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Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “Switzerland”

Meyer-Burger Strategy Change

Most solar panels come from China, right? Could be wrong. Solar equipment manufacturer Meyer-Burger from Switzerland will stop selling its state-of-the-art machines and instead will use them for their own solar module production and service the exponentially growing global solar market under the motto: “why sell the goose with the golden eggs?”, and rather sell the eggs. The company believes it holds the technological holy grail (“smartwire”).

A large proportion of the solar modules produced world-wide today are based on technologies developed by Meyer Burger. By selling its production equipment, however, Meyer Burger relinquished control of its technology and largely left the realization of the added value creation to its customers. Meyer Burger’s Board of Directors has decided that Meyer Burger, as a rule, will in the future manufacture production equipment for Heterojunction/SmartWire exclusively for its own use and aims to become a leading global producer of solar cells and modules… Meyer Burger delivered the proof of concept of heterojunction/SmartWire in mass production at the end of 2019 by successfully establishing a 600 MW production line for a client. The proceeds from the capital increase are expected to be used primarily to build up production capacities and the sales organization. Meyer Burger expects to save significant time and economic resources by acquiring existing production sites in Germany… Recently, Fraunhofer ISE also confirmed a record efficiency of 25.4% for a heterojunction solar cell manufactured with the Company’s latest technology in May 2020… The European and global market potential is considerable. In Germany, renewable energy to supply 65 percent of electricity by 2030, and Europe is to become climate neutral by 2050. In Germany alone, the government has set a photovoltaic expansion target of 98 GW until 2030.

[meyerburger.com] – Meyer-Burger strategy U-turn
[meyerburger.com] – SmartWire Connection Technology

Meyer Burger Plans Producing Solar Panels in Germany

The Swiss technology company Meyer Burger wants to produce solar panels in Germany, in the high-end, high-quality, high-efficiency (24%) range and avoid Asian competition in the lower segments. Other parties involved are the Norwegian solar module maker REC Group as well as Oxford University. The output of the new factory could be installed in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as floating solar on an artificial lake like in the Hambach Forest, on the terrain of an abandoned coal mine.

10 GW solar power could replace an equal amount of coal-based power generation in Weisweiler, Neurath, Niederaußem and Frimmersdorf.

[pv-magazine.com] – Meyer Burger mulls gigawatt-scale German solar fab
[pv-magazine.com] – German coal mines could host 3 GW of floating PV
[meyerburger.com] – Meyer Burger company site
[wikipedia.org] – Hambach Forest
[bloomberg.com] – A Coal Mine Is Devouring a 12,000-Year-Old Forest

Record Solar Hydrogen Yield with Concentrated Sunlight

Achieving high current densities while maintaining high energy conversion efficiency is one of the main challenges for enhancing the competitiveness of photo-electrochemical devices. We describe a concept that allows this challenge to be overcome by operating under concentrated solar irradiation (up to 474 kW m−2), using thermal integration, mass transport optimization and a close electronic integration between the photoabsorber and electrocatalyst. We quantify the increase in the theoretical maximum efficiencies resulting from thermal integration, and experimentally validate the concept using a III–V-based photoabsorber and IrRuOx–Pt-based electrocatalysts. We reach current densities higher than 0.88 A cm−2 at calculated solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiencies above 15%. Device performance, dynamic response and stability are investigated, demonstrating the ability to produce hydrogen stably under varying conditions for more than two hours. The current density and output power (27 W) achieved provide a pathway for device scalability aimed towards the large-scale deployment of photo-electrochemical hydrogen production

Integrated PEC device. This device includes a reactant delivery channel assembly containing a solar glass window, beneath which lies the photoactive component. The photoactive component is in direct contact with the anodic titanium flow/collector plate. The anodic and cathodic titanium plates sandwich the catalyst-coated membrane, GDLs and gaskets, forming the electrochemical component where water splitting takes place. The coolant/reactant enters the delivery channel assembly and flows directly over the photoactive component, removing excess heat and transferring it to the catalytic sites.

[actu.epfl.ch] – Record solar hydrogen production with concentrated sunlight
[wikipedia.org] – Photoelectrochemical cell
[sciencedirect.com] – Photoelectrochemical Cell
[nature.com] – A thermally synergistic photo-electrochemical hydrogen generator operating under concentrated solar irradiation

UBS – VW to be the First to Make a Profit from E-vehicles

Volkswagen will become the first global automaker to make money selling battery-only electric vehicles (BEVs) with profits kicking in from 2022, according to a report from Swiss investment bank UBS… Sales of battery-only cars and SUVs will accelerate to more than 15% of the global market by 2025, while Tesla’s position as the world’s most desired electric vehicle will come under pressure from German competition, UBS said.

[forbes.com] – VW Will Be The 1st Mass Market Electric Car Profit Maker: Report

3D-Printed Home for $4000,-

Cheap printed home from Austin, Texas. Real promise for the third world.

3D-printing opening up the possibility that by the turn of the century, most people on this planet, including territories such as Africa, India and the Philippines, could live in a stone, 3D-printed home, connected to sewage, a local solar power source.

The financial and technological push for this should come from Eurasia, in return for a rigorous birth control program: 2 children and not more. The way to provide these territories with the financial means to pay for it, is to integrate them in a global energy scheme. Sunny territories with an abundance of cheap labor should provide a sizable chunk of the planet’s future hydrogen needs.

[wikipedia.org] – Construction 3D printing

Printed home in Nantes, France

[bbc.com] – The world’s first family to live in a 3D-printed home

In Eindhoven in the South of the Netherlands, houses are to be printed, intended to be sold on the regular commercial market. The innovation is that the homes will have several stories (English subs))

[cnn.com] – A small community of 3D-printed concrete houses is coming to the Netherlands

Europe’s first 3D-concrete printing factory opened in Eindhoven. Interesting is that traditional wooden molds are no longer necessary and that far less cement is being used. Steel concrete enforcement can be printed too.

Very large-scale 3D-printing project in Den Helder in the Netherlands, where a shabby building from the seventies is being upgraded with ca. 1,200 new 3D-printed concrete elements of 2 to 12 m2 each.

First 3D-printed home in Africa (Morocco)

Read more…

18.1% – New Perovskite Solar Record

An international team of scientists claim to have developed perovskite solar cells with an efficiency of 18.1% by using a new configuration of cesium lead iodide perovskite CsPbI3, which has the narrowest band gap – 1.73 eV – of all inorganic lead halide perovskites.

Researchers from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan observed CsPbI3 cystals in their more stable beta phase. Previous research focused on the crystals in their alpha, or dark phase.

[pv-magazine.com] – New configuration gives perovskite cells 18% efficiency
[wikipedia.org] – Perovskite solar cell
[phys.org] – Why perovskite solar cells are so efficient

CO2 –> CO/C –> CO2 Fuel Cycle?

Renewable energy has won once science can come up with a method to effectively store intermittent renewable electricity in some chemical form or another. Many candidates have been proposed: hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), methanol (CH3OH), metal powders like iron (Fe), formic acid (HCO2H), sodium borohydride (NaBH4),

Scientists from the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have found a method to reduce CO2 into CO, where an iron catalyst is used instead of a golden one, with high efficiency (90% at low currents).

[phys.org] – Carbon-neutral fuels move a step closer (6-2019)
[phys.org] – The first low-cost system for splitting carbon dioxide (6-2017)
[phys.org] – Catalyzing carbon dioxide: System can transform CO2 into CO for use in industry (12-2017)
[physicsworld.com] – Improved carbon capture turns CO2 into energy storage material
[sciencealert.com] – This Low-Cost Carbon Dioxide Splitter Just Changed The Game For Solar-Powered CO2 Reduction (6-2017)

Innolith – 1 kWh/kg Battery Breakthrough

The Swiss company Innolith claims to have developed a battery that can store 1.0 kWh per kg, that is three times as high as the Tesla-3 achieves, extending the range of a single charge to 1,000 km. Innolith expects that the innovation will hit the market in 3-5 years time. If true, the Asian and US competition would be crushed. Innolith has its HQ in Basel, Switzerland, but the innovation was developed in Bruchsal, Germany. The technology is based on Lithium-ion, but with modifications and the specs are almost too good to be true. 50,000 charge cycles, no exotic materials, no fire hazard. The innovation was enabled by using pure materials. Innolith wants to focus on reserach and development and outsource production under license.

Tellingly, Innolith has received endorsement by Microsoft’s principal battery engineer Walter van Schalkwijk.

[linkedin.com] – Walter van Schalkwijk
[amazon.com] – Lithium Batteries: Advanced Technologies and Applications, van Schalkwijk e.a.

[innolith.com] – Company site
[cleantechnica.com] – Swiss Startup Innolith Claims 1000 Wh/kg Battery Breakthrough
[dailymail.co.uk] – A battery breakthrough?
[theverge.com] – Electric car battery with 600 miles of range?
[welt.de] – Verhilft die deutsche Superbatterie dem E-Auto zum Durchbruch?

Concrete Battery

Swiss startup Energy Vault wants to lift concrete weights (density 2.4 ton/m3) to store renewable energy when there is no pumped hydro as alternative, currently 96% of the world’s energy storage capacity, with 75% of it in 10 suitable countries only.

The idea: 120 m crane lifting 35 ton of concrete blocks and pile them up neatly. Storage capacity 20 MWh, sufficient for 2,000 household-days. Round-trip efficiency 85%. The lifting and positioning is done automatically, no human intervention necessary, thanks to camera’s and software. The system is relatively insensitive to wind, software compensates for it. The idea is to use building waste, municipalities otherwise pay money for to get rid off.

Currently a demo site with 20 m crane and 500 kg blocks is in operation.
Storage cost:

Lithium-ion: $280-350/kWh
Concrete battery: $150/kWh

First commercial projects are said to be realized early 2019.

[qz.com] – Stacking concrete blocks is a surprisingly efficient way to store energy
[cleantechnica.com] – Energy Vault Proposes An Energy Storage System Using Concrete Blocks

Microlino

If you realize that the average occupation rate of your standard sedan is ca. 1.25 persons, meaning that a car mindlessly mainly moves 3.75 empty seats around… if you additionally realize that in a carbon-starved world, not because we run out of carbon but rather that we running into limits of the amount of carbon the atmosphere can handle, we cannot continue with our old ways… if you also realize that a car is mainly used for single person commuting (in Holland on average 34 km/day), shopping and business travel and not for happy families of 5 travelling to the seaside with dad-knows-best behind the steering wheel and mum distributing the sandwiches… these three realizations should really cause car designers to rethink traditional personal transportation assumptions.

Enter the Swiss-made Microlino:

Battery: 8 kWh or 14.4 kWh
Acceleration (0-50 km/h): 5 seconds
Range: 120 km or 215 km (with 14.4 kWh battery)
Maximum speed: 90 km/h
Price: 12,000 euros
Market-ready: 2019

Note: this could be the solution for those happy few who still will own a car. For the lesser Gods, the self-driving shared van could be the future.

[micro-mobility.com] – Microlino
[wikipedia.org] – Micro Mobility Systems
[cleantechnica.com] – The Tiny Electric Microlino Is The Ideal City Mobility Answer
[curbed.com] – The adorable Microlino car just got approved for European streets

Oh, and happy families can take the train to the sea-side, once or twice a year

Switzerland – The Alpine Battery

Swiss hydro power generates 60% of the countries electricity.

[wikipedia.org] – Electricity sector in Switzerland

More General Electric renewable energy drone videos:

Read more…

Cleaning the Oceans from Plastic

Swiss, Dutch and American initiatives to clean up the world’s oceans from plastic, mainly originating from Asian rivers.

[theseacleaners.org] – SeaCleaners
[wikipedia.org] – Ocean Cleanup
[theoceancleanup.com] – Ocean Cleanup
[dw.com] – Almost all plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers

Largest European Battery Plant to be Built in Sweden

[source]

The Swiss engineering company ABB has teamed up with Northvolt of Sweden to build the largest lithium-ion battery plant in Europe in order to meet growing demand from the automotive industry. The plant should rival the Gigafactory in the Nevada desert. Target: 32 GWh in 2023. 80-100 million euro will be necessary to get production started.

[reuters.com] – ABB teams up with Northvolt on Europe’s biggest battery plant

Water Splitting Catalyst Breakthrough?

Molecular models representing a 2D heterostructure made of graphene (gray background hexagonal lattice), and islands on top of hexagonal WS2 and MoS, as well as an alloy of the two. Water (H2O) molecules in red (oxygen) and gray (hydrogen) come from the bottom left hand side and get transformed catalytically after interacting with the heterostructures into H2 bubbles (top right hand side). Credit: Penn State Materials Research Institute.

Platinum is a near perfect catalyst for splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The only drawback is that it is very expensive. Researchers from Houston, Penn State and Florida State University claim to have found a cheaper replacement: Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). A Swiss team already proposed this solution in 2011.

No efficiency numbers are given.

The Wiley link from 2016 mentions 12.4%

[phys.org] – Low cost, scalable water splitting fuels the future hydrogen economy
[phys.org] – Researchers report new, more efficient catalyst for water splitting
[pubs.rsc.org] – Amorphous MoS2 films as catalysts for electrochem. H2 prod. in H2O
[pubs.acs.org] – Amorphous Molybdenum Sulfides as Hydrogen Evolution Catalysts
[onlinelibrary.wiley.com] – MoS2 as a co-catalyst for photocatalytic hydrogen production from water
[wikipedia.org] – Molybdenum disulfide
[wikipedia.org] – Gibbs free energy

SolarStratus

The Swiss team that traveled around the globe in a solar plane, now wants to reach the stratosphere with a solar plane next year.

[solarstratos.com] – Official project site
[de.wikipedia.org] – SolarStratos

SolarStratos – Solar-Powered Flight to Stratosphere


[rt.com] – Solar-powered mission to edge of space is on

Solar Panels in any Color

Thanks to a new technology from Switzerland, solar cells can be made ‘invisible’ to blend in the environment. White panels on white walls, red panels on red buses, grey panels on grey laptops, etc. Currently most solar cells are blue-black to maximize sun light absorption.

CSEM has developed a new technology to make white solar modules, with no visible cells and connections, a reality. It combines a solar cell technology able to convert infrared solar light into electricity and a selective scattering filter, which scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light. Any solar technology based on crystalline silicon can now be used to manufacture white — and colored —modules.

white-solar-panel

[multivu.com] – White solar modules: a revolution for building integration
[wonderfulengineering.com] – Coloured Solar Panels Are Now A Reality

Airlight Energy and IBM Bring Solar Electricity and Heat to Remote Locations


Youtube text: Airlight Energy, a Swiss-based supplier of solar power technology has partnered with IBM Research to bring affordable solar technology to the market by 2017. The system can concentrate the sun’s radiation 2,000 times and convert 80 percent of it into useful energy to generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average* homes.

The High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system, which resembles a 10 meter high sunflower, uses a 40 square meter parabolic dish, made from patented fiber- based concrete which can be molded into nearly any shape in less than four hours with mechanical characteristics similar to aluminium at one-fifth the cost.

[airlightenergy.com]
[theguardian.com] – Solar energy: a sunflower solution to electricity shortage
[energydigital.com] – 5 Things You Should Know About the IBM and Airlight Energy Sunflower

Perovskite Solar Cell Produces Hydrogen at 12.3% Efficiency

Elektrolyse
Hydrogen and oxygen bubbles.

Solar panels are on the march worldwide. One of the disadvantages of solar power however is its intermittent character, making storage an essential ingredient of every solar based energy system. Researchers of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (epfl) have presented a new Perovskite solar cell able to split water and produce hydrogen at an acceptable efficiency of 12.3%. Hope exists that this efficiency could increase to 20% by applying semi-conductors. This could breathe new life into the moribund hydrogen economy. As things stand now large scale hydro storage is the most attractive proposition backing up a large scale renewable energy system.

[spiegel.de] – Billig-Zelle verwandelt Licht in Wasserstoff
[sciencemag.org] – Water photolysis at 12.3% efficiency via perovskite photovoltaics and Earth-abundant catalysts
[wikipedia] – Michael Grätzel
[cleantechnica.com] – Perovskite Solar Cells Beat New Records (In The Lab)

Note that Lausanne combined perovskite solar cells with electrochemistry.

[sciencenews.org]

Over the last five years, perovskites have been found to rival the efficiency and cost of silicon in converting sunlight to electricity.

Mattmark Hydro Power Plant

– Location: Mattmark, Saas-Almagell/Wallis/Switserland, 2197 m above sea level. Power is mainly generated down the valley in Stalden at 715 m.
– Capacity: 77,500,000 m3 or 254.5 GWh (the energy content of the lake is worth ca. 51 million euro/66 million $ consumer electricity, consumer endprice assumed to be 20 euro cent per kwh). Or alternatively: the lake energy content represents the equivalent of one million man year of hard physical labour, assuming one man day = one kwh (in reality it is less). Adding a non-working woman and two children to the equation to replace the worker after two generations, the energy stored in this lake represents the labour equivalent of a nation like Denmark. In other words: it would take one million Danish men one year of carrying water from Stalden (715 M) to Mattmark (2197 m) in order to fill an empty lake. Come to think of it, we doubt if a Dane is able to lift 77.5 mm3 over 1200 m in a years time. Assuming three climbs per day of 33 liter each makes 0.1 mm3 per day or 775 days non-stop working for 77.5 m3. Swap Denmark for Sweden and you have the real picture: this relatively small power plant generates as much energy as all adult Swedish males combined can produce by muscle power. Figures likes these make it clear why energy can no longer be taken for granted and that real wealth is represented by kwh and not paper money. The Gordon Gekko’s of the future will be those who understand the true meaning of the Mattmark hydro power plant in particular and energy in general rather than money and interest.
– Power: 130.3 MW, both in Stalden and Zermeiggern (Saas-Almagell), fully integrated in pan-European network. Yearly production 665 GWh, meaning that per year slightly more than twice the content of the lake is converted into electrical energy. A mini-reservoir in Zermeiggern is used to store energy by pumping water upwards to the Mattmark lake at times of low demand. The dam was built between 1960-1965, but was interrupted for two years because of the largest accident in Swiss building history, as 88 men were killed after a piece of a gletscher broke off.

[vimeo]

[infographic]

Pictures from holiday trip to Mattmark:

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