Solar power R&D: Defining the practical and the future

Solar power R&D: Defining the practical and the future

Summary: Solar testing center looks to evaluate the technologies necessary to build optimized sustainable energy infrastructures

TOPICS: Data Centers

Solar power as a sustainable energy technology isn’t new, but the technologies that can be utilized to turn sunlight into usable power involve more than just the panels that collect the energy. The entire infrastructure needs to work as a cohesive whole in order to get the greatest benefit from the decision to use solar, especially on an industrial scale.

The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) is an organization dedicated to R&D on sustainable energy systems. Though based in Cambridge, MA, where they have a nearby outdoor solar field testing facility in Revere, MA, they have been expanding their research facilities with the construction of test facilities in Albuquerque, NM.


Their new OTF-1 facility is equipped to take advantage of the New Mexico climate, with an average of 310 days per year of sunshine and temperatures that can go from searing heat to freezing cold in the same 24 hour period. More than just photovoltaic panels and their racks and trackers,  the facility is equipped with a full range of inverters, continuous curve tracers, full-scale weather monitoring and state-of-the-art data acquisition systems.

According to Dr. Christian Hoepfner, Scientific Director at Fraunhofer CSE, there is a major need in the industry for information on the actual field performance and durability of both new and existing photovoltaic technologies. With the new OTF-1 facility and the second New Mexico test site that is under development to provide another 5 acres of solar test beds, CSE will be well positioned to provide this data to their clients considering solar as a major component of the sustainable/renewable energy platform.


Topic: Data Centers

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  • N53

    I thought the phrase "optimized sustainable energy infrastructures" was so cool that I have submitted it for inclusion in the next revision of Buzzword Bingo.
    Robert Hahn
  • All the technology

    in the world cannot compensate for the fact that there will NEVER be more than 1100 watts per square meter hitting the planet.
    • 1100 W / m^2

      Current electricity usage is only about 2 x 10^12 W, so making some reasonable assumptions about efficiency, cloud cover, etc., and assuming we could always move electricity from the day side to the night side of the earth, we could satisfy our current demand with something on the order of 20,000 square miles of panels. Now that sounds like a lot until you realize that there are 10,000 square miles of barren desert just in the triangle between Tucson, Yuma, and Phoenix (and I'm sure that Eloy, Ajo, and Casa Grande would appreciate the shade...)
      • AU has enough desert area

        We have enough desert over here, our largest desert is 344,192 km2 and that’s just getting warmed up.
        • there is plenty of desert everywhere

          that the solar arrays wouldnt be taking up too much space, the only thins is that they would become huge terrorist attack sites, being such large centers of energy.
      • Reducing the unknowns to zero

        "...and then we have the unknown unknowns. Those are the things we don't know that we don't know."

        Like what happens to the climate if, in the name of preventing climate change, we suck 2x10**12 W out of the planetary wind patterns, or the energy striking the Earth's crust. My gut tells me that treating those effects as if their value is zero is probably wrong.
        Robert Hahn