Solar Panels from Used Batteries

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated a procedure to convert used lead acid batteries from automobiles into solar panels. A single battery can be used to produce solar panels for as many as 30 homes. It must be noted that with the advancement in battery technology it is expected that 200 million lead acid batteries would be retired soon from USA alone. This development shows us a way forward to reusing a huge resource of lead that would be otherwise go to dumping sites.

A material that is making this possible is organolead halide perovskite. A layer of perovskite only 1/2 a micrometer thick is enough to produce a solar panel and does not require a very high manufacturing process like for other silicon based solar panels. One might think that this is another experimental material that achieves an efficiency in single digits. But this is hardly the case. In just a few years of research perovskite based solar cells have achieved efficiency of more than 19%. It is expected by the end of 2014 the efficiency would cross the psychological barrier of 20%.

1 Battery Provides Solar Panels for 30 Homes

1 Battery Provides Solar Panels for 30 Homes

Perovskite (source: Wikipedia)  is a calcium titanium oxide mineral species composed of calcium titanate, with the chemical formula CaTiO3. The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792–1856).

It lends its name to the class of compounds which have the same type of crystal structure as CaTiO3 known as the perovskite structure. The perovskite crystal structure was first described by Victor Goldschmidt in 1926, in his work on tolerance factors. The crystal structure was later published in 1945 from X-ray diffraction data on barium titanate by Helen Dick Megaw.

Efficiency of a solar panel is the ratio of the electrical energy produced to the incident solar radiation e.g. a 20% efficient solar panel of 1 m2 area would produce 200 W when the incident solar radiation reaches a level of 1000 W/m2.

First Solar Likely to Invest in Pakistan

First Solar, America's Solar giant is poised to invest in Pakistan's Alternate Energy sector after starting a 45 MW Solar project in Indian state of Telangana. First Solar has a worldwide installed capacity of 8 GW and was ranked no. 1 in Forbes list of 25 fastest growing technology companies in USA. The 45 MW project to be launched in Telangana will be operational by May of 2015 and would sell electricity at a rate of $0.106/kWh. India currently has an installed Solar capacity of 2900 MW which will be ramped up to 9000 MW by 2017.

According to some estimates Pakistan is facing an energy shortfall of around 4600 MW and government is quite keen to start new projects, be it Solar, Hydel or Thermal. Pakistan has set a target of 5% of energy to be generated from Alternate Energies by 2030. This is quite a conservative target and might actually be achieved before 2030, especially with the new initiatives such as the 1000 MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park to be operational by end 0f 2016. It is hoped that with a stable government and sustained policies in the coming years the Solar Energy sector would prosper and Pakistan would achieve its targets much before 2030.

Solar Park

Solar Park

Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB)

Alternate Energy Development Board is a Government of Pakistan controlled institution that is tasked with increasing the alternate energy contribution of the country to about 5% by 2030. According to the AEDB Act of 25th May 2010 following are the functions of the AEDB Board.

(a) To develop national strategy, policies and plans for utilization of alternate and renewable energy resources to achieve the targets approved by the Federal Government in consultation with the Board.

(b) To act as a forum for evaluating, monitoring and certification of alternate or renewable energy projects and products.

(c) To act as a coordinating agency for commercial application of alternate or renewable energy.

(d) To facilitate energy generation through alternate or renewable energy resources by:

(i) Acting as a one window facility for establishing, promoting and facilitating alternate or renewable energy projects based on wind, solar, micro-hydel, fuel cells, tidal, ocean, biogas, biomass etc.

(ii) Setting up alternate and renewable energy projects on it's own or through joint ventures or partnership with public or private entities in order to create awareness and motivation of the need to take such initiatives for the benefit of general public as well as by evaluating concept notes and technologies from technical and financial perspective.

(iii) Conducting feasibility studies and surveys to identify opportunities for power generation and other applications through alternate and renewable energy resources.

(iv) Undertaking technical, financial and economic evaluation of the alternate and renewable energy proposals as well as providing assistance in filing of required licensing applications and tariff petitions to NEPRA established under the Regulation of Generation Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997.

(v) Interacting and coordinating with national and international agencies for promotion and development of alternate energy.

(vi) Assisting the development and implementation of plans with concerned authorities and provincial governments and special areas for off grid electrification of rural areas.

(vii) Making legislative proposals to enforce use and installation of equipment utilizing renewable energy.

Solar Car Build by Islamabad Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur in Islamabad has built a solar car that can run at 80 km/hour and has a range of 80 km. The car has solar panels on all its sides and roof which provide the energy to run the car. The car can also be plugged into an electrical socket to charge the batteries when they get discharged and solar energy is not available. According to the the designer all components have been locally manufactured except for the motor which has been imported from overseas (and obviously panels must have been imported as well). The current version of the car is a 2-seater but a 4-seater is also under construction.

Solar Car

Solar Car

Solar Car

Solar Car

The car is registered in Islamabad under the local laws. The company that invented this car, known as Economia, wants to commercialize this car by offering it has an alternate to taxis running on CNG and/or fuel. The company has submitted a proposal to the Government of Pakistan to allow it to start a local taxi system in Islamabad with 30-40 taxi stands in important areas of the city. This is a very encouraging development but it remains to be seen if it is able to taste commercial success.

According to the specs provided on the website the 2-seater version runs on a 2.2 KW motor whereas the 4-seater version runs on two 2.2 kW motors. The operating voltage of the motor and batteries is 48 V. The car is expected to be highly efficient and cost only Rs. 1/km. The price of the different versions range from Rs. 350,000 to Rs. 525,000.

Parameter ECO-1/ECO-1L ECO-2GL
Voltage of Battery 48 V 48 V
Seats 2-4 4
Power 2.2 kW x 1 2.2 kW x 2
Distance Per Charge 80 km 80 km
Charge Time 2-3 hours 2-3 hours
Maximum Speed 40-60 km/hr 60-80 km/hr
Motor 2.2 kW x 1, 48 V 2.2 kW x 2, 48 V
Charger 48 V, 20 A 48 V, 20-40 A
Controller 48 V, 90 A x 1 48 V, 70 A x 2

Note:

1. Input of 2.2 KW at 48 Volts means the motor needs 45 Amps to run.

2. If the solar panels on the car are about 500 W (100 W for each side and 100 W for the roof) the car would need to charge for about 4.4 hours in the sunlight to provide 1 hour of drive time. Realistically speaking, the 500 W panels would be producing only half the rated power since they cannot all be aligned to the sun at the same time.

3. Assuming that when the batteries are fully charged they can provide 2.2 KWhr of energy or simply 2.2 KW for one hour. At Rs. 15 per unit the cost for charging the batteries from an electrical outlet comes out to be Rs.33. Now if this car is able to drive for one hour at 60 Km/hour the cost per km would be Rs. 0.55 (this is assuming 100% efficiency which is practically not possible).