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Our Methods, and Technology Roundup

Technology, n.: "How things are done"

Index

  • Our methods: Planned Innovation™: The process we use to achieve our innovative solutions,
  • Our Mission: Teach Clean-Tech Energy Innovation World Wide.
  • Our technology roadmap
  • Our Intellectual Property
  • Exhibits:
  • Our Methods REF: Achieving Planned Innovation, Bacon, Frank R. and Butler, Thomas W. (1998) ISBN 0-684-83990-3 [ Available in Hardcover/paperback at Amazon.com ]

Planned Innovation

Planned Innovation is a market-based method of increasing your rate of successful new product development, launch-planning, and adoption. I was Dr. Bacon’s Ph.D. student in the early 1980’s and owe to the methods he teaches the clarity of vision and probability of success which I expect as the results of our 7 – year Clean-Tech Energy Products development odyssey at Energy Partners, LLC.

In those 7 years, we have not invented better PV-panels, new energy storage methods, smart-inverters, or software/firmware control systems – but we have done extensive “Opportunity Analysis” and “Product Requirements Research” as may be defined in Dr. Bacon’s book and enlisted world-class expertise in configuring novel configurations of product-solutions which have enormous potential for solving clean energy problems. This work has defined our intellectual property (both in proprietary methods, and in seven published patents which we believe define the future of clean energy systems.

I personally have 28 years’ experience in installing PV + battery systems and working in a consulting capacity with leading industry partners. I also led the process of creating our University’s Renewable Energy Research Center in 1999-2002. This effort was achieved with the help of Siemens who supplied all of the power transformers, switchgear, controls, and distribution panels. This MAREC Center (Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center) opened in 2002 as Michigan’s first LEED-Gold building and all systems (30KWP BIPV, 30MW Capstone Microturbine, 1.8KW wind turbine, 250KW Fuel Cell Energy molten carbonate fuel cell, 80KWH/75KVA NiMH energy storage) were all AC-integrated to the buildings 480 VAC 3-phase power supply using Siemens Controls and expertise. It was likely the first building to demonstrate what Professor Werner Hartkopf (Carnage Mellon) described as “the building as the power plant” – and indeed we generally generated 150% of our day’s electricity and heating needs (so we exported 50% to the grid many days).

I had wanted to do a “common DC-buss” but there weren’t any suppliers, no NEC-Codes, and no existing DC power devices to allow a fully DC direct integration – which inspired me to begin thinking about how we would have created this microgrid using direct current integration.

I learned that I could not compete in the $multi-Billion investments made in either PV, Energy Storage, and software defined control – but I could (did) develop software-defined applications which both solve persistent energy integration problems AND immediately adapt to the changing characteristics of Solar Energy component technology – in most cases with just in-circuit software “flash-upgrades”.

I prefer to say our products “learn” new operations – rather than saying we are “agnostic” with respect to choices of PV, mounting, inverters, energy storage etc. – because at the time of installation there are clearly “best choices” to be made based upon system’s requirements (in all three domains; Customer’s needs, vendor and product-solutions, and code requirements) which is not being “agnostic” at all.

As you peruse what follows – it is my hope that you see in our IP, the depth of understanding and scope of treatment that we discovered since 1999 which was needed in our “products requirements” research phase to gain substantial leverage in developing best-in-class solutions.

Dr. James F. Wolter, Managing Partner
Energy Partners, LLC

Our Mission

We will develop novel electric-power availability and power-quality controlling systems using the either direct conversion of sun-light into electricity (aka. Photovoltaics), - or- alternative, clean, generation technologies and create Dispatchable Power 24 hours each day through the use of energy storage and advanced software defined controls. Our trademark: Solar24® stands for reliable electric power 24-hours per day using a “12 hour” sunshine.

Our Technology Roadmap

  • Conventional PV mono, poly, ribbon-cast, silicon – thin-film A-Si Hybrids, CdTe, CIGS, and soon, Perovskytes.
  • Distributed Energy Storage Lead Acid, Advanced/Hybrid SLA, NiMH, (many) Lithium-based storage-cells, capacitive, and associative free-electron nano-structures. While not mentioned specifically, inertial and gravitational energy storage are included.
  • Software-defined signal/power electronics (charge-control, load control, telemetry, systems-integration, and local/far-end dispatch while integrating IoT and AI).

Our Patents and Pending Patents

Listed below (in full-text form) are our two issued patents, two applications presently under examination, and three pending patents for which examination by USPTO has not begun.

Patent (A.) US 9136732 DISTRIBUTED ENERGY STORAGE AND POWER QUALITY CONTROL IN PHOTOVOLTAIC ARRAYS

If PV systems are examples of Distributed Generation then it makes perfect sense to use Distributed Energy Storage where energy storage is required. In a similar logic it also makes perfect sense to use Distributed Power Quality Control whether if be in front-of or behind-the-meter.

Importantly, embedded within the term: “distributed power quality control,” are the use of active power factor correction (eg. VAR-injection), transient mitigation, load following, load shifting, peak-shaving et.al. – AND providing for “dispatchable PV” using collective, synchronous telemetry and master-control (on site or far-end).

This suite of distributed assets is under the control of a “master controller” whether this be used within a microgrid, multiple, integrated microgrids, or gird intertied.

We teach bi-directionality for energy-flows in our system because I cannot imagine a Community Microgrid (aka. Blockchain) where cumulative surplus energy storage (created by members who did not use all of their generated or stored energy) could be sold into a system where others desired more energy than they generated and stored.

Take the time to read through the “specification-part” (the descriptive text) and you will find that what we teach is decidedly “Utility Friendly” while also being “Community Friendly”. We see modern electric power systems needing:

  • Clean Power
  • Flexible Control with user dominated interface (unless owned by a Utility)
  • Safe-power where potential destructive failure modes are limited to panels or strings
  • Self-diagnostics and appropriate response to system-health changes
  • Ease of maintenance, repair, or replacement of smaller modules
  • Cost benefits from using “many” smaller energy cells (capacitive of chemical storage elements)
  • Cyber-Security (each element having its own encrypted IP-address)
  • Figure 2A and Figure 3 (and Claim language) accept external fossil-fueled generation for solar reliability for either peak-shaving or long spells of low-sun-days.
  • Wide latitude of voltage and power energy storage use (12-24-48VDC up to the 1,500 VDC standard using efficient DC-DC conversion interfacing).

Patent-Pending Application (B.) DISTRIBUTED ENERGY STORAGE AND POWER QUALITY CONTROL IN PHOTOVOLTAIC ARRAYS [ same title as (A.) but adding 41 new claims ]

Takes together (A. + B. ) and assuming that (B.) will be allowed and issued by the USPTO, these two documents teach 36 + 41 = 77 Claimed-methods for configuring distributed energy storage for off-grid, grid-tied, microgrid, and macro-grid clean-tech energy development (allowing for normal content repetition when needed in different Independent claim language).

Taken together, they teach a comprehensive yet technology-flexible approach to diffusing clean power within highly developed Nations as well as Emerging Economies power infrastructures which are:

  • Controlled by flexible, software-defined system which will readily relearn new energy storage device characteristics, adapt to ever “smarter” inverters and converters, and able to integrate with ever-smarter telemetry and metering systems.
  • There are a number of energy storage devices I like to call “9X” because they are not only less volatile in failure modes – they promise 3X energy density and 3X the cycle-life (hence 3 X 3 = 9).
The systems disclosed in these 7 patent documents are all designed around very flexible learning-systems and can be readily reconfigured using “in-circuit” reprogramming (as might have been done to your car by Dealer Service technicians).

Therefore, upgrading Power systems, energy storage systems, or power control systems should in most cases a simple plug-in of firmware with reprogramming software.

Patent (C.) US 9252311 SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM WITH MONOCOQUE SUPPORTING STRUCTURE
Patent APPLICATION (D.) US 2016/0099673 SOLAR PANEL SYSTEM WITH MONOCOQUE SUPPORTING STRUCTURE

This patent and companion patent-pending application represent the least cost method for presenting thin-film PV for ground-mount (i.e., independent of any roof supporting sub-structure).

The genesis of this technology comes from my years of association with Uni-Solar Corporation who made thin-film amorphous silicon PV (A-Si). They sold Megawatts of BIPV (Building Integrated PV) where their solar materials would be applied with adhesive directly to the roof structure.

When they approached “ground mount” (which must be self-supporting) they incurred punishing cost adders because they in effect had to mount their PV “twice” – first on a stabilizing steel pan (a section of standing-seam roof for example) and then add the cost of the traditional (erector set) of structural-steel in-ground frameworks to stabilize their pan-mounted PV.

With the bankruptcy of Uni-Solar in 2013 one might dismiss the present IP as “historical” were it not for the rapidly re-emerging thin-film PV industry. Taken in combination, (A. + B.) teach not only the least cost method of ground-mounting thin-film PV, importantly (see Claim #5 of (B.) for example) they teach direct deposition of layers of energy storage media + PV media directly on the sun-facing side of the monocoque structure – which would lead to a solar panel with integrated energy storage which “mounts itself”. Admittedly there is a significant technology gap which must be bridged (efficient PV coating – deposition of energy storage – using 3D printing or laser etching to electrically connect everything usw.). But when this is accomplished we will be blessed with VERY low cost PV and storage – in VERY thin layers. There will be no lower cost methods to achieve the functionality of integrating distributed generation, distributed energy storage, and distributed power quality control in any conceivable PV future.

As for the probability of the re-emergence of thin-film PC – NREL and Fraunhofer Institute have verified performance of new materials yield-ranges’ from 21% to 35% PV-yields (in the laboratory). As for low cost, Perovskytes (which use no rare-earths and can be sprayed-on as like robot-painting of automobiles) are yielding PV conversion efficiencies in the 22%+ range notwithstanding they must yet be chemically stabilized as they self-degrade too rapidly to be commercially viable (now).

As these patents are in-force until 2032 – one hopes timely solutions will be found to create commercial viability of these novel materials and methods – we need research and development!

Patent-Pending Application (E.) POWER GENERATION SYSTEMS WITH INTEGRATED RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION, ENERGY STORAGE, AND POWER CONTROL

Figure 3 in this document is self-explanatory as is the reason for the importance of adding a conventional fossil-fueled generator to a PV + Energy Storage installation. Sized appropriately and used with solar micro or macro grid systems this is the assurance of near 100% frequency (on-time availability) for the system.

This application has been submitted since 2011 and the existing “prior-art” is both deep and historical. The bad news is that we may not get an issued patent – the good news is that if this does not issue – NO ONE will ever get a patent covering this material anywhere in the World. In either case the teaching is valid – this is a robust-solution to power reliability when backing up inherently intermittent RE sources.

Patent-Pending Application (F.) SINGLE AND MULTI-AXIAL ARTICULATED BALLASTED PHOTOVOLTAIC MOUNT (independently co-owned with J. Mathie, www.patriotsolargroup.com )

This system is successfully being used on membraned landfills, environmentally sensitive lands, and solid rock, sand dune, solid-lava, or “lahar”. The system also creates a “portable PV system” in that it is not a permanently mounted “structure”. Because of its 3-axis adjustability (+ height) it is possible to create a leveled and stable mounting on irregular terrain.

Patriot Solar Group have mas amazing progress in automating the creation and placement of ballast bases – and have done over a dozen PV-installations (some over 1MWP) using their methods (circa June 2017). Visit www.patriotsolargroup.com to see examples of these installations.

Patent-Pending Application (G.) ENERGY APPARATUSES, ENERGY SYSTEMS, AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT METHODS INCLUDING ENERGY STORAGE

This patent-pending application and its Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filing represent an integration and International Coverage of the novel ideas taught in earlier patents plus adds significant material surrounding reconfigurable microgrids having user (owner) control.

This application also teaches the integration of IoT and AI in the controls systems from small microgrids to multi-megawatt PV + Generator + Energy Storage + Smart-Inverter clean-tech power systems. This application also teaches the management of within-system health as well as external prediction of load management needs. AI is applied to solve weather-prediction related to load prediction determinations and all potential telemetry and controls are IoT integrated.

The PCT allows us to apply for in-country Patents in over 150 Nations (within a 15 month window from July 2017) and we are seeking partners who have specific interest internationally. It is sobering to consider that two patents encompass all of China (includes Beijing and Hong Kong awards), one patent for India, and one patent covers 90+% of African Nations. Additionally 29 Western European Countries are party to the European Patent Office Cooperation – there is enormous demand for clean energy emerging worldwide. Google: PCT Member Nations - to visualize our Planet’s electrical needs “covered by PV”!

Energy Partners LLC
MAREC Center
200 Viridian Drive
Muskegon, MI 49440
Email: info@solar24.pw