Hot news in cleantech: Mud-carpet power, PV RV, solar umbrella

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Rug mimics ‘mud hole’ to harvest ocean energy; solar-powered camper van; and a solar-powered, smart-phone charging, LED-fitted umbrella.

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Mud + rug = energy. Sounds unlikely, but a current study at the University of California is exploring how a rug-like device would mimic the ability of muddy sea floors to absorb energy from ocean waves, and then convert that energy into electricity. CleanTechnica‘s Tina Casey writes that UC-Berkeley researcher Mohammad-Reza Alam’s version of the intriguing natural phenomenon involves an elastic “carpet” resting on springs and rippling with the gravitational force of waves overhead, while also interacting with mud on the sea floor – movement that would be transferred to generators. In a recently published abstract detailing the results of his studies, Alam describes his “carpet of wave energy conversion” as a “synthetic seabed” – although it would not necessarily rest on the sea floor. So far, however, Alam’s carpet concept has only made it to the computer modeling stage. Further development is needed to work out the optimal height and placement for the structure that would anchor it to the seabed, and to set environmental impact parameters.

As Casey points out, Alam and his team are not the only ones exploring the murky depths of the ocean for alternate, clean power resources. Fittingly, the US Navy is helping to fund another approach, developed by Texas-based engineering firm KBSI – the Wave Carpet. Designed to float, this device could also serve the dual purpose of generating energy while creating relatively calm areas in ocean waters. KBSI sees it being used to created buffer zones around aquaculture sites or around other ocean power generating equipment, such as ocean thermal energy conversion stations.


From the ocean floor to the open road, some good news for camping enthusiasts – an RV that’s designed to generate it’s own power. EarthTechling reports that this latest offering from Tiger Adventure Vehicles, the Siberian Tiger, comes complete with a 200W rooftop solar system, which is designed to charge the vehicle’s 300 amp-hour AGM batteries during off-grid adventures – or just whenever you like, really. As the name would suggest, the Siberian Tiger is designed for full-on off-road adventures; built on the back of a Ford F450 Crew Cab with a diesel powerstroke engine. But beneath its tough exterior – it’s built entirely of aluminum – it features various other important energy-saving and comfort-promoting features. Such as: insulation in all exterior cavities (for climate control and to avoid the dreaded freezing of water tanks); VOC-free bamboo cabinetry that’s mounted in aluminum framing and integrated into the structure of the body itself; insulated (with a denim-based, VOC-free material) floor, ceiling, and wall; LED lighting inside and out; and a king-sized bed.

Solar parasol

In keeping with the camping theme, EarthTechling featured another interesting outdoorsy solar innovation this week – the Booster Brolly hybrid umbrella concept by Vodafone. Created in partnership with University College London, the umbrella features a series of flexible solar panels stitched into the canopy, thus offering shade from the harsh summer sun (or the rain, cos we all now know solar still works in cloudy conditions), and power, for smartphones and the like. In full sunlight, the solar panels charge a battery that’s embedded in the handle. The energy generated is accessed through a USB port, which is also located in the handle, AND is also used to power a micro-antenna, to boost a smart phone’s 3G signal wirelessly.

“The antenna concealed at the top of the umbrella’s central pole uses the same solar power source to obtain a low strength network signal,” said Dr Kenneth Tong PhD, Lecturer in Electronic & Electrical Engineering at UCL. ”The built-in low noise booster then amplifies this signal, within a 1-metre radius of the canopy, allowing smartphone users around the Booster Brolly to make and receive calls, exchange text messages and even browse the Internet with maximum signal strength.” But wait, there’s more: The Booster Brolly also packs an LED flashlight for night time navigation AND a ‘hands free’ smart phone cradle. Fittingly, this super solar umbrella is due to be road-tested at the UK’s Isle of Wight festival on Friday. If all goes well, the plan is for it to become commercially available very soon, says CleanTechnica.

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  1. David Rossiter 8 years ago

    The PV RV “comes complete with a 200W rooftop solar system, which is designed to charge the vehicle’s 300 amp-hour AGM batteries during off-grid adventures”. Sounds like this is power the RV whilst it is moving.

    This is not newsworthy – dozens of on road and off road, on grid or not, RVs in Australia have similar or bigger systems.

    These systems help to supplement power once static – a 200W PV panel might provide an average of 0.8 of a KWh of energy a day in Australia.

    If no energy was being used the 300Ah battery would take 4 or 5 days to charge the battery – or it could constantly run a 60W bulb 12 hours a day.

    A 200W PV panel wouldn’t even keep up with the fridge let alone air conditioning while parked.

    And it would certainly not run an RV on its off-grid adventures – especially as it is diesel/gas powered.

  2. Mike Straub 8 years ago

    I guess it’s great news for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) when industries are already lining up ways to make money, and energy, along side of an OTEC operation. OTEC is really gaining a lot of momentum around the world. People living in warm, coastal regions are realizing it’s one of the only renewables that truly provides base-load power. Plus, the only byproduct of an OTEC system is millions of gallons of clean drinking water. So OTEC means an endless supply of locally produced, affordable clean power, and a life giving clean water source. Now other energy sources want to be built right along side? No wonder countries all around the world are starting to push for OTEC.

    To see how it works for yourself check out the On Project.

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