Sanyo Teams Up With UCSD on Solar and Batteries

To remain among the top three suppliers ofsolar-panel solutions tied to ‘smart energy’ systems, Sanyo is bettingon delivering better R&D, and working with the Ivory Tower.

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Sanyo NorthAmerica jointly announced an agreement to collaborate on theUniversity’s energy-storage project. The two entities revealed detailsof a multi-year, multi-disciplinary agreement in renewable energy. Theresearch will build on Sanyo’s ‘Smart Energy System’ and ongoing work at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering in areas such as solar forecasting, energy-storage research, development and education.

The Smart Energy System exemplifies local power generation for localconsumption (solar panels generate energy that is stored in localrechargeable batteries and then used in local energy-efficientappliances).

In the midst of the current economic crisis, many Japanese solarfirms are trying to latch onto energy as the next big export. Sharp,Kyocera, Kawasaki, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric, among others, are investing billionsof dollars to expand production of batteries, fuel cells, "green" TVs,and solar cells over the coming years. Many are also participating withLos Alamos National Labs in smart grid trials in New Mexico. Panasonic bought a controlling interest in Sanyo in 2009. (Historical note:Sanyo was started decades ago by an early Panasonic employee.)

The Smart Energy System has been incorporated throughout Sanyo’sKasai HEV Battery Factory at Japan for optimum energy usage. The factory is scheduled to start operation in summer 2010.

Looking for clouds

"This partnership with Sanyo will further leverage the university’senergy-research expertise which, in turn, will benefit industry, society and the environment," said Chancellor Mary Anne Fox.

Why UCSD? "Because we’ve done previous research with them; Sanyo’sAmerica headquarters are located in this city. And UCSD ranks ninth andfourth in high-quality engineering in the world and in the U.S.,respectively,"  said Aaron Fowles, Sanyo North America spokesman.

Public-private partnerships play a huge role in alternative energy.BP gave $500 million to the University of California and the Universityof Illinois for biofuel research, while Dow Chemical jointly researches solar technologies with Caltech.

Sanyo gets a substantial portion of its revenue from solar, but hasbeen facing challenges from low cost manufacturers in China and Taiwan.Like SunPower, Sanyo is known mostly for its high-end, high-efficiencycells and modules.  

Research will build on the Sanyo Smart Energy System concept,designed to improve the stability and reliability of renewable energy,as well as on ongoing work at the Jacobs School of Engineering in areassuch as solar forecasting, energy storage and general energy management. Targets for research projects include developing the next generation of energy solutions, focusing on minimizing emissions while offeringstable, reliable renewable energy generation, storage and efficiencyfrom small- to large-scale systems.

For example, UCSD has being working on the Total Sky Imager (TSI),which provides continuous digitization of the sky and computes cloudamounts for each image. "This is crucial to know when it is useful tostore energy," Fowles emphasized.

Sanyo and UCSD will explore various ways to combine technologythrough joint research, and together will create an Energy DevelopmentOpen (EDO) Platform to propose a number of application services usingSmart Energy Systems. Through promulgating an open platform, application services that can optimize energy use are anticipated, and by expanding on a global scale, they can contribute beneficially to the earth’senvironment.

The first step of the agreement with UCSD is that two students willwork as interns on the Sanyo Smart Energy System at the company’s Osaka, Japan headquarters. The students will research solar forecasting,adaptive-charging technologies, and customer optimization of variablebattery and photovoltaic technologies.

Sanyo is the world’s leading supplier of rechargeable batteryproducts. The solar industry cannot rely on solar panels alone. Sanyothinks that a stable electrical grid must include batteries. That is the bet that the Japanese company is making.



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