USU in finals of $3 million contest to develop solar energy storage

Assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Hongjie Wang is working on a team to develop solar energy storage systems using retired batteries from electric vehicles. Photo courtesy of Utah State University

A team of Utah State University researchers has reached the final 10 of a $3 million prize competition to transform the best ideas around solar into technology solutions that are ready for market.

Team member Marium Rasheed, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, said the team has developed solar energy storage systems using “retired” batteries from electric vehicles, or EVs.

“This has a two-fold benefit,” Rasheed explained, “and that’s what makes us unique and gives the retired EV batteries a second life, adding to the circular economy and minimizing the carbon footprint of the batteries. And, also, on top of that, provides solar energy with an efficient and cost-effective storage solution.”

She said the batteries, after they are retired from their EV application, still have up to 80 percent of their capacity.

“Now, you can either just recycle these batteries directly, or use them in some other application, or you can be smart and use these batteries for your solar energy storage,” she added. “Which essentially means that the upfront cost of batteries for solar energy storage reduces by quite a bit.

“And, people who are conscious of the environment when they are purchasing EVs, they sort of have a peace of mind knowing where the batteries are going to be utilized once they are done with their vehicle.”

Team members are electrical engineering doctoral students Marium Rasheed and Mohamed Kamel and faculty members in electrical and computer engineering, Regan Zane and Hongjie Wang.

The USU team has won $225,000 in cash and voucher funding and stands to win an additional $575,000 in the final stage in September.

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