Issue 68, November 2015
bullet Renewable Energy
bullet Innovation: Blue Freedom - A Hydropower Plant So Small It Fits in a Backpack
bullet Bringing E-Mobility to Our Skies: DLR HY4 Project for Zero-Emission Passenger Flights
bullet SINN Power - Generating Electricity from Ocean Waves
bullet Interview with Dr. Patrick Graichen - An Energiewende Expert
bullet Tackling Energy Scarcity with Creative Solutions: World's First Mobile Solar Power Plant Now Operating in Africa
Renewable Energy 
Germany's ambitious energy transformation - known as the Energiewende - consists of a number of goals, including a nuclear power phase-out by 2022 as well as a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80 percent decrease in emissions by 2050.

Momentum for this aggressive transition picked up speed after the 2011 meltdown at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant. Following the accident, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would shut down all 17 of its reactors by 2022, nine of which have already been closed.

Approximately 27 percent of Germany's electricity last year came from renewable sources such as wind and solar - three times more than it obtained ten years ago and more than double what the U.S. receives today. In particular, Germany is embracing wind, both onshore and offshore, and solar, as they are the cheapest renewable energy technologies currently available and offer the most potential for the future.

Despite being home to the second highest consumer electricity prices in Europe, Germany has very high levels of public support for its Energiewende - at 92 percent. This is in part to the country's eco-friendly culture and laws enabling citizens to sell energy they generate back to the grid. Germany is leading the way in its clean energy transition, as outlined in the National Geographic article, " Germany Could Be a Model for How We'll Get Power in the Future." To what extent other industrialized nations follow suit to help mitigate the ominous effects of climate change, however, remains the question. 

1 .6 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity. Blue Freedom - the smallest and lightest hydropower plant in the world - enables people without access to a power grid the freedom to produce energy themselves. Complete with ultramarine rotor blades, the microturbine can be used by anyone with access to flowing water to produce and store electrical energy in an eco-friendly way that preserves biodiversity.

Thanks to its small diameter of just 20 centimeters and lightweight nature of only 400 grams, Blue Freedom easily fits into a backpack. This enables users to take it anywhere - even to the most remote parts of the world. The independent, decentralized power system can even work in the shallowest waters and fit in many water pipes.

With Blue Freedom, users no longer have to depend on sunlight as a renewable energy source. Instead, they can produce their own power day and night. One hour of Blue Freedom in moving water generates ten hours of power for one's smartphone. Blue Freedom can charge countless small electric devices, including cameras, navigation devices, and tablets.

This game-changing innovation coming out of Fürth, Germany, is especially targeted for use in crisis regions, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster, as well as for use in developing countries. Blue Freedom's vision is a world in which everybody can produce renewable energy in a sustainable way. Enabling the independent generation of power may one day help millions of people around the world escape the cycle of poverty.

Just last month, Blue Freedom received the Handelsblatt Energy Award. To view the company's Kickstarter page, click here. To watch its crowdfunding video (in English), click here. For a video news report (in German) on the innovative microturbine, click here.

Source & Image: © Aquakin GmbH

Are we inching closer to the day that Jetson-esque flying taxis grace our skies? Thanks to a project by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR), what was once science-fiction may soon be a part of real life. With its HY4 project, DLR has created the world's first four-passenger aircraft solely powered by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system - a major step towards making zero-emission flight a reality.
"With the HY4, we want to bring electromobility into the air, demonstrating the feasibility of this technology, and identify specific fields of application in passenger transport," explained DLR Coordinator of Electrical Aviation Dr. Josef Kallo.

In particular, researchers at DLR see regional traffic around the world as an exciting field of application. Their goal is to use aircraft such as the HY4 as an "electric air taxi" to connect people to their destinations in a more flexible way and to offer faster alternatives to pre-existing routes and means of transport.

For clean, quiet, energy-efficient, and safe flights, researchers at the Stuttgart-based DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics rely on a special hybrid system: the main power source is a low-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. This converts the hydrogen from the storage system and the oxygen from the air into water and electrical energy. During cruise flight, the fuel cell continuously supplies the electric motor with reliable power. A high-performance lithium battery covers peak power loads during takeoff and climb.

The main scientific challenge of the HY4 project is to maximize the performance, efficiency, and reliability of the drive system step by step and to test it for use as a passenger transportation vehicle. Electric drives are well-suited for shorter distances due to their low noise and emissions levels as well as for their capability to take off and land on short runways thanks to their high torque.
The development of the propulsion system is based on DLR's extensive aviation and energy research activities in the areas of batteries, fuel cells, and hydrogen technologies. The first flight of the HY4 is planned to make its debut later this summer.

Source & Image: © DLR


There are two main advantages of using ocean waves as a source for renewable energy. First, the energy contained in waves is significantly more concentrated than the energy in wind and sun. Second, ocean waves are much more continuous than alternative energy sources. To harness their potential, a Munich-based start-up called SINN Power has created a simple, modular system. The up-and-down motion of waves lifts the floating bodies of the individual modules. The floating bodies in turn lift a rod that runs through a generator unit, resulting in electricity.

SINN Power founder and CEO Philipp Sinn explained what makes this product unique: "Most developers in the past thought in terms of 'bigger' and 'more complicated' when designing their wave energy converter. We have turned this approach on its head: Only when our technology is easy and cost-efficient enough to implement it anywhere will we be commercially successful."

To develop a cost-efficient, reliable, and simple wave energy converter, low production costs are key, which is why the patented concept is modular and uses mass-manufactured, standardized components. All parts are optimized for shipping in ISO containers, which can easily reach even the most remote coasts. Because installation and maintenance are simple, the wave energy converter can also be used in countries with less developed infrastructures. It can help replace expensive, climate-damaging diesel generators. Each replaced diesel generator saves 780 tons of carbon dioxide each year - the equivalent of 195 car trips around the earth.

Just one year after the company was founded, its team is now beginning its first open-sea test on a port breakwater in the Mediterranean Sea. Coastal communities and consumers on remote islands, such as hotels and tourism resorts, will be the first customers to benefit from this affordable, sustainable wave power. In the less immediate future, SINN Power plans to feed electricity into the grid on an industrial scale by installing wave energy converters between offshore wind farms.

For its innovative approach to sustainable energy generation, the start-up was recently awarded the VDI Award 2015 from the Association of German Engineers and is a nominee for this November's Next Economy Award.

Source & Image: © SINN Power GmbH    

Dr. Patrick Graichen is the Executive Director of Agora Energiewende , a think-tank focused on dialogue with energy policy stakeholders. His non-profit organization develops scientifically based and politically feasible approaches for ensuring the success of the German Energiewende. As the Energiewende also affects other countries in Europe, his think tank looks beyond Germany's borders in its work.

In his interview with GCRI, Dr. Graichen discusses what strategies are most effective for mitigating climate change as well as which technology, in his opinion, offers the greatest potential to propel the renewable energy field forward. He shares his thoughts on Germany's nuclear phase-out and how the energy transition will affect our lifestyle in the short and long term. He also addresses what challenges lie ahead for gaining the general public's acceptance of this energy transition. To read the full interview, click here.

Dr. Graichen studied economics and political science, earning a Ph.D. in the field of municipal energy policy at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Environmental Economics at the University of Heidelberg. He previously worked at Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building, and Nuclear Safety, first in the area of international climate policy, then as a personal assistant to the Secretary of State in the ministry, and starting in 2007, as Head of the Unit for Energy and Climate Change Policy. During this time, Dr. Graichen was in charge of negotiating the design of the economic instruments of the Kyoto Protocol, the Integrated Energy and Climate Programme of the Federal Government (2007), the EU's Climate and Energy Package (2008), as well as legislative procedures in the area of energy management law.

Agora Energiewende is a joint initiative of the Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation. To watch a Deutsche Welle interview (in German) with Dr. Graichen on Germany's energy transition, click here. A webinar with a comprehensive introduction to the topic is available here
Source: © Agora Energiewende
Image: © Agora Energiewende/Detlef Eden

Economic development in Africa is still largely impacted by the lack of reliable power generation and distribution. On average, only 20 percent of people in Africa have access to electrical energy. In Mali, for example, only 17 percent of the population is connected to the Energie du Mali power grid.

This may be about to change, however, thanks to a German company combining innovative off-the-grid technology with creative financing solutions. On September 23, 2015, the world's first mobile solar power plant went into operation in Mourdiah, Mali - a major milestone both for the people of Mourdiah and for the Frankfurt-based start-up Mobile Solarkraftwerke Africa GmbH & Co. KG, which aspires to establish itself as the first mobile and decentralized energy provider in Africa.

It was only in April of this year that a group of 174 investors, using the crowdfunding platform "bettervest," financed the first mobile solar power plant. The funding was completed in record time: After just 90 hours, a total of €107,700 had already been collected.

"With this operation, we have demonstrated that the concept works," said Charlie Njonmou, the company's managing director. "Now we will scale this concept to other locations. This brings us one big step closer to our goal: Sustainable and clean electricity for the rural population in Africa generated without dependence on fossil fuels."

At the end of September this year, more than 5,000 people in Mourdiah warmly welcomed the solar container. Its arrival has been extensively celebrated - especially by the many children who can now finally go to school. Thanks to collaboration with the NGO, schools in Mourdiah received a donation of 20 laptop computers equipped with learning programs in both the state as well as local ethnic language.

The second mobile solar container is currently seeking funding from investors on GreenVesting. Investments are possible starting at €100 and investors will receive an annual return of nine percent over a period of seven years.

The ready-to-use solar power plants are built in Duisburg, Germany by Multicon Solar. To watch the celebrated arrival and installation of the container in Mourdiah, click here and here.

Source & Image: © Africa GreenTec