Category Archives: SonSolar

Experiences with Future Energy Issues as Project. Topics for Upper Grade Students-A Case Study

Birgit Brinkmann

Gymnasium Birkenfeld, Germany

Address for Contact:

Prof. Dr. Klaus Brinkmann
Umwelt-Campus Birkenfeld
Automation and Energy System Technology
P. O. Box 1380, D-55761 Birkenfeld/Germany
E-Mail: birgit. brinkmann@math-edu. de

In several federal states of Germany 11th or 12th grade students in public schools have the possibility to do a little research work. This is generally named “Facharbeit” and has to be documented in a paper. We as students may choose any topic we like for such a work. Subjects of particular interest for us as students are themes concerning our future life, the social and economical environment in which we will live. Here the problem of future energy is one of the most important ones.

In this paper I want to present my own experiences, which I made during my work. I want to present the occurring organizational difficulties, my successes and frustrations, the new insights I won. A comparison of my personal experiences with the experiences made by my student colleagues shows general common disadvantages, which lead to a list of wishes.


Looking forward to the future, the Centre for Sustainable Development has formulated a strategy for its own sustainable development. This strategy is based on inner collaboration and external networking with other institutions, members of the national and European academic community but also with representatives of the economic and social environment.

The support for developing spin off companies is another point of our future and represents an experience so far not fully exploited in Romania.

The presence of the members of the Centre in the scientific life, participators in research

and education projects — was the path for developing successful collaborations and we

intend to enlarge our partner consortium based on the existent (and developing) resources

and on the mutual interest.


1. Brundtland, G. H., UN Report, Our Common Future, 1987

2. Kaplanis, S, Visa, I., Duta, A., Renewable Energy Systems & Environment, Ed. Univ. Transilvania, 2003

3. Peake, S., The Jo’burg Summit, ReFocus, 11/12, 2002, p. 46-50

4. Sorensen, B., Meibom, P., A global renewable energy scenario, Int. J., Global Energy Issues, 13, No. 1-5, 1998

5. * * * The Romanian Strategy for Sustainable Development, Ed Nova, Bucuresti, 1999

6. Duta, A., Visa, I., Training the students for promoting renewable energy systems, in Proceedings of the 2nd Balkan Region Conference on Engineering Education, Ed. Univ. Lucian Blaga, Sibiu, 2003, p. 109 — 112

7. Visa, I., Duta, A., Exchange of Competencies on Renewable Energy Sources and Environment Management, in Proceedings of the 2nd Balkan Region Conference on Engineering Education, Ed. Univ. Lucian Blaga, Sibiu, 2003, p. 73 — 76

8. Visa, I., Duta, A., Kaplanis, S., Renewable energy sources and environmental management users-friendly ICT tools, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Solar Energy Systems, Goteborg, Sweden, 2003 (on CD)

9. Visa, I., Duta, A., Bejan, V., Renewable Energy Systems and Environment Management Development in the Transilvania University, Education for Sustainable Development, Ed. Univ. Transilvania, Brasov, 2003

Fuel consumption ratio, avoided carbon and reference standards

The cost of one ton of the fuel carbon (dioxide) avoidance by the specific technology is an important yardstick for renewable energy technology evaluation. However, there is a fundamental dilemma here: How to compute the avoided carbon amount per one kWhe that need not be generated from fossil sources. Is it by assuming, say, a 40% efficiency conversion of the fuel (heat of combustion) to electricity? Why not 30%, perhaps 55%? Any assumption will lead to a different result for the avoided carbon amount. The problem requires an agreed reference efficiency to serve as standard. In case more than one standard becomes necessary, this should be temporary and well reasoned. Full transparency of applied standard(s) (recognized or implied) is essential, with no exception.

Analysis is in place before we can answer the question. Figure 1, drawn after the diagram pattern of Geyer [2] illustrates the Fuel Consumption Ratios (FCR) for model thermal power

The relative fuel consumption (hence emissions) ratio and the green energy fraction of systems over full load hours. a 30% fuel in SEGS solar hours. a 50% fuel in SEGS solar hours.

systems of various conversion efficiencies, by the thin solid lines with varying slopes. In the figure the 60% conversion Combined Cycle (CC) is taken as a baseline standard for reference, thus having an FCR of 1 (as shown by the vertical scale on the right) when the power plant has operated for the full 8760 hours of the year (full yearly load). The 60% CC baseline seems to serve as the recommended standard reference for large power plants at sites where natural gas may be available. The CC is at present a practical, efficient power plant of available technology. Line slopes of various efficiencies are shown on the chart. For example, the 30% conversion line, which shows an FCR of 2 (the inverse efficiency-ratio with respect to the 60% standard) for the full year operation. It reflects the relative excess fuel consumption (hence emissions) of the 30% system as compared to the 60% (baseline standard). As the amount of fuel (in terms of the heat of combustion) is 1.667 kWht (per 1 kWhe electricity) for the 60% conversion, it will double to a value of 3.333 kWht for the 30% conversion. The avoided carbon in weight (ton/MWh) for each case is derived through the FCR value and the particular fuel stoichiometry (chemical compsition-based accounting). It is of significance to recognize that the avoided carbon amount per one kWhe (green electricity) output is not explicit without a clear decision on the baseline or reference standard [3]. By setting the reference standard, we can resolve the above-mentioned problem of how to compute the avoided carbon amount per one kWhe electrical energy output. Thus, environmental parameters of hybrid systems are governed by set standards.

Solar Energy Education Project for Schools

Dorota Chwieduk, R. E. Critoph2, Tony Book

1Institute of Fundamental Technological Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Swietokrzyska 21, 00049 Warsaw, dchwied@ippt. gov. pl

2 School of Engineering, University of Warwick, CV4 7AL Coventry, UK. R. E.Critoph@warwick. ac. uk

3 Riomay Ltd, 1 Birch Road, Eastbourne, BN23 6PL, UK, tonybook@pavilion. co. uk

Educational goals in scientific subjects can best be achieved if theory is backed up by demonstrations of practical applications. To achieve the aim of educating young people in solar energy, a Polish — British project “Solar Energy Educational Demonstration System for Schools — Mini Solar Laboratory" has been undertaken. The UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has supported the project. The main aims of the project are to increase the awareness of renewables in young people through the process of theoretical study and experimental work on solar energy, and to implement environmental protection through renewable energy applications.

The background of the project

A Polish — British project — Solar Energy Educational Demonstration System "Mini Solar Laboratory" for Schools has been undertaken by Polish and British partners representing science, education and business. The prime purpose was to present to young people the principles of renewables and their role in a modern industrial world. In Britain there are many different demonstration and educational projects for young people focused on energy conservation and applications of renewable energy. However, there are not so many such projects in Poland.

In Poland to promote utilisation of solar energy at schools a few active solar systems, equipped with flat plate solar collectors or PV modules have been installed. Most of these systems have been installed thanks to international co-operation and international funds. Some general information about two projects is given below.

The realisation of the first project was made possible due to the Polish — Danish bilateral co-operation and Danish financial support. A solar heating system with 80 m2 of solar collector and a 3 m3 storage tank has been installed in the primary school (nr 173) in the city centre of Lodz [1]. The solar system supplies hot water to the hot water system at the school, the heat surplus being used to warm up the water for the school swimming pool. The other solar school project was realised in Wawer near Warsaw [2]. This is a roof — mounted 1 kWp PV grid connected system (one of the first of its kind in Poland). The system consists of 20 BP Solar double-junction thin-film amorphous silicon PV modules (MST-50 MV) in universal frames. The area of the array is 16 m2The system was built as a result of Polish — American co-operation thanks to US Ecolinks Program. Both these projects are typical demonstration projects and promote the idea of solar energy through the demonstration of the modern solar energy technologies.

The main aim of our project was not only to demonstrate solar technology but also to educate young people in solar energy through a theory and practice. For a good practical education it is important not only to learn about solar energy and other renewables but also to be able to interact with a real solar system, i. e. to alter its operation and control parameters, and to learn from the effect on the system performance and solar energy fraction. The objective of the project was to build a school display, in the form of a "mini solar laboratory" that can demonstrate and teach Solar Energy at the same time. It was decided that the laboratory should consist of two parts: an open — air laboratory on the roof of the school and indoor laboratory inside the school building. The indoor laboratory is
connected by a monitoring and visualisation system with the outside part. This allows pupils to change the system control parameters by the use of computer software.

The realisation of the project was possible thanks to The UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which has supported the purchase of a "Mini Solar Laboratory" via its Environmental Assistance Fund.

Directions for Use

Printed directions for the use of the Sun Emulator are extremely brief and almost unnecessary because this heliodon is a model of our everyday reality. First, the model to be tested is placed at the center of the round table, its south orientation aligned with that of the heliodon. Then the cradle holding the seven rings is adjusted for the correct latitude by means of a single locking knob. Next, a twelve position rotary switch is used to choose the sunbath for the 21st day of any desired month. To simulate the daily motion, the appropriate ring is rotated by hand from sunrise to sunset. Other rings are then rotated to investigate solar access and shading patterns at other times of year. To

see what happens through the year at a particular time of day, the lights of all the rings are aligned and the rotating switch is turned to simulate the annual travel of the sun up and down the sky.

2. Applications

Although the Sun Emulator was developed primarily for architecture students, it is appropriate for a much wider audience, as will be discussed below. For architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and interior design students a heliodon has three separate applications: (1) the initial learning of concepts and principles, (2) the design process, and (3) presentation. As was described above, the Sun Emulator is an unsurpassed teaching tool. As a design tool, it can be used to actually assemble a design as, for example, when the length of an overhang is determined on the model by a trial and error method. Or the heliodon can be used as an analysis tool where a design, developed away from the device, is tested for its performance. In my own classes, I have students test models of designs they developed previously in studio. After the analysis establishes what works and what doesn’t, the students redesign their projects to be more solar responsive. Next, fast and dirty study (not presentation) models are built of an important window and shading system and these are then tested on the heliodon to determine what weaknesses remain for further redesign. A popular application among the students is for presentation purposes. They use the heliodon to photograph their models to document their designs’ solar responsiveness for juries and portfolios.

Homebuilders are another major user group. Most homebuilders are in fact designers. They often decide which building design will be used, what its orientation will be, where it will be located on a lot, what trees will be left standing or where trees will be planted, etc. Each of these decisions would benefit greatly from the understanding of solar responsive design principles. Developers are even more in need of this knowledge because street orientation has major consequences, since it will usually determine orientation of the buildings which are almost always aligned with the street rather than the sun. One of the most successful developments in the second half of the twentieth century, Village Homes in Davis, California, was designed by means of physical models tested for solar responsiveness.

Government officials also need to understand the benefits and practicality of solar responsive planning and design. Laws, planning regulations, and building codes generally do not encourage solar design because their writers were not convince of the benefits and the feasibility of solar designs. I have direct experience with a government official who after seeing the heliodon demonstration developed an interest in the potential of solar responsive regulations.

If homeowners and architectural clients are not interested in solar responsive design, then there is little incentive for building professionals to provide such designs. Thus, it is imperative that all who finance or control the design of buildings should be knowledgeable about the potential benefits of working with the sun, and ironically, many of these benefits come from strategies that cost little or are free.

In effect almost everyone should understand and thus believe the financial and environmental benefits of solar responsive design. This widely held understanding, I believe, is best accomplished by means of a "conceptually clear” heliodon. If the hands-

on science museums for children had heliodons, children would understand early on and in a lasting manner the logic of designing with the sun. Schools too could use heliodons in their earth science or physics courses. If children routinely learned about these principles, we would have future generations that would demand the benefits of solar responsive design because they would know that they are real, achievable, and economically wise.

3. Limitations

The Sun Emulator is an excellent heliodon for teaching and designing where high precision is not vital, which is the case for most building design. For example, the precise knowledge of the shading from a tree is meaningless since trees grow. Also weather is too variable to establish precise dates when sun or shade must be available.

Although the sun angles for the point at the center of the heliodon table are very precise, as one moves away from that point, in all three axes, error accumulates. Thus, small models are best and some larger models can be moved around so that the part of the model being analyzed is placed over the center of the table.

The highest precision in model testing is possible with sundials mounted on models tested outdoors, the only place where parallel light rays are readily available. Although such model testing is extremely precise, it is inconvenient, awkward, and conceptually unclear. It is awkward because you can’t test models outdoors at night, in the rain, or on cloudy days, and it is frustrating and uncomfortable under partially cloudy, windy, hot and cold conditions. Testing models outdoors requires the model to be tilted to account for all three variables of sun angles: latitude, time of year, and time of day. As described earlier these problems are both practical and conceptual in nature. Non-horizontal models must be well glued and prevented from sliding. They are also not easily analyzed since we find it hard to relate to buildings that are not horizontal. Consequently, I recommend outdoor analysis with sundials only after a design is ready for presentation purposes, or for fine tuning when high precision is required.

Although a larger heliodon could handle larger models, the Sun Emulator was sized so that it can still pass through a standard door, be completely fabricated at the factory, shipped fully assembled, and take up very little space when stored (less than 2 square meters) (Fig. 3). After unpacking or storage, it is only necessary to plug the heliodon into an electrical outlet and to rotate the model table from vertical to horizontal.

FIG. 3

The Sun Emulator in its storage mode. The cradle with the 7 rings is set for 0 ° latitude, as it would be to simulate solar geometry at the equator.

Although some other heliodons are more precise for larger models than the Sun Emulator, its "conceptual clarity” ease of use, and other advantages described above, more than compensate for its limited precision.

RES papers in the European Union

The fundamental strategic EU documents which express political will to support utilisation of RES are the White Paper "Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy” and the White Paper on European transport policy [6]. They comprise a range of
proposals and measures to accelerate the realisation of targets and planned tasks. They specify directions of further actions.

The basic legal act supporting the development of RES in European Union is the Directive on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market, which imposes on the members states quantity targets and regulations of promotion and support electricity generated from RES. Another legal act of great importance is the Directive on energy performance of buildings [7]. Other papers, including those on greenhouse gas emission allowance trading [8], on the promotion and use of biofuels in transport [9] and on Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection [10] give EU recommendations on how to make our planet a greener and cleaner place to live in.

Why organise the SAMSA?

The Mediterranean basin area is one of the world’s primary regions where solar architecture has flourished throughout several centuries, as can also be recognised from remains of Roman and other regional architecture, and historic publications.

However, with the introduction of fossil fuels, many of the principles of solar architecture were ignored in modern building design — also in this region — despite knowledge of passive solar building techniques gained through many years of building experience. The resultant reliance on electricity for heating and cooling spaces in particular is an aspect that the modern Mediterranean inhabitants have come to accept as ‘normal’, despite other more environmentally-friendly and easily available options.

The underlying strategies and principles of solar architecture, such as natural cooling and ventilation, passive solar energy and daylighting are largely being overlooked, despite a periodic resurgence of energy and environmental crises (oil crisis, electricity blackouts due to over-demand, and the latest threat of terror attacks on large energy installations), and the resultant problems it presents to people. The presenters of this paper aim to point to the solution at hand for Mediterranean building designers and users, namely designing and building according to solar architecture principles and energy efficiency concepts, using clean energy sources.

Developments over the past decades in the field of renewable energy technologies (RETs), energy efficiency (EE), new materials and design tools — seen against the background of problems resulting from the use of fossil fuels — have reactivated an interest in solar architecture. There is a growing interest from a wide range of actors, from utilities, to users, to local and national governments, who recognise the need to change the approach, considering manyvaried aspects including the environmental impact.

However, some major obstacles exists in the Mediterranean context (but similar for also for many other regions as well). The current information and experiences regarding Mediterranean solar architecture is only available in a fragmented way. Such information is often poorly disseminated among the main role players in the building industry and among political decision-makers who need to formulate supporting policy.

In addition to this at tertiary education level there is clearly not enough focus on the consideration of energy efficient concepts and the application of solar architecture principles in modern building design. Architects and engineers often are not brought together during the course of their studies, thus not encouraging close cooperation in a real design situation. It is sometimes up to the tertiary education institutions to develop their own curricula. Should these not adequately reflect aspects that are important for sustainable building and energy efficient design, it is the role of other organisations — such as ISES and ISES ITALIA — to encourage them to change and meanwhile assist designers by providing them with training opportunities, presenting relevant information and tools on how they can design and build solar buildings.

All these aspects combine to result in a lack of preparation for building designers, who will increasingly be faced with the encroaching energy dilemma and the growing requirement of users to reduce building energy costs.

In response to this situation and the need for professional training in the Mediterranean basin area, ISES and ISES ITALIA started planning the Summer Academy for Mediterranean Solar Architecture (SAMSA 2002) in the year 2000. This regional capacity building event, was to be a workshop aimed at the transfer of relevant and useful experiences and knowledge by solar architecture and energy experts, addressing the culture and climates relevant to the Mediterranean basin area.

Integration of solar technologies in the built environment in past

In A Golden Thread — 2500 years of solar architecture and technology, solar architectures in ancient Greece and Rome are described (Butti and Perlin 1979). According to Perlin »Probably more significant developments in solar technology have occurred on Italian soil than anywhere else in the world."

Almost 2500 years ago, the ancient Greeks began designing their cities and homes taking into consideration the microclimate, in particular the sun, the winter winds and summer breezes. Olynthus and Priene are among the most important examples of ancient Greek solar urban planning. Greek principles were later to be found in Roman architecture. Vitruvio, a Roman architect who lived in the 1st century B. C., in his famous On Architecture wrote: "Buildings are correctly sited if region and latitude features have been taken adequately into account. In fact buildings should be built in one way in Egypt, in another way in Spain, still differently in Rome, and so on in all other areas having different features either of the land or of the Sun, whose influence on Earth depends on the distance from it which can be close, far or in between… therefore buildings must be oriented according to the different features of regions and climates."

Interest in solar architecture in ancient Rome was also fuelled by energy crisis, due to shortages and high prices of burning wood. Wood and charcoal were common fuels for Rome’s Baths and Villas, where space and water central heating systems, called hypocausts, were installed.

Heated air from hypocausts by burning wood in furnaces (praefurnia) flowed under floors and through walls by means of terracotta “tubuli”.

Heated floors and walls irradiated their warmth to the surrounding indoor spaces. In the Baths, water used in the caldarium, the warmest room of the Baths, was heated in large bronze boilers called "tartarughe della vasca" integrated into appropriately placed furnaces.

The installations described above can be seen at many Roman archaeological sites, where also Vitruvio’s precepts of

The remains of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the great baths in Rome and other cities of the Empire provide evidence of the important developments produced by the Romans in solar energy. From the first century A. D. on, under Augustus, and until Rome’s fall, the advances achieved by the Romans in the use of solar energy seem to have been put to fairly wide use throughout the Empire, though only among the wealthy classes.

Fig. 3 — Section of a typical Roman hypocaust’s heating system

solar architecture were followed.

The Romans had learned to make glass (very low quality compared to the today’s transparent glass) and to use the greenhouse effect to heat their homes, baths and greenhouses. Transparent surfaces were probably made also with translucent stones, like mica and alabaster, to trap solar heat, which was stored under the floors or in the walls with high thermal capacity.

For the first time in history, the Roman Empire enacted laws regulating “sun-rights” and similar matters.

In the first century A. D., for instance, the emperor Diocletian issued an edict setting prices for window glass (six or eight denarii per pound, depending on its quality).

Romans created a special room called heliocaminus heated by the sun’s radiation passing through south facing glass panes. The heliocaminus was the origin of legal actions on "sun — rights" due to its need for sunlight. Ulpiano, a lawyer of the II century A. D., claimed that the heliocaminus "sun-rights" must be protected. These rights were introduced four centuries later in Justiniano’s codes.

Rome for the first time issued a law to protect "sun-rights" and enforced urban planning and architecture principles aimed at promoting the exploitation of solar light and heat.

Therefore the archaeological remains of Rome, sometimes still standing nearly as they were two thousand years ago, are places where reflections on many aspects of the history of solar architecture and technology as well as of the history of energy use and civilizations are spontaneous, easily accompanied by strong emotions and feelings.

Facharbeit — A research work for upper grade school students

In several federal states of Germany a small research work is part of school performance for 11th or 12th grade students. In some federal states this work is obligatory for students, in others voluntary. This research work is generally named "Facharbeit”. It has to be documented in paper of about 10-30 pages, the demanded length differs in the federal states.

One of the main reasons for the integration of this work in upper grade public schools, is the aim to prepare the students in a better way for a study at a university. In Rheinland — Pfalz where I am going to school this aim is additionally supported by the prescription of a final colloquium on the research work.

It is up to the students to find a topic for their Facharbeit. Sometimes the teachers offer the students some topics to choose. A special advantage of the Facharbeit is the possibility of the free topic choice within a school subject, especially interdisciplinary themes are welcomed.

In Rheinland-Pfalz, the federal state of Germany where I visit the Gymnasium Birkenfeld, teachers have to take two works of this kind for minimum. It is up to the students to search a teacher who is willing to supervise their work. In this federal state the Facharbeit (here named BLL, for "Besondere Lernleistung") is voluntarily. The expected length of the paper is about 20-30 pages.

The students get grades for their works which can be integrated into the final result of the baccalaureate. This can only have a positive effect, a decrease of the final examination result is excluded. Therefore, there is a motivating reason for us as students to work out a Facharbeit.

It is possible and also desired to present the outcomes of the Facharbeit or parts of it in the competition “Jugend forscht” (or similar competitions), a competition in Germany for research works of school students. Here students may gain supplementary acknowledgements for their work.

In Rheinland-Pfalz students may not only choose their research topic freely within a given school subject, but they have also a free subject choice. This has an additional motivating effect for us as students, as we may deal in our work with any topic of our interest.

The European Master in Renewable Energy — Educating Renewable Energy Engineers

Katharina Krell, EUREC Agency


EUREC Agency is the initiator and coordinating agency of the graduate programme "European Master in Renewable Energy". The European Master in Renewable Energy is directed towards engineers that want to specialise in one of the renewable energy technologies, such as wind energy, biomass energy, photovoltaics, solar building technology or hybrid systems. A network of 7 European universities and research centres leading in renewable energy RD&D runs the course.

The course is of great interest to companies as it delivers qualified engineers equipped with the latest skills and the right experience for a successful career in their industry.

Demand for technical RE expertise

In 2000, a survey was undertaken by EUREC Agency as part of an ALTENER project, with the key findings[50] showing a growing shortage of suitably trained technical staff for the RE sector and a distinct demand for postgraduate courses. The survey indicated a severe lack of high level teaching materials, due to inertia in higher education institutions and the slow rate of recognition of the renewable energy’s increasingly important role in the energy mix.