Reuters: Panasonic to Invest Over $256 million in Tesla's U.S. Plant for Solar Cells  

Panasonic Corp will invest more than 30 billion yen ($256 million) in a New York production facility of Elon Musk's Tesla Motors to make photovoltaic cells and modules, deepening a partnership of the two companies.

Tesla's shares were up 3.5 percent at $220.75 in early trading on Tuesday.

Japan's Panasonic, which has been retreating from low-margin consumer electronics to focus more on automotive components and other businesses targeting corporate clients, will make the investment in Tesla's factory in Buffalo, New York.

The U.S. electric-carmaker is making a long-term purchase commitment from Panasonic as part of the deal, besides providing factory buildings and infrastructure.

Bloomberg: Yamanashi Vies for Energy Storage Investment

A patch of land in the shadow of Mount Fuji is becoming a testing ground for energy storage, with some of Japan’s leading companies trying to develop technologies such as spinning flywheels and fuel cells.

The Yamanashi Prefectural Government is hoping that by attracting companies such as Panasonic Corp. and Toray Industries Inc. it can become a kind of Silicon Valley for energy storage development.

As part of a project in the city of Kofu, the prefecture has built a 1-megawatt solar power station that is being made available to developers of storage devices who want to run tests under closed conditions, according to Masaki Sakamoto, an official in charge of the project.

“It’s not easy to find a large-scale solar power station available for pilot projects,” Sakamoto said. “The best scenario would be that advanced research being conducted here leads to more collaboration between major and local companies and the creation of supply chains.” Are Abandoned Mines a Solution for This Energy Dilemma?

Call it the largest recycling project ever conceived. A group of engineers are looking to build a hydroelectric plant in Mineville, New York out of the existing underground tunnels in an old iron mine. The underground hydro plant would not be a conventional power generation tool though -- instead it would serve as a unique form of large-capacity energy storage and provide a new use for an otherwise abandoned asset.

Located in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the mine is centuries old and strategically located in the state to enable it to produce iron for use by a broad segment of industry there. That strategic location also makes it perfect for a hydro plant according to the engineers. The Mineville complex produced iron ore for the first revolutionary war naval battle on nearby Lake Champlain, and it continued to produce more ore for two centuries until it was finally shuttered in 1971.

The basic idea for a hydro storage facility is straightforward. The mine’s tunnels have already been flooded with water over the centuries. If half of that water is pumped out, then the remaining water sitting in the lower half of the tunnels can be used as a source of energy storage for renewable power generation sources such as solar and wind. When there is extra unused solar power, turbines located in the mine can pump water to the top half of the mine. Later when that energy needs to be used, the water is released, and as it flows to the bottom half of the mine, the turbines spin, generating power.

It is a unique and clever system that makes use of a neglected asset. The business model is just as different though. According to Jim Besha, head of Albany Engineering Corp. and an engineer working on the project, “Today, everyone's recognizing that a critical part of our energy infrastructure is going to be storage. […] You can think of [the mine] as a bank. If someone has excess solar energy, they would pay a fee to store it overnight.”

Wired: 2017 Could Be the Tipping Point for Super-Efficient Solar Panels

Sam Stranks is convinced solar panels could solve our fossil-fuel dependency -- if only they were more energy-efficient. "Solar could well be the solution to our energy needs and getting rid of emissions," says the Cambridge-based experimental physicist. "It's an infinite source, but expensive to harvest."

Stranks' solution: a mineral coating, called a perovskite layer, that's applied directly to a typical solar cell to boost its efficiency. "We could take a silicon solar panel with a lab record efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity of 25 percent, add a perovskite layer, and boost the power generation by a fifth," says the 31-year-old. "For a solar cell, the maximum efficiency is around 30 percent -- but with one of these perovskite 'tandem' layers it could go up to around 50 percent."

Much of the early work on perovskites was led by Henry Snaith, a University of Oxford professor who in 2010 co-founded a company, Oxford Photovoltaics, to commercialize the tech. The company raised more than £12M in investment in 2015. Stranks, who recently moved to the English Cambridge from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Lab, sees huge potential as the efficiency curve rises. "Hybrid perovskites over the past three years have become nearly as efficient as silicon. You get solar cells that are so light they can be suspended on a soap bubble."