Former Grand Valley Professor Awarded Patent for ‘Stable’ Solar Power System

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A former Grand Valley State University faculty member has been awarded a patent for a solar power system that will store energy into individual batteries rather than a single battery. By allowing each battery to distribute power individually, the system maximizes efficiency and output.

"At its base level, this improvement to the distribution and storage of energy generated by solar cells would allow people who live without electricity in third-world countries to more effectively use battery-stored power for lighting, refrigeration, or just charging a cell phone," says Jim Wolter, who was granted the patent and is a tenant of the business incubator Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon.

Wolter says in the United States, the system could be applied to current installations to smooth out the intermittent nature of solar power. He says solar panels have typically been paired with expensive batteries so the power could be stored for use at night. Wolter’s system incorporates a battery, a controller, and a power inverter into the design of each panel.

Wolter says when each panel has its own controller, inverter, and battery, it means that any size of solar array can provide stable power, despite fluctuations in power creation. He says the system is expandable because energy is distributed on a per-panel basis, unlike a traditional system where storage and power inversion may only be sized for the initial system.

Wolter says the patent is a fundamental piece of his business strategy for his company, Energy Partners. 

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