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Hybrid materials could smash the solar efficiency ceiling

October 9, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

A new method for transferring energy from organic to inorganic semiconductors could boost the efficiency of widely used inorganic solar cells.

Solar Efficiency When light is absorbed in pentacene, the generated singlet excitons rapidly undergo fission into paris of triplets that can be efficiently transfered onto inorganic nanocrystals.  Image credit: Maxim Tabachnyk (University of Cambridge)

Solar Efficiency
When light is absorbed in pentacene, the generated singlet excitons rapidly undergo fission into paris of triplets that can be efficiently transfered onto inorganic nanocrystals.
Image credit: Maxim Tabachnyk (University of Cambridge)

By University of Cambridge

Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as ‘dark’ spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits.

The team, from the University of Cambridge, have successfully harvested the energy of triplet excitons, an excited electron state whose energy in harvested in solar cells, and transferred it from organic to inorganic semiconductors. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for spin-singlet excitons. The results are published in the journal Nature Materials.

In the natural world, excitons are a key part of photosynthesis: light photons are absorbed by pigments and generate excitons, which then carry the associated energy throughout the plant. The same process is at work in a solar cell.

In conventional semiconductors such as silicon, when one photon is absorbed it leads to the formation of one free electron that can be extracted as current. However, in pentacene, a type of organic semiconductor, the absorption of a photon leads to the formation of two electrons. But these electrons are not free and they are difficult to pin down, as they are bound up within ‘dark’ triplet exciton states.

Excitons come in two ‘flavours’: spin-singlet and spin-triplet. Spin-singlet excitons are ‘bright’ and their energy is relatively straightforward to harvest in solar cells. Triplet-spin excitons, in contrast, are ‘dark’, and the way in which the electrons spin makes it difficult to harvest the energy they carry.

“The key to making a better solar cell is to be able to extract the electrons from these dark triplet excitons,” said Maxim Tabachnyk of the University’s Cavendish Laboratory, the paper’s lead author. “If we can combine materials like pentacene with conventional semiconductors like silicon, it would allow us to break through the fundamental ceiling on the efficiency of solar cells.”

Using state-of-art femtosecond laser spectroscopy techniques, the team discovered that triplet excitons could be transferred directly into inorganic semiconductors, with a transfer efficiency of more than 95%. Once transferred to the inorganic material, the electrons from the triplets can be easily extracted.

“Combining the advantages of organic semiconductors, which are low cost and easily processable, with highly efficient inorganic semiconductors, could enable us to further push the efficiency of inorganic solar cells, like those made of silicon,” said Dr Akshay Rao, who lead the team behind the work.

The team is now investigating how the discovered energy transfer of spin-triplet excitons can be extended to other organic/inorganic systems and are developing a cheap organic coating that could be used to boost the power conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells.

The work at Cambridge forms part of a broader initiative to harness high tech knowledge in the physical sciences to tackle global challenges such as climate change and renewable energy. This initiative is backed by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability.

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: University of Cambridge.

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SolarCity Introduces MyPower, a First-of-its-Kind Solar Loan Paid Back by the Sun

October 8, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

SolarCity Introduces MyPower, a First-of-its-Kind Solar Loan Photo courtesy of SolarCity

SolarCity Introduces MyPower, a First-of-its-Kind Solar Loan
Photo courtesy of SolarCity

Solar installation at no additional cost and immediate utility savings just like a standard Power Purchase Agreement, but now you own it

SAN MATEO, Calif.SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY) introduced MyPower today (10-7-14), a first-of-its kind solar financing option that combines the low upfront cost and immediate utility savings of a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the benefits of ownership. SolarCity customers pay for their MyPower solar loan similar to the way they pay for a solar PPA—based on the energy the system produces from the sun—but they retain ownership of the solar panels.

MyPower’s unique structure creates America’s most affordable solar loan—with a lower cost than PPAs in many locations.

MyPower can allow customers to pay as much as 40 percent less for solar power than utility power, and unlike other loans, MyPower allows customers to prepay their entire balance or prepay a portion of their solar loan to lower their monthly payments at any time, with no fees or penalties.

SolarCity has become America’s #1 residential solar service provider—the company installed more residential solar in the second quarter of 2014 than its next 50 competitors combined [1]—by providing solar electricity directly to homeowners for less than they pay for electricity from utilities. Now SolarCity is lowering the cost of solar electricity even further by leveraging its scale and low cost of capital to act as a direct lender to its customers through its subsidiary, SolarCity Finance Company. MyPower customers can enjoy a fixed annual percentage rate as low as 4.5 percent for 30 years. Due to its potential to lower the cost of solar electricity, SolarCity ultimately expects MyPower to expand the addressable market for solar power to areas of the United States that have traditionally seen very little adoption.

While most solar loans are provided by third-party banks and municipalities in partnership with solar manufacturers and regional installers, SolarCity has created the industry’s best financing terms by lending directly to customers as part of its full-service model.  Some competitor products place a lien on the customer’s home and involve an onerous approval process. MyPower places no lien on the home—making it easier to transfer in a sale—and it only has a minimum credit score requirement of 680.

As with all of SolarCity’s solar financing options, MyPower will include the industry’s best service package. MyPower customers will enjoy a 30-year warranty, production guarantee, and monitoring service package. SolarCity backs up its agreements with the largest in-house service footprint in the industry—its 52 operations centers serve 15 states.

Starting today, SolarCity will offer MyPower to customers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, and ultimately plans to expand the product beyond its existing service territory.  Homeowners interested in MyPower can contact SolarCity directly at 1-888-SOL-CITY (1-888-765-2489) for a free, no-obligation solar consultation or visit the company online.

[1] Source: GTM Research Q3 2014 PV Leaderboard

About SolarCity
SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) provides clean energy. The company has disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills. SolarCity gives customers control of their energy costs to protect them from rising rates. The company makes solar energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting to monitoring and maintenance. SolarCity currently serves 15 states and signs up a new customer every minute of the work day. Visit the company online at and follow the company on Facebook & Twitter.

This article (10-7-14) is an EV News Report repost, credit: SolarCity.

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Europe’s Largest and First Commercial Battery Power Plant

October 7, 2014 in Battery Energy Storage, Environment, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage

Europe’s largest commercial battery power plant was connected to the grid today (9-16-14) in the presence of Vice-Chancellor and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister-President Erwin Sellering.

The 5 megawatt lithium-ion unit was designed by the Berlin-based grid and storage specialists Younicos for WEMAG, a supplier of green electricity based in the northern German city of Schwerin. The commissioning of the fully automated unit marks the first time in Europe that a stand-alone battery is stabilizing fluctuations in grid frequency, thus helping to safely integrate wind and solar energy into the existing grid.

“The first commercial battery storage system on this scale is an important step towards a successful energy transition,” said Federal Minister Sigmar Gabriel at the opening ceremony. “Batteries are especially well suited to providing control power to stabilize grid frequency. In combination with wind and solar generation, this can ensure the future stability of the power system. WEMAG’s battery power plant is a good example of the commitment of municipal utilities to the energy transition, which can inspire similar projects in other parts of Germany.”

“Up to now the power grid has been largely stabilized by inflexible coal-fired power plants, which can only use a fraction of their output for control power. This blocks space in the grid, increasingly forcing wind and solar generation to be taken offline,” explained Clemens Triebel, CTO of Younicos. “Our battery park avoids this economic impact because it is much faster and more precise than a thermal power station. Thus, our 5 megawatt battery in Schwerin provides the same control power as a conventional 50 megawatt turbine,” the Younicos co-founder added.

“In the WEMAG grid area, more than 80 percent of the power consumed already comes from wind and solar generation – making us a front runner in renewable energy. We therefore feel committed to bringing to market new, more efficient solutions for the energy transition,” adds Thomas Pätzold, CTO of WEMAG AG. “Our battery storage unit shows the way forward: it is the best technical solution for smoothing naturally intermittent renewable feed-in, and it is also commercially very attractive.” In addition to receiving initial development funding of 1.3 million Euros from the innovation program of the Federal Environment Ministry, the unit will earn its keep by competing in the primary frequency regulation market. “In the future, the battery will also provide other system services, such as reactive power and black start capability, thus offering further economic advantages,” Pätzold continued.

Ewald Woste, Chairman of WEMAG AG and CEO of Thüga AG, added: “With this battery power plant, WEMAG is making a significant contribution to the development of storage technology. We are demonstrating that intelligent short-term storage is already a commercially attractive investment both for individual companies and for the economy as a whole.”

Younicos designed and built the turnkey storage unit in 12 months. Housed in a hall the size of a school gym, 25,600 lithium-manganese oxide cells can store and discharge power in milliseconds. Cell supplier Samsung SDI guarantees the performance of the battery power plant for 20 years. Five medium-voltage transformers, each weighing four tons, connect the battery to both the regional distribution and the 380kV high-voltage grids.

Michael Sterner, Professor for Energy Storage at OTH Regensburg added: “From a scientific perspective it is clear that battery power plants can make major technical contributions to system stability. With battery prices falling sharply, their use reduces costs and thus makes macroeconomic sense. In a recent study of storage that I led for the think tank “Agora energy transition,” we suggested making technology open to ensure existing and future flexibility, and thus giving storage a fair chance by removing barriers.”

About Younicos

Younicos makes grids and storage intelligent – and thus fit for more renewable energy. Our solutions enable grid operators to shut down their conventional generators when enough wind and solar power are available. Because Younicos’ control and energy management software optimizes usage, availability and Battery life, leading cell manufacturers provide 20-year performance guarantees on our systems.

This article (9-16-14) is an EV News Report repost, credit: Younicos.

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World’s first “solar battery” runs on light and air

October 3, 2014 in Battery Energy Storage, Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Researchers at The Ohio State University have invented a solar battery -- a combination solar cell and battery -- which recharges itself using air and light. The design required a solar panel which captured light, but admitted air to the battery. Here, scanning electron microscope images show the solution: nanometer-sized rods of titanium dioxide (larger image) which cover the surface of a piece of titanium gauze (inset). The holes in the gauze are approximately 200 micrometers across, allowing air to enter the battery while the rods gather light. Image courtesy of Yiying Wu (Ohio State University)

Researchers at The Ohio State University have invented a solar battery — a combination solar cell and battery — which recharges itself using air and light. The design required a solar panel which captured light, but admitted air to the battery. Here, scanning electron microscope images show the solution: nanometer-sized rods of titanium dioxide (larger image) which cover the surface of a piece of titanium gauze (inset). The holes in the gauze are approximately 200 micrometers across, allowing air to enter the battery while the rods gather light. Image courtesy of Yiying Wu (Ohio State University)

Batteries Included: A Solar Cell that Stores its Own Power.

By Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery?

Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world’s first solar battery.

In the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers report that they’ve succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

The university will license the solar battery to industry, where Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says it will help tame the costs of renewable energy.

Yiying Wu Photo courtesy of Ohio State University

Yiying Wu
Photo courtesy of Ohio State University

“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”

He and his students believe that their device brings down costs by 25 percent.

The invention also solves a longstanding problem in solar energy efficiency, by eliminating the loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery. Typically, only 80 percent of electrons emerging from a solar cell make it into a battery.

With this new design, light is converted to electrons inside the battery, so nearly 100 percent of the electrons are saved.

The design takes some cues from a battery previously developed by Wu and doctoral student Xiaodi Ren. They invented a high-efficiency air-powered battery that discharges by chemically reacting potassium with oxygen. The design won the $100,000 clean energy prize from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2014, and the researchers formed a technology spinoff called KAir Energy Systems, LLC to develop it.

“Basically, it’s a breathing battery,” Wu said. “It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges.”

For this new study, the researchers wanted to combine a solar panel with a battery similar to the KAir. The challenge was that solar cells are normally made of solid semiconductor panels, which would block air from entering the battery.

Doctoral student Mingzhe Yu designed a permeable mesh solar panel from titanium gauze, a flexible fabric upon which he grew vertical rods of titanium dioxide like blades of grass. Air passes freely through the gauze while the rods capture sunlight.

Normally, connecting a solar cell to a battery would require the use of four electrodes, the researchers explained. Their hybrid design uses only three.

The mesh solar panel forms the first electrode. Beneath, the researchers placed a thin sheet of porous carbon (the second electrode) and a lithium plate (the third electrode). Between the electrodes, they sandwiched layers of electrolyte to carry electrons back and forth.

Here’s how the solar battery works: during charging, light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons. Inside the battery, electrons are involved in the chemical decomposition of lithium peroxide into lithium ions and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air, and the lithium ions are stored in the battery as lithium metal after capturing the electrons.

When the battery discharges, it chemically consumes oxygen from the air to re-form the lithium peroxide.

An iodide additive in the electrolyte acts as a “shuttle” that carries electrons, and transports them between the battery electrode and the mesh solar panel. The use of the additive represents a distinct approach on improving the battery performance and efficiency, the team said.

The mesh belongs to a class of devices called dye-sensitized solar cells, because the researchers used a red dye to tune the wavelength of light it captures.

In tests, they charged and discharged the battery repeatedly, while doctoral student Lu Ma used X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to analyze how well the electrode materials survived—an indication of battery life.

First they used a ruthenium compound as the red dye, but since the dye was consumed in the light capture, the battery ran out of dye after eight hours of charging and discharging—too short a lifetime. So they turned to a dark red semiconductor that wouldn’t be consumed: hematite, or iron oxide—more commonly called rust.

Coating the mesh with rust enabled the battery to charge from sunlight while retaining its red color. Based on early tests, Wu and his team think that the solar battery’s lifetime will be comparable to rechargeable batteries already on the market.

The U.S. Department of Energy funds this project, which will continue as the researchers explore ways to enhance the solar battery’s performance with new materials.

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: Ohio State University.

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Green Charge Networks Signs Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Agreement with Samsung SDI

October 3, 2014 in Battery Energy Storage, Electric Vehicles, Environment, EV charging, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage

Samsung SDI and Green Charge Networks Partner to Provide Intelligent Energy Storage Worldwide

Green Charge Networks Signs Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Agreement with Samsung SDI Photo courtesy of Samsung SDI

Green Charge Networks Signs Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Agreement with Samsung SDI
Photo courtesy of Samsung SDI

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Clean tech market leaders Green Charge Networks and Samsung SDI today announced the signing of a strategic supply agreement to deliver as much as 25 megawatt-hours (MWh) of lithium-ion batteries over the next two years. The agreement guarantees Green Charge has adequate supply of batteries as it seeks to expand its leading position in the growing market for intelligent energy storage.

Samsung SDI is the leading manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for stationary energy storage, electric vehicles, as well as consumer electronics. In February 2014, Samsung SDI announced an investment of $600 million to build China’s largest automotive lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Shaanxi province. The plant will begin operation in October 2015 with an annual capacity of enabling battery supply for over 40,000 EVs. Samsung SDI formed the strategic alliance with Green Charge as it has emerged as the leading solution in distributed energy storage with a fast growing list of brand name customers.

The GreenStationTM software-driven energy storage systems are installed and operating at commercial businesses, cities, and schools from coast to coast. After more than a year of technical collaboration, Green Charge chose Samsung SDI as its primary source for lithium-ion due to its safety, quality standards, and 10-year warranty. In addition to scale, Samsung SDI has met the highest level of performance and reliability demanded by Green Charge’s customers. By agreeing to purchase as much as 25 MWh of batteries from Samsung, Green Charge assures itself access to safe and reliable lithium-ion batteries to expand its market-leading position. Samsung SDI, in turns, benefits by gaining access to the growing mid-tier U.S. energy storage market.

“Green Charge’s partnership with Samsung affirms our commitment to using the best technology to deliver exceptional results to our customers,” said Vic Shao, CEO at Green Charge Networks. “Our customers count on us to use safe, reliable, and robust battery technology. This partnership solidifies the quality and value of the GreenStation platform.”

“Distributed energy storage will follow the same growth trajectory as distributed solar in the years to come,” said Woo-chan Kim, SVP of Samsung SDI. “We are pleased to partner with Green Charge as it has developed one of the most advanced and software-driven energy storage solutions. This partnership will vastly accelerate deployment in the emerging battery storage market in America and beyond.”

About Samsung SDI

Having entered the secondary Li-ion battery business in 2000, Samsung SDI has developed and grown into a market leader. Li-ion battery manufacturing now serves as one of Samsung SDI’s core businesses as it seeks to restructure its business portfolio from electronic display products to eco-friendly energy solutions, thereby writing another chapter of our industrial history in energy sector. The secondary lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Samsung SDI are rapidly expanding their applications from digital mobile devices such as cell phone and laptop to electric vehicles such as xEV and Energy Storage System (ESS). Our employees are sparing no effort to further develop new and innovative technologies and products and to expand our presence into untapped markets. For more information, visit

About Green Charge Networks, LLC (Green Charge)

Founded in 2009, Green Charge Networks is a leader in intelligent customer-sited energy storage. The company gives commercial and industrial businesses, municipalities, and schools control of rising demand rates on their monthly electric bills. Green Charge’s product complements solar PV, electric vehicle charging, and energy efficiency. The GreenStationTM was developed in partnership with leading utilities and Fortune 500 customers from coast to coast. K Road DG is the lead investor in Green Charge, with $56M investment announced in July 2014. Green Charge is headquartered in Santa Clara, CA with offices in New York City. For more information, visit www.GreenCharge.Net.

This article (10-1-14) is an EV News Report repost, credit: Samsung SDI.