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Third IEEE Green Technologies Conference Underscores IEEE’s Continued Commitment to Next-Gen Clean Tech

By Patrick E. Meyer, Ph.D.

In 2009 and 2010, I reported for Today’s Engineer on the first and second annual IEEE Green Technologies Conferences. Now, in its third year, the Conference is better than ever. This year’s conference was held in Baton Rouge, La., a thriving city home to both Louisiana State University and Southern University, and representing the best of Louisiana’s vibrant culture. The conference brought together people from China, Taiwan, India, France and all over the United States. Attendees came from universities, industry, government and national laboratories. Although the conference was relatively small in comparison to some IEEE events, it certainly did not lack diversity, creativity and the overwhelming enthusiasm of attendees and presenters.

This year’s conference was conceived on the pressing need to address one of the nation’s most complicated challenges: securing green and clean energy sources for the 21st century.

According to the conference organizers, industrialized and developing countries are far too dependent on a dwindling supply of oil and fossil fuels. The development and application of new alternate energy sources will require the cooperative effort from many disciplines of engineering, science and architecture. Thus, IEEE-USA, Region 5, the IEEE Baton Rouge Section and the Louisiana State University worked in partnership to sponsor the 2011 Green Technologies Conference with the goal of providing a forum for professionals from around the world to work together to develop realistic solutions to address the current energy crisis and reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases.
The conference featured two days of technical presentations, representing the cutting edge of clean energy research, development, and demonstration. Here I provide a general summary of some of the most interesting technical presentations from the 2011 Green Technologies Conference.

Janet Marsden delivered a compelling presentation entitled “Distributed Generation Systems: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Energy,” in which she explained that the great challenge for designing and developing sustainable alternative energy infrastructure is in essence the same as for maintaining our present infrastructure. In her presentation, she asked: “how can we best solve the problems of delivering energy when and where it is needed?” This involves rethinking supply and demand, load balancing, and energy sourcing paradigms with a view toward local production utilizing next generation technologies. Exploiting distributed generation means designing hybrid systems based on site-specific conditions; using new technologies to leverage traditional energy sources; and minimizing transmission and distribution costs–particularly the losses associated with long-distance transmission. In Janet’s presentation, she explained how load balancing in particular becomes far more tractable when viewed as a local problem of matching energy supply and demand. Specifically, she looked at modern network technologies as the models for creating a new generation of energy delivery systems to provide insights into how local energy production systems can be scaled up to inter-networked production systems that leverage alternative energy generation based on local and sustainable resources together with traditional large scale generation. More information on Janet and her work can be found here.

Sajjad Pourmohammad’s presentation was named “A Review of Wind Turbine Fault-Tolerant Control,” for which he delivered an engaging dialogue on wind power, explaining that wind power has become the fastest growing renewable energy source in recent years. Sajjad discussed possible faults in wind energy systems and showed how early fault detection, isolation, and successful controller reconfiguration can considerably increase the performance in faulty conditions and prevent abysmal failures in wind systems. Sajjad also provided an overview of recent progress in theory and methods to analyze and design fault-tolerant control systems for wind turbines.

Dongsheng Guan provided a technical presentation on using an atomic layer deposition method for deposition of an ultra-thin and highly-conformal coating for lithium-ion batteries. In his presentation, entitled “Enhanced Cycleability of LiMn2O4 Cathodes by Atomic Layer Deposition of Al2O3 Coatings” Dongsheng showed that surface modification by coating oxides onto LiMn2O4 is commonly employed to improve cycling stability of LiMn2O4 cathode material for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. He explained how current fabrications of surface coatings mostly rely on wet chemistry approaches, which lack sufficient flexibility and controllability. The coatings prepared via wet chemistry methods are usually non-uniform and incomplete. Dongsheng presented what he called the first effort to use atomic layer deposition method of ultra-thin and highly-conformal Al2O3 coatings onto LiMn2O4 cathodes with precise thickness-control at the atomic scale. In his work, he demonstrated that the coated cathodes exhibit significantly enhanced capacity retention compared to bare cathodes, as the dense and high-quality Al2O3 ALD film separates active material and electrolyte, and retards the dissolution of manganese ions from LiMn2O4 particles.

Terry Mohn provided an overview of the ability of renewable resources to provide environmentally clean, and eventually, cost effective energy alternatives to the existing mix of electric generation assets. In Terry’s presentation, entitled “A Smarter Grid Enables Communical MicroGrids,” he explained how the integration of distributed energy resources (DER) will likely become the normal state, as siting transmission and managing large renewable farms becomes more challenging. As smart grid develops, integration and optimization of grid control logic are areas that stand as key enablers to a rapid growth of renewable generation, particularly from the distributed side of the grid. Terry explained the basics of microgrids--namely that they are the collection of distributed resources with associated smart control logic to manage grid integration and optimizing local supply with demand. Over time, according to Terry, microgrids will aggregate and coalesce creating new energy management that may compete with traditional utility design. According to Terry, communities of microgrids, or communal microgrids, will exchange resources and balance out power inequalities to provide higher reliability at the edge of the grid. Regional transmission operators have begun offering market products to encourage exactly this new power future. Terry concluded that utilities need to pay attention to this growth area, all happening “behind the meter.”

William R. Kassebaum, P.E., co-founder, President, CEO and member of the Board of Directors at Stellarwind Bio Energy, LLC, provided an excellent overview of his company and its commitment to becoming a leader in the production of high-quality, renewable and sustainable fuel oils from algae. Will explained how his company’s goal is to reshape the competitive energy landscape by providing a new domestic source of eco-friendly renewable energy. He showed that with a cost-effectively built bioreactor that can inexpensively grow, harvest and process commercially viable quantities of fuel oil from algae, there are companies that can deliver 100% renewable and sustainable high performance fuels that meet or exceed government standards. It was obvious that Will found it hard to contain his excitement as he explained how his company’s innovations hold the potential to meet the future energy and fuel challenges of the nation and the world.

In their presentation entitled “Assessment of Solar Thermal Energy Technologies in Nigeria,” Anthony Adeyanju and K. Manohar provided an overview of the solar thermal energy resource situation in Nigeria, including the estimated potential and available amount of the resources. The authors discussed the status of the database and indicated its degree of adequacy and also identified the gaps. Nigeria’s National Energy Policy Document states that "Nigeria lies within a high sunshine belt and, within the country; solar radiation is fairly well distributed. The annual average of total solar radiation varies from about 12.6 MJ/m2-day (3.5 kWh/ m2-day) in the coastal latitudes to about 25.2 MJ/ m2-day (7.0 kWh/ m2-day) in the far north." The authors, assuming an arithmetic average of 18.9 MJ/ m2-day (5.3 kWh/ m2-day), concluded that Nigeria has an estimated 17,459,215.2 million MJ/day (17.439 TJ/day) of solar energy falling on its 923,768 km2 land area. In their presentation, the authors explained how energy is one commodity on which the provision of goods and services depend and its availability and consumption rate is an economic index to measure the development of any community. They wrapped up by pointing out that this really necessitates the need for decentralized power sources as a viable alternative--and solar/thermal energy readily fits in to this need.

Jeff Shaw presented on bimodal inverters in a presentation entitled “Bimodal Inverters, An Alternative to Grid-Tie Inverters for Emergency Preparedness.” In Jeff’s presentation, he provided a discussion on an alternative to grid-tie inverters for emergency preparedness. Jeff explained that too often, when solar power systems are installed, little thought is given to their ability to provide power during outages. Bimodal inverters, which allow for better handling during outages, are a combination of grid-tie and off-grid inverters providing the best features of both in one package. Jeff explained how the typical grid-tie solar power systems installed today are useless in times when emergency power could be utilized. But by upgrading to a bimodal inverter and making an investment in backup batteries, solar power systems can automatically run emergency loads in homes and businesses avoiding the need for costly generators. These bimodal inverters completely disconnect from the grid during power outages to prevent injury to utility workers. They are able to transfer solar power generated by solar modules as well as power stored in the batteries to selected circuits. Finally, Jeff concluded by showing how bimodal inverters can better prepare areas in times of emergency.

Dhruv Srivastava and Priya Ranjan delivered a presentation entitled “Towards Greener and Safer Mines with Wireless Sensor Networks,” in which they provided an overview on the problems that arise due to unhealthy environmental practices and what they view as lack of respect for lives of people working in different precious mining industries. The authors explained how through sensor and information and communication technologies (ICT) it is now possible to leverage sensing and ICT to monitor our environment and emerging pollution issues in real time. This will allow for corrective actions to be taken in a timelier manner. Dhruv and Priya concluded by showing how understanding the situational awareness in a mine or potentially dangerous arena could alleviate life threatening situations and could save people mine rescue operations.

Beth Yount delivered a presentation entitled “Quantifying Insolation in Multiple Shading Scenarios.” Beth’s study sought to quantify how insolation varies over the span of a typical photovoltaic (PV) array. She undertook this challenge by constructing a solar sensor array and deploying it at three locations where environmental conditions vary from full sun to highly restricted sunlight due to shading. In her study, data was recorded at each location and then analyzed to find the effects of shading. Beth explained that in traditional series-parallel photovoltaic systems the total power output of the system is highly dependent on the full insolation of each and every cell. According to Beth, one cell with low insolation properties will drag down the current of an entire series string. Her analysis of the sensor array data shows that insolation varies substantially, even on an unshaded site, and demonstrated the necessity of eliminating series strings from PV systems to increase energy production.

In Victor Rodrigue, Jr.’s presentation, he argued that rising fuel costs and an overall disappointing availability of promised plug-in electric vehicles is causing an increased interest in the "Do it Yourself" electric vehicle market--a market in which Victor is a true pioneer. According to Victor, converting an existing gas-powered vehicle to an efficient EV does not require an engineering degree. In his presentation, he provided an introduction to the research needed and a general overview of the system components. His presentation was a great first step to the "Do it Yourselfer". He explained the basic conversion process through pictures and text, but what was really valuable was the videos of projects. One such project was an “electric trike” that he built from scratch. Here’s a video of his creation:

Varun Lobo, Nyuykighan Mainsah, Arindam Banerjee and Jonathan W. Kimball provided an interesting insight into new methods to deal with vortex-induced vibration (VIV). VIV is the motion of a bluff body in a flowing fluid due to vortex shedding. Specifically, they explored the application of VIV to energy harvesting from water flow, such as a river or an ocean current. The group’s research demonstrated analytically and with computational fluid dynamic (CFD) studies, that large amplitude vibrations exist for low mass vibrating bodies. In their work, the CFD results predict peak force and average power production that can be used in designing the remainder of the system. In their conclusion, the authors proposed a power take-off based on a tubular linear interior permanent magnet (TL-IPM) generator, along with a power converter that controls the generator to act as a damper.

Oleksandr Dobzhanskyi dispatched a technical presentation on PM transverse flux (PMTF) AC generators, entitled “Study on Permanent Magnet Transverse-Flux Machine.” In his presentation, he explained that due to the generators’ simple structure and high power to volume ratio, the generator type has become very attractive, and particularly when they are applied as wind power generators for a single household with the 1-3kW output power. Oleksandr provided a literature review of different PMTF types, explaining that there are various types of PMTF wind generators proposed in the literature and his work adds to this body of knowledge by considering a generator with an internal stator. In his work, Oleksandr compared the internal stator generator to the generator with an outer stator and found that the internal stator offers not only higher power to volume ratio but also allows in a simple way to put together both the generator and wind turbine as one common aggregate. He concluded by offering various construction options for the generators with an internal stator.

Bora Karayaka, in a presentation entitled “The Development of a Rotational Wave Energy Conversion System: Design and Simulations”, presented a new proposed mechanism for harnessing the potential energy of open ocean waves and the procedures of efficiently converting this energy into electricity. Unlike many of the already proposed designs that utilize linear generators, Bora explained, this new work exposes some light on the idea of rotational conversion using ocean waves to make use of most-readily available generators. Bora provided a new design for a simple buoy, piston, connecting rod and flywheel system fixed to a platform elevated from the sea level and simulated to track the wave surface for converting the linear motion into rotational motion, which will eventually turn the generator. Bora showed in the presentation that the results of the analysis are validated with experimental data collected from a laboratory wave generator and shed light on future work which would eventually include simulated model validation and analysis with actual ocean wave data.

In Stephen Frank’s presentation entitled “Extracting Operating Modes from Building Electrical Load Data,” he explained that the development of green technology, the use of renewable energy sources and reduction of energy use through efficiency improvements go hand in hand. He showed how Miscellaneous Electrical Loads (MELs) now consume over 30% of all energy used in modern buildings, making them an opportune target for energy savings. The MELs category encompasses most plug loads, including the rapidly expanding variety of electronic devices used by our society. Unfortunately, according to Stephen, little is known about the energy performance of MELs in real-world environments. Stephen showed new work by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is working to analyze and model MELs in order to identify energy savings opportunities. His own work describes an automated method for identifying the operating states of MELs--such as On, Standby, or Off--using measured load data. He shows how once such states are identified, they can be quantified, analyzed, and used to develop load models for specific devices. He concluded that the models, in turn, enhance our understanding of how MELs use energy and help identify energy saving opportunities.

Julien Nou, in her presentation entitled “Solar Thermal and Geothermal Hybrid Process,” she delivered a compelling message on a project combining solar and geothermal energies used for heating an individual home located in a mountainous region of southern France (Saint-Pierre Dels Forcats town). The objective of the project was to develop a control on the global system to realize financial and energy savings (thermal and electric). She presented the data acquisition system developed by the PROMES laboratory to establish the study of the process and the energy analysis. In this energy analysis Julien focused on the thermal powers (injected, extracted), the electrical power of the heat pump and its Coefficient of Performance (COP). Furthermore, Julien presented the modeling of the process (particularly the thermal solar collectors and the heat pump) by describing the methodologies used. Lastly, Julien explained the control strategy, the methodology and the parameters selected to control optimally the energy storage in the subsoil and to minimize the power consumption related to the process operation.

As is evident from the diversity and complexity of the work discussed above, the third annual IEEE Green Technologies Conference provided a superb venue for the delivery of knowledge on new, clean, green, and cutting edge technologies, methods to overcome challenges, and approaches to expand these new and promising industries.

In addition to the article you’re reading right now, the next edition of IEEE-USA in Action will feature an article covering some additional components of the conference, including the IEEE Region 5 Business Meeting and the IEEE Region 5 Robotics Competition. Keep an eye out for that article next month.

The fourth annual IEEE Green Technologies Conference will be held April 19-22, 2012 in Tulsa Oklahoma. Information on paper submissions can be found here. The Green Technologies Conference has proven successful year-after-year and next year is sure to be a compelling event. Through IEEE events like this, IEEE members from around the globe can band together, share ideas, and make a real difference in the development of new technologies and entire industries. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference—see you in Tulsa!



Dr. Patrick E. Meyer is Principal at Meyer Energy Research Consulting in Washington, DC, and has provided consulting services for IEEE-USA’s Energy Policy Committee, the IEEE New Technology Connections Portal, and the IEEE Smart Grid Portal. Holding a Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware, Meyer specializes in alternative energy, electricity, and fuel technology policy analysis; global sustainable energy systems; and energy and environmental systems modeling and analysis. Meyer is a member of IEEE and the IEEE-USA Communications Committee, and is IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer Energy, Environment & Sustainability Editor. Since January, Meyer has been serving on Capitol Hill as the 2011 IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow.

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