LightSail’s Mission to Cut Costs of Compressed Air Energy Storage

by Katy Schaefer

LightSail, an energy storage company based out of Berkeley California, is attempting to change the way we approach energy conservation. Not only is the method dramatically more efficient, but the costs that have the potential to be cut is game changing. Lightsail’s aim is to create a more economical storage system through compressing air to create heat energy, which before was just wasted energy. It seems that there is something to their system, as some of the country’s most prominent tech billionaires have backed the plan. Unfortunately LightSail and its leader, Danielle Fong, the 27 year old co-founder and chief scientist, are not releasing the details of the plan just yet. However, here’s what we do know. Continue reading

Africa Renewable Energy Initiative Aims to Produce 300 GW by 2030

by Dion Boyd

An intriguing article by Joshua S. Hill, on the Clean Technica blog posted in December of 2015, examines an attempt by the head of state of African nations to lead a coalition called the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). The primary objective of the AREI is to provide the continent of Africa with 300 GW of renewable energy by 2030. AREI aims to produce 10 GW by 2020, so already we can infer that significant progress is intended to be made over those ten years. This article caught my attention because it is closely related to a documentary I recently watched called Burning in the Sun. This film portrays the mission of West African and Italian Daniel Dembélé on his quest to bring electricity to the rural communities of the Sahara Desert. Immediately after reading the article about AREI, I made the connection between the article and the film. I began to realize that (contrary to popular belief or at least contrary to the non-existent amount of information you hear from media outlets about positive initiatives taking place in Africa) there are people in the world after all who are aware of people living in regions of Africa that do not have access to energy resources, and are taking a stab at resolving some of those issues. Continue reading

Thailand Has the Necessary Wind Conditions to Reach Renewable Energy Goals

by Tim Storer

Many developing economies are undergoing an energy transformation, and in the face of global warming, there has been a push towards investment in renewable sources, such as wind power. Chingulpitak and Wongwises (2014) review the current status of wind energy development in Thailand. The Thai government has stated goals of increasing its use of renewable fuels to 25% by 2021, and wind energy is a large component of this transformation. In 2012, only 111.7 MW of wind power was generated, but the Thai government aims to increase production to 1800 MW in this timeframe. In addition to its own worth, Thailand’s energy transformation can provide insight into the challenges of other developing nations around the globe. Continue reading

Optimizing Tidal Energy Converters

by Cassandra Burgess

In order to make tidal energy converters economic enough to compete in the energy market, it is essential to build them as efficiently as possible, but also important to design them to avoid environmental impacts on the habitats in which they are installed. These impacts can be more difficult to predict when planning an array of tidal energy converters than a single turbine. Roberts, Nelson, Jones, and James worked to solve these two problems by creating a modeling framework that optimizes the placement of tidal energy converters in Cobscook Bay, Maine. The model uses restrictions on water height and velocity based on the region so it can be applied to other regional sites as well. It also allows researchers to input environmental restrictions on the decrease in velocity due to the turbines, and on changes in the bed shear stress at the site. These constraints represent points at which the turbines might change fish behavior by causing fish to congregate in the turbine wakes, and at which erosion of the ocean floor becomes serious. Using these restraints the researchers found that the non-environmentally constrained system had an output 19% higher than the originally planned placement, and the environmentally constrained system had an output of 16% higher.

For the purposes of this modeling process the environmental constraints were set arbitrarily. In future models, research would be necessary prior to the planning of the tidal energy converters to determine what levels of change the ecosystems could reasonably withstand. Once this is determined, the model can optimize the placement of tidal energy converters while minimizing the environmental impact. This model differs from previous models because it is on a much finer scale. While previous models have been able to accurately predict the impacts of tidal energy converters on a broad scale, this model looks at the fluid dynamics near the turbines themselves. This improvement allows for analysis of the environmental impacts near the turbines, as well as for better information on the turbulence and velocity changes created, both of which affect the power output of nearby turbines. Because this model was able to optimize both energy output and environmental impact, two areas most concerning when constructing a tidal energy array, the researchers recommend that it be used in the planning for future array sites.


Roberts, Jesse, Nelson, Kurt, Jones, Craig, James, Scott, 2014. A Framework for Optimizing the Placement of Current Energy Converters. 2nd Marine Energy Technology Symposium, April 15-18, 2014. [GSSS: Optimization Tidal Roberts]


Analysis of Floating Offshore Solar Power Plants

by Jincy Varughese

In Europe, large flat spaces of land with direct normal irradiance (DNI) levels high enough to support solar utilities are uncommon. Diendorfer et. al (2014), a team of researchers in Vienna, saw untapped potential in the Mediterranean Sea and began researching the feasibility of offshore solar power plants. Aside from the availability of open spaces, building solar power plants offshore has two main advantages. First, a system that revolves on a vertical axis can be easily implemented and is efficient at sun-tracking. Second, unlimited water is readily available for the cooling processes required at solar thermal power plants. In this paper, the use of both Parabolic Trough Collectors (PTC) and Pneumatic Pre-Stressed Solar Concentrators (PPC) are considered. The study evaluates the performance of a preliminary floating solar power plant using a model that accounts for platform motion, sea state, and solar irradiance. Continue reading