Former faculty member issued patent for solar storage device

GVL / Courtesy -
Jim Wolter and his solar 24 battery pack

GVL / Courtesy – Jim Wolter and his solar 24 battery pack

Meghan McBrady

Former Grand Valley State University faculty member Jim Wolter received a patent for his distributed solar power system on Sept. 15.

Wolter, who is also a tenant at GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, invented an energy storage device that allows for a fixed distribution of electricity over the course of a day and at night.

“This innovation will keep us away from developing another nuclear power plant or coal mine,” Wolter said. “In that mindset, I wanted to make it better for us and help make power from the sun the cheapest and best way to create and store energy.”

Wolter said the basis of his patent was to move beyond using large and expensive batteries and to use more compact materials instead.

The storage device, Solar 24, gives solar photo-voltaic panels a battery, controller and inverter infused within the core of the panel so that it can be coupled with a master controller to elevate the systems’ efficiency and input.

With each panel having its own battery, controller and inverter, solar power can be evenly distributed and maintained when the sun is shining to provide electricity and charge the batteries. When it is in the afternoon or night, the batteries will then take over and produce enough electricity until the following morning.

“With the master controller we can regulate sections of a single solar panel and use the other panel for after hours,” Wolter said. “The important thing about this that we brought control to that, as to distribute batteries as a source of balance and control is considered a novelty in certain aspects so this will help improve how we use energy in our day to day lives.”

As the world continues to develop and change and expand upon using renewable energy, Wolter said this is the perfect time for all students – innovators, he called them – to explore and create meaning within their classrooms and lives.

“Nurture curiosity, ask important questions in your classes and studies,” Wolter said. “You will discover unmet needs as any existing product from a textbook to a toaster can be improved – if you fix the problem, you will be inventing, so pay close attention to discovering if it will sell or not. When you tie unmet needs to marketing success you will then be an innovator.”

Claire Crosmun, a senior at GVSU, said Wolter’s focus on supporting economic growth in clean energy is admirable and groundbreaking in moving toward a more sustainable campus and world.

“Not only is the patent coming from someone who is part of Grand Valley, he is also someone who is really looking at the future of energy and its effect on our climate,” Crosmun said. “I think that being able to store renewable energy is somewhere that we should be moving toward if we want to make a positive change within the next few years.”

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