UCSD engineering students help San Diego region secure $154 million in solar bonds
UC San Diego will receive $15 million for 15 renewable energy projects, while the San DiegoUnified School District received allocations totaling $74 million for 111 projects, which is the largest number of projects to receive allocations for a single public agency in the nation.
The analytical tool created by the four mechanical engineering students at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering - Karl Olney, Michael Gollner, Kevin Peng and Ihab Khayal - made it possible for the San Diego school districts, universities and municipalities to perform engineering and economic analyses of cost, energy output, and payback time of solar PV arrays, information considered crucial to the success of the proposals during the federal review process.
"What we did was put addresses into Google Earth and used satellite images to calculate the areas of the rooftops and parking lots where local applicants wanted to install solar panels. We then used an online tool called PVWatts Solar Calculator to help calculate the expected annual output, and a spreadsheet we designed calculated the 10-to-15-year payback of each installation project," explained Karl Olney, a second-year Ph.D. mechanical engineering student. "The thing that was nice for our projects was that with our tools an individual site's application could be completed in about 10 minutes.
"I am incredibly excited about the success that UC San Diego and the other San Diego entities had in this cycle of CREBs applications," Olney added. "I am glad to have been part of this great achievement that will hopefully push San Diego to be the leader in photovoltaics."
The UCSD students also trained four high school interns from the San Diego Unified School District on the calculation tool so they could file applications for the district easily and quickly.
"By taking a scientific approach to what you're doing, you can have a solution that is both good for the environment and good for you economically," said Michael Gollner, also a second-year Ph.D. mechanical engineering student. "It's a great feeling to know that our work has helped the San Diego region, and not just the environment but also with boosting jobs and the solar industry here. I know a lot of engineering graduates from UCSD will be excited to work in this growing field. Hopefully this will boost their opportunities."
The UCSD students worked under the guidance of Jan Kleissl, an assistant environmental engineering professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
"Our students were the key to the success of San Diego's CREB applications," Kleissl said. "They did the critical legwork, which meant combining engineering, weather, and economics into a sophisticated spreadsheet tool that easily generated complete CREB applications. It was very rewarding to see our students take such a leadership role in this project. I teach many environmental courses, but I always have the challenge of showing students how to use this knowledge in practice. This CREBs project was an ideal example. Solar energy is a new field and many companies don't know who to hire. This project showed that mechanical engineering and environmental engineering students are the key resources for these jobs. These jobs require a breadth of knowledge from different disciplines and these student have that knowledge."
Kleissl said this project is a much needed step in making San Diego the solar capital of the nation. The 192 solar installation projects approved for San Diego is expected to promote hundreds of new green jobs and increase by more than 40 percent the capacity of locally produced solar energy with an estimated 20 megawatts of additional solar power.
"Nobody really has to use bonds to build solar panels," Kleissl said. "But the challenge is that the people who would like to use solar the most, such as public universities and schools, can't get the tax credit that private entities can. So this money is critical to help get PV to people who want and need it the most."
Source: University of California - San Diego