Thursday, June 28, 2007

Signet Solar - Big Plans In The Indian PV space

Signet Solar is the latest in a series of companies planning to manufacture solar photo-voltaic modules in India. Similar to Solar Semiconductor, Signet Solar is a Silicon Valley based company, founded by NRI's, all industry veterans. Their model suggests that the business office will be centered in the US, while R&D (and some manufacturing) will happen in Germany, while the high-scale manufacturing will be in India. The fabs will be supplied by Applied Materials, in a model similar to that adopted by most other companies manufacturing in India.

The company was launched in May, 2007, and in June, 2007 they announced that India would be the main manufacturing base. The plan is to initially set up a 60 MW manufacturing plant, with a targeted total capacity of 1,000 MW in 10 years with a total investment of $2 bn.

Here is a quick introduction to Signet Solar's proposed business model and an assessment of its chances in a "booming but crowded" solar PV market, which also has a link to Navigant Consulting's report on the solar industry Solar Outlook (Apr 12, 2007).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Vertical Farm Project

In The Sustainability Challenge I made a case for future where humans lived almost entirely within self-sustained and ecologically isolated cities. The idea was that nature and humans could no longer survive together as humanity achieves a dominance beyond what nature can afford to bestow upon a single species. Isolating ourselves from nature will reduce our contribution to a mass extinction in nature, as well as insulate ourselves from being made extinct too.

A big step in this direction is cities striving for self-sustenance in their need for resources. Of all resources that a city uses, food is probably the most expensive.

The food for a city is usually grown in areas much bigger than the city itself. It is then brought to a city by land, sea and even air from across a huge hinterland which could span the globe.

Now consider a greenhouse - it makes very efficient use of existing resources like water, sunlight and nutrients. Now what if we could cram greenhouses in a city? The food is grown with minimal use of resources, and transportation costs are cut to negligible levels. Win win?

But how should a greenhouse that will feed an entire city be structured? Why, as a skyscraper of course.

Scientists are Columbia University are suggesting just such an approach, via The Vertical Farm Project:

"The idea is simple enough. Imagine a 30-storey building with glass walls, topped off with a huge solar panel. On each floor there would be giant planting beds, indoor fields in effect. There would be a sophisticated irrigation system. And so crops of all kinds and small livestock could all be grown in a controlled environment in the most urban of settings."

Some of the other advantages include:
"* Year round crop production in a controlled environment
* All produce would be organic as there would be no exposure to wild parasites and bugs
* Elimination of environmentally damaging agricultural runoff
* Food being produced locally to where it is consumed"

The Vertical Farm Project
Vertical farming in the big Apple

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hydrogen Roadmap for India

The renewable energy ministry of India has announced a Rs 25,000 crore (US$6 bn) roadmap to promote the use of hydrogen in India by 2020. Link

The roadmap envisages one million vehicles running on hydrogen and at least one power plant generating 1000 MW of power, all running on hydrogen gas.

Indian Oil Corporation is likely to be the leading light in this effort, which will also involve SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) and leading universities. Below is an extract from the report on TOI.

"As part of the new initiative, a demonstration project for setting up a hydrogen dispensing set-up at a petrol pump in Delhi has been sanctioned as a joint venture with IndianOil Corporation. The project would enable dispensing of neat hydrogen and CNG blended with hydrogen as fuel for vehicles. The station will have a hydrogen generation capacity using an electrolyser system and facilities for storing and dispensing neat hydrogen as well as blended with CNG in varying ratios. The H-CNG blends will be used in the modified CNG vehicles and are expected to further reduce emissions from such vehicles as compared to when burning only CNG. The project would also generate operational experience in handling hydrogen as an automotive fuel.

Another project for the introduction of H-CNG blends on a trial basis in existing CNG vehicles has been planned to be undertaken by the ministry jointly with Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). The project will be for two years and will be the first public-private partnership project in this area. The project aims at introduction of H-CNG blend as a fuel on trial basis in buses, cars and three-wheelers, involving five leading Indian automobile manufacturers.

IndianOil Corporation is also participating in this project and the existing hydrogen dispensing facility set up at its R&D Centre at Faridabad would be used for refuelling vehicles. Under this project, the engines of the existing CNG vehicles and fuel injection systems would be modified. The project aims at optimising the H-CNG blend ratio for optimal vehicle performance and minimal emissions.

Several new research projects in the area of hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology have also been sanctioned to universities, IITs and research organisations. A few more are in the pipeline. A National Centre for Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cell Technology is also being set up at the ministry's Solar Energy Centre campus at Gurgaon in Haryana."