Collecting Solar Rays

Better integrating solar power with the nation's power grid is the goal of a new collaborative research project on campus.

Case Western Reserve is participating in a $6.3 million, three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is being led by the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., and done in collaboration with FirstEnergy Corp., Medical Center Co., Eaton Corp., GE Grid Solutions and LG Chem.

Solar power has become less expensive and more widespread in recent years, but problems remain with forecasting the amount of solar energy that will be created and managing the amount of energy that is being injected into the nationwide electric grid, said Kenneth Loparo, PhD, the Nord Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) in the Case School of Engineering. He is co-principal investigator along with Assistant Professor Marija Prica, PhD, also in the EECS department.

As part of the project, a solar array will be installed on the roof of the university's Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center. Researchers will develop control strategies to more easily and efficiently manage and transfer the solar photovoltaic energy into both a battery and the university's power distribution network. Together with more accurate solar forecasting, these improvements could go a long way toward broader adoption of solar power, Loparo said.

"It will make solar power more reliable and sustainable to utilities," he said.