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Winston’s Innovative Project Highlights UC Solar Symposium

September 22, 2016

UC Merced Professor Roland Winston will deliver details on a groundbreaking hybrid solar collector he’s working on that simultaneously generates electricity and very-high-temperature heat at the annual 2016 UC Solar Research Symposium slated for Oct. 7 at UC Davis.

The University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) — a multi-campus research collaborative headquartered at UC Merced — develops innovative technologies that make solar energy systems more efficient, more affordable and easier to integrate. In addition, UC solar educates and develops tomorrow’s solar energy leaders and entrepreneurs.

Winston, director of UC Solar, is just one of many notable speakers scheduled to appear at the symposium, which is free and open to the public. People who reserve seats will get a full day of discussions about renewable energy, reducing carbon footprints, climate change, conservation of resources and much more.

Winston is working with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in Chicago to develop the solar converter for the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Testing is underway on the converter at the Castle Research Facility. If it’s successful, the hybrid system could offer a cost-effective, dispatchable solar energy alternative to help stabilize electricity rates for consumers as renewable energy grows in prevalence in the coming years.

Winston’s system combines technological elements of photovoltaic solar panels and thermal collectors to generate both baseload electricity and storable heat. While normal collectors can generate temperatures around 400 Celsius, Winston’s is designed to go as high as 650 Celsius, or about 1,200 degrees. Such hybrid solar energy systems could provide electricity at costs comparable to, or even lower than, traditional sources.

No one has done a concentrating solar-power system like this before at this high temperature,” Winston said. “This one uses a powdered sand instead of a liquid for the heat transfer. It’s more efficient than other systems. The objective is to generate the maximum amount of energy in the smallest amount of space.”

Other noteworthy speakers include:

  • California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a longtime advocate for renewable energy, discussing the state’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint;
  • California Energy Commission Commissioner David Hochschild, addressing the state’s efforts to promote renewable energy;
  • David Phillips, associate vice president for Energy and Sustainability at the University of California Office of the President, who will speak about UC President Janet Napolitano’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative;
  • David Gelbaum, the CEO of Entech Solar and one of California’s most prominent conservationists and philanthropists;
  • Howard Branz, founder of Branz Technology Partners, and a researcher with the National Renewable Energy Lab and APRA-E; and
  • Hamid Abbasi, a senior technical staff member at GTI.

The symposium will also include talks by UC Solar researchers Umesh Mishra from UC Santa Barbara, Alfredo Martinez-Morales from UC Riverside, Matthew Law from UC Irvine, and informational posters created by UC graduate students. The students will answer questions about their research in poster sessions during symposium breaks, and attendees will be asked to vote on the posters/projects they think have the most promise.

Seating for the symposium is limited, so register now online. The event is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center, 530 Alumni Lane, Davis. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.