Solar technologies are rapidly expanding and improving, and solar energy is becoming more readily available as a public form of electricity. NAU has worked on projects to asses solar resources and optimize wind-and-solar hybrid systems. Below is a description of projects we have participated in and addition solar resources.
Low-cost solar water heating system
NAU faculty member Brent Nelson and his students researched the feasibility of building ultra-low-cost solar water heaters for commercial and residential use. Research goals were to evaluate, design, and build a prototype of an ultra-low-cost solar water heater to compare with the performance of current commercial water heaters. By utilizing inexpensive materials and novel solar heat transfer and insulation techniques, researchers were seeking to significantly lower the cost of solar water heaters while only marginally sacrificing performance. The focus was on optimizing the cost and performance of the system to keep costs down and performance up. Such a system would reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels while expanding the markets of solar water heating systems. This research included participation from a number of mechanical engineering students and the Business Consulting Practicum within the MBA program.
NextEra: Solar Resource Assessment
NAU researchers designed and deployed an array of solar data loggers to gather and analyze solar irradiance data on a ranch in Northern Arizona. The data was used to characterize the magnitude and variability of the resource, as well as the correlation between resource variability and meteorological predictions and phenomena.
NextEra: Wind and Solar Integration and Transmission Optimization
NAU researchers used wind data and data collected from Solar Resource Assessment project (described above) to characterize the wind and solar resource in the region, including the quality, variability, and potential complementary nature of the resources. This information will be used to determine whether an interconnection to transmission can be optimized for utility-scale wind-and-solar co-location systems.