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Renewables Header - Solar Wind and Hydrogen

Renewables

As a natural nuclear reactor, the sun emits electromagnetic radiation known as solar radiation or simply sunlight. The luminosity of the sun is approximately 3.8 x 1026 Joules per second, or in terms of mass-energy conversion, think of the total energy output as roughly 4.26 million metric tons per second, which is the equivalent of 384.6 septillion watts. An easier way to think about it is, the energy Earth receives from solar radiation (sunlight) in one hour is more energy than all humans consume in a year. So, it makes sense to harness some of this natural sustainable energy, as well as other renewables such as wind and hydro.

Solar Panels (arrays)

Solar panels have been about for over a century. however, it’s only in the last couple of decades that the efficiency of Solar Panels has really taken off, providing some impressive conversion rates and longer lifespans, while the cost has dropped quite significantly. Another hurdle was storing the harnessed energy. But thankfully the advancement in Electrochemical Storage Systems has enabled many critical technologies in renewable energy sources to store, conserve and manage energy.

It’s of no wonder that solar panels have been popping up everywhere. The energy output from this technology is changing lives everywhere. Not only are Solar Panels helping the transition away from fossil fuels, but they are also providing energy to parts of the world that had no access to an electric grid.

Solar Farm - Photovoltaic Arrays

How Solar Panels Work

A quantum of electromagnetic energy or a particle of light is known as a photon. When harnessing solar power, we are converting the energy from these photons. As sunlight radiates upon our planet, some of these photons are soaked up by Solar Panels or more specifically, photovoltaic (PV) cells (photovoltaic: meaning to produce energy from light).

Sunlight passes through a layer of strong protective glass and then through an anti-reflective layer. The anti-reflective layer is dark to attract the light, but as the light must pass through, transparency is important. This transparency causes reflection points, from the top and bottom of the layer. The thickness of the anti-reflective layer is calculated perfectly to align both reflections which cancel out the reflection. This enhancing the efficiency by allowing maximum light in and minimal to reflect out. The photons pass through to the solar cells where the magic happens.

Solar cells are made of a semi-conductive material, mostly silicon (the second most abundant element on earth). The crystalline silicon is packed in between conductive layers. Each silicon atom has four bonds which connects it to the next, keeping the electrons in place, meaning that no current can flow. Because a semiconductor needs a little nudge, the silicon must form two layers, a positive and a negative.

As silicon uses its four electrons to bond, a little enhancement is made, Phosphorus (with 5 electrons) is added to one layer of silicon and Boron (with 3 electron) is added to the other, creating the two layers needed. When the silicon layers connect, the electrons are free to wander between. After a bit of bouncing about at the border (creating an imbalance of charge, or an electric field) as one side gains more electrons and the other holes, left by those electrons. A barrier is formed between, the p/n junction, and the flow comes to a halt as equilibrium is reached.

As the photons pass through, knocking electrons out of their bonds and creating holes. The negatively charged electrons and positively charged holes are free to move about. However, due to the electric field at the p/n junction they can only go one way. The hole is drawn to the P-type layer and the electron to the N-side. This movement of charge is electricity. Solar cells produce a direct current (DC) and can easily be converted to an alternating current (AC).

Solar panel technology is based on a simple application of solid-state physics which can wield incredible returns. The technology has and continues to grow; advance and change how we power our lives. For more information on professional Solar Panel arrays Get in Touch.

Solar Domes

The desalination of seawater has always been a topic of interest among scientists as it could lead to a potential breakthrough across the globe. Although, 70% of our planet's surface area is covered with water, less than 3% of that is fresh water, and a 3rd of earth's populace lack consistent accessibility to it. To say water scarcity is a widespread issue feels like an understatement.

In an age where energy is becoming significantly precious, desalination plants have the drawback of requiring large quantities of power, and typically these plants have systems that are designed to pump the left-over salt water back into the sea. The concept is excellent, but the design must be better.

What if seawater could be converted into fresh water, even drinking water, where the by-product could be utilized and done with very little carbon produced (if any)? Well, it can. Using Solar Dome technology.

The innovation of the Solar Dome technology is based upon harnessing focused solar energy to boost the natural process of evaporation, condensation and precipitation. No fossil fuel energy produced, just the power of the sun, so the procedure is carbon-neutral and sustainable.

Water Desalination Solar Dome

How Solar Domes Work

Seawater is piped, from the sea into a stainless-steel solar dome, using a natural pre-treatment intake system. Solar power is concentrated on the dome through a symphony of heliostat mirrors to generate the required energy. The Solar Dome receives the saline salt water which is essentially boiled. Heated and processed, the water vapour creates a thick steam. The vaporised water is cooled down and condensed in to fresh 'solar' water, which can be used in industry, agriculture and urban advancement. After a secondary treatment the fresh 'solar' water can even be made into fresh drinking water.

Once seawater has been refined through the solar dome it leaves the by-product known as brine. The brine can be refined to produce valuable minerals such as high purity salt, potassium sulphate, calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide. Providing an extra business stream and further enhancing sustainability and minimizing waste.

The speed and effectiveness of Solar Domes will result in thousands of cubic metres (or, millions of litres) of fresh water per day, amounting to billions of litres per year. Clean water, carbon-neutral production, commercially valuable by-products and minimal waste. As we move to a sustainable future Solar Dome technology is a game changer. If you would like to find out more about this fantastic modern technology and how Hydro-C can assist in making this asset a reality for you, Get in Touch.

Wind Turbines

Wind power is one of the fastest growing, widely used sources of renewable energies. The technology has come a long way from Professor James Blyths wind turbine, used to light his home, in Marykirk, Scotland in 1887, or the Smith-Putnam turbine of 1940’s. Modern wind turbines now start operating at a cut in speed as low as 4 - 5 meters per second (wind speed) and reach a maximum output at about 15 meters per second, producing no waste, harnessing impressive power with each turn. As technology advances these incredible turbines will be able to increase the maximum output safely.

Some of the biggest active turbines produce 15 megawatts which is serious power, they are said to be capable of producing 80GWh/year. That is enough renewable energy to power around 20,000 European households. These giants are rarely practical as they require a massive space. To give some perspective, a more commonly used wind turbine producing 9.5 megawatts is enough to power more than 8000 UK homes on its own.

After the initial costs of manufacturing and installation, wind turbines are very cheap considering the incredible returns on investment while providing one of the best sources of energy renewable, fossil or otherwise. Wind farms have been properly integrating into our landscapes for two decades. In fact, the electricity generated by wind power between 2009 and 2020 increased by 715% in the UK.

Wind Turbine Drivetrain Inside Nacelle

How Wind Turbines Work

As wind connects the anemometer sends a signal to the yaw drive to adjust the yaw angle of the bedplate (base of nacelle) with the wind direction. Consequently, the blades and rotor turn to meet the wind at the best angle. Wind turbines use three blades which stabilise the ideal balance between power and efficiency as kinetic energy transforms into electric energy.

Each blade has been aerodynamically optimised to harness the maximum power from the wind as they turn through the azimuth, or rotation of the rotor. The pitch system changes the angle of the blades according to the winds stream to optimise the process. This pitch system also plays a vital safety role by blocking the rotation of the rotor when the wind is too strong.

So, the rotor section consists of the blades, hub, spinner and the pitch bearing and systems. The turn of the rotor moves through the hub and into the nacelle via the drivetrain. The rotation from the hub turns the low speed (main) shaft which is held by the main bearing and the gearbox bearing. The gearbox converts the low speed from the rotor through the speed multiplier to reach the frequency required for the generator to produce electricity. Delivered from the gearbox to the generator by the high-speed shaft which passes through the brake. The whole drivetrain sits on the bedplate at the base of the nacelle.

The generator relies on the physical phenomenon called magnetic induction which starts as the rotation of the rotor creates a magnetic flux, after making its way through the drivetrain and into the generator. The generator is connected to a converter which converts the speed of the generator into the relevant frequency, before being transformed into the grid.

Now that you have the process of the wind turbines it’s understandable why they have a maximum output speed and then a cut out speed. The cut-out speed is when the rotation speed becomes too high, triggering the braking system to avoid damage to the rotor. The cut-out speed is normally around 25 meters per second. Wind turbines have really shown what they have to offer in the last couple of decades and the industry is showing no signs of slowing down. If you are interested in wind turbines Get in Touch to discuss the potential they can offer your business.

Hydrogen

A hydrogen atom is composed of an electron and a proton making it the simplest chemical element on earth, which is why it appears first in the periodic table. Hydrogen is often thought of as an energy source, however it’s actually an energy vector, as it can accumulate and provide energy.

Although hydrogen is thought to be the most abundant element in the universe, it’s not found freely in nature, as it only exists combined with other elements. So, in order to obtain hydrogen, it must be extracted from naturally occurring compounds, such as water. Hydrogen in itself is clean, but the extraction process requires a lot of energy, which has largely come from fossil fuel. As so many sectors use hydrogen it has resulted in being weaved throughout many vital industrial processes.

When we think of hydrogen it’s often thought of in colours, which has been the cause of some confusion because, hydrogen is just hydrogen. The four main colours are brown, grey, blue and green. These colours represent the process in which the hydrogen was extracted. For example, brown is processed by gasification from coal and grey is processed by steam-methane from natural gases as well as fossil fuel by-product. As these processes require a lot of energy, using fossil fuel emits masses of carbon emissions. The process of hydrogen extraction produces roughly 843 metric ton of carbon dioxide every year. But this is changing.

Where Hydro-C are focused, is in the green and blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen exclusively uses renewable energy in the hydrogen extraction process. Which is great because we can extract hydrogen in volume with zero emissions. There are a few processes for green hydrogen such as electrolysis of water, using (renewable) electricity the water is split into oxygen and hydrogen. Another process is Photolytic, which uses solar power, by using photoelectrochemical cells (PEC). photoelectrochemical cells are immersed in a water-based electrolyte, using semi-conductors similar to the photovoltaic (PV) cells used in solar panels, the solar radiation (sunlight) energises the water splitting it into oxygen and hydrogen. There are also a couple of other promising up and coming solutions for green hydrogen.

What is blue hydrogen?

As mentioned earlier, hydrogen is in high demand and unfortunately brown and grey hydrogen currently has the highest production, because renewable energy sources are still catching up. At the moment, there is a limit to the volume of green hydrogen that can be produced, which is getting better by the day as the world makes the transition into a sustainable future. In the meantime, every effort must be made to stop brown and grey hydrogen production due to the extreme emissions produced.

Blue hydrogen is not quite the hero like green hydrogen, nor is it the villain of brown and grey, but rather a bridge between. The blue hydrogen extraction process uses fossil fuel. However, the blue process also involves carbon capture and storage technology. This means we can produce the hydrogen required by industry without making our atmosphere any denser. Although carbon capture and storage are not sustainable, as it cannot go on forever, it is a brilliant alternative to brown and grey hydrogen, and it can provide the extra hydrogen demand while sustainable renewable energy grows and with-it green hydrogen production. Green and blue hydrogen will be available through Hydro-C soon, please Get in Touch for more information.

About Iraq Energy

Iraq is reclaiming its rank as the world’s fastest-growing oil exporter, cushioning consumers from other countries supply outages for now and, perhaps, reviving OPEC market share rivalries down the road.

Locations

With offices in both UK and Dubai, Hydro-C also operates and offers professional warehousing facilities throughout Iraq from Basra in the south, to Baghdad, and Erbil in the north of the country.

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