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Stony Brook University Features Nextek's STAR Mobile Solar Unit

The State University of New York at Stony Brook's Newswise web site recently featured the Nextek Power Systems STAR Mobile Solar Unit. The story reported on Brooke Ellison, a Stony Brook professor who requires a ventilator with uninterrupted electricity production to keep her alive.

Dr. Ellison is the Director of Education and Ethics at Stony Brook University’s Stem Cell Research Facility and Associate Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership Development. She is allowing scientists to field-test the STAR at her home.

The testing focuses on potential equipment changes needed to secure FDA approval as a medical-grade, uninterrupted, clean-energy power resource for emergency situations when power outages may occur.

The STAR (Stationary or Transportable Available Resource) was developed by Nextek to provide power to remote locations that typically do not have regular electrical power service. Several units have been deployed in Haiti since the devastating earthquake there.

The complete Stony Brook article can be found on the Newswise web site.



Someday, an Auto Company Will Double Its Sales by Selling Electric Drivetrains to Buildings

By Paul Savage Ten years ago, hybrid automobiles hit the road. While they aren’t yet sprouting up everywhere today, their little brother start/stop is. That continuing trend will create an opportunity for an automobile manufacturer to address the new market segments that David Crane is talking about. This changing utility model includes the battery management systems, charging and solar PV interfaces that Robyn Beavers is blazing a trail for.

What’s really interesting is that these components are all strikingly similar to the electronic components now included in your Ford Fusion,  FiatUSA’s 500 or GM’s Chevy Volt or Spark. And yet there are no parts in common between the mobile and stationary worlds. It doesn’t need to be this way.

None of this is news to the EMerge Alliance members who are working towards greater interoperability and parts commonality between these markets. But a big auto manufacturer hasn’t jumped in yet. Only a smaller one, Tesla Motors, has been making progress in this area. Tesla has many of the elements in place, and the cross-holdings of Elon Musk in SolarCity suggest he’ll be hunting for the largest possible market for these electronic platforms, along with the many batteries he wants to build for them. Amory Lovins has famously said there’s an enormous oilfield under Detroit, referring to the value waiting to be unlocked through more efficient vehicle design. Maybe there’s a car in every building just itching to get out and show how it can help too.

This is dramatic cross-silo thinking. I want Ernest Moniz to have a go-to guy in charge, and the Department of Energy Press Secretary to toot the American Ingenuity Horn about how the path to our future energy grid can run right through Motown. The autos have the justified reputation for reliability and cost containment – let’s pay them back by opening up a market to their skills that’s three times the size of their addressable market today: stationary power systems in buildings.

Paul Savage is the CEO of Nextek Power Systems, located at the Next Energy Center, and a founder of the EMerge Alliance.

@NRGDavidCrane, @robynbeavers, @fordfusion, @FiatUSA, @GM @ChevyVolt, @EMergeAlliance, @teslamotors, @elonmusk, @solarcity, @amorylovins, @ernestmoniz, @EnergyPressSec, @nextenergymi



Nextek CEO Paul Savage is Keynote Speaker at Microgrid Summit


Nextek Power Systems Inc. CEO Paul Savage will be a keynote speaker at Microgrid Global Summit 2014 in Newport Beach, CA on May 22. His speech, “DC Microgrids and the Internet of Things,” will address some of the business and technological challenges that face microgrid energy stakeholders. The four-day event will bring an international constituency from around the world to share insights regarding best practices and lessons learned in a truly global forum.

Event themes include:

  • What are the business models for key stakeholders?
  • What are the essential value propositions?
  • What regulatory changes will be required?
  • How can microgrids integrate with existing operations?
  • What are the latest enabling technology advances?
  • How can we best work together to move forward?

The Global Summit is intended for professionals at utility organizations of all varieties who wish to meet the microgrid opportunity head-on. This includes investor owned, municipal, and co-op energy providers in major metropolitan areas around the world as well as in rural and remote / off-grid environments.

The event is produced by the Advanced Power and Energy Program of the University of California at Irvine, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, CleanTechOC, Navigant Research, the U.S. Department of Defense, and a variety of other organizations.



Direct Current is Simply Sexier - Says Austin “DC” Power

International Man of Electricity, Austin “DC” Power, makes the case for “sexier” DC power in a video recently released by the EMerge Alliance®. The video, posted on the Alliance’s web site, explains the advantages of DC over legacy AC power. austin-dc-power

The video also includes an appearance by Dr. AC Evil, who tries, rather unsuccessfully, to defend outdated systems and practices designed to keep consumers in thrall to the AC grid. But after Austin Power enlightens him to DC’s practicality, the two agree that a compromise between DC and AC is not only possible, but also necessary for the future of the world’s power needs.

EMerge Alliance® is an open industry association leading the rapid adoption of safe DC power distribution in commercial buildings through the development of EMerge Alliance standards. Nextek Power Systems, Inc. is a founding and governing member of the Alliance.



Secret DC Grid Has Been Powering Parts of San Francisco Since 1879

DC electrical grids never really caught on for widespread public utility use. Their limited distribution range (a result of their late 1800s technology) couldn’t compete with AC’s transmission abilities. But one DC grid, located in San Francisco, has been operating since 1879, three years before Thomas Edison opened his New York DC power plant. In an article posted on the IEEE Spectrum web site, a 250-volt DC system coexists with AC lines, flowing through underground and overhead cables across the city. Such are the needs of some of its customers that PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), the local utility, has found it necessary to keep the system running.

One of the primary uses for DC power is elevator motors, dating from before 1930, that are still in use. These “winding drum” motors, outlawed after 1940 for safety reasons, were grandfathered in. They persist due to the enormous cost of replacing them with new elevator systems.

Due to technical issues that have arisen over the decades, mostly due to the aging of the equipment, PG&E has divided the DC grid into very small “islanded” sections, each serving about 7 to 10 customers. Instead of sending DC current over a separate grid throughout the city, the company now rectifies AC power nearby before sending it on to its destination.

Perhaps SF’s DC grid will stay in operation long enough to see a transition to a modern Direct Current grid, such as those operating in many parts of Europe. Transmission issues have been solved, meaning high voltage DC (HVDC) can be used to more efficiently power homes and businesses.



Nextek’s 380 Volt DC Ballasts Approved by UL and CUL

Nextek Power Systems Inc. has received authorization to apply the UL mark on our 380 VDC ballast. The 380 VDC ballast is a 6-lamp ballast for use in both new and retrofit installations, making it perfect for highbay applications. It comes with three light level controls (33%, 67%,100%), and has an efficiency rating of > 97%. The 24VDC supply to load is isolated for 380VDC.

UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is an independent safety science company that tests and evaluates equipment to determine its compliance with UL safety standards. The awarding of the UL designation is respected around the world as a benchmark of product safety.

For more information on Nextek products, please visit our web site.



Software Helps Designers Plan for PV Installation

A new cloud-based software tool can help engineers and others plan for the installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system. As reported by, HelioScope, a new program introduced by Folsom Labs, combines the planning functions of typical PV software with AutoCad, allowing designers to do a complete design with one package. Users enter a location address, select the roof area for the array, specify a PV module, and choose an inverter model. The system virtually eliminates the need for onsite assessments if Google Earth is used to find the location and import its 3D layout into SketchUp, a free drawing program. Using the 3D model, HelioScope performs a shading analysis. In addition to giving a recommended PV panel layout, HelioScope provides a detailed wiring diagram, including the exact placement of panels, inverters, and other equipment. It then produces a complete bill of materials.

HelioScope also uses weather files, shading analysis, physics of solar modules, wire resistance, and other factors to run its simulation. It offers multiple simulations for each location to compare results.



Thermophotovoltaics May Provide Breakthrough in Solar Conversion to Electricity

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a device that converts the wavelength of sunlight into a band that is more easily used by photovoltaic panels, marking the way for a breakthrough in solar cell technology. The devices, called thermophotovoltaics, act as both absorbers and emitters, and address a problem that has plagued traditional solar cells since their genesis—that they can only absorb certain wavelengths of sunlight, which restricts their ability to create electrical energy to about 33.7 percent efficiency— known as the Shockley-Queisser limit. As reported by the IEEE Spectrum, the researchers, led by graduate student Andrej Lenert, reasoned that if they could manipulate the wavelength of the sunlight to what the solar cells could handle, they could theoretically raise efficiency to more than 80 percent. The outer layer of the absorber-emitter uses an array of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, and the emitter portion is a photonic crystal layer made of silicon and silicon dioxide.

However, early tests have returned only a 3.2 percent efficiency. This is because the thermophotovoltaics get extremely hot. The new device’s absorber-emitter reached a temperature of 962°C (1764°F); at those temperatures, the devices are difficult to optimize and operate.

If these issues can be resolved, the devices also have the potential to aid in energy storage, since heat is an easier stored form of energy than electricity.

Photo courtesy Andrej Lenert, Evelyn Wang, Marin Soljacic, Ivan Celanovic, David Bierman, Walker Chan, and Youngsuk Nam.



Government Incentives Can Reduce the Cost of Switching to Energy Efficiency

Something often overlooked in the decision to switch to energy efficient systems and fixtures is the potential to receive government or other rebates that can significantly lower taxes or purchase prices. The U.S. government offers tax credits for some energy-efficient home improvements, such as replacement windows and roofing. Many of these credits are more easily found by using a professional tax preparer or software package. Alternative energy equipment such as solar water heaters, solar electricity equipment and wind turbines are eligible for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of the qualified improvement, according to the IRS. The credit is available through the end of 2016 and can be claimed on your federal tax return.

Some state, county and municipal governments also have credit programs for energy-efficient home improvements. Visit to view a clickable map of U.S. states where such rebates are available. Choose your state, and you’ll see a list of county, municipal and state programs that may be available to you. In Michigan, for example, Nextek’s home state, there are a variety of loan and grant programs from both the state and city entities. There are also rebate programs available from utility providers.

The savings from some manufacturer’s rebates can be significant. If you’re in the market for a new energy-efficient appliance, water heater or HVAC unit, look for manufacturer’s rebates. Some manufacturers of eco-friendly HVAC systems, water heaters, pool and spa heaters, and boilers, offer cash-back incentives at certain times during the year when homeowners purchase a qualifying system.



Students in India Develop Photovoltaic Driven Refrigerator

A team of students in the Innovation And Entrepreneurship Development Centre (IEDC) of RMK Engineering College in India has developed a prototype photovoltaic driven refrigerator and warmer system that could potentially replace appliances that use refrigerants and other liquids for operation. According to an article in the Deccan Chronicle, students Surith Nivas M, Sai Prasad S and Ram Kumar P.H. designed a system powered from solar panels using a battery bank for electrical storage. In an adaptation of thermoelectric refrigeration, the system does not require a compressor, expansion valves, absorbers, condensers or solution pumps. It also does not require working fluids or any moving parts, making it friendly to the environment and resulting in increased reliability. The device uses electrons rather than refrigerants as a heat carrier.

Thermoelectric systems are defined as solid-state devices that either convert heat directly into electricity, or transform electric power into thermal power for heating or cooling.

The system’s primary application will be to bring refrigeration to rural communities, especially in India, where sunlight is plentiful and refrigeration products rare. However, the potential for replacing Freon and similar liquid-based devices could revolutionize the industry.

The team’s findings are reported in a paper posted on the International Journal of Advancements in Research & Technology web site.



Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk: Loud Music Makes Zinc-Oxide Solar Cells Work Better

You may not be able to get mad at your neighbor for blasting loud music anymore. At least not if that music is aimed at making the solar cells on his roof work more efficiently. According to an article reported by science writer Ceri Perkins on, researchers in the UK have discovered that blasting music at zinc-oxide solar cells makes them perform up to 50% better. The researchers said pop and rock music works better than classical music, but they suggested that any noise with a broad range of frequencies would produce similar effects. The discovery might be exploited by placing the devices on top of buses, air-conditioning units and in other noisy spots.

Zinc oxide is a piezoelectronic substance (piezo comes from the Greek "to squeeze"), meaning that when it is subject to mechanical strain, the symmetry of its component crystals is distorted and a polarization charge appears. Nanomaterials expert Steve Dunn of Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College photochemist James Durrant hypothesized that by using acoustic vibrations, they could induce tiny piezoelectric currents in zinc-oxide nanorods, and boost the cells’ electricity output. To test their idea, the researchers used computer speakers to play the music from their mobile phones and individual frequencies from a signal generator at volumes of about 75 dB—equivalent to a lively office.

They found that the device was 40–50% more efficient when particular types of music were played. “It quite liked Adele and AC/DC,” said Dunn, “but then Safa [Shoaee] played some Persian funk at it and it was really loving that!”

The researchers suggested that a similarly broad range of frequencies arise from many types of everyday noise, making their devices eventually feasible for use on laptops, public transport and near airports. But even with the 50% increase in efficiency, zinc-oxide cells only achieve 1.8% power-conversion efficiency and lag way behind crystalline silicon’s 10–20% standard.

The team’s research is published in Advanced Materials.



Auto Manufacturers Moving to High-End Electric/Hybrid Vehicles

For the last decade, electric and hybrid automobiles have been designed as smaller models, typically the size and design of subcompact cars. But recent developments in the auto industry have led to the release or planned release of a variety of luxury models and SUVs, offering evidence that electric cars will eventually replace gasoline-powered models. Among the models soon to be released are the Cadillac ELR, a luxury coupe that will come ready for the Smart Grid, meaning that owners will be able to schedule their charging during utility companies’ off-peak hours. It is expected to have a fuel economy rating of 82 mpg.

Volvo plans to deploy its XC90 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid in 2014, a gasoline-electric luxury SUV with at least 300 horsepower, yet carbon dioxide emissions as low 50g/km. The company believes fuel economy could potentially surpass 100 mpg in the U.S.

Infiniti’s Q50 hybrid was recently awarded five stars in the latest round of Euro NCAP safety testing. The luxury sedan uses a 3.5-litre V6 paired with an electric motor to produce a total of 354hp, yet return an anticipated 36 mpg highway.

All these models and several others are expected to compete with BMW’s very successful i8 plug-in hybrid, which has sold out in its first year of availability. Ten thousand i8s were planned for 2014, going on sale by next June, and despite the price tag starting at $136,625, car buyers snapped them up. It uses a three-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine rated at 231 horsepower, mated to a 131-hp electric motor. To keep weight down, the i8 uses carbon-fiber construction. The car will go from standstill to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, BMW says.