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Austin solar power startup's vision: Put product 'on every rooftop'

Sebastian Herrera, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Science & Technology News

AUSTIN, Texas -- A few years ago, Omeed Badkoobeh was living in China and often traveling to remote locations when he noticed a trend that intrigued him -- how often towns were relying on fuel-based generators for power

As a global studies graduate who had been studying solar power policy, Badkoobeh saw a market -- and a need for -- clean solar electricity.

Badkoobeh dove deeper into the industry, eventually moving to Austin and working at solar power companies here such as Native, while also doing a stint at Tesla, the electric vehicle company.

But Badkoobeh wanted to create his own innovative device, so along with an electrical engineer he'd met named Vikram lyengar, Badkoobeh founded Yotta Solar in 2016.

Two years later, the co-founders have developed a product they envision bolstering the solar energy industry. Named SolarLeaf, the technology protects batteries that are mounted on solar panels from weather conditions, giving the panels the ability to store power without being connected to a generator.

Yotta has been part of both the Austin Technology Incubator and Wells Fargo's Innovation Incubator, two startup accelerator programs that have helped the company raise money and gain notoriety.

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Although solar panels have been around for decades, "there's always been an issue to store the power," Badkoobeh said. "We see our product on every rooftop helping to balance the energy grid."

The company name, Yotta, comes from a mathematics term. Yotta is defined as a factor of 10 that has been squared to the power of 24, a huge number that Badkoobeh said symbolizes the amount of power the company is trying to harness through its device.

The technology Yotta has developed centers around a thermal device that keeps batteries that are mounted onto solar panels from heating above 96 degrees or dipping below freezing temperatures.

One of the biggest challenges for solar panel technology is harnessing energy and storing it at a rate that matches with its demand, according to Andreas Stein, a chemist professor at the University of Minnesota whose research has partly focused on battery materials.

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