Vehicle-to-Grid Made Easy

As electric cars continue to see increased adoption, one associated technology that was touted long ago that still hasn’t seen widespread adoption is vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-home. Since most cars are parked most of the time, this would allow the cars to perform load-levelling for the grid or even act as emergency generators on an individual basis when needed. While this hasn’t panned out for a variety of reasons, it is still possible to use an EV battery for use off-grid or as part of a grid tie solar system, and now you can do it without needing to disassemble the battery packs at all.

Normally when attempting to use a scrapped EV battery for another use, the cells would be removed from the OEM pack and reorganized to a specific voltage. This build, however, eliminates the need to modify the packs at all. A LilyGO ESP32 is used to convert the CAN bus messages from the battery pack to the Modbus communications protocol used by the inverters, in this case a Fronius Gen24, so the inverter and battery can coordinate energy delivery from one to the other automatically. With the hard part out of the way, the only other requirements are to connect a high voltage DC cable from the battery pack to the inverter.

[Dala], the creator of this project, has taken other steps to ensure safety as well that we’d recommend anyone attempting to recreate this build pays close attention to, as these battery packs contain an extremely large amount of energy. The system itself supports battery packs from Nissan Leafs as well as the Tesla Model 3, which can usually be found for comparably low prices. Building battery energy storage systems to make up for the lack of commercially-available vehicle-to-home systems isn’t the only use for an old EV battery, though. For example, it’s possible to use Leaf batteries to triple the range of other EVs like [Muxsan] did with this Nissan van.

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A pinwheel sits in an aquarium to simulate an offshore wind turbine. Bubbles come up from the "seabed" to encircle it to demonstrate a bubble curtain with an image of a sound waveform overlaid with the video to show the sound confined to the area within the bubble curtain.

Keeping The Noise Down Under The Sea

Since sound is the primary sense used by most ocean life, disruptions to the natural noise levels in the ocean from human activities can be particularly problematic for marine life. [DW Planet A] has a video describing some of the ways we can mitigate these disruptions to our friends under the sea.

Being noisy neighbors isn’t just a problem for whales but for everything down to the plankton at the base of the food web. Underwater construction like offshore wind installations get flak for being noisy, but technologies like bubble curtains can reduce noise output by up to 90% to the surrounding waters while still getting those nice low carbon energy benefits that prevent further ocean acidification and warming. Continue reading “Keeping The Noise Down Under The Sea”

Passively Generating Power Day And Night Takes The Right Parts

A thermoelectric generator (TEG) can turn a temperature difference into electricity, and while temperature differentials abound in our environment, it’s been difficult to harness them into practical and stable sources of power. But researchers in China have succeeded in creating a TEG that can passively and continuously generate power, even across shifting environmental conditions. It’s not a lot of power, but that it’s continuous is significant, and it could be enough for remote sensors or similar devices.

Historically, passive TEGs have used ambient air as the “hot” side and some form of high-emissivity heat sink — usually involving exotic materials and processes — as the “cold” side. These devices work, but fail to reliably produce uninterrupted voltage because shifting environmental conditions have too great of an effect on how well the radiative cooling emitter (RCE) can function.

The black disk (UBSA) heats the bottom while the grey square (RCE) radiates heat away, ensuring a workable temperature differential across a variety of conditions.

Here is what has changed: since a TEG works on temperature difference between the hot and cold sides, researchers improved performance by attaching an ultra-broadband solar absorber (UBSA) to the hot side, and an RCE to the cold side. The UBSA is very good at absorbing radiation (like sunlight) and turning it into heat, and the RCE is very good at radiating heat away. Together, this ensures enough of temperature difference for the TEG to function in bright sunlight, cloudy sunlight, clear nighttime, and everything in between.

As mentioned, it’s not a lot of power (we’re talking millivolts) but the ability to passively and constantly produce across shifting environmental conditions is something new. And as a bonus, the researchers even found a novel way to create both UBSA and RCE using non-exotic materials and processes. The research paper with additional details is available here.

The ability to deliver uninterrupted power — even in tiny amounts — is a compelling goal. A few years ago we encountered a (much larger) device from a team at MIT that also aimed to turn environmental temperature fluctuations into a trickle of constant power. Their “Thermal Resonator” worked by storing heat in phase-change materials that would slowly move heat across a TEG, effectively generating continuously by stretching temperature changes out over time.

The World’s First Agricultural Right To Repair Law

Long time readers will know that occasionally we mix up our usual subject matter with a dash of farm equipment. Usually the yellow and green variants that come from John Deere, as the agricultural manufacturer has become the poster child for all that is wrong in the fight for the right to repair. An old Deere is worth more than a nearly new one in many places, because for several years now their models have had all their parts locked down by DRM technologies such that only their own fitters can replace them. Now after a long legal fight involving many parties, the repair and parts company iFixit sound justifiably pleased as they announce the world’s first agricultural right to repair law being passed in the US state of Colorado. (Nitter)

This may sound like a small victory, and it will no doubt be followed by further rearguard actions from the industry as similar laws are tabled in other states. But in fact as we read it, with this law in place the game is de facto up for the tractor makers. Once they are required to release any access codes for the Coloradans those same codes will by extension be available to any other farmers, and though we’re guessing they won’t do this, they would be best advised to give up on the whole DRM idea and concentrate instead on making better tractors to fix their by-now-damaged brands.

It’s exciting news for everybody as it proves that right-to-repair legislation is possible, however since this applies only to agricultural machinery the battle is by no means over. Only when all machines and devices have the same protection can we truly be said to have achieved the right to repair.

We’ve reported on this story for a long time, here’s a previous piece of legislation tried in another state.

Making Hydrogen With Solar Energy, With Oxygen And Heat A Bonus

Hydrogen is a useful gas. Whether you want to float an airship, fuel a truck, or heat an industrial process, hydrogen can do the job. However, producing it is currently a fraught issue. While it can be produced cleanly using renewable energy, it’s often much cheaper to split it out of hydrocarbon fuels using processes that generate significant pollution.

There are methods to generate hydrogen more efficiently, though, in a clean and sustainable process. that also produces useful heat and oxygen as byproducts. The key to the process? Concentrated sunshine.
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Smoke Some Weeds: Lasers Could Make Herbicide Obsolete

We’ve all tangled with unwelcome plant life at one point or another. Whether crabgrass infested your lawn, or you were put on weeding duty in your grandfather’s rose patch, you’ll know they’re a pain to remove, and a pain to prevent. For farmers, just imagine the same problem, but scaled up to cover thousands of acres.

Dealing with weeds typically involves harsh chemicals or excessive manual labor. Lasers could prove to be a new tool in the fight against this scourge, however, as covered by the BBC.

Continue reading “Smoke Some Weeds: Lasers Could Make Herbicide Obsolete”

A black and white image of the Sun and Earth with a series of lines radiating out from the sun and bisecting rings circumscribed around it. On the Earth are three dots with the text "Active Server" on one exposed to the Sun and two dots representing "Inactive Server"s on the dark side.

Solar Protocol Envisions A Solar-Powered Web

The transition to low carbon energy is an important part of mitigating climate change, and the faster we can manage, the better. One project looking at how we could reduce the energy requirements of the web to more quickly adopt renewable energy is Solar Protocol.

Instead of routing requests to the fastest server when a user pulls up a website, Solar Protocol routes the request to the server currently generating the greatest amount of solar power. Once a user is on a website, the experience is energy-responsive. Website style and image resolution can range based on the power left in the active server’s batteries, including an image free low power mode.

Another benefit to the project’s energy efficiency approach is a focus on only the essential parts of a page and not any of the tracking or other privacy-endangering superfluous features present on many other websites. They go into much more depth in the Solar Protocol Manifesto. As a community project, Solar Protocol is still looking for more stewards since the network can go down if an insufficient number of servers are generating electricity.

For more details on the project that inspired Solar Protocol, check out this low-tech website.