Stored Solar Energy Just Peachy with Georgia's Suniva, Inc.

January 31, 2010
By Tina Casey

Suniva, Inc., a solar manufacturer based in Georgia, is aiming to bring a commercial, grid-connected, stored solar energy system to the state for the first time.  The company has just announced a partnership with Georgia-based GS Battery USA Inc., that will combine Suniva’s solar modules with high tech batteries on a 30 kilowatt solar plant at GS Battery’s headquarters in Roswell, Georgia.

To make it a trifecta, a third Georgia-based company, First Century Energy of Atlanta, is the designer of the solar array.  It’s an interesting sustainable energy threesome given that GS Battery is a subsidiary of GS Yuasa Group of Japan, which is a global battery technology leader that has just contracted with NASA to assemble lithium ion battery cells in Roswell — and there’s a couple of other U.S. government connections, too.

Stored Solar Energy and Green Jobs
Suniva’s 30 kW array is set to be the first in a series, and it takes advantage of the 2009 stimulus package aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which as of January 1st applies a 30% investment tax credit to battery storage systems as well as solar systems.  On top of that, Suniva was founded by staff from the University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which was established with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.  This powerful nexus of government funding, academic research and private enterprise is fulfilling the promise of an emerging green economy jump-started by the 2009 stimulus package.

Suniva and Solar Power
Suniva is known for its high efficiency, low cost monocrystalline solar cells, the ARTisun series.  At an output of up to 300 watts they rank among the highest performance levels, and the company has more developments in the works: improving the process for screen-printing solar gridlines, teasing out a better response from the more energetic blue end of the solar spectrum, and getting more light to reflect back into the system with a more efficient “passivization” layer.

GS Battery and Stored Energy
GS Batteries USA specializes in motorcycle and other vehicle batteries, so it will be interesting to see how the subsidiary interacts with its parent on a technological level.  According to an article in the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, the recent GS Yuasa contract with NASA represents the high end of energy storage technology, calling for satellite and space station vessel lithium-ion battery cells that go for $20,000 a pop.  The components will be pre-made and then assembled at the Roswell facility, which could nearly triple the plant’s employment from 35 to 100.

Solar Power and Stored Energy
Energy storage is the key that will unlock the full potential of solar power for use in manufacturing, and the Roswell installation could help demonstrate that stored solar energy is just as steady and reliable as any source of fossil fuel.  Aside from lithium ion technology, researchers are also developing solar energy storage systems based on molten salt, plant photosynthesis, and even the good old fashioned flywheel.