WindStream's SolarMill is a New Kind of Hybrid
Read this in our November issue of Energy Digital!
When it comes to large-scale renewable, space can be an issue.
This is particularly true when it comes to island nations. In recent years, the first course of action has been to look to offshore solutions, be it wind or solar. Development in technology has driven this even further, with the advent of floating offshore installations allowing renewable energy producers to harness energy more effectively and in places they might not have been able to previously.
While this is certainly an innovative solution to an unavoidable problem, one company has approached it from a different angle by combining several forms of renewable energy together to form a compact generating device that takes up significantly less space than its larger counterparts.
This new piece of hardware comes from Indiana’s WindStream Technologies. The SolarMill is a hybrid solar panel and wind turbine installation that has unmatched energy density. The SolarMill can also be deployed in markets where there isn’t enough solar or wind potential to be worth deploying one or the other on its own.
So, who is WindStream and how is the SolarMill changing the game when it comes to renewable energy installations?
From Concept to Completion
WindStream got its start in 2008 with hopes of engineering and designing a renewable energy device that was accessible and widely available on a global scale.
2009 saw the company set up its R&D arm at the Purdue Research Center in New Albany, Indiana. WindStream allied itself with Purdue, gaining support and resources from the university. It needed all the help it could get, as it aimed to design a device that was not only revolutionary, but needed to be produced on a mass scale.
In 2011, with several years of prototyping under its belt, the company set up a production facility in North Vernon, Indiana, where it still produces its turbines currently.
Since then, the company has split its operations between India/South Asia and the US.
Today, the company is still expanding into emerging markets.
The Wind beneath Its Panels
Bette Midler jokes aside, the SolarMill is literally wind turbines with solar panels on top. It’s extremely compact, with its 1 panel units only 1.45m wide and .70m deep. This compact size allows a large number of them to fit in a small space.
There are different models with multiple panels, but the design essentially remains the same.
In addition to the space saving measures of the panels, it also has a number of other advantages. Because of the hybrid nature of the panels, it can produce power 24-hours a day. WindStream touts the further versatility of the hybrid panels by noting their on and off grid capabilities.
The unit is also incredibly durable, able to withstand temperatures from -30°C to 50°C.
Essentially, the device is designed to be deployed in nearly environment and be able to produce a substantial amount of energy. Especially since there’s minimal maintenance required, it’s a workable solution for making renewable energy more accessible.
Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon
The most notable deployment of SolarMill tech is on the Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon law firm in Kingston, Jamaica. The installation, which came online in late July, is the world largest hybrid solar and wind farm. It was a very lucrative investment for the firm, since they’re expecting to see returns on their investment in only 4 years.
“We have been at the forefront of the Jamaican legal landscape for 70 years and we are pleased to be continuing that trend by leading in Jamaican sustainability and renewable energy,” Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon’s CEO Donovan Cunningham said. “This was a bold undertaking and we expect to reap rich rewards through our partnership with WindStream.”
The partnership was also lucrative for WindStream, as they hope to do more work in nations like Jamaica.
“We are proud to be working with JPS, which is distributing our products within Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean,” WindStream COO Travis Campbell said. “This SolarMill installation is an excellent model for other businesses to follow. If you are interested in energy efficiency and saving money, SolarMills are a simple, cost-effective solution.”
A Bright and Blustery Future
With the success of the Jamaica deployment, WindStream is expanding rapidly into various international markets.
The company formed WindStream Energy Technologies, a subsidiary, and opened a second office in India in June in order to better break into the Asian market.
“This country is perfect for WindStream's SolarMill technology,” Venkat Kumar Tangirala, President of WET, said. “India is a vast market that is in need of new sources of renewable energy and the ease of use and efficiency for the SolarMill has already garnered great interest and traction with customers and government agencies throughout the country.”
WindStream is also looking to break into the Japanese market and will provide energy-efficient lighting company Tosmo with SolarMills.
“Tosmo has recently displayed the SolarMill at trade shows throughout Japan, including this year's Grand Renewable Energy Show in Tokyo to an overwhelmingly positive response” Tosmo CEO Shigeo Ozawa said. “This is the right product at the right time for our marketplace.”
The company is also working on projects at home in the U.S. In partnership with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, WindStream is developing a portable trailer for first responders that runs on renewable energy. The design is based around the SolarMill technology, though it was adapted to meet the needs of the IDHS.
“With the push of a button the system automatically deploys, greatly reducing the time to set up a command center and begin powering the needed equipment that serves such a critical role in any response environment,” Dan Harris, Executive Vice President at WindStream Technologies, said. “As an American manufacturer, we are very proud to have created a solution which meets the needs of Homeland Security while at the same time opens the door to provide the technology to not only US government agencies but other countries faced with the same mobile challenge.”
WindStream’s success can be attributed to its adaptability. The device can be deployed in a number of scenarios, making it the perfect solution for bringing renewable energy to developing and prosperous nations alike.
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Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere