MAREC receives grant to study solar thermal systems

PV panel test beds located behind the MAREC facility will also collect data for the study.
PV panel test beds located behind the MAREC facility will also collect data for the study.
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Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center received a grant from the Michigan Energy Office to study solar thermal system costs and efficiency improvements for use in Michigan’s climate.

Kim Walton, program director for MAREC, said some large solar energy systems that are being installed in West Michigan are based on design criteria that come from other parts of the country, and may or may not be optimal for the West Michigan region.

“West Michigan is an area where very little solar research has been conducted,” she said. “Understanding how different factors work together can help installers of the solar systems design the most efficient systems and lower overall costs.”

The $44,000 grant will fund data collection over a one-year period. Walton will collect data from homes in the Muskegon-Oceana area that received renewable energy systems from a grant from Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers in November of 2011. The residential data that will be collected includes the type of technology used, mounting factors, costs for materials, labor, fees and permits.

Data will also be collected from photovoltaic (PV) panel test beds that were constructed and installed at MAREC. The test beds consist of PV panels with micro inverters configured to provide specific output data for solar panel angles and interaction of snow cover. The PV test beds are installed next to MAREC’s Solar Center, a space that houses solar equipment that is used for research and training in classes and other activities.

Walton said while the study is funded for one year, she plans to continue to gather data for several years.

For more information, contact Kim Walton at waltonk@gvsu.edu or (616) 331-6907.