News Release

UC San Diego and UC Davis Team to Boost Solar Power in California

UC San Diego energy leaders and electrical engineering professors Ed Yu (left) and Farrokh Najmabadi  (right) will lead the university's effort to boost the use and efficiency of solar power in California.

San Diego, CA, April 15, 2009 -- The University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with UC Davis will use a two-year, $700,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to expand the development and use of solar energy in the state. The new California Solar Energy Collaborative will collect and critically analyze existing solar research; facilitate research in gap areas where existing data are insufficient; and develop consensus among key solar stakeholders based on this research by tracking the evolving landscape of solar technology development and use in California.  This new collaborative is also intended to help California achieve an ambitious target of installing 3,000 megawatts of solar in California by 2017.

UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said the Collaborative will help establish UC San Diego and UC Davis as powerhouses for solar energy research.

“This Solar Collaborative is a large and significant role in the state, nation and the world, and being selected to co-lead this initiative is a significant challenge and responsibility,” Fox said. “As renewable energies continue to take center stage around the globe, we hope to strengthen ties across academia, industry and the government to create the best solutions for our energy use and for our environment.”

Much of the solar research at UC San Diego is being led by the Jacobs School of Engineering, which has world-renowned experts on photovoltaics, nanotechnology, green computing and weather monitoring.

“The Jacobs School of Engineering continues to be a leader in developing sustainable solutions for society," said Jacobs School Dean Frieder Seible. "The Solar Energy Collaborative is another example of our commitment to accelerate the creation and use of renewable energies. The Jacobs School was instrumental in installing the first set of photovoltaic arrays on campus. As a constant reminder that our campus is actively engaged in developing green technologies, we installed a public LED display by the Charles Lee Powell Structural Engineering Laboratory to make students, faculty, staff, and other passersby aware of the daily generation and consumption of energy on campus.  With about 1 megawatt of photovoltaic capacity, and 1.4 more megawatts coming online later this year, the UC San Diego campus currently generates and manages more photovoltaic energy than any other campus in the UC system."

One of the Solar Collaborative’s goals is to help establish a much needed comprehensive energy policy for the State of California, including the development of roadmaps for introducing solar technologies to the state. The collaborative also will determine which solar technologies will be most efficient by evaluating market and growth trends, as well as regulatory, economic and financial constraints and barriers.

solar trees
UC San Diego has installed solar trees on the roofs of two of its parking structures, like the one above, to generate electricity for the campus and provide infrastructure for supporting electric vehicles.  Photo Credit: Erik Jepsen/UCSD Gaurdian

The Solar Collaborative will be co-led led by Farrokh Najmabadi, Director of UC San Diego’s Center for Energy Research; Ed Yu, Associate Director of the Center for Energy Research; and Pieter Stroeve, professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at UC Davis.

“Our research focuses on making solar energy more efficient and economical, allowing major expansion of solar power in California,” said Farrokh Najmabadi, also a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego.  “Southern California is an ideal location for deployment of solar power and UC San Diego can play a major role in this endeavor.”

UC Davis is also engineering a sustainable future through its renewable energy initiatives and research. The campus is an international leader in many aspects of environmental research and education — particularly renewable energy, climate change, sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency and conservation, and advanced transportation technology and policy. Green projects at UC Davis include new sources of bioenergy, advanced photovoltaic materials, solar thermal systems, enhanced wind turbine design and efficiency, high efficiency lighting, advanced cooling systems for western climates, and modeling approaches for energy system optimization. 

According to Stroeve, “Solar energy is a renewable and sustainable source of energy for California that is yet to be explored and exploited for its full potential. However, fundamental problems need to be addressed in order to make solar energy economical. The Solar Collaborative between the California Energy Commission, UC San Diego and UC Davis will facilitate the development of solar energy in California.”

The California Solar Energy Collaborative falls under the California Energy Commission’s California Renewable Energy program, which includes three other existing collaboratives focused on biomass, geothermal and wind energies. The total funding for all four initiatives, including the Solar Energy Collaborative, is $3 million.

Through the Collaborative, UC San Diego and UC Davis will reach out to utilities, research institutions, solar equipment manufacturers, regulatory agencies, as well as to investors interested in funding these new technologies. The Solar Collaborative will include a board of directors, as well as an executive director, who has not yet been named.

Art Ellis, UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Research, noted that the Solar Collaborative will benefit from the campus’s strong culture of interdisciplinary scholarship.  “Progress in broad-scale deployment of solar energy will require expertise from such diverse fields as physics, engineering, social policy, and economics,” Ellis said. “The fact that our campus is a living laboratory with a significant investment in solar energy will also allow our faculty, staff and students to become engaged in many aspects of the Solar Collaborative.”

This is the California Energy Commission’s first statewide solar collaborative. "As a leader in supporting renewable energy, the Energy Commission strongly believes that funding research and development now will deliver dividends in the future for California's ratepayers," said Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission.

The Solar Collaborative will complement many of the initiatives and projects already going on at UC San Diego and elsewhere throughout the state, said Ed Yu.

“It will also facilitate interactions between researchers here and at UC Davis, and create more academic-industry collaborations,” Yu said.

“There is great potential to improve solar technology,” he added. “One of the things the collaborative will help do is bring together university-based researchers who are looking at longer term, fundamental solutions in solar energy and the end users, such as utilities and manufacturers. There is this so-called ‘Valley of Death’ between people like us who are doing basic and applied research and the commercial end users.  Bringing these groups together under the Solar Collaborative will help bridge that gap. We hope it will help facilitate the transfer of new ideas developed within the universities to the commercial market.”





Media Contacts

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering