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Solar company started by UNM professor receives $1.25 million Department of Energy grant

May 28, 2020 - by Kim Delker

A solar energy company started by a professor at The University of New Mexico has received a $1.25 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to advance one of its technologies that could add significant life to solar panels.

photo of Sang M. Han
Sang M. Han

Osazda Energy was started in 2017 by Sang M. Han, professor of chemical and biological engineering at UNM. The company developed a composite silver paste technology called MetZillaTM to address cell-crack-induced performance degradation in solar panels, which Han said could change the future of solar cell manufacturing across the industry by increasing the long-term durability and power generation from panels. He said It could reduce the operation and maintenance cost, increase the net present value of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) projects, and reduce the insurance premium that module manufacturers would have to pay to guarantee their module performance over 25 years.

The main goal of the Department of Energy (DOE) project is to take this technology to market and continue to advance innovations in solar manufacturing, Han said. The company is partnering with the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, D2Solar, CFV, and Sandia National Laboratories on the project. The group will work together to improve the MetZillaTM product formulation and its application within the existing manufacturing process. The project’s initiatives will allow the company to extend the testing of the product through accelerated quality assurance and module certification, preparing it for full global commercialization.

“This DOE funding provides an important opportunity for small businesses like Osazda to take their innovative technology to market by de-risking materials qualification and market certification steps. We will offer materials engineering solutions to the PV market to make solar panels last longer and electricity cheaper,” said Han, who is the chief technology officer of the company. “All parties, ranging from PV field owners to module manufacturers to consumers, would financially benefit from this technology.”

Osazda Energy was selected as a part of the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs, while working to boost solar manufacturing, reduce red tape, and make solar systems more resilient and sustainable. Osazda Energy is one of several manufacturing innovation projects with early-stage product ideas that can lower solar energy costs and rapidly achieve commercialization, with an emphasis on projects that contribute to a strong U.S. solar manufacturing sector, Han said.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid.