My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Alternative Energy and the Solar Generator - Pitch Black

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Alternative Energy and the Solar Generator - Pitch Black

Oft did I wonder why the setting Sun
Should look upon us with a blushing face:
Is’t not for shame of what he hath seen done,
Whilst in our hemisphere he ran his race?

Lyman Heath, on the Setting Sun

The Obama Administration was dealt a mortal blow yesterday Wednesday November 3rd 2010 when it was announced that they lost their hold on the Senate as stated in the article “US Republicans seize lower house”, published Wednesday November 3 2010, BBC News, the equivalent of the House of Representatives in the Jamaican Parliamentary system. Senator, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, has been crucified, like Jesus H. Christ as per the opinion piece “The Crucifixion of Obama”, published Monday November 1 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Please note my assumption of his existence, as I have never met Jesus, nor have I seen a photograph of him. Catholics depictions of him do him no justice, possibly flattered as was the tradition of Romance Artiste to please the Papacy, desirous of a Savior in their Image and Visage, a curious twist of the knife as in how Barack Obama, the Man, has been betrayed by the Senate, possibly not liking the Image they see that does not reflect themselves in the White House. Republicans, Tea Party and KKK peeps, you betray the [Savior] with a kiss, as per the Bible?

However, he has passed most of the more important Bills before this not so surprising defeat and still wields veto Power, should Republican backed Bills that have no bi-partisan support or attempts to strike down his earlier passed Bills as it relates to his ambitious Alternative Energy package meander their way to his Presidential Pen. A bonus, is that it should be a real test of the so-called grace and leadership of this “Saviour” of the Americans. People of Rome [North America], do you not love the elegant simplicity of your political system, the spectacle, the grandeur, the piece de resistance?

Meanwhile, it is now Thursday November 4th 2010 and Tropical Storm Tomas (a Mexican storm? Who knew!?), who seem to Change jus’ like de Weather as per the song by local Jamaica DeeJay Bounty Killa, is also going to deal Jamaica a sever blow come Friday November 5th 2010, whether the hurricane makes landfall or not, as rain is what made Tropical Storm Nicole, “bad gyal” Nicole, so dangerous, leaving us with a now onerous JA$20 billion repair bill as stated in the article “JDIP hits the road in two weeks - Flood damage bill now $20b”, published Thursday, October 28, 2010, The Jamaica Observer

Even now, the JLP has it in mind to spend money on fixing so-called JLP Roads, as if all Jamaican taxpayers will not be footing the bill to repay the generous Chinese gift cum loan in the gilded Trojan Horse called the JDIP (Jamaica Development Infrastructure Program). Probably the Tropical Storm Nicole, “bad gyal” Nicole, was Audia Granston’s Unknown God, probably throwing Incense on his Altar in his Seventh Day Adventist Sanctuary in the Sky and smoking up a Marijuana Spliff, the smoke out of his nostrils creating a storm?? Atheist I am, my imagination runs wild.

As usual, this Tropical Storm Tomas will see JPS Co, already going around and checking their utility poles and other electrical systems, possibly shutting down the Power, as they did last time when Hurricane Ivan (2004) and more relevant to my blog article Tropical Storm Gustav (2008), decided to do the World Dance with Jamaica as per Deejay Beenie Man 90’s hit song.

In my last blog article entitled “Wi-Fi, LightPeak and PowerLine Broadband - The Young and the Restless”, I was battening down my roof, a procedure that is now all but complete and my parents have taken in the lounge chairs from outside, closed down the awnings, tied up the “Jamaican dog” (no mongrel thing round here, “Dilly”!!), as Hurricane Ivan gave us a beating and we are not that crazy about sweeping out water in such large quantities or walking around hunting for leaks in the roof, especially in our two (2) storey house/haberdashery here in Milk River, Clarendon.

I had also wisecracked in that last article that I wish I had Solar  Powered TV, Radio and flashlights, knowing how fickle our local Power Utility Company is as it relates to their Power supply. But what of a Solar Powered Generator? John Public puts on his Engineering Design hat and to come up with a novel solution, by checking out the current State of Technology and projecting into the future, Vin Diesel Pitch Black (2000) style.

Solar panel technology, as far as I am concerned, should have become standard in Consumer Electronics by now. Telecom Provider Digicel is the first Telecom Provider that I can recall that introduced a Solar Powered mobile phone, specifically the Coral 200 Solar from Mobile Handset manufacturer ZTE Corp of China in 2009 in Papau New Guinea and Vanatu, islands in which Telecom Provider Digicel operates in the South Pacific as stated in the article “Digicel to provide low-cost, solar-powered mobile phone”, published Wednesday, May 06, 2009, Digicel Group.

Vodafone took a stab at a Solar  Powered mobile phone with the  VF 247 Solar in India as stated in the article “Vodafone brings Solarmobile phone to India”, published Sunday June 27 2010 By DA YAN, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo News.

Both India and the South Pacific have limited access to Electricity, thus this innovation is to assist people to own a mobile phone without having to be walking with a charger all the time. Technology has since come some way since then and people in the so-called Developed World, desirous of cutting their last Analog Vestige, the Power Cord, have been coming up with various concepts revolving around Consumer Electronics devices that involve charging said devices using Solar Power.

The concept that Solar Powered devices are for the Rural poor in the Developing World surrounding the idea of using a Solar  Powered device should not be a problem advertising cannot subdue, as that is how Asus Eee Machine, the first NetBook, which was based on Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child Program, originally made to teach Developing World children reading and computer literacy skills, became so popular since 2008, the Year of the NetBook – which the Apple iPad subsequently slew in 2010, the Year of the Tablet.

Since then, I have seen Solar Powered lamps as stated in the article “Solar Pebble could light the way for rural Africans”, published April 6, 2010 8:30 AM PDT by Sharon Vaknin, CNET News - Crave and Solar Powered Backpacks as stated in the article “Solar-Charging backpacks set for hike to market”, published October 14, 2009 9:07 AM PDT by Candace Lombardi, CNET News - Green Tech.

I am yet, however, to see a Solar Powered smart phone (which in my opinion would REALLY make the moniker stick!) Telecom Providers have nonetheless begun embracing the Green Environmentalist Mantra as part of their marketing push, offering handsets that appeal to the environmentally conscious segment of America Society as stated in the article “Green is in for Wireless Companies”, published August 6, 2009 4:11 PM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Wireless. There are even Air Conditioning Units that are Solar Powered as stated in the article “Abu Dhabi to plug in SolarAir Conditioner”, published January 15, 2010 7:26 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

The closest I have seen to Consumer Electronics possibly getting to the elusive dream of being Solar Powered has been Apple Inc, which reportedly filed patents earlier this year for designers for the Consumer Electronics devices that have Solar Power integrated into the design, specifically their multi-Touch devices such as the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch as stated in the article “Apple eyes gadgets with built in Solar Panels”, published January 22, 2010 7:46 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech and later reiterated in the article “Apple patent bid combines Solarwith touch Screen”, published June 7, 2010 6:31 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech, albeit any such device is yet to materialize.

So I am jumping ahead to the future: A Solar Powered Generator. Currently, Solar Panels, previously thought inflexible, can now be glued on in strips as stated in the article “Global Solar rolls out stick-on Solarpanels”, published August 31, 2010 7:51 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech and as stated in the article “SoloPower trumpets certification for flexible Solarmodules”, published September 7, 2010 8:30 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News.

Even sprayed on as suggested in the article “Solexant funded to print thin-film Solarcells”, published June 4, 2010 8:50 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech and as stated in the article “Spray-on films turns glass into Solar Panels”, published August 19, 2010 1:09 PM PDT by Juniper Foo, CNET News – Crave albeit further research is needed as it relates to toxicity of these materials.

I have heard of Solar Panels integrated into glass windows, the use of nano-particles that would make then printable on fabric as stated in the article “'Silicon ink' for Solar Cells glides toward production”, published September 17, 2009 6:10 AM PDT by Candace Lombardi, CNET News - Green Tech even clothing fabrics as stated in the article “A new wire twist on silicon Solar Cells”, published February 14, 2010 1:07 PM PST by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech.

But despite all these innovative form factors and different business models based around Residential and Commercial Solar Power, inclusive of large installations of Solar Steam Engines, Solar Sterling Engines and regular Photovoltaic Panels, is that they still have a large footprint relative to Fossil Fuel Power Plants.

Most reports about Solar Power seem to be emanating from California and Arizona, where they have large tracts of Government Owned non-arable desert that can be used for large scale Solar projects, which require large acreages to achieve economy-of-scale and thus produce Power at prices competitive to that of Fossil Fuel based Power Plants.

Examples such as eSolar, a Solar Steam Plant capable of producing Power at prices competitive to Fossil Fuel Power Utility Companies as stated in the article “eSolar plugs Solarplant into California Grid”, published August 4, 2009 9:01 PM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech and possibly the largest installation of Photovoltaic Panels in the United States of America, consisting of four (4) massive installations costing US$1 billion each, located in Blythe, in the California Desert as stated in the article  US approves world's biggest Solar Energy Project”, published Monday October 25 2010, Yahoo News. These installations are all large scale.

Plans for the production of Solar Panels by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, though noble, suggests that they may be going after the Residential Market as stated in the article “Trini Govt looking into glass, Solarpanel Plant”, published Thursday September 30 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

They may not necessarily be planning the construction of large scale Solar Plants, especially as a lot of the land is arable land that is needed for agriculture. This is the same hurdle that holds back the Bio-Fuel Industry in Jamaica and Developing World Countries, as Food Shortages and scarcity of resources means that Bio-fuel, for now, until food sources stabilize and farming becomes more land and resource efficient, is of a lesser priority than Food Production.

The White House’s example of going Alternative, with Solar Panels to be installed on top of the White House roof as of the Spring of 2011 AD as stated in the article “White House to install rooftop Solar Panels”, published October 5, 2010 5:19 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

This is specifically to generate Electricity and provide hot water for the Executive Mansion, with intentions expressed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, during his speech at the George Washington University to expand the energy saving drive to the other Government Departments and Agencies via a competitive energy audit process, though , is a model for all to emulate, as Government Agencies tend to be have wasteful Electricity and Water practices.

To date, no one has developed any technology that has the equivalent or smaller footprint of a regular Fossil Fuel Based Power Plant, the main impediment to the adoption of Solar Power Plant development in Jamaica and other Developing World Countries. Thus I make a rather elegant suggestion, straight out of the movie Pitch Black (2000) for a Solar Powered Generator, based on a little known phenomenon known as Light Pressure.

You see, electromagnetic radiation, be it Radio Waves, Microwaves or Visible Light to name a few examples, which can all be perceived of as being either waves or particles, as per the Wave Particle Duality Theory of Physicist Louis De Broglie as stated in the article Physics, Fourth Edition, by Douglas C. Giancoli, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632 (1995) ch. 27 pg. 783, ISBN: 0131021532, exerts force on any objects it impinges on, as photons, the quanta of radiation, have mass and travel at the speed of light.

This force is miniscule, due to their small mass, but increases proportional to intensity of the radiation. Coupled with the fact that other stronger forces exist, such as Gravity, Air Pressure and Frictional Forces and one realizes that light cannot move anything.

But in the vacuum of Outer Space, light from the Sun can actually be used to propel a Space craft through Space, using aluminium Solar Sails that capture sunlight much in the same way Sails catch the force of the winds and moves a ship on the high seas, as demonstrated by the Japanese using their aptly named iKaros spacecraft as stated in the article “Japan unfurls Solarsail in Space”, published Friday June 11th 2010, BBC News, which deployed its “Solar Sail”, a deployment confirmed via a floating mini-camera as stated in the article “Mini-camera pictures Solarsail”, published Wednesday June 16th 2010, BBC News, proving that this type of propulsion is feasible.

Solar Sails may also help to prove one of Albert Einstein’s long held theorems, that being Frame Dragging, wherein which it is believed that large rotating masses’ gravity, such as that of a the Sun or a Black Hole, distort the Space-Time Continuum around the object, but also result in the Space-Time Continuum to be distorted in much the same way water swirls into a whirlpool when going down a drain.

If such a gravimetric phenomenon exists, a Solar  Powered ship should experience drifting sideways when in the presence of the Sun, which does rotate on its axis, as postulated in the article “Solar Sail Experiment could prove Space-Time Theory”, published July 27 2010 at 3:48 p.m. ET by Stuart Fox, SPACE.com Staff Writer, SPACE.com, Yahoo News.

There is also the practical aspect of propulsions, as per the utilization of Solar Sails for lower orbits in currently unoccupied corridors in Space as stated in the article “Solar Sails could Allow New orbits for Satellites”, published Sunday August 15 2010, 9:47 am ET by Zoë Macintosh, SPACE.com Staff Writer, SPACE.com, albeit the problem of Space junk and high speed particles punch holes in Solar Sails remains a contentious issue.

However, it is a money saver in terms of payload weight and onboard propellant, usually Hydrazine, especially as it relates to traveling to planets as far away as Mars or for short hops to the Oort Cloud on mining expeditions in the future to the Asteroid Belt.

This is if Senator, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America ambitious plans for NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration)  in the NASA Authorization Act (2010), which ratifies spending to the tune of in the US$19 billion budget for the Fiscal Year 2011 AD with details as stated in the article “President Obama signs new vision for U.S. Space Exploration into Law”, published Monday October 11, 6:15 pm ET by Tariq Malik SPACE.com Managing Editor, Yahoo News and confirmed in the article “Obama signs NASA up to a new future”, published 11 October 2010 Last updated at 17:39 GMT by Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News, stand up to the rigours of a now Republican-led Senate.

An even more advance engine, the Photon Engine, involves the combining of Anti-Matter with Matter in a magnetically shielded chamber, producing thrust at the speed of light. Alas, dear Reader, this is a theoretical propulsion system, as some bright Physics PhD would have to invent an AMC (Anti-Matter Converter) to produce Anti-Matter on demand, in much the same way a Hydrogen Generators would only be practical if Hydrogen was in the form of Brown Gas (Hydrogen and Oxygen combined) produced in situ from Sea Water pumped to the Hydrogen Power Plant, fodder for another article.

My design is elegantly simple. If a vacuum in Space is all that is needed to bring this technology to Earth, then that is easily arranged using a vacuum pump.

Throw in center ring cup bearings with a large vertical fan with vertical blades alternately painted black and white or reflective and the shaft connected to a motor via a differential slip gearbox and you have an exact replica of the Generators used in the movie Pitch Black (2000) with Vin Diesel taking the starring role.

This assembly would have to be housed under a Hemispherical Plastic Dome and a vacuum pump primed by a regular photovoltaic panel would remove all air from the Dome, creating the vacuum.

Once light impinges on the blades, light pressure should start the assembly turning, provided friction is kept to a minimum, with speed being regulated by a sophisticated gearing mechanism, generating Electricity via coupling to a conventional Generator.

Even better, the Electricity generated can take over the duty of maintaining the vacuum in the Hemispherical Plastic Dome, thus the entire assembly is self sustaining. Possibly the only problem with this suggested design assembly for a Generator, which could be made of several such vertical vanes, is its ease of shut down, which would work against its design in areas where the community may be hostile to the company using the Generator.

Its major advantage, however, is that unlike Photovoltaic Panels, it can be designed to be close to 80% efficient, losses only being incurred by friction between the turning mechanism and the Generator, which would have to be well oiled or preferably using Graphite/Teflon Counter Rotating bearings and possibly use some of its own Power in a motorized feedback braking system to maintain constant RPM so as to avoid the Generator reaching Red Line (over speeding).

Also, it could occupy the same footprint as a regular Generator, with multiple assemblies as describe above to provide the necessary torque to produce the amount of Power required from equivalent Fossil Fuel based Generators.

Effectively this would be a Vertical Solar Wind Turbine, akin to the one designed by Helix Wind for use on Mobile Cell sites as a test in California for Telecom Provider Core Communications as stated in the article “Powering cell phone towers with wind”, published November 11, 2009 11:35 AM PST, by Candace Lombardi, CNET News - Green Tech.

Practical hurdles, as with Helix’s design, would have to be overcome, but the tantalizing possibility of achieving 80% efficiency by using such a simple design should be enough for a Alternative Energy Engineer to take a serious look at making this practical, especially as it has the potential to make Solar Generators commonplace – and Solar Panel to do better.
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