Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineers devise ways for avoiding ice storm havoc and for capturing the sun

An engineering professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has invented an inexpensive way to keep ice off powe...

January 16, 2009  Canadian Consulting Engineer

An engineering professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has invented an inexpensive way to keep ice off power lines — a technology which would have helped avoid the Great Ice Storm that disabled transmission lines and caused havoc in Quebec and eastern Ontario 11 years ago.

Professor Victor Petrenko, along with his colleagues at Dartmouth College and at Ice Engineering LLC in Lebanon, N.H., are going to Orenburg, Russia later this month to do a full scale test on a new proprietary technology called a variable resistance cable (VRC) de-icing system.

With only minor cable modifications and off-the-shelf electronics, the system switches the electrical resistance of a standard power line from low to high. The high resistance heats up the line to prevent ice from forming on it.

Gabriel Martinez, a former student of Petrenko who is now a vice-president with Ice Engineering, the company that is commercializing the technology, says “the changes in manufacturing and installation required to implement the VRC system would result in less than10% increase in overall cost.” 


Meanwhile, according to a report in Scientific American, Solyndra, a company based in Fremont, California, is manufacturing cylindrical thin-film solar cells to be installed on roofs. Made of copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS), the cells are encased in glass which seals out moisture and concentrates the photons onto the thin film. As a cyclinder shape they also collect light from many angles, even diffuse light.  They are laid flat on the roof rather than angled, and can convert up to 14% of the sunlight that hits them to electricity. It’s estimated that there are 30 billion square feet of expansive flat roofs in the U.S., which if fitted with solar arrays could produce enough power to replace 38 conventional coal power plants.




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