Best of 2011: Japanese 'wind lens' triples output
As we head into the new year, Energy Digital will be posting some of best stories from 2011 all week. Happy Holidays to all of our readers!
In light of recent events, Japan has been urged to pay more attention to renewable energy sources. Coincidently, in the same month as one of the world's worst nuclear crises devastated Fukushima, an incredibly innovative wind turbine system revealed itself on Kyushu University's campus for field testing. With a promise to generate two to three times the power of traditional models, the new turbine designs exemplify the potential for a cleaner energy future in Japan and around the world, removed from the dangers of nuclear power plants.
While energy from wind turbines currently accounts for less than one percent of total power generated in Japan, the new breakthrough in design provides ample reason to ramp up production. Called the 'Windlens,' Yuji Ohya, a professor of renewable energy dynamics and applied mechanics, and his team at Kyushu University have created a series of turbines that could make the cost of wind power less than coal and nuclear energy.
The two major concerning issues with traditional turbines have been their general inefficiency and intolerable noise. However, Kyushu's researchers found that attaching an inward curving ring around the perimeter of a turbine's blades increases the focus of airflow faster through the blade zones at two to three times the speed as before. An improvement in safety from covering the outer edges of the blades and a reduction of the dreaded noise pollution of older models is just a bonus.
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To take advantage of Japan's coastal wind power potential, the Kyushu team has also designed a hexagonal-shaped base for the turbines that would be low in cost, but still strong enough to endure marine conditions. In addition to overall structural improvement of the traditional turbines, the bases would also make it easier to link other turbines at sea together and enlarge platforms.
“I believe that offshore 'wind lens' turbines will become a reliable source of energy if safety is ensured and the cost is cut to float them stably on vast sea surfaces,” said Prof. YusakuKyozuka on the research team at Kyushu University.
Can others in the industry easily adopt a similar design to make older turbines more efficient?
Although the 'wind lens' appears simple, it consists of complex technological planning and extensive field testing. Poorly engineered models that have failed in the past have left a bad impression on many users and policy makers, hurting the image of the entire industry, according to Chris Takashi Matsuuar, a collaborator working in the UK to promote theWindlens globally.
"Therefore, we will develop a whole turbine system of our own, including not only the lens shroud, but also the blades, generator, controller, etc.," he said. "The best way [to move forward] is to replace old turbines as a whole with our new smart Windlens system."
What is the current stage of testing?
Several types of turbines have been designed with different power ratings and many are still undergoing testing. As of March this year, two units of turbines with a capacity of 70 to 100 KW (blade diameter of 12.8) have been installed on campus at Kyushu University for field testing.
The more widely used, smaller units with a capacity of 3 to 5 KW (blade diameter of 2.5 meters) have been picked up by some industrial users and installed in many locations, including the Gansu Province of China for a desert irrigation project and several coastal areas in Fukuoka City, Japan. The floating Windlens systems have been tested in a water tank at an in-house laboratory at the University, but actual field test installations for the first marine turbines are almost ready and should take place sometime this month, Matsuuar hopes.
However, field tests take time and it could be several months to two years before theWindlens makes a significant impact on Japan's energy system. The good news is the "Windlens has already attracted great expectations globally and will make a huge, real impact for the power generation in not only Japan, but also in the U.K., E.U., U.S., Canada and other parts of the world, as soon as the field test gives good results on the designed performance and safety," said Matsuuar.
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.