Why IBM Research And Airlight Energy's High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System Is Perfect For Ghana
By Kofi Thompson
"I have always been driven to solve every problem I face."
- Martin Winterkorn.
It is such a pity that as a nation we seldom pay much attention to
what our research institutions do - and hardly ever provide them with
the needed resources to enable them carry out cutting-edge research,
which could be commercialised by private sector businesses: and
contribute to Ghana's GDP.
Years ago, when it was first announced that U.S.$20 million had been
set aside to celebrate the golden jubilee 50th Independence Day
anniversary, I wrote an article suggesting that it would benefit the
nation more, if the government of President Kufuor gave all the money
set aside for the celebrations, to the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research (CSIR), to fund research work carried out by its
various research institutes.
What a difference to our nation's long-term prospects that would have
made, if the then government had heeded that humble advice.
It is a pity that Ghanaian politicians are such a hard-of-hearing lot
- and that most of them act only if it will benefit them personally.
If only the billions of cedis that was fritted away - on frivolous
undertakings, such as ordering dozens of luxury vehicles, and
enriching a powerful and well-connected few, through public-purse
pre-financing of the construction of luxury homes for sale by private
developers - had been ploughed into research, as some of us suggested,
what a difference that would have made to the fortunes of our country,
And if today we are still unable to resource Ghana's research
institutions properly because we are cash-strapped, should we not do
some creative thinking instead - and obtain the problem-solving
outcomes we seek, by getting our research institutions to collaborate
with some of the leading research institutions in the world?
For example, as a result of global climate change, compounded by the
destructive activities of illegal loggers, illegal gold miners and
illegal sand-winners, our major river systems are drying up.
That should drive the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), to seek a
new business model underpinned by energy independence, and which is
less dependent on river systems to fill its treatment plants'
Such a business model, should also be devoid of the expense involved
in purchasing vast quantities of chemicals that the GWCL currently
uses to purify water sourced from increasingly polluted rivers - that
frequently dry up because of prolonged dry spells during harmattan
seasons: resulting from the extremes in weather brought about by
global climate change.
That new GWCL business model should be one that focuses on developing
its capacity for implementing small and large-scale solar
At a time when global climate change is impacting Ghana so negatively,
relying solely on its traditional production methods, will not enable
the GWCL to supply water in sufficient quantities and fulfil its
As we speak, the latest town in Ghana to experience an acute shortage
of treated water, resulting from the drying up of a GWCL treatment
plant's reservoir, is Nsawam.
The major river passing through that town - which is famed for its
bread-making industry's prowess - the Densu River, has shrunk to such
an extent that water from it cannot replenish the reservoir of the
GWCL's brand new treatment plant at Nsawam - a facility built with
tens of millions of dollars of borrowed money.
Global climate change has also led to a decrease in stored water
volumes in Ghana's hydro-power dams - lowering water levels to such
an extent that all the nation's hydro-power plants operate far below
capacity during dry seasons.
Again, some of us predicted that scenario years ago - and suggested in
countless articles that instead of building a hydro-power plant that
would never function at full capacity because of low dam water levels,
the Kufuor administration should rather use the money to build a
thermal power plant instead. It was ignored, sadly. Pity.
Above all, there is also a desperate need to increase the share of
renewable energy in our nation's power-generation mix.
We could solve many of the problems enumerated above, creatively, by
simply getting the relevant research institutes of the CSIR, as well
as the Volta River Authority (VRA), the GWCL and the Kwame Nkrumah
University of Science and Technology (KNUST), to collaborate with IBM
Research and Airlight Energy's Dsolar, both of which would welcome
such collaboration, I am sure.
After all, Ghana would become the proving ground for the Sunflower
High Concentration PhotoVoltiac Thermal (HCPVT) system, would it not?
Such collaboration will enable Ghana to adopt the Sunflower HCPVT
system, to power the sustainable development of marginalised
communities across the country.
It is the perfect solution to the vexing problem of dumsor power
outages - for it will give off-grid energy independence to countless
rural communities, hospitals, educational institutions, hotels, sundry
businesses, etc., etc. - all of which could also get free
air-conditioning from what is a renewable energy source.
For the benefit of readers, I have culled an article from the IBM
Research website, about the IBM Research and Airlight Energy
Sunflower High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal system, that in my
humble view, our nation would be prudent to adopt - to provide
off-grid renewable power for the sustainable development of rural
Speaking personally, if all my family's farms had one Sunflower HCPVT
system each, for example, I know the difference that having water for
drip-irrigation year round would make to their production levels - as
post-harvest losses would be completely eliminated if we built
mini-warehouses, to store harvested produce: into which cooled air
could be channelled. Brilliant.
Finally, the Sunflower HCPVT system could also provide solar-powered
air-conditioning for countless buildings in towns and cities across
Ghana too. Perfect.
This is just the sort of innovative, high-impact project that Ghana's
first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, favoured. He would
doubtless have approached IBM Research and Airlight Energy, were he
to be in power today, and asked them to replicate it in Ghana, in
collaboration with the CSIR's relevant research institutes.
One therefore hopes that the presidential candidate of today's
Convention People's Party (CPP), Ivor Greenstreet, will promise to do
so too, should he become President in January 2017 - as he campaigns
for this November's presidential election across the nation.
Please read on:
"Airlight Energy brings solar electricity and heat to remote locations
System concentrates the sun's radiation 2,000 times using water-cooled
English | Italian | German | Japanese
Biasca, 24 September 2014—Airlight Energy, a Swiss-based supplier of
solar power technology has partnered with IBM Research to bring
affordable solar technology to the market by 2017. The system can
concentrate the sun’s radiation 2,000 times and convert 80 percent of
it into useful energy to generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and
20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day—enough to power several average
High-tech sunflowerThe High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT)
system, which resembles a 10-meter-high sunflower a 40-square-meter
parabolic dish made of patented fiber-based concrete, which can be
molded into nearly any shape in less than four hours and has
mechanical characteristics similar to those of aluminum at one-fifth
The inside of the parabolic dish is covered with 36 elliptic mirrors
made of 0.2-millimeter-thin recyclable plastic foil with a silver
coating, slightly thicker than the wrapper chocolate bars are packaged
in, which are then curved using a slight vacuum. The mirrored surface
area concentrates the sun’s radiation by reflecting it onto several
microchannel liquid-cooled receivers, each of which is populated with
a dense array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips—each 1×1-cm2 chip
produces an electrical power of up to 57 watts on a typical sunny day.
The mirrors and the receiver are encased with a large inflated
transparent plastic enclosure to protect them from rain or dust. The
enclosure also prevents birds and other animals from getting in harm's
The photovoltaic chips, similar to those used on orbiting satellites,
are mounted on micro-structured layers that pipe treated water within
fractions of millimeters of the chip to absorb the heat and draw it
away 10 times more effectively than with passive air cooling. The
85-90 Celsius (°C) (183-194 Fahrenheit (°F)) hot water maintains the
chips at safe operating temperatures of 105 °C (221 °F), which
otherwise would reach over 1,500 °C (2,732 °F). The entire system sits
on an advanced sun tracking system, which positions the dish at the
best angle throughout the day to capture the sun's rays.
The direct hot-water cooling design with very small pumping power has
already been made commercially available by IBM in its
high-performance computers, including SuperMUC, Europe’s fastest
supercomputer in 2012.
“The direct cooling technology with very small pumping power used to
cool the photovoltaic chips with water is inspired by the hierarchical
branched blood supply system of the human body,” said Dr. Bruno
Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.
An initial demonstrator of the multi-chip solar receiver was developed
in a previous collaboration between IBM and the Egypt Nanotechnology
With such a high concentration and based on its radical design,
researchers believe that with high-volume production they can achieve
a cost of two to three times lower than comparable systems.
Airlight Energy has spun off a new company called Dsolar (dish solar)
to market, license and sell the HCPVT system globally. Dsolar has
licensed several patents from IBM in the area of hot-water chip
“With the HCPVT we are ushering in a new generation of solar energy
technology,” said Dr. Gianluca Ambrosetti, Head of Research, Airlight
Energy with responsibilities for building the new spinoff. “Not only
is the system affordable, but it will create jobs where it is
installed because many of the materials will be sourced locally. We
expect to partner with firms around the world to bring a commercial
version to market by 2017.”
Based on its current design, scientists estimate that the operating
lifetime for the HCPVT structure is up to 60 years with proper
maintenance. The protective foil and the plastic elliptic mirrors will
need to be replaced every 10–15 years depending on the environment,
and the photovoltaic cells need replacing every 25 years. Throughout
its lifetime the system will benefit from design and manufacturing
improvements, allowing for an even greater system efficiency.
The HCPVT system can also be customized with further equipment to
provide drinkable water and air conditioning from its hot water
output. For example, salt water can pass through a porous membrane
distillation system, where it is vaporized and desalinated. Such a
system could provide 30–40 liters of drinkable water per square meter
of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a
more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatt hours per day—a little less
than half the amount of water the average person needs per day
according to the United Nations, whereas a large multi-dish
installation could provide enough water for a town.
By means of a thermally driven sorption chiller, cool air can also be
produced. A sorption chiller is a device that converts heat into
cooling via a thermal cycle applied to a liquid or solid sorption
material. Adsorption chillers, with solid silica gel adsorbers and
with water as a working fluid, can replace compression chillers, which
place a burden on electrical grids in hot climates and contain working
fluids that are harmful to the ozone layer. Although absorption
(liquid sorption) systems are already available for combination with
the HCPVT system, they provide less cooling output compared to
low-temperature driving heat for the adsorption (solid sorption)
systems under development at IBM. The systems can also be customized
with a transparent back for urban installations.
Initial HCPVT systems will be made available with non-optimized
predecessor distillation and sorption cooling systems. Systems with
optimized desalination and sorption cooling technologies require an
additional two to three years of development with additional partner
Airlight Energy and the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) will team up
to donate a High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system to
two deserving communities. Each winning community will receive a
prototype HCPVT system from Airlight Energy, and be eligible for pro
bono enablement and transformation support from IBM Corporate Service
Corps. Applications from communities will be open in 2015 and the
winners will be announced in December 2015, with installations
beginning in late 2016.
Scientists at Airlight and IBM envision the HCPVT system providing
sustainable energy to locations around the world including southern
Europe, Africa, the Arabian peninsula, the southwestern part of North
America, South America, Japan and Australia. In addition to
residences, additional applications include remote hospitals, medical
facilities, hotels and resorts, shopping centers and locations where
available land is at a premium.
Some of the initial funding for the development of the HCPVT system
was provided to IBM Research, Airlight Energy, ETH Zurich and the
Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs NTB in a three-year
grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation.
Join the conversation with scientists on Twitter @IBMResearch,
@AirlightEnergy, #HCPVT, #dsolar and #bmiBruno.
About AIRLIGHT ENERGY
AIRLIGHT ENERGY is a private Swiss company based in Biasca that
supplies proprietary technology for large-scale production of
electricity using solar power and for energy storage. AIRLIGHT ENERGY
has developed an innovative and complete solution for the markets of
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)."
End of culled article from the IBM Research website.
Where Can One Locate Outlets In Ghana For Fresh Organic Agricultural
Produce And Processed Organic Food Products?
By Kofi Thompson
Over the years, there has been growing awareness in Ghana, of the
health benefits of eating fresh organic agricultural produce, and
consuming processed organic food products.
It is a healthy-lifestyle awareness transformation in society that is
to be applauded.
The problem, however, for many would-be buyers of organic agricultural
produce, and consumers of processed organic food products, is to
locate retail outlets where they can be purchased.
Perhaps some of the leading organisations in Ghana, which champion the
production and consumption of wholesome food in Ghana, such as Food
Sovereignty Ghana, can help in that direction - by publicising outlets
in Ghana for the sale of organic agricultural produce that they are
In that regard, one looks forward to the day when the planned
Ghana4Agroecology platform finally comes into being.
As this blog's widow's mite contribution to the awareness-creation
effort, the contact details of a few outlets for organic agricultural
produce in Ghana, which they can patronise, is published below, for
the benefit of the consuming public.
For those hotels and restaurants that provide their clients with
fresh-pressed orange juice, and would prefer to use organic oranges
they purchase themselves, BioTropic Farms, has just set up a sales
outlet in the Gallilea market, which is on the left side just off the
Mallam-Kasoa highway, after the Brigade area, as one heads towards
Kasoa from the toll booth.
Individuals, hotels, restaurants and other buyers interested in
purchasing BioTropic Farms' organic oranges, can speak to a BioTropic
Farms representative by telephone on: 0202533013.
And those who are keen to buy any of the following organic products:
organic baobab powder; organic baobab seed oil; organic moringa leaf
powder; organic moringa seeds and organic shea butter, can contact a
representative of Cynbeth, which works with women's groups in the
north, by telephone on: 0209420005.
A weekly pop-up market is held in Cape Coast on Fridays, opposite the
Adisadel College post office, where some organic farmers go to sell
It is worth patronising - and could be the perfect excuse for a
fun-filled family weekend trip to Cape Coast, to stock up on fresh
organic fruits and vegetables, and also visit some of the tourist
sites in Elmina and Cape Coast, for adventure-loving and
health-conscious families that live in Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi.