NMSU solar research institute receives $4.2 million award

New Mexico State University’s Southwest Technology Development Institute (SWTDI) has been awarded a $4.2 million, five-year contract to conduct research aiding the U.S. Department of Energy’s new Solar America Initiative. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, toured SWTDI facilities today for a briefing on the project.

The mission of the Solar America Initiative is to accelerate widespread commercialization of clean solar energy technologies by 2015 to give the United States additional electricity supply options while reducing dependence on fossil fuels and improving the environment.

In a competitive process, DOE selected SWTDI, part of the NMSU College of Engineering’s Institute for Energy and the Environment, and its partners to lead a new Solar Codes and Standards Working Group. The SWTDI-led working group will address code development and outreach activities in areas of critical importance to solar market penetration. The five-year project, beginning May 1, is expected to create a major improvement in the responsiveness, effectiveness and accessibility of codes and standards for U.S. solar stakeholders at all levels.

“It’s exciting that this group is being led right out of New Mexico State,”

Bingaman said. He said that he and U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are working on legislation that would provide more funding for developing renewable energy technologies, which would “strengthen the effort that you make here and move us much more rapidly toward greater use of renewable energy sources.”

Since 1979, SWTDI has developed innovative and cost-effective renewable technologies such as photovoltaic, solar, thermal, wind and geothermal energy. Successful field demonstrations have been applied in various locations throughout the Southwest and in Mexico. This expertise provides a solid foundation for addressing the growing demand for alternative energy nationwide.

“We have a long history of supporting photovoltaic research and development,” said SWTDI Senior Program Manger Andrew Rosenthal. “There are four areas in which we have established our expertise: the development of instrumentation and monitoring equipment, field test capabilities, data analysis, and the development and implementation of codes and standards for photovoltaics.”

Partners with SWTDI in the Solar Codes and Standards Working Group include Arizona State University, the Florida Solar Energy Center, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and Underwriter Laboratories. They will be involved with developing web-based information and providing training for photovoltaic professionals. They will also work on the development of codes and regulatory standards.

“The development of codes is ongoing, always,” said Rosenthal. “But there has been little coordination of these efforts. This initiative is really about bringing new technologies and innovations to market. We need to develop new codes and standards that will be available to enable the deployment of these new technologies as they come to market.”

The project is part of the Market Transformation component of the Solar America Initiative. Overall, the SAI “essentially doubles the budget for solar” within the Department of Energy, Rosenthal said.

For more information contact Rosenthal at (505) 646-1323.

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