On November 16, 2015, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and teams from partnering higher education institutions Illinois State University, the University of Minnesota, and Purdue University visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado as part of MREA’s Solar University Network (SUN) initiative. The focus of the visit was to review preliminary PV Development Roadmaps prepared by each university’s student deployment team as they move forward to develop more that 1MW of PV on their campuses (download university presentations: Illinois State University, University of Minnesota, and Purdue University).
In addition to receiving NREL expert feedback on development plans, attendees participated in high-level presentations on NREL activities and research including new tools that can help their teams evaluate the performance and economic feasibility of different PV systems.
One of these models, the System Advisor Model (SAM), was of particular interest to Illinois State University’s Financial Project Manager Zach Rose, who had previous experience with the tool. He noted “Though I had used SAM for several previous solar PV system projects, when Peter Gagnon gave his presentation I felt I had only just scratched the surface of the model’s dynamic capabilities. Being able to manipulate the program script and alter outcomes now gives me the means to produce the information needed to justify system design to project stakeholders.”
Participants were also treated to a walking tour featuring the supercomputer Peregrine and a 3-D, human-sized display model that allows researchers a new way to interact with their data. The next day, teams met with TurningPoint Energy’s Jared Schoch for a one-on-one stakeholder and financial consultation to further set teams up for a successful plan. The teams are now finalizing their Roadmaps and engaging key stakeholders to secure institutional investment in the coming year.
Support for the visit comes from the US Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade.