May 28, 2014
Solar Aluminum Fuel 24/7.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
The technologies exist today to produce a clean, carbon-free, recyclable fuel that could energize the world's economies.
The technologies are scattered about the globe, disjointed, employed in a variety of purposes or research. They need be to collected, unified, gathered together, refined, polished and repackaged to make a viable energy product that could be used for everything from transportation to stationary power generation.
There's nothing particularly exotic about these technologies and some have been in use for a century or more. Some are used daily today and are off-the-shelf, profitable products.
Here's hint as what these technologies are: They all revolve around using metals as fuel: Light weight metals like aluminum, magnesium and zinc for transportation; other heavier in weight metals, like iron, for stationary applications. The metals would be used as sacrificial (but recyclable) anodes in types batteries known as metal-air fuel cells.
The sharpest tacks in the world will eventually figure out what what these technologies are and how they relate and will reap the rewards. The oil and coal companies could get involved, if they choose, and be the providers and distributors of these fuels and thus generate profits and rewards for investors from here to eternity. Whole nations could get involved as well, insuring steady employment forever. Even Saudi Arabia could shift from oil to its aluminum reserves and generous sunlight to stay in the energy business long after its oil wells go dry.
The key to cleanliness of these non-carbon recyclable fuel technologies is the use of renewable energy to process and recycle these fuels.
It's common to use hydropower even geothermal power to smelt aluminum. Now here's an upcoming project that could be the first on the planet to store solar energy in the world's most abundant metal. (Provided of course that the aluminum from the operation was used as a fuel.)
Thin film solar panel maker First Solar and global aluminum supplier Rio Tinto, along with solar integrator Ingenero, have announced an agreement for the development of the Weipa Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in Queensland, Australia.
In the first phase, a 1.7 MW solar power plant will be built to generate sufficient electricity to offset up to 20 percent of the daytime electricity demand for Rio Tinto Alcan’s (RTA) Weipa bauxite mine, processing facilities and township on the Western Cape York Peninsula. Diesel is now providing Weipa's power.
“Rio Tinto Alcan is pleased to support the addition of renewable energy to complement the existing diesel generation at Weipa,” said RTA General Manager Weipa Operations Gareth Manderson. “We expect the use of solar power will reduce Weipa’s annual diesel consumption and its carbon dioxide emissions by around 1600 tons.” Manderson noted that the hybrid diesel/PV solution will introduce to the site a reliable source of electricity, with low maintenance requirements.
The solar project has the potential to expand to 5 MW.
With completion scheduled for late 2014, First Solar will supply its advanced thin-film PV modules and other balance of system components, in addition to providing operation and maintenance services for the duration of the project.
Aluminum from Weipa could be become the sacrificial anodes in a battery design where the anodes are removed and replaced when they are sacrificed, spent, or oxidized to the point where they no longer generate sufficient electricity. Spent anodes could be sent back Weipa project for recycling using the same solar energy that processed the aluminum in the first place. The more solar energy Weipa eventually builds the cleaner the aluminum fuel becomes. With 100 percent solar you'd have it: a clean fuel forever available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year after year.
Costly power? Probably. At least initially. But the clear path to cost reduction would include solar aluminum recycling centers closer to energy users.
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