Emerging High-Efficiency Low-Cost Solar Cell Technologies: Solar Mini-Series (2 of 2)

Michael D. McGehee, Associate Professor Materials Science and Engineering

Monday, March 3, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The dramatic decrease in price of silicon solar cells over the last 5 years has allowed the solar industry to grow at an impressive rate, but has also led to the demise of many solar cell startup companies that were developing next-generation technologies. Many believe that photovoltaic modules will need to cost less than $0.50 per watt and have power conversion efficiency > 25% to compete with fossil fuel power plants on a large scale. While it is likely that conventional silicon solar cells will reach this cost target, it will be challenging for them to reach the efficiency target. Some of the promising approaches that will be discussed involve lifting off thin single crystal solar cells from a wafer that can be reused. Others involve better understanding what causes recombination and polycrystalline thin films so that substantially better thin-film solar cells can be made. One of the most promising, yet not heavily researched, approaches is to make tandem solar cells using materials that function well even when they are polycrystalline and defective. Recent advances with hybrid perovskite semiconductors and their potential use in tandems will be emphasized.


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Commercializing Wind, Photovoltaics, Lighting, and Batteries: The Impact of Government Policies During the Past 25 Years

Cathy Zoi, Consulting Professor at Stanford University

Monday, March 3, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

On March 10th, Cathy Zoi will present the findings from Energy 158, a research seminar held during the Fall of 2013, that investigated the progress of wind, photovoltaics, lighting and batteries over the past 30 years, and the impact that government intervention had on this progress. She will then apply these lessons from history to propose a framework policy makers can use in the future.

Rationale for the research: Public policy imperatives have created a drive for energy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve national security, and boost domestic economic activity. To accelerate the development and commercialization of these new technologies beyond what the market would deliver on its own, governments frequently use policies like direct R&D funding, financial incentives or penalties (e.g. through the tax code, state funds, or utility rates), mandatory targets or caps, information disclosure, and performance codes and standards to create market conditions that favor emerging technologies. There is significant public debate about the most effective mix of these policy interventions.


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The Rapidly Changing Economics of Solar PV Power, Solar Mini-Series (1 of 2)

Anshuman Sahoo, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford

Monday, February 24, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

This talk examines the economics of solar photovoltaic power both from the perspective of investors in solar installations and from the perspective of solar panel manufacturers. For investors, the key consideration is the cost competitiveness of solar PV relative to other electricity sources. The model calculations I present focus on commercial – and utility scale installations, highlighting the importance of geographic location and the role of federal tax subsidies.

To project the economics of solar PV in coming years, I will summarize some recent work that examines changes in the manufacturing costs of solar panel manufacturers. These findings suggest that the dramatic reductions in module prices over the past few years are partly attributable to cost reductions, but also to massive additions of manufacturing capacity that arguably left the industry with excess capacity. The talk will present a methodology for quantifying the magnitude of these two effects in order to make predictions about the future price trajectory of solar panels and, by implication, the competitiveness of solar power.


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BETTER BURNING: China's Attempt at Clean Coal

Shisen Xu, President, Clean Energy Research Institute at China Huaneng Group; moderated by Jeffrey Ball, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University

Monday, October 7, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and is leading the world in greenhouse gas emissions. Now, even as China builds more coal-fired power plants, it is working to roll out technologies to burn that coal more cleanly — from anti-smog filters to systems to capture carbon dioxide and shoot it underground. China has launched the world’s largest “clean coal” experiment. During this talk, the top technology officer from China’s largest power company will assess the state of cleaner coal-burning technology and its prospects for real-world rollout in China and around the globe. Shisen Xu is President of the Clean Energy Research Institute at China Huaneng Group, one of China’s largest state-owned electric utilities. 

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Renewable Profits at the Base of the Pyramid

 Ted Hesser, Independent Consultant

Monday, September 30, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Poverty and profit tend not to mix. Yet, the alleviation of the former is creating a tremendous opportunity for the latter. Close to one billion people have risen above the poverty line over the past twenty years, entering the global consumer marketplace. The trend is anticipated to continue – potentially liberating the remaining one billion people from poverty over the next two decades. For investors, the implication is the emergence of the largest new market for global goods and services. An estimated three billion people now earn between $2 and $10 a day. Selling basic services to this market through micropayment schemes may enable technology access, development gains, environmental benefits, and profit opportunities that were unimaginable prior to mobile banking. Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar may become the largest opportunity in energy services, and business models positioned at the confluence of declining component costs, rising mobile money usage, and low cost financing are poised for explosive growth over the coming years. Efficient product distribution and working capital financing are the primary impediments to scale. Neither raw demand nor market size is a concern. Rural villagers can save money today and dramatically improve their quality of life as customers of PAYG solar. There are multiple companies successfully selling low cost solar power systems and services to homes and small shops across the developing world through multiple business models. These business models and their execution will determine the spoils of this enormous market opportunity.


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Stanford Solar Decathlon: Start.Home

Stanford Solar Decathlon team

Monday, June 3, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Derek Ouyang Rob Best Felipe Pincheira Collin  Lee

Start.Home is Stanford's first entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition ( This biannual competition challenges 20 teams to design and build netzero, solarpowered homes that are judged on 10 different contests, from affordability to engineering.

While modern green homes often boast adaptive systems that reduce energy use behind the
scenes, our philosophy is that technology alone cannot solve the global energy problem. Equally important is awareness of how each of our daily choices affect our environmental footprints. Only through a combination of a passive home and an active mind can we achieve a lifestyle that is truly sustainable.

Stanford Solar Decathlon is a team of committed engineers and entrepreneurs seeking to design
a home that not only excels at the competition, but also has the potential to become an effective
business model in the future. To this end, we are developing a “Start.Home” concept that will provide sustainability at the push of a button to a new generation of environmentally conscious homeowners. The design will emphasize innovation in the constructability of modular architecture and advancements in controls for an intuitive building management core. Every component of the home will be optimized for customizability, affordability, and life cycle value. As a marketable brand, Start.Home will reflect the spirit of Stanford students to challenge preconceived notions of “green” and start a new movement in sustainable living.

Four student leaders from the team will present the unique Start.Home design vision, share their
experiences designing and building the netzero home, and emphasize the importance of projectbased, interdisciplinary learning. After the presentation, the audience is encouraged to join the team on a short 5 minute walk over to the construction site located by Terman Park and tour the Start.Home. For more information, please visit

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China Miniseries (3 of 5): Ramping Renewables—China's Boom-Bust Bid to Make Solar Power Big

Terry Wang, CFO of Trina Solar

Peter Xie, CEO, GCL Solar Energy

Monday, May 6, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In less than a decade, China has become the world’s largest maker of solar panels. Now China’s solar industry is bleeding — the result of a too-fast expansion, a global recession, and a pullback in government subsidies from Europe, traditionally the world’s largest solar market. China’s furious ramp-up of solar-panel manufacturing has slashed the cost of solar power from the Bay Area to Berlin. Yet it has infuriated politicians in the U.S. and Europe, who contend China is undercutting their domestic solar-panel industries in violation of international trade rules. As the battle rages, some of China’s dominant solar-panel companies are scrambling to stay alive. They’re hunting for new money-making opportunities, including building solar farms in the U.S. In this conversation, top executives from two leading Chinese solar companies survey their industry’s troubles, assess its prospects, and consider the future of solar power around the world.
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Entrepreneurship Mini-Series, part II: Recent Stanford Graduates in Energy Start-Ups

Max Kelman, Manager of Materials & Print Development at Innovalight, Inc./DuPont; Jacob Woodruff, Senior Scientist at SunPower Corporation

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Maxim Kelman and Jacob Woodruff are relatively recent Stanford graduates in physical science and engineering who have worked successfully in solar energy-related start-ups. Kelman and Woodruff will describe the evolution of their careers to date, lessons learned about the start-up world and how it differs from academic and larger corporate workplaces. This will include the implementation of research findings into pilot and manufacturing lines with accelerated development timelines, and what it is like to work in the early stages versus later stages after reorganization and introduction of new management. Personality traits that may be useful among start-up employees will also be discussed.

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Pushing the Efficiency Limits of Energy Conversion & Storage through Rational Materials Design

William Chueh, Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, February 4, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Taking sunlight and converting it to chemical bonds and then to electricity is one of the most promising carbon-neutral energy cycles. At the Chueh group, we are developing new materials to electrochemically convert energy between sunlight, fuel, and electricity. We take a rational approach towards materials discovery and optimization. Using powerful electron, X-ray and optical microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, we are “seeing” electrochemistry as they take place on length scales ranging from tens of microns down to below one nanometer. These never-before-seen dynamics lead to new insights into the design of functional materials with novel compositions and structures, such as those for water-splitting membranes, fuel cells, and batteries.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ENERGY SEMINAR at 5:15 - 6:15 pm, GCEP invites Stanford faculty, students and staff to an informal poster session and energy social organized by GCEP students Boxiao Li and Haotian Wang in the Forbes Cafe area on the 1st floor of Huang.

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Entrepreneurship Mini-series, part I: Challenges in Founding a New Energy Technology Company

Brian Hardin and Craig Peters, Co-Founders of PlantPV; Howard Turner, CTO of Kinestral Technologies

Monday, January 28, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Brian Hardin Craig Peters Howard Turner

Brian Hardin and Craig Peters (PlantPV) and Howard Turner (Kinestral) will discuss some of the important challenges that arise in founding a new energy technology company. Topics include both the tactical aspects of starting up a new venture, and more strategic considerations of entering an energy market with a technology developed using Silicon Valley venture capital funding. Speakers will explore key drivers, aside from interesting science, for selecting the technology space in which to start a company. They will also describe ways in which students may prepare themselves for future start-ups while still in school.

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