Electrochemical Step Towards Better Hydrogen Storage

Good metal-based systems for hydrogen storage cannot be developed without knowing how this element permeates through metals. Researchers at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw managed to apply a user-friendly electrochemical method to study hydrogen diffusion in highly reactive metals.

Hydrogen is seen as a versatile energy carrier for the future. Unfortunately, the element practically does not occur in the free state on Earth. Therefore, it must be first generated (e.g., by electrolysis of water), then stored, to be finally used — ideally in fuel cells transforming chemical energy directly into electrical one. Hydrogen storage represents, however, a serious challenge. The drawbacks of conventional storage tanks for gaseous and liquid hydrogen force us to look for other solutions. One of the promising methods for hydrogen storage makes use of the capability of some metals and alloys to easily uptake this element. The development of efficient hydrogen storage systems requires, however, a detailed knowledge on how hydrogen diffuses in metals.

Hydrogen permeation through metals can be conveniently studied with electrochemical methods. These methods fail, however, for metals where the diffusion of hydrogen is relatively slow, and also in cases where metals strongly react with aqueous electrolyte solutions. The problem relates in particular to magnesium and magnesium alloys that are considered the most attractive materials for hydrogen storage. “We managed to overcome this obstacle”, says Prof. Tadeusz Zakroczymski, whose team at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw has been for many years carrying out comprehensive research on hydrogen permeation, diffusion and uptake in metals.

Written by Antoni Szafranski. To read the full article, click here.

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The Lesson in Renewable Energy Development from Spain

The most recent energy sector reforms passed in Spain represent the fourth time that a sweeping set of retroactive changes has rocked the country’s renewable energy (RE) industry. This new Royal Decree Law modifies billions of Euros worth of renewable energy contracts in a move that, when added to previous retroactive measures, will almost undoubtedly trigger insolvencies across the sector.

Instead of looking at the new Law in detail, this article takes a step back, and looks at the key lessons that policymakers around the world should draw from the Spanish experience.

As highlighted in previous analyses, the underlying problem that legislators in Spain are trying to address is the rapid growth of the electricity system deficit, which now stands at €26 billion.

This deficit has been created over the last fifteen years as the costs of generating electricity have risen faster than what utilities can lawfully recover from rates. The root cause of this is ultimately that Spain limits the amount by which electricity prices can increase.

Written by Toby D. Couture. To read the full article, click here.

Window Socket: Portable Solar-Powered Outlet Sticks to Windows, Charges Small Electronics

The Window Socket is an idea so fabulously simple, it’s slightly amazing that we haven’t seen one before. Designed by Kyuho Song & Boa Oh, the charger sticks to a window and draws solar power to an internal battery, which enables one to either plug in small devices to the outlet right there and then, or save the stored power for use during night time hours.

According to Yanko Design, Kyuho Song & Boa Oh “tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training.” It sticks to a window with a suction plate that encircles the solar panel, and a basic outlet feeds the converted solar power to a device—and that’s pretty much it. As the designers point out, this is a charger/converter that can be used anywhere there’s daylight, particularly where there is restricted use of electricity, such as outdoors or on a plane.

At present, the Window Socket is still a concept, but in the near future the designers hope to increase its efficiency, energy storage and charge time. The battery on the Window Socket is very small; at 1000mAh the stored power might be about enough to charge a mobile phone—particularly if it were a USB outlet rather than a standard one, but it won’t be enough to power household appliances. And while it can provide 10 continuous hours of power on a full charge, it presently takes about 5-8 hours to fully charge. But even that can’t completely take a way from it’s awesome, simple design.

Written by Charley Cameron. To read the full article, click here.

What Is So Magical About 25-Year Warranties In Solar?

25 years. Two and a half decades. The Silver Anniversary. 13,140,000 minutes (sorry, I saw a community theater version of Rent this weekend, and I love this song).
The most common length for warranties in the solar industry.
Which begs four questions:
What’s so magical about 25 years that solar manufacturers have fixated on it as the warranty length?
Is there really reliable testing to provide hard data that the components of a system will last that long?
Were these warranty lengths chosen only to reassure the financiers that solar was a safe investment?
As President Josiah Bartlett famously used to ask — what’s next?
These questions came up in several discussion I had with manufacturers at the recent Intersolar North America 2013 show, as reliability created a huge buzz at the show (I discussed my theory about why this question is so prevalent now while I was actually at the show). And now I can’t stop thinking about it.
What will happen after 25 years? Assuming all the components last that long (I’m not saying they won’t), what happens when they inevitably start degrading? After all, everything breaks down eventually (even the human body, the most exquisite engineering feat in the history of the world).

Written by Frank Andorka. To read the full article, click here.

What You Need to Know About Shopping for Solar Panels

Following a record-breaking year for rooftop solar panels in the U.S. in 2012, you can expect a flood of information overload on how to go about getting solar panels installed on your rooftop. Choosing the right solar panel service company has long required a considerable amount of detective work to figure out what you want and what you need.

As with any retail service, consumers should expect to deal in a straightforward manner with installers and get what they’re promised. Most consumers, though, have no previous experience shopping for solar, so it’s more difficult to spot shady language in a contract or missing steps in the purchase process. An online search of solar installers in your town could turn up a long list of companies.

To help you combat the mass of information, as well as any misinformation, we created this cheat sheet of things you should consider:

Written by Ucilia Wang. To read the full article, click here.

Listen Up: Top Ten Questions about Residential Solar Power

Like many home improvement projects, solar power can be complicated. Unfortunately, the solar industry make it worse; sometimes it’s like manufacturers and installers speak a completely different language. To make matters more challenging, there are literally hundreds of companies, almost all of whom have great products at the “best” price. So how do you as a consumer decide what system is best for your home or business?

From “How much does a solar system cost?” to “What kind of maintenance does rooftop solar need?”, this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World will answer the top ten questions about residential solar power. So if you are thinking about solar power for your home or business, be sure to listen to this podcast.

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

Written by Barry Cinnamon. To read the full article, click here.

Reliability Testing Front and Center in Solar Module Electronics

“We expect reliability and availability to come to the forefront of inverter selection,” GTM Research senior solar analyst MJ Shiao explained in the report The Global PV Inverter Landscape 2013: Technologies, Markets and Survivors.“Bankability, reliability, and serviceability are transforming from buzzwords to key values.”

One of the key areas of innovation is in microinverters and micro-power converters such as DC optimizers. But, according to TUV Rheinland President Mani G. Tamizh-Mani, there are currently no quality and reliability standards for these devices.

“At the end of the day, reliability is better than a warranty,” Shiao noted in the GTM Research report, “but even third-party studies of reliability and complete field data sets are difficult to access and compare.”

Written by HERMAN K. TRABISH. To read the full article, click here