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UNLV Named One of Five Regional Solar Test Centers by U.S. Department of Energy

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UNLV's Center for Energy Research will evaluate new photovoltaic systems to help the United States become more reliant on solar energy.
Campus News  |  Mar 29, 2013  |  By Megan Downs
Media Contact: Megan Downs, Office of Media Relations (702) 895-0898

The UNLV Center for Energy Research was recently named one of five Regional Test Center sites by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The sites will work to make solar energy more affordable and reliable through the development of nationwide standards in the photovoltaic (PV) industry.

The Regional Test Centers will test large-scale PV systems made by solar companies to provide unbiased and independent validation of performance and reliability. In turn, the centers will share data to create standardized systems and guidelines that will be made widely available to the solar energy industry.

The work in Nevada will be conducted by highly trained researchers and students at the UNLV Center for Energy Research, part of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. The center is led by Bob Boehm, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering.

"This puts UNLV at the forefront of establishing a sustainable solar energy industry in America," said Boehm, who has more than 40 years experience in solar energy research. "Our researchers will be sharing data with national labs and the country's greatest experts to establish new standards."

The effort is part of the DOE's SunShot initiative, which strives to make solar-generated power account for 15 to 18 percent of U.S. electricity generation by 2030 and to decrease solar energy costs by 75 percent before 2020. Established data from the regional test sites will make solar energy more economically viable and encourage private funders to invest in the industry, according to the DOE.

The UNLV Center for Energy Research is working with the Southern Nevada Water Authority to secure land for the evaluation of the solar panels. Participating companies are selected by the DOE and some will have their performance evaluations begin in May.

The five centers are in geographically diverse locations to allow for assessment in varied climates. The Las Vegas location will determine how PV panels react in the Mohave Desert, a subtropical climate with abundant sunshine and an average annual precipitation of four inches of rain, The other centers are located in Denver, Albuquerque, N.M, Orlando, Fla. and Williston, Vt.