Recent Projects: Energy

An Individual Energy Metering Pilot Study

Team: Rodrigo Amboss, Natasha Herring, Noah Lynd
Sponsor: Christopher Levey
Advisor: Mark Franklin

The goal of this project is to prove viability of an individual energy-metering program at Thayer School. Thayer School's current energy usage monitoring provides no feedback to individuals, and energy users may feel their everyday usage habits do not effect overall consumption at the school. Our deliverables include the installation of meters into faculty and staff offices, recommendations designed to decrease energy usage, and an analysis on the impact of these recommendations; an easy and simple user interface; an economic analysis of a larger-scale individual metering program; and recommendations for scale-up and necessary work to make this happen. We installed and successfully collected data for nine meters and provided recommendations to users on how to reduce consumption. We analyzed pre- and post-recommendation data to determine the impact of metering and measures taken to reduce consumption, compiled data to show users their individual use relative to their peers, developed a user interface to make accessing trends and recommendations easy for the user, and performed an economic analysis of a larger-scale metering program.

Automated Cleaning Of Mirrors On A Suspension Heliostat

Team: Thomas Balch, Ben Blier, Alyson Pickett, Callen Votzke
Sponsor: Solaflect Energy
Advisor: Minh Phan

Heliostat Cleaner Solaflect Energy has designed a novel heliostat (a mirror array used in solar-thermal power) that supports the component mirrors with cables in suspension rather than using a steel truss. The current method for cleaning a suspension heliostat is by hand. Solaflect asked us to develop a proof-of-concept automated cleaning system that can navigate and clean mirrors without damaging support cables. We built a robot that can drive along a row of mirrors and navigate around poles placed where cables attach. The robot also can scrub and clean mirrors as effectively as cleaning by hand in 1/15th the time. Using our custom reflectance sensor, we showed that the robot substantially improves the reflectiveness of the mirror panels after only a single pass.

New Receiver Development For Concentrating Solar Power

Team: Utkarsh Agarwal, Jeremy Brouillet, Michelle Burns, Emil Cashin, Chloe Ruiz-Funes, Scott Snyder
Sponsor: Norwich Technologies
Advisor: Jifeng Lui

New Receiver Development For Concentrating Solar Power
Image: SkyFuel Inc./U.S. Department of Energy

Concentrating solar power (CSP) is a promising renewable energy alternative. Parabolic trough technology works by reflecting sunlight from large, parabolic mirrors to a focal line, where a receiver tube absorbs the energy and transmits it via a heat transfer fluid for use in a power cycle or industrial process. Parabolic trough CSP, however, cannot compete in levelized cost of energy with conventional energy technologies due in part to shortcomings in the efficiency and reliability of current CSP receivers. Our sponsor received a grant from the Department of Energy to design a superior receiver for parabolic trough CSP that enables higher heat capture efficiency, operation at higher temperatures, and cost reductions. Working with local engineering firms Creare and ANSYS and our sponsors, we developed a set of new high-performance receiver designs, sought out suitable materials for use in a demanding high-temperature system, and predicted receiver efficiency with optical and thermal modeling.

Processing And Storage Of Algal Biofuels

Team: Rebecca Backer, Jorge Bahena, W. Robinson Culver, Jennifer Dyment
Sponsor: Dartmouth Organic Farm
Advisor: Mark Laser

Processing and Storage of Algal Biofuels The Dartmouth Organic Farm (DOF) has unique access to an on-site algal cultivation-harvesting system: a small algae raceway that could be used to produce biofuel for the farm's motorized equipment. Algal biofuels, which do not require arable land or fresh water, have the potential to replace petroleum-based liquid transportation fuels. Scott Stokoe, the manager at the DOF, requested a concept study to assess the sustainability and economic feasibility of an educational algal biofuel production system tailored specifically for the DOF. After rigorous testing, we recommended a biofuel system that cultivates Scenedesmus obliquus in a raceway with hydroponic media, harvests the algae cells using sedimentation, breaks the cell walls with salt lysis to release oils, and uses the end-product, algal oil, in a modified diesel engine. Having looked at potential algae productivity as well as the energy inputs and outputs on a monthly basis, we found that DOF's biofuel production system would not be economically feasible at any time of the year (although it could be utilized as an educational tool). This is primarily due to the raceway's large energy input and could be remedied with the construction of a larger, more efficient raceway.

Scanning Doppler LIDAR For Wind Turbine Optimization

Team: Samuel Grant, Sarah Jewett, Tianshun Miao, Russell Primeau, Nicholas Wimer
Sponsor: Optra Inc.
Advisor: Stuart Trembly

Scanning Doppler Lidar For Wind Turbine Optimization Fluctuations in wind can subject wind turbines to extreme mechanical loading. Remote sensing technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) are currently used to measure average incoming wind velocities and relay them to feed-forward control systems that actuate turbine yaw and blade pitch to best make use of incoming wind while mitigating harmful stress loading. Our sponsor wanted us to investigate the merits of a scanning LIDAR system that utilizes their proprietary beam-steering device linked with a LIDAR unit and produce a value proposition to demonstrate the potential value of the spatially resolved measurements the system would produce. We produced a conceptual design of the system, ran a multi-step simulation, and provided an economic analysis.