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National Renewable Energy Laboratory welcomes new fellows

Richard DeBlasio, Sarah Kurtz and Suhuai Wei join esteemed colleagues at the nation’s leading renewable energy research lab.

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently named Richard DeBlasio, Sarah Kurtz and Suhuai Wei to its Research Fellows Council, which advises NREL executive management on the strategic direction of science and technology research at the laboratory.

Following are a few details about the new NREL fellows:  
Richard DeBlasio. An employee since 1978, DeBlasio is currently NREL's chief engineer for renewable electricity and end-use systems as part of the Power Systems Engineering Center. DeBlasio also served for 10 years as the principal laboratory program manager for electricity research and development programs. In 1999, he initiated and managed the Distributed Power Program and conducted foundational distributed electric research on universal power electronics interoperability systems for electric grid interconnection, and from 1978 to 1999 as principal engineer, for photovoltaic (PV) module and systems performance and engineering research.
Based on his research at NREL, DeBlasio initiated and led the IEEE 1547 grid interconnection and IEEE 2030 (smart grid) interoperability standards development. This monumental effort removed many of the technical barriers to using renewable energy sources to complement central power systems and has become the national standard for interconnection. As a life senior member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and member of the IEEE Standards Board, DeBlasio established a strong collaborative relationship with industry and stakeholders to validate and standardize technical requirements through collaborative research and testing.
"It's hard to imagine how the distributed PV industry would have evolved were it not for Dick's insight and foresight,” said Bryan Hannegan, NREL associate laboratory director for energy systems integration, “Without the consensus standards for interconnection and interoperability that he helped develop, PV and distributed energy resource systems would still be proprietary and unable to communicate with one another."
Sara Kurtz is a principal scientist and group manager for the PV reliability test and evaluation group, where she leads a team of 20 people working to quantify and predict the performance of photovoltaics in the field. She is a world-renowned expert in the fields of multi-junction PV, concentrator PV and PV reliability.
Kurtz and NREL colleague Jerry Olson championed the early use of multi-junction solar cells by showing that a top cell of gallium indium phosphide (GaInP) and a bottom cell of gallium arsenide (GaAs) can capture and convert photons more efficiently into electricity than previous attempts at using other materials. Their breakthrough was embraced by NASA, which uses multi-junction solar cells based on this invention to power many space satellites, as well as the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Kurtz's work helped illuminate ways to grow high-quality cells, determine how to measure multi-junction cells and track how their performance is affected under various spectra. More recently, she has looked at reliability issues when integrating multi-junction cells and other solar PV into larger systems. Kurtz — the winner of numerous individual and team awards — also helped form the International PV Quality Assurance Task Force to develop comparative test standards for PV modules.
Suhuai Wei joined NREL in 1985 and is now a principal scientist at the Materials Science Center. He is a world-renowned scientist in computational materials science, with expertise in semiconductors, PV, and other energy related materials.
During the last 29 years at NREL, Wei has made a number of key contributions to the current understanding of the structural and electronic properties of materials, including work on the effects of ordering on semiconductor alloys, the effects of d and f electrons in II-VI and magnetic semiconductors, the chemical trends of band offsets and deformation potentials in semiconductors, and the doping limit and control in wide-gap semiconductors. His work covers a wide range of fields, including alloys, superlattices, PV materials, magnetic semiconductors, hybrid materials, nanomaterials, and wide band gap nitrides and oxides.

Wei, a group manager of Theoretical Materials Science at NREL for the last eight years, played a central role in helping NREL develop and maintain its leadership position in the theory of semiconductor materials. In addition, he has published more than 380 peer-reviewed papers in leading scientific journals, including more than 90 papers in Physical Review Letters and Rapid Communications and 50 papers in Applied Physics Letters. His publications have been cited more than 27,000 times, earning him an h-index of 85.
The new fellows join the nine current members of the Research Fellows Council — the laboratory's top advisory body comprising internationally recognized NREL scientists and engineers.

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Energy efficiency  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity