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Posted on July 08, 2016 by Dr Peter Harrop

Off-grid power just became much easier

Energy Harvesting: Off-Grid MicroW to MegaW 2017
Africa GreenTec of Germany and Hanergy of China recently revealed new approaches to off-grid clean renewable energy. The IDTechEx report, High Power Energy Harvesting: Off-Grid 10W to 100kW External Link puts it all in context.
 
Off-grid clean power is a big focus of attention nowadays as we seek clean propulsion of land, water and airborne vehicles and clean power for buildings and remote equipment off-grid. In some places there are even arguments for going from on-grid to off-grid to reduce cost and provide better security of supply but some fairly basic things need to be done to make it both easy and viable. Fortunately, it is starting to happen in the form of better system design, value engineering, going for volume and modularisation. In addition, multiple energy harvesting is progressing, initially in new applications of the wind turbine for bad weather in tandem with photovoltaics for good weather as currently seen on road signs, street lights, a few buildings and many sea-going boats.

Modularisation

Using crowdfunding for finance, start-up Africa GreenTec in Hamburg Germany has started shipping an off-grid power station in a shipping container based on photovoltaics with battery storage that uses the container removed from its truck as part of the structure unfurled and functioning in only two hours. Diesel generators that are replaced have an appalling reputation for contributing to global warming, acid rain, respiratory and cardiac diseases and fires. Significantly, the new zero pollution solution is cheaper.
 
Africa GreenTec sent its first kit to Mourdiah in Mali to provide 120 houses with electricity. It provides several hours of lighting in the evenings and a later version in 2016 will provide power all night and incorporate water pumps and water purification. This is very significant because most life takes place in the cool of the night in hot countries. Presumably wind power will be added when appropriate. The company considers its elegant equipment to be appropriate for everything from hotels to hospitals.

Vehicles approach energy independence

omething similar is happening for vehicles, where few have added wind power to solar and the photovoltaics has not been extendable let alone over most of the vehicle so power produced has been of minimal use. Venturi in Monaco had wide area solar with a wind turbine on a car but the project did not progress. Now IFEVS has produced a superb van with two induction heaters and a microwave oven as a mobile energy independent pizza van. How? As described at "IDTechEx Show!" in Berlin recently, a large wind turbine rises telescopically and unfurls when the vehicle is stationary and the opening flaps on the sides all have solar panels, the result being ample power to cook pizza for sale and propel and light the vehicle.

Hanergy announces plans

China's Hanergy has now joined the fray. It has unveiled four solar-powered vehicles. On solar power alone range is about 80 kilometers after a six-hour charge in the sun, this being much more than the average daily usage of a personal car.
 
The company says production could start around 2020. Hanergy Holdings is a large clean-energy company and the world's largest thin-film solar power company. The four vehicles are fitted with solar panels on the roof tops, door tops and on the bonnets and some of the solar panels extend when parked.
 
Autonomous Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2017-2037
Contrary to popular understanding, cars can be energy independent just from solar power but they must be completely redesigned to incorporate at least six square meters of high efficiency photovoltaics, extreme powertrain efficiency, extreme lightweighting, regeneration and aerodynamics. Such cars are unlikely to meet crash test and other requirements of mainstream car homologation at least initially but they can be legally sold as microEVs known as quadricycles in Europe. Indeed, the Stella Lux in the Netherlands manages typical urban travel yet still has surplus electricity it donates to the grid.
 
The newly announced Hanergy Solar L is an MPV-like vehicle with gull wing doors. It has a solar panel stretching a full six meters from the A-pillar to the rear end. Weight of the vehicle is said to be just 700 kilo. The Hanergy Solar A is a sporty two-door with panels in the bonnet and on the roof and the panels can be extended, space-station style, when the vehicle is parked. When fully folded out the panels have a surface of 7.5 square meters. Weight is 1.2 ton. These features will make these cars largely solar powered and in some cases truly energy independent depending on how many other features are improved.
 
The energy - maybe 2.5 kWh or more over a 12 hour day - is stored in lithium ion batteries to give a useful addition to range. The planned Hanergy cars can be charged at any EV charging station for a full range of 350 kilometers. Hanergy says solar-range will expand dramatically in the future because solar panel technology is improving fast. IDTechEx agrees. For example, the price of GaAs panels is dropping and lighter weight thinner photovoltaics is becoming more viable. Indeed, Hanergy owns GaAs thin film photovoltaics manufacturer Alta Devices in the USA. Electric car, bus and forklift manufacturer BYD of China has its own solar business so companies like these are well placed. Tesla merging with a solar company this year is merely more of the trend already established.

Solar buses

Hanergy also announced a deal with Foton to develop solar panels for electric buses but the parameters here would only lead to a modest increase in range and poor payback. Hanergy also works with various other specialty vehicle makers to extend the range with solar power of recreational vehicles, tour buses, and catering trucks.

Immortus

The Immortus sports car project currently fund raising in Australia will be reported in detail at the forthcoming IDTechEx Show! in Santa Clara California. This will be a fully energy independent road-legal sports car emulating the record breaking solar racer on display at the event, It will have extreme lightweighting and aerodynamics and six square meters of single crystal silicon solar to give full energy independence. The most efficient, most expensive photovoltaics such as those based on gallium arsenide layers are too expensive for this project so far. Energy harvesting shock absorbers are planned. The result will be 60kph "perpetual" speed in daylight and 400km range at night. Off-grid green power just got easier thanks to a better approach. See the IDTechEx report Energy Independent Electric Vehicles Roadmap 2016-2036 External Link.
 
Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2017-2027
Evolution of multimodal energy harvesting
Top image: EVX Ventures