June 13, 2021

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How to integrate renewables with a high-rise building


One Regenerative Energy Concept.

Application Area : A High Rise Building

A builder mentions a number of features in his up-coming building project. The most important features which a modern day buyer will look for would be Technology related. These could be —

  • Availability of Electric Power at Rs 3 a unit without any pollution (prevailing market tariff Rs 7 a unit)
  • Availability of clean potable water
  • Optional – Make the building fully or partly centrally Air conditioned.

The builder then has enough ammo to lure the scrupulous buyer. Besides, it sets up an example for others.
Achievable. Doable.
The only need is to tap the vast resources that Nature has provided.
The underlying principle is : “Optimum Utilisation and Regeneration”.
The costs involved are only that during the fabrication and installation. This gets clubbed with the actual cost of the building, and enhances the asset value.
The operating costs are nearly NIL, as no fuel is needed. No consumables, and the equipment has very long life. Only maintenance and supervision will be needed.

Flow of Energy. It is just the interface between human need and what nature can provide. In this regenerative energy concept, the twin property of air is attempted to be used. These properties are pneumatic and the fact that air is consumable.
Air has power. That is, air is capable to do work. Because air is compressible.
Air itself is consumable. Air supports life.
Human need is centered around electric power. A compressed air engine driven alternator does it.
Humans need air for daily consumption; ‘conditioned air’ to be precise. That is zero pollutants, oxygen rich, and favorable temperature, humidity and flow.
All these necessities can be fulfilled by suitably tapping the energy sources available easily. These are solar (photo-voltaic and thermal), wind, hydel and geo thermal. The final output is an hybrid of all such available natural resources.
As per the Laws of thermodynamics, a heat engine works best when there is sufficient difference (T2-T1) in the temperatures of the source and sink. Herein lies the significance of the ”sink” shown here with infinite capacity. Attempt is being made to make full use of geothermal and solar thermal energies.

Energy from The Wind. The vertical axis wind turbine can run irrespective of the direction of the incoming wind. It is mounted on the top of the building to receive uninterrupted wind. The shaft axis stays vertical. Through a reduction gear mechanism, high torque can be obtained. This torque is used to run the compressor turbine. Speed although is slow, but the running can be continuous; at times very fast depending upon the prevailing weather – calm or stormy. The energy so obtained is collected and stored to be capitalised later, as and when needed.

Hydel Energy Capture. In any high rise building, water after consumption runs down the height of the building through carefully designed pipes. Overhead water tanks overflow. All such water is passed through a pelton type wheel which in turn runs the air compressor through a reduction gear. In this way, energy is stored in the form of compressed air. It comes from water running down the building. It is indeed a source of energy which, by nature, is largely intermittent throughout the day. Nonetheless, it is a power source which should be tapped by all means. Why not? Further, one is bound to consider rain water harvesting. There is indeed a provision to collect rain water during the season at the top most level of the building. Collect and drain. While draining, let it pass through the pelton wheel and give up some of its potential energy. That stored energy can be regulated and utilised as and when required.

Electricity Generation. It is the traditional 3 ph brushless alternator the capacity being determined by the system requirement. The prime mover is an expansion air turbine, or a piston engine running on compressed air. The speed of it be fixed. Regulation of alternator output may not be needed. The cooling of the alternator is achieved through a tapping of cold air from the output of the expander turbine which is extremely cold. Keeping the alternator cool in this way contributes to its higher efficiency. Iron and copper losses are kept to a minimum. The outgoing hot air is again routed to any of the inlets of the air compressor.

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