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Engineering Students and Professor Team With Department of Energy on Solar Project

Loyola Marymount University has joined a nationwide solar measuring network that is part of a project to develop concentrated solar power systems.

Todd Otanicar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy. The agreement allows LMU to participate in the Solar Resource and Meteorological Assessment Project, run by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

“The project represents a significant partnership for my work in the field of renewable energy,” Otanicar said.  “NREL is the premier lab for this kind of research.” 

Otanicar has enlisted undergraduate and graduate students into the solar resource assessment project, which will involve installing a solar radiation monitoring station atop University Hall. The project will provide a wealth of site-specific data essential to the development of concentrated solar power systems. “In addition, we will use the data to assess any local impacts on solar energy, such as prevailing wind conditions, fire season and urbanization,” Otanicar said.

As one of LMU’s newest faculty members, Otanicar, who earned his doctorate at Arizona State University in 2009, keenly appreciates the importance of hands-on student involvement. His students take part in projects ranging from experimental setup and monitoring to advanced numerical modes of concentrating photovoltaic systems.

In addition to research and teaching, Otanicar is collaborating with LMU’s Facilities Management to develop a new method of harnessing solar thermal energy for heating and cooling systems on campus. The solar panel installation on University Hall’s roof is one of the largest systems at any university in the world.

Posted May 24, 2010