Monday, December 31, 2007

Windbelt, cheap generator alternative, set to power Third World


Working in Haiti, Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View, Calif., saw the need for small-scale wind power to juice LED lamps and radios in the homes of the poor. Conventional wind turbines don’t scale down well—there’s too much friction in the gearbox and other components. “With rotary power, there’s nothing out there that generates under 50 watts,” Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washington’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).

Frayne’s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. “Kerosene is smoky and it’s a fire hazard,” says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. “If Shawn’s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.”

Frayne hopes to help fund third-world distribution of his Windbelt with revenue from first-world applications—such as replacing the batteries used to power temperature and humidity sensors in buildings. “There’s not a huge amount of innovation being done for people making $2 to $4 per day,” Haas says. “Shawn’s work is definitely needed.”
In a conventional wind generator, gears help transfer the motion of the spinning blades to a turbine where an electric current is induced. The Windbelt is simpler and more efficient in light breezes—a magnet mounted on a vibrating membrane simply oscillates between wire coils.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Toledo OH Solar


Thin Film Flexible Solar Panels From Toledo OH

From the Toledo Free Press:

The Lucas County Board of Commissioners and County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz announced a $2 million investment in Xunlight Corporation, a thin-film solar cell manufacturer founded in Toledo.

Through the treasurer’s linked deposit program, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Dec. 18 allowing a move to raise the cap for the incentive program from $150,000 to $2 million for the loan to Xunlight.

“The linked deposit program is designed to create jobs, and the business alone will create almost 800 jobs in the next five years. This is a public-private partnership that works,” Kapszukiewicz said.

Kapszukiewicz reported 12 other businesses have taken advantage of the linked deposit program, but none will have the transformative impact of Xunlight to Lucas County’s economy. The county’s program has a $5 million fund for making such loans.

The linked deposit program allows the county to assist developing companies to secure private bank loans with lower interest rates, which in this case were three points below the prime rate. The county purchases certificates of deposit with the bank to support those loans.

Xunlight is taking the linked deposit incentive from the county to banks and seeking to obtain an actual loan to fund its local manufacturing operations, said Bob Savage Jr., senior business adviser for Xunlight.

“We are building a high-speed manufacturing plant to produce flexible and lightweight thin photovoltaic film modules using our advanced technology,” said Xunming Deng, P.hD., president and CEO of Xunlight.

Xunlight recently purchased a 120,000-square-foot facility on Nebraska Avenue to establish its corporate offices and a manufacturing plant in Toledo. Company leaders expect to begin production in the second quarter of 2008.

The company began operations as MWOE Solar Inc. in the technology incubator program at UT, where its founder, Deng, is a professor of physics.

“It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the world and the amount of incentives offered to companies is significant, but they wanted to stay in Toledo,” Savage said.

The new company is preparing to produce a low-cost, efficient product in an emerging market, and the county wanted to keep it in the area, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

“Partnerships between the public and private sectors like this help keep a homegrown business to stay home. We want to brand our area as an alternative energy corridor,” he said.

Gerken said Deng came to the county with a commitment to stay in Toledo without depending upon venture capitalists for start-up funds in order to retain control of his company. Xunlight is funded by Emerald Technology Venture, NGP Energy Technology Partners, angel investors, and various government and research grants.

Xunlight received a $1.9 million award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in September under the agency’s Advanced Technology Program. That award will allow the company to accelerate the development of the next generation of manufacturing technologies, Deng said.

“We have a chance to become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy, and Xunlight will be at the front of that charge,” Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop said.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

The World’s First Biodegradable Umbrella


The Brelli is said to be world’s first biodegradable umbrella. Inspired by asian parasols, the Brelli’s handle and frame are crafted from bamboo (sustainably-harvested), and the canopy is made out of an innovative bioplastic. The canopy can be composted in conventional landfills – it has passed stringent tests certifying that it will fully biodegrade in one to two year.

The Brelli is available in two sizes: a 37″ diameter version ($28) and a 52″ diameter version ($38). It’s currently available at Fred Siegel, Zero Minus Plus and Jussara Lee in New York.


Web site: Brelli