning. Cleaning chemicals work good (spray on / wash off), but of course would have to be environmentally friendly enough not to poison the lake.

  48. I could use a few of those floating lenses (without the PV) to heat my pool since it is still a block of ice here in New England.

  49. R and D grants, which can keep a company afloat in bad times, must show something at the end of the day to justify continued feeding at the more than likely publicly funded R and D grant trough.

    This green push is like a cancer that is invading country after country. I suppose we have this same kind of system in the U.S. The public is the likely funding source for R and D projects that will never see the light of day in an actual real life sustainable situation, but no matter. You have to show a pvc pipe and duct tape prototype in order to get the next round of money to produce the next prototype. Whether or not it works in the field is not the point here.

    The world’s population is being pick-pocketed.

  50. Moderators: I propose this as post, but if interested, I could go in more depth based on a recent assessment I did on this technology. Please delete this header before posting. Thx

    The idea of synergistically using solar power and hydropower from dams seems very reasonable – when solar energy is available the water flow through the turbines can be throttled, and thus one is no longer burdened with using the fluctuating power from solar, but achieves a pre-determinable output, making such a combo-facility suitable for base supply into the grid. Of course, there is no need for co-location, because you get the same effect as long as the two technologies are electrically connected and handled under a common control system.

    The proposed benefit of strict co-location – the solar devices floating on the water of the dam – is simply an attempt to take advantage of the available surface space offered by this body of water. Of course, any solar system delivering electricity would do the job; why a 2-axis tracker for Concentrated Photovoltaic Energy (CPV) is proposed is a different question. And why its structure is floating, i.e. agitated by the water waves, and its optical system even immersed into the water at times of too much waves, are yet additional questions.

    Sure, if you put solar collectors on very large surfaces – like 1% of 30,000 square kilometers of India’s captured water as proposed by Sunengy – you can generate a very large amount of electricity. If it works. And if you can afford it.

    Much has already been said about what will happen to anything in the water, coming from above (birds, dirt, combined with rain) and from below (sea live, algae) under corrosive conditions (moisture, salt – even in freshwater, UV-light). I’d like to address the issue of CPV.

    The proposed benefit of CPV is that the concentration of the solar light onto a smaller surface allows you to mount the more expensive solar cells with higher efficiency. Good standard cells may have an efficiency of 20%, while the best satellite-type cells are near or even beyond 40%. Also, solar cells tend to perform better at higher light intensity (and when they are well cooled). Hence you can produce up to 2x as much electric power for a given ground surface area.

    The disadvantage is that the concentrating optics limits light use to the so called Direct-Normal-Radiation, which is light coming from the sun without obstruction or scattering by clouds, dust or any other atmospheric disturbance. This reduces the available radiation by amounts ranging from 10% to 80%, depending on the regional conditions, relative to the total radiation – direct plus diffuse – arriving at the same place.

    Good concentration of light can only be achieved with good tracking of the sun, and matching mechanical controls for the alignment of the optics. This will be additionally challenging on a rocking platform on the water. The investment, maintenance, and repair cost for such systems must be accounted for.

    What does it look like for current land-based CPV installations? There are a few companies offering them, like Skyline Solar, Morgansolar, SolFocus, Amonix, Energy Innovations, Concentrix Solar. The concentration factors applied range from 10 – 1400fold. The high concentration factor requires precision mounting of the solar cells of 25µm (micrometer!), and a tracking precision of 0.1 degrees (!), withstanding wind of only 11m/s. (Good sailing wind for a Sunday afternoon family sail). Despite a solar cell efficiency of 37%, the module efficiency drops to only 27%. The company itself states that the cost advantage is only “10-20% depending on location”! In other words: there is barely an advantage neither in cost nor in energy output over current stationary flat panel technology, and given the continuing price drops in solar panels, any remaining will disappear soon.

    Sunengy is not telling what concentration factors and solar cells they use; from the pictures it looks like no more than 30fold concentration. And wording suggests they use standard silicon cells.

    It is difficult to see this technology working, let alone seeing an advantage. Is this perhaps one of Dogbert’s press releases? http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/29/tuesday-titter/

  51. Could they double as fresh water mussel farms? To be fair, we would all like these ideas to work out, but I just can’t see it. We are stuck with fossil fuels, imo.

  52. The insulation of the cells and wires will leak, you will get electrolysis and power loss, and maybe a nice hydrogen explosion as a bonus. And electrocuted fish. These are the reasons we prefer our electric installations dry.

  53. Grumpy Old Man says:
    March 30, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Tata Group didn’t get where they are today though altruism. As the Indian government rarely use their own money, is the UN being tapped for development funding for the Indian project?
    Can any of the Aussie posters give an idea of just how much Aussie taxpayers money is being poured into the Hunter Valley project?
    ————–
    seeing TATA and knowing we aussies gave india many millions just before krudd got the boot..I suspect this.
    will have a dekko and see if? any info around re Hunter.
    have a friend there that might know.

  54. I like the idea of using this invention as a pool heater. The only problem would be keeping the sun’s rays focused away from meltable portions of the pool lining. Hmmmm… maybe not such a good idea after all.

  55. Cassandra King says:
    March 30, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I have an idea for producing electricity with a magic wand and all I need to for this miracle to work is full funding, lets say a million bucks and ten years, if it doesnt pan out at least I got the million bucks.

    Cassandra, I am working on the same concept and I’ve gone over the numbers.
    WE will need $2M per year for 10 years. We can get started just as soon as we get funding from DOE.

    exciting, can’t wait, huh?

  56. My daddy would have said “It’s like overdrive on a jackass…..it’s a good idea but it just doesn’t work”

  57. Tata also own the beautiful but ever- thirsty Jaguar and Land/RangeRover marques.
    I too doubt it`s altruism or guilt.
    As with most manufacturing industries they`ll soak up any subsidies subtle blackmail can offer.Cash or we build in china!
    This is their latest auto project, the`pixel` they`re building it just round the corner from where i live.

    http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventrytimes/2011/03/31/tiny-tata-is-new-city-car-92746-28437952/

    I have no idea how much tax raised subsidy they recieved, i think a little research is in order.
    Hands up who`d prefer a `Jag`.

  58. I’m just imagining the surface of Lake Tahoe covered with these things. Not quite so attractive for recreational activities anymore…

  59. “Renewable energy is the future … only because when we run out of all other better alternatives, we will be returning to the past.”

    We have these folks in denial who seem to think that renewables can never work. The reality is that nature has been using renewable energy for millions of years…and our most plentiful energy sources come from ancient lifeforms who relied on the sun’s energy to survive.

    This notion that a big fusion reaction which dumps way more energy on our planet than can be used by everything here can’t possibly help in any way to power our consumptive lifestyle…largely denial, probably from the old-energy lobbyists.

    I’m not dismissing the constructive criticisms out of hand, because it’s true that nature is also messy, but let’s not automatically toss everything out just because there are some problems.

  60. One of my life’s work enterprises, has been to try and convince people that “Optics” exists as a technology, only becuase somebody discovered that if you took too pieces of glass (or Obsidian) and you put some wet sand in between them arnd rubbed them together, you would eventually end up with the two surfaces being a matching pair of near spherical surfaces; one convex, and one concave; and if you can find some smaller sand grits, then you can make them even closer to mathematical spheres; until in the end, you can make matching spherical surfaces, that can be within a hundredth of a wavelength of being perfect polished spherical surfaces; because that is the only surface that fits to its mate in any possible orientation.

    If that was not the case, there simply would be no optical industry; well they would be just starting to figure out how to make precision “Optical” surfaces.

    Some people mistakenly think, that just because you are doing “optics” that you must be getting accurate results.

    NO !! you only get the “optical results” if you have the precision in the required optical elements of your system; INCLUDING WHERE THE HELL THE PIECES ARE !!

    So you are going to drop these Fresnel lenses in the ocean, and they are going to stay ponted at the sun through thick and thin and the mythological 150 year storm.

    Baloney !

  61. mike restin says:
    March 31, 2011 at 9:03 am
    My daddy would have said “It’s like overdrive on a jackass…..it’s a good idea but it just doesn’t work”

    A cattle prod powered by a solar panel

  62. I’m not clear on how this is supposed to work? A solar battery? a little diagram of the workings would have been nice.

  63. Sunergy. Cute but no cigar. This is patently unworkable if it is to generate electricity. The ease with which the system can short out in salt water would make this a maintenance hell. It would be much more trouble than its worth. I would not want to be the person expected to inspect these arrays for leaks and shorts, particularly as the panels appear to be mounted in large arrays.

    It does not matter if the panels are free-floating or set in to larger arrays of connectors, the anchoring and storm-action will devastate these really quickly. One boat through the middle or even a corner and they will be toast.

    There is still the fact that this is a truly ancillary source of energy which could never begin to be part of a stable energy supply. Wind and solar are only useful for displacing some energy demand, normally from stable coal or nuclear, when they are productive (windy or sunny days), but they simply cannot and will not ever be able to supply the stable energy needed for modern civilization. The sun still sets on this floating strategy.

    You cannot create a stable energy supply from unstable energy sources.

  64. What to promote a renewable energy product? First realize it must work on this planet, with these people and the resources we have at hand. To those tossing about “Big Energy Blah Blah Blah”, these green gadgets that require an enclosed system to function longer than a BIC lighter at an Eagles concert do what for those of us living the in the real world exactly? The mantra needs to be “Our renewable is actually doable.” So please no dumping on us realists. We have enough on our plates making all that’s actually used every day both possible for and available to everyone.

  65. Charles Higley says:
    March 31, 2011 at 11:40 am

    The ease with which the system can short out in salt water would make this a maintenance hell.

    …as those who rode the Ocean Ranger drilling semisubmersible to the bottom of the stormy Grand Banks of Newfoundland 29 years ago can attest…

  66. anothor solution looking for a way to use solar in their name … complete BS engineering that works in the lab and will fail in the real world like most of the folks working in those labs …

  67. Hrmmm… They propose this for freshwater, but that still means a lot of sealing on the electrical components (and water, even fresh water, is close to the universal solvent. Ask any boatowner).

    This system would be very labor intensive to maintain.

    I’m also wondering about the aiming mechinisim for sun tracking; even reservoirs have waves and chop on most days, so that would impart a motion to even a large platform. (for proof, try standing on any pontoon dock).

    My guess; this thing might work, for a short while, but it will be very problematic, generate a lot less than claimed, and be a maintenance nightmare. I think it would soon be re-tasked as an artificial reef. :)

  68. All the comments about oceans etc. are irrelevant to this. It’s on the backed-up lakes behind dams.

    The bottom line will once more be the bottom line: (capital costs amortized over useful life + maintenance and replacement parts + operating costs) / output = cost per unit of energy generated. Excluding subsidies.

    The advantage this system would have is being close to transmission lines, already in place for the dams.

  69. Take a look at their much acclaimed patent AU2004243336, which you can download here: http://pericles.ipaustralia.gov.au/aub/aub_pages_1.process_simple_search?p_application_no=2004243336&p_procedure=paint_simple_search

    Not only are the systems described in the patent significantly different from the one discussed in this posting (don’t know how to post pictures, but downlaod the ‘drawings’ from the above link), but the current one also has features described as undesirable in the patent (see page 3, line 13: “is not passively robust”, p5 l25: “need for any bearings or joints”).

    But they have recognized the issue of algae growth and else and are proposing this (p13, line 19ff) (my emphasis in bold):

    To avoid the build up of algae and other organic contaminants on critical surfaces, the water of the pond preferably contains a suitable component or additive to suppress growth of algae. It is preferred that this component or additive be common sodium chloride (at ‘Dead Sea’ levels), other salt or transparent chemical additive which kills algae used alone or in combination. … Other preferred additives to suppress to suppress algae growth include copper based algaecides, chlorination, and ozone or ultraviolet treatment of the water. …

    Alternatively, algae and bacteria can be suppressed by raising the temperature of the pond sufficiently high to kill such organisms preiodically
    etc.

    This sounds like a proposal to contaminate the drinking water supply of India at a truly grand scale!

  70. How much energy is consumed, end to end, in the production of these things? All that plastic requires energy and feedstocks from fossil fuels. The copper windings in the servo motors. The factories which produce all the parts and finished products. The shipping, installation, and maintenance. When all these factors are taken into account do these nifty little gimcracks actually produce more power during their service life than they initially consume? I tend to doubt they do but absent a detailed analysis I really can’t say and neither can anyone else.

  71. Arizona CJ says:
    March 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Hrmmm… They propose this for freshwater, but that still means a lot of sealing on the electrical components (and water, even fresh water, is close to the universal solvent. Ask any boatowner).

    This system would be very labor intensive to maintain.

    I’m also wondering about the aiming mechinisim for sun tracking; even reservoirs have waves and chop on most days, so that would impart a motion to even a large platform. (for proof, try standing on any pontoon dock).

    I own several boats and live on the shore of a 20,000 acre reservior created by a dam with hydroelectric power generation at the gates. The head at the dam is about 200 feet so it’s no small amount of power. Subtropical latitude and relatively warm dry climate with plenty of sunshine. This is ostensibly the ideal proposed environment for these solar thingamabobs.

    In my boat owning experience the sun causes more damage than water does. The UV plays hell on materials over the years especially fabrics and plastics. It’s rain falling from above not lake water coming from below that causes more problems although a continuously submerged lower unit does eventually suffer damage from water infiltration but I expect the bearing seals around the servo shafts on these solar gimcracks isn’t subjected to anywhere near the stress of a propellor bearing and the drive train behind it can probably be made of plastic that won’t be harmed by water unlike the metal gears in a boat motor outdrive.

    You don’t mention the worst problem – algae. Boats with gel coated FRP hulls (the usual for artificial inland lakes) that are constantly afloat usually have their lower hulls painted with an algaecide-containing paint. Otherwise they quickly grow beards of algae that reduce hull performance and eventually eat through the gel coat and destroy the FRP. Low performance aluminum hull boats (like one of mine, a pontoon boat) can stay afloat without harm and the beard gets a good trimming whenever the boat is underway at cruise speed for very long. I have a four-stroke Honda outboard on it that I can raise all the way out of the water to eliminate the problem of having a constantly submerged lower unit. My FRP boats don’t stay floating long enough for algae to grow on the hulls – been there, done that – one time cleaning just 3 weeks of algae growth off the bottom of a gel coat FRP hull was enough to teach me a lesson.

    While its certainly true that even smaller inland lakes get substantial wave action it isn’t often from winds as there are typically no long straight paths for the wind to build them up as these artificial reservoirs are usually backed up rivers that take a winding course through the valleys. Boat wakes are usually larger, much more frequent, and much more destructive than wind driven waves. But as anyone knows who’s been around many marinas on inland lakes there’s an easy fix for both wind driven waves and boat wakes – a floating, anchored breakwater placed between the waves and that which is to be protected. Breakwaters are not at all expensive or high tech and are often made entirely of concrete with evacuated centers so they float. They are rugged and virtually maintenance free.

  72. PeterF says:
    April 1, 2011 at 3:49 am
    “Take a look at their much acclaimed patent AU2004243336, which you can download
    “To avoid the build up of algae and other organic contaminants on critical surfaces, the water of the pond preferably contains a suitable component or additive to suppress growth of algae.” ”

    Great find. A green technology that requires killing off life in sweetwater reservoirs to save the planet. (And still be a maintenance nightmare)

    And how do they want to get rid of Algae with sodium chloride? Maybe it’ll kill sweetwater algae but before you count to three the first spores of some saltwater creature will be in their lake, ready to thrive. They’ll need something way more poisonous.

  73. @ArizonaCJ (con’t)

    I’m not sure how many “critical surfaces” on these things need algae protection. In my experience algae doesn’t grow on any plastic surfaces that aren’t constantly submerged. The carpet on the swim platform of a houseboat I used to own is an exception as it was only about 12″ out of the water and boat wakes big enough to wet it, combined with the water retention of the carpet fabric, was enough to make algae a royal pain the keister. I tried periodically spraying it with an algaecide but it washed out too quickly and the only way to get it out was with a pressure washer delicately adjusted to the point where the pressure was just enough to get rid of the algae but not enough to rip the carpet. No one in their right mind should have carpeted a swim platform but that’s how the boat came from the manufacturer. That should have been made out of aluminum with an anti-skid self-draining ridge pattern so people don’t slip and fall on it and no water can hang around long enough for algae to grow. But I digress.

    On the lake where I live the expanse of water nearest the dam, the main basin, is prime recreational area for power boats, sail boats, wind surfers, and fishing. Having it taken up by acres and acres of solar power collectors would cause such a fit amongst the recreational users that it would never happen.

  74. How much extra could it be to put like a windshield wiper/washer on a car over the fresnal lens and the PV panel? Algae isn’t the only concern. There are going to be mineral deposits from evaporated water that build up quickly as well as just dust, dirt, pollen, soot, and other crap floating around in the air. Windshield wipers, solvent reservoirs, and sprayers meant to last for years in the sun and weather conveniently (for PV panels) powered by 12vdc and truly massively produced already for automobiles should make that the perfect solution. I still wonder about whether they return more than they consume.

    Alternatively you can just put walkways in there and cheap labor to go around caring for them. The parts are small enough so with a little clever design engineering for ease of maintenance these could last for years with minimal maintenance expense.

    Better yet put in rails instead of walkways and design the individual units so a robot can run out along the rails servicing the silly things.

    I kind of like the last maintenance solution the best given my background in factory automation at Dell. We set a whole new standard there for manufacturing efficiency back in the 1990’s. This solar platform is perfect for it.

    Another concern I have is that a fresnel lense doesn’t change the cost/performance of PV very much or everyone would be doing it already. Forget the maintenance and difficulty issue of floating these. I’d put a few in my backyard with a solenoid on it to switch my air conditioner’s power back and forth from the grid to the solar. When the sun is blazing in a clear sky is when I consume the most power and it’s like that for most people. A hobbyist can cobble together sun tracking fresnels with PV panels using off the shelf parts. Maintenance would only fractionally increase routine lawn care so that’s no concern. If that made economic sense even in mass production everyone would be doing it already.

    So in the end I’m gonna call bullsh!t on the floating fresnel/PV scheme. If it doesn’t make economic sense on land it won’t on water either.

    A hobbyist could cobble one of these do it today with off the shelf parts. estigations for personal use (I’d love to get my electricity cheaper and with the same 24/7 reliability than the power company provides it) I just can’t make the numbers work.

  75. DirkH says:
    And how do they want to get rid of Algae with sodium chloride? Maybe it’ll kill sweetwater algae but before you count to three the first spores of some saltwater creature will be in their lake, ready to thrive. They’ll need something way more poisonous.

    Didn’t they say “Dead Sea” levels?

    The sea is called “dead” because its high salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants, from living in it, though minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi are present. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea)

    Seems quite environmentally conscious to me. (/sarc)

  76. Willis: “Tata Group should run, not walk, the other way.”

    This is on the assumption that Tata actually cares whether it works or not. Remember this is the corporation that has Pachauri in upper management.

    It’s no accident that “ta ta” is Brit casual for ” ‘bye, now.”

  77. “”””” John Kehr says:
    March 31, 2011 at 12:56 am
    Clearly a lot of readers missed the fact that these are to be put in man-made lakes behind hydroelectric dams and not on the ocean.

    Waves, salt, whales and large ships should not be a problem. Wind should not be a problem as andthing dragging in the water (power line) would anchor it. “””””

    Wishful thinking at best.

    The San Luis Reservoir (totally man-made lake; even anthropogenic too,) in snta Claraa California, has killed more than its share of boaters who evidently like you believed that wind and waves will not be a problem.

    On the other hand, among the cognoscenti, it is well known that when those big fans that line the ridge around San Luis Reservoir, start turning; that is the word to the wise, to get your arse off the lake immediately; no matter how big a boat oyu are in.
    That warning does NOT apply to wind surfers; who flock to the place, when the word goes out; “hey the wind is not going to be the problem toaday; so lets go surfing.”

  78. Stephan says: “Most data before 1995 is still showing below 0C anomaly…”

    You’re seeing the impacts of the eruption of El Chichon in 1982, which counteracted the 1982/83 El Nino, and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

    You continued, “…in fact it looks like a death flat line…”

    Looks can be deceiving.

    You wrote, “…so again we have another baseline problem there.”

    There’s no “baseline problem”. The base years make no difference to the data, just one’s perception of the data. We can replot GISS LOTI data with the same base years as the TLT anomaly graph. It doesn’t change the trends or the year-to-year variability. (But we can’t change the base years of the TLT data to the 1951-1980 period used by GISS since there’s no satellite-based TLT data prior to 1979.)

  79. Someone asked for an Aussie poster to respond as so as an Aussie and Chairman of Sunengy, I hope I qualify. There are a few drops of positivity above but they’re being drowned in a negative feeding frenzy, most based on mis-perception. What I will do is try to cover as many queries as I can and hopefully impart some optimism, though it is much easier for many to vent negativity.
    LSA is not designed for the open ocean, saltwater or fast moving currents.
    It is designed for freshwater, in particular hydropower and village dams.
    Wave attenuation is not at all difficult to deal with in these environments and no waves can form within the array because there is not enough open surface area. We are working with marine engineers to dampen waves from up to 2 kilometers of fetch.
    Being in water enhances some elements of maintenance especially automated self cleaning of lens and glass
    Each LSA unit will weigh around 17kg and can easily be removed and replaced or upgraded (if required) via a specifically designed maintenance craft.
    It is not difficult to prevent birds perching on the top of the lenses and polypropylene mesh will prevent wildlife and debris from settling on top of the CPV canister.
    Algae will form on the bottom of the rafting, it will not form on the bottom of the CPV canister as the heat sink is designed to reach 30 degrees Celsius which will kill any algae there. Lenses are packaged so water will not get in the grooves and they will not be in the water long enough to have algae grow, but the are hydrophobic coatings that can be used if required. The patent document referred to was written in 2004 and we have progressed since then.
    Many hydro dams are not river fed but for those that are, generally the topography allows for the installation to be protected from floating debris, the wave attenuation perimeter is also a barrier.
    Let’s say we are covering 10% of a dam of that area only 60% is in shadow, that moves while tracking the sun, then depending on the depth of water there will be different effects on marine life. I hope you can gives us enough credibility to assume we will have the necessary environmental impact studies done before we start installing units.
    We are not using any toxic materials or lubricants.
    Sealing from water damage is a matter of good engineering practice and the areas to be sealed are quite small.
    A small band of founders and investors have funded the development (commenced in 2001) prior to Tata Power’s involvement. It took 2 1/2 years of technical and commercial R&D to secure the deal with Tata Power and no Indian govt funds have been used. The Indian govt is offering incentives for renewable energy but it is for power generation, not R&D. We have had 2 small grants from the Australian govt and get some tax rebates for R&D.
    I have a marine trade background and have owned motor and sail boats but most of my working career has been in business, except for most of the 80’s, when I worked on a full time volunteer basis for a registered Australian charity. Phil Connor, LSA inventor has had a passion for solar power since 1964 and for the past 20 years has worked for the Australian Federal govt’s premier research organisation, CSIRO. We like to think we’re not that stupid. I met Phil while he was working for the same charity, so I would also like to state that ripping people or govts off, is not in our nature, though there are plenty of spin doctors out there.
    We have in Australia the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, it’s a malady of frustration, so let’s knock the successful indiscriminately. I’m not sure if any of you have personal knowledge of the Tata Power, but my 2 1/2 years dealing with their upper and middle management has been filled with integrity and vision for a cleaner future.
    Tata Power own 3 large hydro dams in Maharashtra, we can generate 450MW output matching the hydro facilities there and use less than 4% of the dams’ surface area. The bigger picture is India has 30,000 square kilometers of captive water and by using only 1% of this, LSA could produce 15GW of power for at least 2,000 hours per year. India has good water and sunshine and hundreds of millions of people living in poverty and without electricity. Power for water reticulation, refrigeration, irrigation and things like aquaculture and cottage industry will help bring these people away from subsistence living and more able to make some choices in their lives. An early choice most parents make is to have their children better educated and this snowball will help eliminate poverty in the world.
    If we are to help alleviate poverty in the world through “empowering” marginalised communities we need to look to industry for solutions. Ultimately it will be the industrious people of the world not the governments (or the “knockers”) that will make this happen. This is the vision and aim of Sunengy, hopefully our partnership with Tata Power will help make it a reality.
    The reality is if we want the world to be sustainable for life as we know it, we must bring people out of poverty and this doesn’t mean giving up too much of what we have, but maybe a little; I hope the proclaimed realists can see it this way. Kind regards Peter Wakeman, Chairman and Executive Director Sunengy Australia.

  80. Sorry I forgot…..
    The technologies we have developed for tracking and in our CPV canister gives us a focal tolerance of +/- 2 degrees which is fine for us. Remember we are an inherently low cost system that does not need to magnify the sun 500-1,000 times, so our pointing accuracy is not as critical as with the high efficiency land based CPV technologies. The proof I guess will become more evident later this year. Thanks for reading, Peter Wakeman.

  81. George E. Smith says:
    April 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    The San Luis Reservoir (totally man-made lake; even anthropogenic too,) in snta
    Claraa California, has killed more than its share of boaters who evidently like you believed that wind and waves will not be a problem.

    On the other hand, among the cognoscenti, it is well known that when those big fans that line the ridge around San Luis Reservoir, start turning; that is the word to the wise, to get your arse off the lake immediately; no matter how big a boat oyu are in.
    That warning does NOT apply to wind surfers; who flock to the place, when the word goes out; “hey the wind is not going to be the problem toaday; so lets go surfing.”

    Don’t generalize. The artificial reservoir I’m on has lots of boats on it that can go out in bad weather on the ocean. There is no speed limit and there are boats on it 24/7 running, in marinas, and on private docks. Running around over minimum planing speed at night can get you in trouble if you get caught (I think) but even minimum planing speed at night is only a suggestion. This is Texas and we don’t need no stinkin’ government telling us what’s safe and what ain’t.

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