Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Origin energy forms solar partnership with Micron technology by Justin Blows
January 17, 2010, 7:49 pm
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According to this report, Origin energy has formed a solar  PV joint venture with Micron Technology, based in Boise USA.

Origin’s media release does not have specific details about what technology it brings to the table.  Micron specializes in semiconductors.

A quick look at the Australian patent records, however, shows that many of Origin’s patent’s have Klaus Weber and Andrew Blakers from the Australian National University as inventors.

According to the Origin web site, the award-winning SLIVER PV technology was invented and developed at the Australian National University’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems with financial support from Origin. A dedicated research and pilot manufacturing facility is located at Regency Park in Adelaide, South Australia.

Photo courtesy Origin Energy

This appears to be a great story of research projects and JVs being facilitated by patents.  First, ANU and Origin, and now Origin and Micron.

Justin Blows


Massive solar deal in China by Justin Blows
January 13, 2010, 7:44 am
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According to this report the solar thermal company eSolar has made a deal to licence its technology into China.  The plans are to build 2 GW (!) of solar thermal power generation capacity over 10 years.  eSolar specialises in solar tower technology in which multiple mirrors on the ground concentrate sunlight on a boiler at the top of a tower.

Once again, this demonstrates the phenomenal plans that are in place in China to beef up renewable power generation.  The centre for clean and sustainable technologies is moving rapidly towards China.

A solar field by eSolar who has sealed an IP licensing deal into China

The licensing deal is no doubt centered on eSolar’s patent portfolio.  I had a very quick look for their patents / applications and I found these.  Interestingly, eSolar has sealed an astonishing deal with only around 10 patent applications – although there may be more that I have not found.  It just goes to show how powerful patents are. 

Another interesting point to note that is that the deal was not for the supply of hardware but intellectual property.  This makes a lot of sense when dealing with China because they can manufacturer very competitively, but need the ideas to drive their manufacturing.  This is a continuation of  thought of in the west but made in China – think Apple (TM) for another example.  The Chinese government is, I understand, very generous to companies setting up manufacturing in China, which can turn out a product cheaply in any case.

Justin Blows

Beaming power to earth from space by Justin Blows
December 7, 2009, 3:42 pm
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In what could be the most audacious clean energy plan this year, authorities in the US have approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to generate solar power in space and beam it to earth.

According to a press release, the experimental technology uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity, which is then converted into radio frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station. Space-based solar power has been researched in the U.S. for several decades and this summer the Japanese government announced plans to pursue a space-based solar program.

According to this report, the 200-megawatt orbiting solar farm would convert solar energy collected in space into radio frequency waves, which would be beamed to a ground station near Fresno, Calif. The radio waves would then be transformed back into electricity and fed into the power grid.

Justin Blows

Interest in combined solar heat and power accelerating by Justin Blows
December 3, 2009, 9:40 am
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There are now several players who are working to capture the heat generated when sunlight falls on photovoltaic modules and then putting it to good use.

Chromasun is one such player patenting in this area.   An international patent application by Chromasun discloses concentrating solar light using compact Fresnel reflector onto a photovoltaic strip, behind which is a thermal solar receiver in which a liquid that receives the heat flows.

Chromosun’s web site suggests that this technology could be deployed on the roof tops of buildings, presumably including dwellings.

Mitsubishi, who is a big player in wind turbines, is developing a rooftop solar unit that they claim cam supply 65% of a household’s energy needs. According to this report, the product generates solar hot air and electricity. Air flow between the PV panel and a standard roof captures the heat. The air flow recovers heat from the solar panel side. By recovering the heat, it can then be used for household heating and hot water supply. Testing of a three kilowatt unit apparently verified that 65 percent of energy consumption in each household could be replaced by solar energy.

Justin Blows

Solar industry roundtable broadcast by Griffith Hack

In a broadcast this week on Boardroom Radio Australia (, Dr Justin Blows led a roundtable discussion on the topic of solar energy with the following contributors: Richard Caldwell (Chairman, Dyesol), John Grimes (CEO, ANZ Solar Energy Society), Alistair Sproul (Associate Professor UNSW School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering) and John Dyson (Investment Principal, Starfish Ventures). 

The interactive broadcast allowed listeners to submit questions as it was in progress, directing the focus of the discussion.

The broadcast  explores the future of solar power as a viable renewable energy, and the medium to longer term commercial opportunities that exist in this area.  It was noted that Australia is currently behind other countries such as the US, China and Germany, in solar power usage and development.  Archaic government policies in the renewable technologies area, when compared with other countries, was one reason given for this.

The full broadcast is approximately 25 minutes long, click here to listen.

SunPower forces license on SunLink: Patent infringed by Justin Blows
October 11, 2009, 7:44 pm
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According to this report,  Solar company SunPower has successfully used one of its patents to force SunLink to take a licence for its patented light weight rooftop mounting system.

Facing court action, SunLink acknowledged infringement and presumably settled to the financial and commercial advantage of SunPower.

SunPower presumably now has an extra revenue stream through their patents and license.  Now, profits from products produced and sold by SunLink may very well flow through to SunPower.

Its very likely that the use of patents by the solar industry will increase with its maturity.

Justin Blows

AUSRA to add solar to coal fired power plant by Justin Blows
October 9, 2009, 7:41 am
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The are numerous reports that AUSRA is planning to add a 23 MW solar thermal boosting stage to a coal fired power station in Queensland.

The modification to the Kogan Creek power station, currently a 750 MW plant, depends on government funding which is yet to be allocated.

Prof. David Mills, the original brains behind AUSRA, did something similar at Liddell Power Station, NSW.

Apparently, in the US, Abengoa is teaming up with Xcel energy to also provide a solar boost to a coal plant.

This approach makes a lot of sense, at least for now, because it makes good use of existing turbines and other infrastructure already part of the coal fired plant.

Justin Blows