US: New research agreement “central” to future of solar power

Under the agreement, Sanyo and UC San Diego will collaborate on multi-year, multi-disciplinary projects in the areas of renewable energy and energy storage research, development and education. Sanyo will contribute USD$3 million over three years to fund the collaborative research projects.

The first project involves applying research already underway at UC San Diego on solar forecasting, to the Sanyo Smart Energy System concept. UC San Diego Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor Jan Kleissl is using advanced weather stations and sky imaging tools and instruments to create hourly solar production forecasts. It has been said that such work could be used to more precisely determine when to store and release solar energy throughout the day.

Commenting on the partnership, UC San Diego chancellor Marye Anne Fox said: “As one of the greenest universities in the United States, UC San Diego has become a living laboratory for sustainability and renewable energy. This partnership with Sanyo will further leverage the university’s energy research expertise which, in turn, will benefit industry, society and the environment.”

The research projects that will be carried out under the agreement are “central to the future use of solar power”, according to a statement released by the university, especially for states like California that will rely more on renewable energy to meet its growing energy needs.

The research will build on the Smart Energy System, which was designed to "improve the stability and reliability of renewable energy", and ongoing work at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering in areas such as solar forecasting, energy storage and general energy management.

The targets for research projects include developing the next generation of energy solutions, focusing on minimizing emissions while offering stable, reliable renewable energy generation, storage and efficiency from small to large-scale systems.

“Today as Sanyo and UC San Diego sign this agreement for research and activities to realize smart grids, each of our organizations brings unique abilities and know-how to the table to build a win-win relationship,” explained Mitsuru Homma, executive vice president of Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.

“It is our hope that through this agreement we can create a value-added system to offer the United States as a whole, expanding the concept of a smart grid society beyond the boundaries of this campus and San Diego.”

Sanyo and UC San Diego will explore various ways to combine technology through joint research, and together create an Energy Development Open (EDO) Platform to propose a number of application services using Smart Energy Systems. Through promulgating an open platform, it is anticipated that application services able to optimize the use of energy will be created, and by expanding on a global scale, can make a large contribution to the earth’s environment.

Meanwhile, Sanyo has said that its forecasts show “an increasing market and demand for solar systems in the United States, as well as more policies and measures being considered and passed by the government administration directed toward solving energy and environmental issues”.

However, Sanyo went on to say that power generation is very sensitive to the balance of power supply available and the amount demanded. The company explained that while solar panels offer a clean, renewable way to obtain energy, the issues of power generation loss caused by external influencers such as clouds need to be mitigated, as this type of fluctuation in power generation could “adversely affect stability in the power grid”.

By combining solar power generation technology with lithium-ion battery systems for power storage, said Sanyo, excess power generated can be captured to offset times when less power is generated, offering a "more stable" solution than previously available.