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Ubiquitous solar energy collection, grid storage and trading

Image credit: bhphotovideo.com

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Aaron Barry
Aaron Barry Mar 30, 2021
This is the idea that all objects that are exposed to daylight could have a solar element applied so that the object, whatever it is, can capture and store energy from the sun during its use. This is to include objects that can move not just static objects like office blocks, houses or road signs.

The key point to this idea is the connection of the individual to the electricity grid. If the person collecting the energy can connect to the grid, then they could not only use the energy for all their energy requirements but also could sell any excess to the grid for others to buy.

It could include solar receptors in clothes, vehicles, golf bags, and so on. The thinking is not to just power the device the receptor inhibits. For example, a golf buggy could be solar powered. However a golf buggy sat idle all day and not used could still sit outside and capture energy, the incentive for the owner would be to not waste the power or the opportunity to capture it, and plug it back into the main grid to be sold, and used by others.
The more solar power generated the less need for dirty methods of energy generation.
The adopters could be cost negative, meaning they do not only power everything they use for zero cost, but they also gain an income from selling any excess back to the grid.
Manufacturers will be under pressure to include solar receptors in their products as the end users can benefit from the passive nature of energy collection.
The problem is creating a physical solution which can syphon the energy from each individual item and transfer it into a solar storage system which can then power the users other devices first and then also a connection to the grid so that excess energy is sold.
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Creative contributions

"Rechargeable buildings"

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Juran May 23, 2021
Although the disruption of the Texas energy network due to the extremely cold weather reminded everyone how much we depend on electrical energy, a recent research paper brought us a whole new field of energy storage innovation to expect and impatiently await!

Scientists presented a rechargeable cement battery . Briefly, the battery is made out of an iron anode, a nickel-based oxide cathode, and a mixture of cement and 0.5% short carbon fibers to increase conductivity.

Considering the number of concrete buildings, the future of this idea seems very bright, especially if connected to the above-mentioned electrical power grid. That way, the buildings could serve as giant solar plants and energy storage at the same time.

@Darko, the same could be applied to the roads that would collect the energy. It would, in my opinion, dramatically reduce the expenses of the solar power storage and, consequently, solar power in general.

[1]https://www.mdpi.com/2075-5309/11/3/103

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 months ago
That's an amazing concept - roads that store the energy within the pavement and get recharged by the photovoltaic panels above.

Combine it with Cloud Energy for storage

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Mar 31, 2021
I like the idea, @Aaron Barry! Cloud Energy is revolutionizing and soon it will be a common thing to use energy from a mega storage (Cloud). Just like Cloud computing, Cloud energy will store energy and distribute it to the users.

The flow of energy can be to and from the cloud to the user. This way the excess energy will not be wasted. Any device could be connected to the cloud and access the energy. A simple application can track the amount of energy used and created (and transmitted to the cloud for storage). The user will then be charged for the net usage.

[1]Jingkun Liu, Ning Zhang, Chongqing Kang, Daniel Kirschen, Qing Xia, Cloud energy storage for residential and small commercial consumers: A business case study, Applied Energy, Volume 188, 2017, Pages 226-236, ISSN 0306-2619, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.120.

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Povilas S
Povilas S4 months ago
Good paper. This partially solves the problem. To connect to such cloud solar energy collecting objects would have to be either plugged into the general electricity system or have their own batteries that could be removed/replaced from time to time and only those would be plugged in to charge or discharged into the cloud. What Aaron Barry essentially proposes, as I understand, is developing technological means to wirelessly transfer the energy to the grid, so that even moving objects could access the cloud at any point.

"SunBead" Spray for energy collection

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Juran Apr 02, 2021
In my contribution to this session, I suggested the use of ball-shaped solar collectors. Since the size of the collector could vary a lot, this technology could be implemented in many materials to make a "solar coating".

What if we made a product such as the "solar-bead spray", which constitutes millions of small glass beads that stick together on the applied surface and produce a "solar coating". Due to its ability to focus the sun from any direction and use all the sunlight available, it could help you achieve the goal of this session. If it is applied to clothes, it could be even made to be "washing-machine friendly".

Transfer of the energy from the environment by solar-powered "computational missions"

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Juran Apr 02, 2021
I agree that in the proposed world where energy is collected everywhere, the main problem would be the transfer and the storage of the energy. We don't want to carry energy-collecting batteries around, we change clothes, and we rarely have a single item next to us at all times. But, luckily (or not), there is one thing that we rarely change and it's almost always here - the smartphone.

Smartphones could be used as energy collectors. How? Since the charging of the phone would be a minor thing compared to the energy collected in the proposed world, I would suggest the energy transfer in the shape of computational tasks done by the phone or the signals transmitted using the specific smartphone app.

How would it work
  1. The collection
  2. The energy would be collected from your clothes, your office desk, chairs, walls, signs, floors, and everything around you.
  3. It would be stored in small-capacity temporary-storage batteries built first into solid objects like wooden furniture, walls, floors, etc, (and later in smaller ones).
  4. The connection
  5. When you approach the energy-collecting materials, their integrated CPUs recognize your phone via WIFI or Bluetooth and establish secure connection.
  6. At that moment, an app sends information on blockchain-based transactions or other computational tasks and temporary batteries help the cmall CPUs to do the work.
  7. When these small tasks (or just some parts) are done, the solution is send back to the app. It happens in (mili)seconds. That way the phone battery stays intact, while the energy from the environment was used to complete the small "computational mission".

The magnification

If you had large objects that collect energy (e.g. energy-collecting pavement on a busy street in New York), imagine the amount of work done by the smartphone apps of millions of passengers, while their phone batteries remain full. One-kilometer street full of people could probably do the computational task of a super-computer as a result of millions of "computational missions" done "passively".

Benefits
  • All the small tasks usually done by super-computers on financial, storaging or other servers could be now done by the "passive force" generated by solar-collecting objects
  • Smartphones would have longer battery lives because some of the tasks could be used for phone-specific processes
  • The amount of work done by the CPUs in each object could be tracked and a small fee to the object builder could be given as a reward for their work
PS I am not an expert in this field. It's just a vision of how this kind of energy could be used somehow.
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Povilas S
Povilas S4 months ago
A very smart idea Juran:) Some points to have in mind: The smartphones in such a scenario would still use their batteries for communication with the CPUs of the energy-storing objects and I'm wondering would this really be efficient in terms of energy saving. If it would, then this could work as battery saving for smartphones, computers, and other digital, computational devices, but not for other electronic devices that require a lot of energy, like a fridge, a washing machine, or an electric car (the energy it uses for moving).

Street trash can/wind turbine

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Juran Apr 10, 2021
Here is an example of a powerful, safe, and cool-looking wind turbine that is capable to generate more electricity than its solar competitor. By having no exposed rotating parts, it could be safe to be used on the street, plus it looks really cool.

My idea would be to turn it into a trashcan, too, so it can have a dual purpose. Design can be modified to fit the environment. Collected energy could be "returned to the grid", or used to partially decompose or separate trash. Also, having an electrical trash can could also have sensors that recognize when the bin is full and help cleaner services to pick up trash when it is needed. That way, they could save time and organize the pick-ups better.
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Povilas S
Povilas S4 months ago
I like the idea of using renewable energy that trash cans could potentially produce to make compost or automatically sort the trash into recyclable categories. Also the idea of such can reporting the garbage collecting service when it's full.

But I'm also a bit skeptical of this exact wind turbine project. I think it might have been a scam to attract money. I might be wrong, but I also think that simply narrowing the wind flow is not enough to produce more energy. It doesn't seem logical from a thermodynamical standpoint. If it was so easy, commercial wind turbines would have already made use of this and would be made differently. Again - I might be wrong.

That project was on Kickstarter, which adds some validity to it, but it didn't collect enough funds there. Important technical aspects are not explained in detail neither in the video nor on Kickstarter. This one seems more legit: https://youtu.be/PWbrDe2otVc?t=161
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
I have mixed feelings about this. I may be wrong but from my limited knowledge of physics, I imagine that when you reduce the "nozzle" you get more speed but less power. When wind hits the funnel some of the power is lost to friction, thereby making the efficiency even lower.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
Great find! The turbines are good. The only problem I see with converting them into trash cans is that they will need to be located on the streets. In the video, the turbines were located on top of the houses (where there is more wind) in the city area. Putting trash in bins located in such places will be difficult. They were placed on the ground only when outside the city, where there are no obstacles to the wind closer to the ground, too.

Getting back to Nicola Tesla's ideas

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Povilas S
Povilas S Apr 28, 2021
As the author of this idea points out - the main problem to solve is how to physically transfer the energy from various collecting units (including those that move) first to local energy storage stations and later any excess energy to a universal power bank from which it could be distributed to anyone.

The simplest approach would be to implement batteries into each energy collecting object and then discharge them regularly by connecting to larger energy storage stations (simply larger batteries). But this is not very practical - it would make objects clumsy and would be time-consuming.

On the contrary - it would be great if every object with the collecting capacity for solar energy would be somehow wirelessly linked to the universal power bank and could drain any excess energy to it as well as take it when necessary. At first glance, this doesn't seem feasible, because the current technology seems to be heading in a different direction. However, it made me remember perhaps the most famous, although failed Nicola Tesla's project - an attempt to transfer electrical energy wirelessly throughout the globe. Tesla believed that Earth's globe, as well as atmosphere, could be effectively used as conductors to transmit electrical energy. However, from the current scientific standpoint, he was mistaken. This video summarizes the main points of his project and its failure.

While reading about Tesla's 100 + year old project I was surprised to find out that long-range wireless electricity transfer is gaining popularity again - this New Zeland's startup company aims exactly for that - commercial-scale wireless electricity transmission. For now, they are only able to transfer the electricity in a straight line above the ground, between transmitting and receiving antennas. The electromagnetic beam (which is dangerous to interact with) is protected by a thin laser shield that acts as a safety switch shutting down the beam in case any object (such as a bird or a drone) approaches it.

But their introductory video proposes a future vision where independent moving objects - electric cars, plains, drones could be powered wirelessly without the need to carry batteries. If more public and scientific attention/interest would be put to lean the technology development in this direction, such vision might become feasible.


A thin layer of nano batteries implemented into clothing

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Povilas S
Povilas S Apr 15, 2021
An alternative to somehow wirelessly transferring the collected energy could be perfecting battery technology to a point where they would be small enough, to not disturb the user, but efficient enough to collect energy from an item for a while until a convenient time to discharge their collected energy into a larger, stable battery.

A very tiny, nano batteries could be implemented into, e.g. clothes without making them heavy and bulky. A lot of such nano batteries could be joined together to form a single energy collecting battery which would make a thin additional layer of "textile" for the clothes. Such item of clothing, when dressed off would be connected to a larger, stable battery at home through a similar to micro USB (just smaller) plug attached somewhere in the corner on the underside of that clothing item.

This way one layer of clothing would produce the energy, another would store it.

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General comments

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw4 months ago
I think that if such a thing were to be made possible, it would not be for financial gain. If we become able to readily make use of solar energy from every roof of every building, cover every road and canal (https://brainstorming.com/solar-panel-shading-structures-covering-highways-and-roads/310) and even get it from moving objects like vehicles, while also figuring out how to store it effectively, we would have an abundance of energy.
This would still be great for the economy and even better for the environment, but abundance is the enemy of profit, so while the world would benefit from this system, I don't think it would be something that can be monetized, which is probably a large part of why more resources haven't been allocated to developing something like this.