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Management Bios

Z. Gary Yang, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Yang is a scientist, an engineer, and an entrepreneur in energy conversion and storage. He co-founded UniEnergy Technologies (UET) in 2012, and has since served as CEO and President of the company.  UET’s mission is to provide world-class bulk energy storage solutions to the transforming electrical grid and utility, through innovation, partnerships and quality. Safe, reliable and economic energy storage has become indispensable to the power industry that is increasingly demanded of less pollution, better efficiency, greater resiliency and more flexibility to customers. UET is meeting these needs by engineering and producing the Uni.System™, a new generation vanadium redox flow battery (VFRB) system with high performance electrolytes and stacks, highly integrated containerized system design, state-of-the-art power electronics and control, and value-added services. Since its inception, UET has successfully engineered and demonstrated MW scale systems and is currently installing systems in the US and internationally.

Previously, Dr. Yang was a Lab Fellow, the highest science and technology rank, at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) of the US Department of Energy (DOE). He played a pivotal role in establishing the Grid Energy Storage Program at the lab and led the program in R&D of varied storage technologies, including new generation VFRB, planar Na-halide batteries, novel Li-ion batteries and new materials/chemistries, along with grid application studies. Under Dr. Yang’s leadership, the PNNL’s multi-disciplinary team successfully attracted over $20 million of funding and made several breakthroughs in battery technologies including planar Na-halide batteries, nanostructured Li-ion batteries and a new generation of VRFB that was later licensed by UET. Earlier, Dr. Yang was a Senior Scientist and later a Chief Scientist leading efforts in RD&D of planar solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and development of nanostructured hydrogen storage materials. He joined PNNL in early 2001, after 5 years of experience as a materials engineer in the auto-parts industry, and extensive education and training in materials science, engineering and electrochemistry, at Jilin University (formerly Jilin University of Technology), the University of Connecticut, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Yang was elected a Fellow of ASM International in recognition of “his outstanding contribution to advanced materials and electrochemical energy conversion and storage ….” He has published over 200 research articles, 13 book chapters and editorials, organized over 20 symposiums/conferences, and delivered numerous invited speeches around the world. He is an inventor of over 50 US and foreign patents (including pending). His efforts have won him multiple awards that include twice the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s (FLC) Excellence in Technology Transfer Award (on SOFC and VFRB, respectively), one of the most prestigious US government awards on technology development and commercialization.


Liyu Li, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer

Dr. Li has a solid background in chemistry, chemical engineering, and material sciences. He has broad experience in the fields of clean coal and biomass utilization, CO2 capture, and redox flow batteries for grid-level electricity storage. He also has broad experience in developing inorganic absorbents, hydrogen storage materials, heterogeneous catalysts, inorganic ion exchangers, and glass and ceramic nuclear waste forms. He has published 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers with more than 1000 total citations, and has given more than 100 presentations at national and international scientific conferences in these areas. He also holds nine patents, and has over a dozen patent applications on file. Dr. Li is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of UniEnergy Technologies, LLC. (UET), a company commercializing advanced large-scale energy storage solutions.  Before co-founding UET, he was a chief scientist, a project manager and a lead principal investigator at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. At this position, he had both research management and technical supervisory responsibilities for the execution of governmental and industrial projects. At PNNL, Dr. Li led/co-led different research projects developing new redox flow battery energy storage systems, and new CO2 and impurity absorbents for clean coal and biomass application. Dr. Li’s major scientific contributions to the energy storage area in a Leading Role include: (1) invented Mixed Acid All Vanadium Redox Flow Battery system which is under commercialization process by UET and two other US companies; (2) invented Fe-Vanadium Redox Flow Battery system which is under commercialization process by a Canadian company. Dr. Li received his Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering in 1995.


Rick Winter
Chief Operations Officer

Rick Winter earned his Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Queensland, Australia, and has 25 years’ experience innovating and implementing grid storage technologies. He has been a driving force in the transition of the grid storage industry from its early stages, to the strategic imperative for grid flexibility and stability it is today. During this time, he has helped build the US Electricity Storage Association from its inception in 1991, serving twice as chairman and as a board member for 18 years. In 2011, Rick was awarded the Phil Symons award for his “instrumental role in the evolution of storage technologies in both the utility and battery manufacturing industries”.

Mr. Winter’s background ranges from managing the storage technologies program at Pacific Gas & Electric, America’s largest investor-owned utility, to deploying remote area hybrid power systems in Australia’s Torres Strait. He has led product development at four advanced battery companies, in the process creating the world’s first flow battery product by leveraging advanced zinc-bromide technology from Austria (the 100kW/100kWh PowerBlock), and leading development of iron-chromium batteries for cell towers in India. Rick invented the single loop flow battery in his garage (Pat#8039161), going on to found Primus Power and raise $30M in capital. He holds 17 US patents and numerous abroad with a further 10 US patents pending. With a focus on productization, Mr. Winter has strong hands-on experience evaluating grid impacts of distributed generation systems including batteries, flywheels, microturbines, photovoltaics and diesel generators. 
Rick is now Chief Operating Officer at UniEnergy Technologies (UET), a compact vanadium flow battery company bringing together a multinational supply chain of commodity components and materials; volume production; and next generation electrochemistry invented at PNNL with DOE funding. UET’s focus is to commercialize its cycle and temperature-agnostic containerized storage solution. With full-scale product already under factory testing, field deployment begins in early 2014.


Russ Weed
VP Business Development and General Counsel

Russ Weed is a seasoned business executive and corporate lawyer with a track record of accomplishment at UET, GE, Labtec, and AV-rated Seattle and Portland law firms.  Russ leads UET‘s business development and strategic activities in North America, Europe, and globally. In that role, he is responsible for strategic alliances with channel, product, and other partners; optimizing product management; negotiations and contracting; mergers and acquisitions; fundraising efforts; and media activities. Russ is general counsel for UET as well.

With 12 years of experience as the VP Business Development and company counsel at technology and industrial companies, as well as 10 years as a corporate attorney at law firms.  Russ has led and teamed in the strategizing, preparation, negotiation, closing, and execution of a wide range of deals and business matters, including mergers and acquisitions, licensing, corporate financing, formations and fundings, intellectual property, and commercial contracts.  With broad international experience, particularly in Asia and Europe, Russ also has expertise in government relations, employment, compliance, trade regulation, and risk management.  He has managed corporate teams and cross-functional processes.  Russ is personally committed to identify and accomplish the strategic and legal objectives of the business and its people, and to make large-scale clean energy a reality.


Lisa Ye
Chief Financial Officer

Lisa Ye has over 15 years of financial leadership experience in various industries including technology, manufacturing and wholesale distribution, telecommunications and healthcare. Her strengths include an in-depth understanding of business requirements, setting up accounting procedures and internal controls, analyzing and restructuring accounting systems, and establishing efficient reporting processes.

Prior to joining Abacube, Lisa was the Director of Finance for Ascentium Corporation, a leading technology and interactive marketing consulting firm. She successfully implemented there an Axapta ERP system and helped develop the infrastructure to accommodate the company’s growth from $20 Million in annual revenue to $80 Million. Lisa also has been the controller and CFO for several startup companies, including vCustomer, a top 10 Call Center service provider worldwide; ContractorHub, a B2B platform for the construction industry, and, a B2B portal in China. Lisa has assisted several companies in raising capital (including her own), in developing and implementing operational infrastructure, and has worked with executives and Board members on strategic planning and goal setting.


Charlie Vartanian
VP Marketing and Sales

Charlie Vartanian is Vice President Marketing and Sales for UET. Charlie has over 25 years of power industry experience including marketing advanced energy systems, leading and performing electric system planning studies, and contributing to technical standards development. At UET, Charlie focuses on matching client goals and market requirements with UET’s novel solutions.  His previous employers have included DNV KEMA, A123 Systems, Southern California Edison, the California Energy Commission, Enron Energy Services, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. Charlie received his MSEE from USC, and his BSEE from Cal Poly Pomona. Charlie is a licensed Professional Engineer in California, and is a senior member of the IEEE.


Ted Volberding

Ted Volberding
Director of Manufacturing

Ted is the Director of Manufacturing for UET and has over 30 years’ experience as a collaborative leader and engineer in the instrumentation, medical, telecom, networking and energy storage industries, successfully managing projects, employees, and operations in a technically dynamic and worldwide environment. He has outsourcing and offshoring experience in Asia and the EU for manufacturing and logistics, and has installed business systems (ERP and PLM) in multiple companies as well as the ISO 9001 quality management system. He has a BSEE from the University of Washington and several patents pending on VRLA batteries and battery management systems.

Charles Toca
General Manager
Utility Savings & Refund, LLC

Charles R. Toca is the General Manager for Utility Savings & Refund, LLC (US&R), an energy services company that has advocated the vanadium flow battery since 2006 and has now partnered with UniEnergy Technologies (UET) to represent its advanced vanadium flow battery (VFB) in the California energy market. US&R has previously been the sales affiliate and Strategic Partner for VRB Power and Prudent Energy, founding member of the BioEnergy Producers Association, and Board member for the California Electric Users Cooperative (CEUC).  Charles is located in Southern California and has made numerous presentations before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Independent System Operator (CAL-ISO) in support of VFB energy storage. 

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