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Off-Grid Solar Technology Moving In

Last year, MIT professor and solar fuel inventor Daniel Nocera outlined a revolutionary plan for residential solar energy storage. That plan involved solving all the technical hurdles behind personalized energy storage by combining solar photovoltaics (PV) and fuel cell technology.

Now Nocera is back in the news with a report published in Inorganic Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical Society. Apparently (I am no chemist), little has changed from last year, although this report extends its focus to include the technology’s potential for helping the global poor and residents of the developing world, primarily because it is these future six billion residents of “nonlegacy” countries that will drive the massive increase in energy demand by mid-century.

Nocera is professor of Energy and Chemistry, director of the Solar Revolutions Project and director of the Eni Solar Frontiers Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

His plan for a solar “personalized energy” (PE) works like this:

During the day, a solar PV array collects and converts solar energy into electricity. A portion of this electricity is used as solar power for the home, with the excess sent through an electrolyzer to split water into hydrogen and oxygen to power a fuel cell. That fuel cell will provide electricity for the home at night. The system will also be suited for plug-in hybrid vehicles, taking a home’s electricity and transportation off the grid.

The fuel cell and his landmark energy storage scheme, asserts Nocera, will be cheaper and much more effective than any current or emerging battery technology. He has also applied his solar fuel cell plan to automobiles and is marketing the idea under a business venture known as Sun Catalytix.

Nocera has outlined the process and insists that the technology is already present to make it a reality, but he admits, in his latest report, that there are scientific hurdles to overcome, or rather scientific discoveries to come. Still, from the beginning, Nocera and his team were optimistic about producing a commercially viable PE system within ten years. Here we are, more than a year later, and Daniel Nocera is still hot on the trail of an off-grid revolution.

Sources: Newswise and Inorganic Chemistry

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