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Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 2

In Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 1, I introduced the smart city project and its realization in Guadalajara city, Mexico, where an urban area has been dedicated to the digital media industry (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

The smart city project in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Image:  The Institute IEEE ,  www.carloratti.it)

The smart city project in Guadalajara, Mexico.
(Image: The Institute IEEE , www.carloratti.it)

Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico, but the biggest city of that country, Mexico City, is moving in the direction of integration of smart energy harvesting technology into the infrastructures of the city: The new airport of Mexico City will be built with this strategy and completed in 2018. It is rumored to be the most sustainable airport in the whole world (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

The new Mexico City airport project overview. (Image:  Fosters+Partners)

The new Mexico City airport project overview.
(Image: Fosters+Partners)

The entire airport will be up to 100% powered by solar energy, by mean of energy collectors on the top of the building which is free from tubes and cables that are inserted into the floor. The energy will be managed by a smart grid and the illumination will be compliant with the LEED Platinum standard, hence a sustainable airport like this could be an optimal solution for a really smart city.

An example of energy harvesting system, composed entirely by ICs for the power management and for the energy conversion, which is powered totally by a renewable energy source, is shown in Figure 3:

Figure 3

A photovoltaic system, to feed a sustainable building. (Image: ST on line)

A photovoltaic system, to feed a sustainable building.
(Image: ST on line)

The system of Figure 3 is totally based on IC components for the power conversion and for the energy management, hence the reliability of the system depends on the reliability of the single blocks for the power conversion and the same applies to the effectiveness of energy conversion and of the power management process. In particular the energetic sustainability of the entire building, which is powered by solar energy, has a strong dependence from the efficiency of the conversion of the renewable power source, solar energy in this case, into electric power.

Recently there has been a very interesting result in this direction, accomplished by a team of University of Maryland, which found an interesting solution based on a cellulose substrate to increase the efficiency of solar cells:

Figure 4

The new substrate of cellulose can increase the efficiency of solar cells in solar panels. (Image: ACS publications)

The new substrate of cellulose can increase the efficiency of solar cells in solar panels.
(Image: ACS publications)

The integrated circuits are nowadays the components of smart systems for the harvesting, the conversion and the supply of energy from renewable sources, to guarantee the energetic sustainability of buildings, whatever it is their dimension and destination, public or private.

The energy can be managed by mean of smart grids, and all the smart systems could be connected together into a cloud system integrated into the structure of the smart city.

Do you think the smart cities will be the future model for all the biggest cities in the world? Do you think that a smart city could be a more comfortable and safe place to live, created by means of the modern electronics technology?

71 comments on “Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 2

  1. etnapowers
    September 28, 2014

    I think that this project is a huge example of how the electronics integrated into the big infrastructures can make our lives more comfortable and the people connected, this can be done by mean of sustainable solutions that not impacting the environment. It's the correct direction to follow in the future.

  2. etnapowers
    September 28, 2014

    The new solution of cellulose substrate for increasing the efficiency of the solar cells is really promising for all the sector of solar energy harvesting systems.

  3. amrutah
    September 28, 2014

    I looked at few of the pics on fostersandpartners.com and it looks fabulous and a very good concept for the smart cities to follow. 

    The questions that comes to my mind is how sustainable is this in the long run?

    1> The management of the system with many panels or photovoltaic (may be series or parallel connection) cells.  Even though its going to be a system with smart grid

    2> With 100% solar energy what are the alternatives in case of heavy cloud coverage, tornados or hurricanes.

      I hope smart cities around the world take a cue out of this and drive towards more greener smart cities.

  4. amrutah
    September 28, 2014

    @entapowers: I agree this is very interesting and very helpful once it is used commercially made viable.

    Paolo, Thanks for sharing the paper.  Being made from cellulose, which means it is recyclable which is a great advantage.

  5. eafpres
    September 28, 2014

    Hi Paolo–thanks for mroe nice articles.  Regarding PV efficiency, there are many potential ways to increase the efficiency.  I think three general areas are the most important:

    1) Nanostructue of the collecting surface to increase angles of capture and minmize reflected losses, even at low angles.  The biggest issue is that such surfaces can easily become fouled with dust, pollution, etc.  Even standard PV lose considerable efficiency when dirty.  So I think a nano-structure that does not get dirty and increases capture is a good goal.

    2) Increase the useful spectrum.  As you know the efficiency falls off at different times of the day as the spectrum of daylight varies.  Increasing the bandwidth through multi-photon pathways etc. is an important necessity.  I think this is an area where organic molecules have promise as organic chemists have found ways to tune the electronic energy structure of molecules.  Issues are stability and cost.

    3) Related to 2, but find a way to get direct conversion of thermal into photons that can then generate electric energy.  Of course another way is to use thermoelectrics, but their efficiency is still pretty low.  So I think finding a way to up-convert or some other complex chemical pathway is needed.  Again, I think organic molecules offer the most promise here.

  6. Netcrawl
    September 29, 2014

    @easpres I agree with you thanks for that, I believe that solar energy is the most abudant energy resource on this planet, direct conversion of sunlight into electricity in PV cells is one of the three main solar active technologies. The two others are concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal collectors for heating and cooling ( SHC). Overall we're still in infancy, PV provides only .01% of total global electricity generation but PV is expanding fast due to effective supporting policies, recent development and recent dramatic cost reduction. Today PV is a commercially available and highly reliable technology with a significant potential for long-term growth. 

  7. Netcrawl
    September 29, 2014

    @easpres the investment costs of PV systems are still relatively expensive although they are decreasing rapidly as a result in technology improvements and economies of scale and volume. Total systerm cost still represent the most important and biggest barrier to PV deployment today, total systems cost include mounting the entire structure, inverters, cabling and power management devices. 

  8. Netcrawl
    September 29, 2014

    @etnapowers I agree with you its really a promising piece of technology, currently over 80% of PV electricity is based on crystalline silicon, and these solar cells are relatively energy intensive but engineers are already developing techniques to reduce cost and improve performance, for instances by developing new ways to produce silicon sheet without the need for sawing, and more effectively by controlling the effect of impurities in the cells.  

  9. vasanjk
    September 29, 2014

    Paolo,

     

    Airports, Bus stations and railway stations are the natural choice for such smart implementation. These locations consume power 24X365.

  10. etnapowers
    September 29, 2014

    Hi Blaine,

    thank you for your post, it's very interesting , I agree with you on the potential of the organic molecules solution, there's room for a big improvement of efficiency of solar energy conversion.

  11. etnapowers
    September 29, 2014

    @Netcrawl: I agree with you, I think that the engineers will play a key role in the near future for further developing a solar conversion process efficient and reliable, because the sustainability is the key for the future of the big urban areas.

  12. Myled
    September 29, 2014

    “Airports, Bus stations and railway stations are the natural choice for such smart implementation. These locations consume power 24X365.”

    Vasanjk, now a days most of such places are powered by solar PV, so that during day time maximum energy can be harvested and reuse during the off times.

  13. SunitaT
    September 29, 2014

    The entire airport will be up to 100% powered by solar energy, by mean of energy collectors on the top of the building which is free from tubes and cables that are inserted into the floor.

    @Paolo, thanks for the post. This is a very good move. Although this will have high initial cost but running cost would be very low. I am curious to know if energy is stored and is reused in the night hours or do they have alternate energy plan as well ?

  14. SunitaT
    September 29, 2014

    I think that this project is a huge example of how the electronics integrated into the big infrastructures can make our lives more comfortable and the people connected

    @etnapowers, I totally agree with you. I really hope other governments takes inspiration from this project and implement similar projects in their home country. This will not only help create more jobs in electronics industry but will also improve the lives of the people.

  15. SunitaT
    September 29, 2014

    The new solution of cellulose substrate for increasing the efficiency of the solar cells is really promising for all the sector of solar energy harvesting systems.

    @etnapowers, I totally agree with you. The researchers report that the organic solar cells reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7 percen. This definitely is decent figure for cells on substrates derived from renewable raw materials.

  16. SunitaT
    September 29, 2014

    The management of the system with many panels or photovoltaic (may be series or parallel connection) cells. Even though its going to be a system with smart grid

    @amrutah, no doubt management of such systems will be huge task but I am sure with latest technology and automation we can track and manage the photovoltaic panels. Software can easily detect the performance of each of the individual photovoltaic panels.

  17. vasanjk
    September 29, 2014

    Yes. Strategically, places like these can make a big dent in the overall budget, unless these alternative sources are deployed. However, maintenance is a daunting task when it comes to such bog installations.

  18. samicksha
    September 29, 2014

    I agree your on Organic Solar Cell but one of the point here is temperature variations can also lead to device degradation and decreased performance over time.

  19. eafpres
    September 29, 2014

    @Netcrawl–thanks for you good comments.  Near where I am based, over in Golden Colorado the DoE/SERI has worked on a CSP/thermal cycle.  To me, there is a lot of potential there because a lot of power generation technology at the back end is thermal driving turbines, so there is a lot of really mature engineering to go along with the solar part.  (Full disclosure–my first degree was in Chemical Engineering to CSP makes intuitive sense to me).

    Thanks again for your thoughts.  If we are lucky our generation will see a completely new world in the future where political power does not go along with actual power, because it will be nearly free and abundant.

  20. eafpres
    September 29, 2014

    Hi etnapowers–As I said in another reply, I started out as a chemical engineer and so I also learned organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry.  There is an infinite amount we have not discovered yet.  I am very upbeat on the potential for our great minds in Universities, Government, and Private Research labs to invent and perfect amazing molecules that will open vast new potential in many fields.

  21. dassa.an
    September 29, 2014

    @eafpres: Yes there will be many openings but I feel we do need some backing from the sponsors too. If some big names can contribute towards it, then things will be fine 

  22. dassa.an
    September 29, 2014

    @eafpres: Well everyone prays for that mate but not sure how practical it will be. As long as political things keep aside, things will be ok

  23. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @samicksha: Plus will not be good for the device itself.  Power fluctuations will damage the circuit  

  24. SunitaT
    September 30, 2014

    @dassa.an, but power fluctations can always be taken care by using stabilizers. I dont think that should impact the device that much.

  25. SunitaT
    September 30, 2014

    I agree your on Organic Solar Cell but one of the point here is temperature variations can also lead to device degradation and decreased performance over time.

    @samicksha, true. Temperature variations can lead to device degradation but if the cost of the device is minimal then we can always replace such devices with new once. We should try to keep the manufacturing of such devices as low as possible.

  26. SunitaT
    September 30, 2014

    If some big names can contribute towards it, then things will be fine

    @dassa.an, many companies are already dong they. They are investing heavily in R&D activities. For example Google and FB are investing in drones, satellites  to deliver Internet access. I am sure there are companies which are investing in this sector as well.

  27. Myled
    September 30, 2014

    “Yes. Strategically, places like these can make a big dent in the overall budget, unless these alternative sources are deployed. However, maintenance is a daunting task when it comes to such bog installations.”

    Vasanjk, such sources are maintenance free for atleast 7-10 years.

  28. Sachin
    September 30, 2014

    @amrutah: you concerns about what to expect when a cloudy sky is over the city is nice, and I would like to suggest that there still are many forms of energy harvesting techniques that can help a smart city grid. There is geothermal energy harvesting, and also through windmills. Have you heard about MEMS windmill? This kind of windmill can be used to power smartphones, and sensor grids.

  29. Sachin
    September 30, 2014

    @etnapowers: we can only hope that smart cities can be green as well. In the Arab countries a city can be built in 5 years, and these cities will have all kind of gadgets that make it “smart” and it also will be green, but what about the other cities? Can we make other cities greener too?

  30. Sachin
    September 30, 2014

    @Vasanjk: Not necessarily. Even more than airports and stations, IT sector needs to be made smart using sensor and IOT technology, and then the preference should be given to public buildings and lastly airports and stations.

  31. Sachin
    September 30, 2014

    @etnapowers: integrating a solar energy network with a sensor seems to be a clever yet difficult thing to do, but there are more methods of getting energy for running a city like MEMS windmills, piezoelectric ways etc.

  32. Sachin
    September 30, 2014

    @eafpres: yes that needs to be done. Sponsorship can lead to popularity, and popularity would lead to interest of other companies/parties to the smart city projects that is to be implemented throughout the world.

  33. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @SachinEE good point,  privatization and and deregulation are posing a lot of challenges on today's electrical power generation, this make the grid to be loaded up to its stability limits and wide-area power trading with some quickk varying load patterns will add to increasing power transmission congestion. There are lots of serious challenges before the electricity distribution system in responding to the increasing demand of electricity in the modern world, the more the demand on electricity the more the likelihood of power outages, voltages and other power disturbances. However, the more demand on renewable energy and storage devices is driving the conventional power grid system into what is popularly known as smart grid- the future of the power generation.

     

     

  34. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @SanchinEE Yes they could, I believe today's smart grid challenge can be overcome with the proper utilization of innovative technologies like HVDC (high voltage DC ) and FACTS (Flexible AC transmission systems) devices which has the ability to cope with the new challenges, HVDC and FACTS has the charcteristics to mitigate key technical problems in the smart grid, they can increase the transmission capacity and system stability very efficiently. These devices are equally useful in distributed generation interconnection, voltage and power flow controls.

     

     

  35. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @SanchinEE yes its true its difficult, it also involves real-time two-way digital communications between power utilities and consumers, this include power delivery components, control and monitoring throughout the smart grid, a huge daunting task. 

  36. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

    @netcrawl: How about the power consumption ? It must be involving a lot right ? 

  37. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

    @netcrawl: It can but not sure whether there is anyone who has tested it on a long term basis. Is there any ? 

  38. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

    @netcrawl: There is a huge demand true but can the proposed cope up with it ? Or cant we run the two parallel ? 

  39. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

    @Sachin: Yes that is the method of making your name go towards the market itself. It needs time too. Overnight you cannot do it 

  40. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

                             

    @Sachin: Yes its difficult plus a costly thing to do. 

  41. chirshadblog
    September 30, 2014

    @Sachin: Yes good valid point. We should make the most of the technology itself.  

  42. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @chris: Yes and also we should keep ourselves updated too. It may not be possible all the time but atleast whenever its possible. 

  43. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @Chris: Yes nothing comes with a free tag. You cannot always complain about the cost here. 

  44. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @chris: I think running parallel is not a good thing. There maybe complications. Cost too will be high. 

  45. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @Chris: Its not that new isn't it ? 

  46. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    Power consumption ? I think it will be high. 

  47. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @Netcrawl: What are the possibilities of conflicts in the 2 way communication ? 

  48. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @netcrawl: What are the power consumption ratio ? Is it high ?

  49. dassa.an
    September 30, 2014

    @SachinEE: I feel there are many sponsors willing to jump in but they do need some sort of a proof of these devices 

  50. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    Not enough discussion over energy-harvesting tech and energy conservation in general. I am really surprised that solar harvestation to power mobile devices has not fully matured and become mainstream yet. We all have to keep them charged so long each day…

  51. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    Not enough discussion over energy-harvesting tech and energy conservation in general. I am really surprised that solar harvestation to power mobile devices has not fully matured and become mainstream yet. We all have to keep them charged so long each day…

  52. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @Chris yes its must be involving, smart grid's main objective is to update the power system automation which includes transmssion, distribution, individual feeder, sub-station using the lates technology, with smart grid consumers can now manage their power consumption by monitoring their voltage and power. 

  53. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @analoging interesting topic: energy-harvesting tech, yes its true it still in early stage or not fully matured but I think we have some plenty of development in this area and its quite good. 

  54. yalanand
    September 30, 2014

    However, the more demand on renewable energy and storage devices is driving the conventional power grid system into what is popularly known as smart grid- the future of the power generation.

    @Netcrawl, true. If we dont use smart grid for renewable energy then it would become very difficult for the supplier to balance between supply and demand.

  55. yalanand
    September 30, 2014

    energy-harvesting tech, yes its true it still in early stage or not fully matured

    @Netcrawl, agree with you. I am curious to know when will energy-harvesting tech will become fully matured ? I am sure cost for energy-harvesting tech will reduce once the technology fully matures.

  56. Netcrawl
    September 30, 2014

    @yalanand with the knowledge and experience developed over years, a progress of sustainable EH technologies research is still intact and ongoing, I believe EH technologies are starting to grow and mature. According to the leatset reports from Energy Harvesting Journal, the energy harvesting industry is expected to grow to over $4 Billion annually by the year 2019, driven by strong demand on consumer electronics. 

  57. yalanand
    September 30, 2014

    According to the leatset reports from Energy Harvesting Journal, the energy harvesting industry is expected to grow to over $4 Billion annually by the year 2019, driven by strong demand on consumer electronics.

    @Netcrawl, that is a very good news. Can you please share the report link so that I can go through the contents of the report.

  58. D Feucht
    September 30, 2014

    It is interesting to me that these leading-edge applications of technology to urban infrastructure are occurring, not in the overdeveloped world, but in the developing “BRICS” world, which includes Mexico.

    I spent some time among the Tapatios in Guadalajara a few years ago and could not help but notice that the milieu there, and in Mexico generally, is that of growth and development, not stagnation and decay. The E.E. students who worked at the company I was at were quite well-trained as engineers, most could speak fluent English (putting my fumbling use of Spanish to shame), and had no noticeable deficiencies in their engineering proficiency relative to my background among engineers in companies such as Tektronix and H-P.

    I hope this experiment in Guadalajara turns out to be a successful (as in good) use of technology. Gaudalajara is a great city, one I wouldn't mind returning to for a while. The telephone building there has a bronze statue honoring the engineer who was behind the original construction of much of Guadalajara's infrastructure. He is leaning on the brick wall of the telco building with one arm, standing on the sidewalk, with a slide rule in the other hand. It shows the attitude among Mexicans toward engineering. Viva Mexico!

     

  59. bjcoppa
    September 30, 2014

    The rise of EVs is needed for smart cities where a smart grid is core and electric power stations for plug-in vehicles are available in homes and other parts of city as well as along incoming major roads. EVs are still not mainstream in conventional cities.

  60. etnapowers
    October 1, 2014

    @Dennis, Mexico is a huge example of the positive influence of the scientific education of a country on the life of his citizens. I hope many other countries will follow the same way.

  61. fasmicro
    October 1, 2014

    I think Europe has to lead the world in this. I do not see how the risk averse and increasingly political-toxic US can have smart cities of the future. We think right here that government does not have a role. Without government, no one can have smart cities.

  62. Davidled
    October 1, 2014

    Government needs to be involved for building the smart cities. There are regulations for building size and traffic requirement as well as lighting system. Government supports this type project as city collaborates with government and smart cities require some type of security.    

  63. goafrit2
    October 2, 2014

    >> Government needs to be involved for building the smart cities.

    That has been the thinking that some of these projects cannot progress without government initiatives either in funding or regulation. Understand that the massive Interstate highways the US built many decades ago may not be possible today as people push for limited government without any real basis. Even inter-city collaboration may not work without support from government.

  64. amrutah
    October 8, 2014

    @SachinEE: Thanks for the information, I will search and read more on the “MEMS windmill”.  It would be helpful if you can share any available reading material.

       Just recently I was reading a article about the crises the electrical companies are facing in California (Gist: There are lot of house hold retailers who sell the solar energy back to companies.  Because of abundance of energy (supply more than demand, the electrical companies shut down/reduce their generation units.  Now if there is peak requirement then fullfilling it depending on these retailers (whose no. can vary) is getting very difficult and a overhead burden on the grid maintainence.

  65. Davidled
    October 10, 2014

    Smart city could become to Cyber City that use all updated technology, some of which never be reviewed for reliability and scalability. For example, it is being said that 100 % solar energy supplies the power for airport. Power system should be secure from any abnormal condition. There is no doubt that cyber city has much better smart lighting system which could monitor the airport.

  66. ue2014
    October 22, 2014

    Governments should be convinced and educated regarding the benefits of such projects. Then these will become a part of their strategies for a better future. Unless otherwise you get the government's approval and coordination, no one really could be built such smart cities. Once the government is convinced and they started supporting the projects, it will easy to take it to the public as well.

  67. Davidled
    November 11, 2014

    Government might need new organization related to technology and might hire more people with engineering background. I think that sometime, politics might prevent technology from spreading into the cities.

  68. nasimson
    November 30, 2014

    > I think that sometime, politics might prevent technology from spreading into the cities.

    @Daej:

    Rightly said Daej. Despite the good work on thermodynamics in UK, politics is one of the reason why automotive manufacturing did not take off in UK during the early years. There was a law drafted for public safety that ahead of the cars there should be a man running warning others to move aside.

    Politics trumps technology.

  69. Sachin
    December 31, 2014

    I think that sometime, politics might prevent technology from spreading into the cities.

    @DaeJ, Totally agree with oyou. I think its very important to keep aside politics when taking key decisions on technology. I really hope all the governments understand this and take decision related to tecnology based on its merit.

  70. Sachin
    December 31, 2014

    Now if there is peak requirement then fullfilling it depending on these retailers (whose no. can vary) is getting very difficult and a overhead burden on the grid maintainence.

    @amrutah, I have heard about this case. I am not sure how they are going to rsesolve this because it would be very difficult to meet the demand because you cant anticipate how many people are going to get connected to the network.

  71. amrutah
    January 2, 2015

    @SachinEE: One of the main requirements of Smart cities is to have a great reserviour of Energy (power) and it should be a green compliance.  Few days back I had seen a TED talk by Bill Gates about CO emissions and power generation.  He has spoke about the different renewable energy sources and the one he is choosing for the green energy.  I think it is worth watching this video in this regard. Innovating to zero! http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates?language=en

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