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SuNEC 2014: Helionomics Made Real

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Sicily's vice president for Energ opens SuNEC 2014The 4th edition of the Sun New Energy Conference (SuNEC) has successfully taken place in Sicily, 8-9 September 2014, with delegates registered to attend from 9 countries including South Africa. The eBook of the conference Book of Abstract is available online on all main digital bookstores online.

The event -- organised by Sicily's PV Research Pole -- started with a informal reception in the swimpool area on the evening before the main conference.

On the first morning of the conference, the conference was opened by the Regional Minister for Energy, Salvatore Calleri, who announced the forthcoming creation of Sicily's Solar Pole, a new research and education Centre jointly owned by Sicily's Government and Italy's Narional Research Council.

On the same day the Mayors of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, and of Grand Bassam (Côte d'Ivoire), Georges Philippe Ezaley saluted the delegates with two speeches emphasizing the economic and environmental relevance of today's low cost solar energy technologies for urban communities in either developed and developing countries.

The scientific program opened with a lecture of Professor Ranjit Koodali, who described  the appraoch of his team at University of South Dakota to design and reliably make a photocatalytic material capable to directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen upon illumination.

Prof. Ranjit Koodali at SuNEC 2014 The team has developed ta mesoporous sol-gel silica-titania composite doped with semiconductor CdS clusters which is currently the best performing photocatalyst capable to induce water photolysis.

A complementary approach approach to solar water splitting was described in the lecture of Dr Jesper Jacobsson, Uppsala University, who described how placing the CuInxGa1-xSe2 (CIGS) semiconductors in series and tuning them for efficient absorption of the solar spectrum (achieved by varying the In:Ga ratio, their device can reach beyond 10% solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency.

This simple approach based on chemical tuning the band gaps of photoabsorbers opens the way to the low cost production of solar hydrogen, namely the green, powerful fuel needed to exit the energy and environmental global crises. The approach indeed has room for an increase of several percentage points in STH efficiency.

On September 9th, Francesco Meneguzzo, Italy's Research Council, described a new physicochemical clean route for abating yeast residues in water from fermentation streams. Tested on semi-industrial scale (in a reactor > 100 L), the new method relies on hydrocavitation induced by electricity coupled to extra energy originating from circulating the liquid in an aptly developed vertical U-shaped tube.

The outcome is full degradation of residual yeast at 8 C below the state of the art temperature using at least 20% less energy.

The presentation of Professor Michael Detty, University of New York at Buffalo, was given on behalf of Professor Detty by Dr. Mario Pagliaro, Italy's Research Council, whose Group co-operates on the topics of the talk with the team at UB since almost a decade. Xerogel coatings produced by the sol-gel process as antifouling and fouling-release surfaces and no longer a research curiosity.

Giovanni Cimini at SuNEC 2014 Research undertaken by the US chemists is now moving the research from lab bench to commercial reality. The presentation prepared by Dr Detty addressed all major points concerning non biocidal sol-gel antifouling coating, and was concluded by the striking image aof a large vessel navigating through North America's seas coated only with AquaFast and AquaFast Pro formulations.

The president and the vice president for technology of Western CO, Giovanni Cimini and Marco Fiorani, gave a lecture on the impressive outcomes of residential energy independence real experimentation in Italy's homes where PV modules and state-of-the art commercial batteries were installed in the course of 2012/2013.

Higher than 85% energy independence from the grid was measured and analysed. The results will now be used to develop a series of commercial solutions capable to cover the full energy residential requirements in Italy, where the world's 2nd largest PV installed power is located.

Ph Student Gerro Prinsloo, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, gave an excellent lecture on combined solar heat and power with microgrid storage and layered smartgrid control towards supplying off-grid rural villages. There have been hundreds of projects aimed to provide clean energy to off-grid villages in Africa, he said opening his lecture. But all failed.

We believe, he added, that one reason was the lack of flexibility. We must start from the different energy needs of different communities. And then develop a flexible system capable to provide power, heat and even cooling adapting to the energy daily demands.

Coffee-break at SuNEC 2014 Dr Lorenzo Albanese, Italy's Research Council, gave a lecture aimed to answer the question whether electric cars sustainable. The outcomes of a detailed analysis using Italy's power market as reference point to a strong synergy between PV generation and electric mobility, which clearly reinforces the economic sustainability of the electric cars.

The return of investment and payback time are so large that the economic sustainability is there. The last obstacle in Europe, he concluded, is the initial capital expense at times of "credit crunch".

Professor Patrizia Livreri, University of Palermo, presented an overview on the applications of nanotechnology to sustainable energy. She also presented the results of several University Masters on nanotechnology at her University calling for the need to integrate different disciplinary competences for successful nanotechnology research.

Four poster presentation complemented the scientific program. Professor Luis Sánchez Granados, University of Cordoba, Spain, presented the interesing results in the photocatalytic removal of NOx with hematite, in place of conventional titania using the low fraction of UV radiation present in visible light.

Gerro Prinsloo Stellenbosch University, South Africa, presented the results of the Evaluation of a Dynamic Mechatronic Platform in a Solar Thermal Concentrator Design for Autonomous Power Generation in Rural Africa.

Professor Francisco de Paula Martin Jimenez, University of Malaga, Spain, presented a poster on the characterization of anodized alumina surfaces by SNMS and optical models.

Professor José Ramón Ramos Barrado, from the same University, presented a poster on the microstructure of Al-Si interface on polished and textured Cz silicon by screen-printing and dispensing technology.

Award, Social program and farewells

Gerro Prinsloo After a vote of a commitee led by Prof. Koodali, Gerro Prinsloo won the best poster presentation award, namely a copy of the book Solar Hydrogen (RSC Publishing, 2012).

Selected works presented at SuNEC 2014 have been submitted for publication to Energy Science & Engineering, the  open-access Wiley's journal with which the SuNEC organizers have aptly partnered.

Since its launch, high quality papers have been received across the broad scope of the journal, including these highlights:

Next generation biorefineries will solve the food, biofuels, and environmental trilemma in the energy-food-water nexus
Y-H Percival Zhang

A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas
Robert W. Howarth

On the afternoon of September 9th, delegates and accompanying persons took part in wonderful social program, including a guided tour of Cefalù and its monumental Cathedral built starting in 1131, widely considered one of the world's most important cultural and religious heritage.

Before the gala dinner based on Sicilian cuisine served at the Relais Sant'Anastasia with an amazing position from where the sightseeing extends from Cefalù to a large part of Sicily's nothern coast, delegates were guided in a tour of the winemakery, one of Sicily's largest and best,

The 4th SuNEC Conference was very popular with delegates and visitors alike. Many commented on the highly-efficient conference organisation and programme management, calling the event "an unforgettable conference".

The 5th SuNEC - Sun New Energy Conference (and social program) will take place in September 2015, once again in Sicily, and we look forward to welcoming speakers and delegates to Sicily once more.

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