Electrical Engineering students at The University of Texas-Pan American are finding out how much power can be harnessed from the sun with a new solar radiation tracking system.
The College of Engineering and Computer Science at UTPA, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, launched the University's solar radiation tracking system Sept. 1.
"We've been working on getting this system at UTPA for the past two to three years," said Dr. Jaime Ramos, assistant professor of electrical engineering. "I feel thrilled to be working with this program and look forward to extracting all the data and research in this area even further."
UTPA received a federal grant from the Department of Energy and Ramos serves as the principal investigator of the program. Through this grant, the University was able to launch its own system.
The tracking system was installed for students at UTPA so they can record and collect information to research the precise measurements of solar radiation through a photovoltaic (PV) system.
A PV system uses one or more solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. N.Y. based Kipp & Zonen, a specialist in the manufacturing of solar and sky measurement radiation equipment, commissioned the system at UTPA.
"These results will serve our research and our students taking ELEE 4373 Renewable Energy," Ramos said. "Most importantly, students can learn and practice different aspects of solar engineering with this system."
Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, associate professor of electrical engineering, along with graduate students Leonel Aguilera and Emanuel Benitez and undergraduate students Roman Garcia and Marshall Eason, assist in the day-to-day operation of the tracking system.
"This is great for our students and researchers interested in renewal energy who are working to supply an alternative source of electrical power," said Kumar. "The goal is to take our data, maximize the efficiency of our solar panels, and for students to participate in the designing of resourceful tracking algorithms, embedded software and hardware."
Aguilera, who assists Ramos and Kumar with the solar radiation tracking system, believes that solar energy is a viable energy source of the future.
"We're developing a system for students to understand solar activity and how to harness it," said Aguilera. "In a few years, we'll probably see this type of technology in more homes or businesses, so this type of alternative energy has the possibility of opening up careers for students such as myself."
A website will soon be available and will feature the information recorded and gathered on the solar activity at UTPA and the community.
"The Valley is an ideal place for a solar radiation tracking system," said Ramos. "After all, the sun shines almost all year round in this region."
For more information on the solar radiation tracking system, contact Ramos at (956) 665-3542.