The University of Central Florida recently was selected to receive two awards totaling $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative that is focused on making solar energy systems more efficient and affordable.

The UCF projects led by researchers Kristopher Davis and Joe Walters of the university’s College of Engineering & Computer Science and the Florida Solar Energy Center will address two specific areas of interest to the energy agency.

Davis, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the new Renewable Energy Systems faculty cluster, will receive $1.58 million to develop high-speed measurement techniques that can identify potential sources of power degradation in photovoltaic modules, with a focus on degradation in the metal contacts used to carry current.

Davis said: “Our hope is to develop new measurement techniques that will give investors more confidence in the long-term performance of photovoltaic systems. I also believe it will help speed up the adoption of new contact materials by detecting potential reliability concerns and providing insight into possible solutions.”

Walters will receive $1.6 million to devise monitoring techniques to improve operation and maintenance of solar energy fields and provide more accurate predictions of future power generation.

“We want to develop tools to let the solar field operators know in advance when problems may arise and to efficiently plan to make modifications or repairs to maximize energy production,” Walters said.

The two awards with two additional DOE awards received last week for studying how to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality in homes indicate that the university is hitting its stride across the spectrum in energy alternatives, said James Fenton, FSEC director.

“FSEC was established 42 years ago to serve as the state’s energy-research institute and now we are leading the nation in multiple areas of solar energy and energy-efficiency research,“ Fenton said.

In addition to the two Sunshot awards, UCF researchers were awarded subcontracts on projects led by Case Western University and Brightspot Automotion LLC.

The SunShot Initiative’s Photovoltaics Research and Development 2 funding program seeks to transform photovoltaic module design, explore high-risk emerging technology research, and devices and designs that facilitate rapid solar installation. The projects have the potential to make solar power affordable throughout the United States.

The University of Central Florida, one of the largest universities in the nation with more than 64,000 students, uses the power of scale and the pursuit of excellence to make a better future for our students and society. Described by The Washington Post as demolishing “the popular belief that exclusivity is a virtue in higher education” and credited by Politico with creating a “seamless pipeline of social mobility,” UCF is recognized as one of the best values in higher education. UCF aligns its teaching, research and service with the needs of the community and beyond, offering more than 200 degree programs at more than a dozen locations, including its main campus in Orlando. Faculty and students are creating innovations in areas as diverse as simulation and training, space, optics and lasers, hospitality management, video game design, business, aerospace and defense, education and healthcare to solve local and global problems.

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low-cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners.