Sandia Solar Programs Newsletter - January 2015

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Latest Sandia Solar Programs News & Research


The Sandia Solar Programs e-newsletter features highlights, key activities, events, and publications. Current and archived newsletters are available via the Recent Solar Highlights link on Sandia’s Energy and Climate website. We welcome your feedback. Please e-mail comments and suggestions to We hope you enjoy this valuable resource!

Research Updates

Secretary Jewell visits Sandia

Interior Secretary Visits Sandia

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack, Senator Martin Heinrich, U.S Representative Ben Ray Lujan, and Bureau of Land Management officials for a tour of the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) at Sandia in early January. During her visit to NSTTF, Jewell announced approval of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. The group also received briefings about concentrating solar power falling particle receivers, water research projects, and Sandia’s Tribal Energy Program.

Sandians Awarded Best Paper at Global PV Conference

A team including Sandians Cliff Hansen, Katherine Klise, and Joshua Stein was recognized in November with a Best Paper Award at the 6th World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion. Photovoltaic System Model Calibration Using Monitored System Data details the team’s work to calibrate solar photovoltaic (PV) module performance models using data collected outdoors on fixed-tilt orientation PV modules. This fixed-tilt data method enhances the ability to characterize PV modules in actual operating conditions, compared to validation using data collected outdoors on a two-axis tracker or indoors with a solar simulator. Researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology and NTT Facilities in Tokyo, Japan, co-authored the report.

Sandia Releases Tool to Simplify PV Modeling

Sandia has released its Grid Integrated Distributed PV (GridPV) toolbox and manual, available through the PV Performance Modeling Collaborative. The GridPV Toolbox provides MATLAB functions to build upon and expand the capabilities of the Electric Power Research Institute’s OpenDSS modeling tool. GridPV enhances the modeling of grid impacts resulting from increasing amounts of solar photovoltaics (PV) on the electric distribution system.

The toolbox accelerates and simplifies the modeling needed to integrate PV generation into the electric power system by combining electric power distribution system models created in OpenDSS with MATLAB functions to provide improved solar modeling, advanced analysis, and visualization capabilities. Features include the ability to model solar variability for distributed PV plants of various sizes, power factor and reactive power control functionality, and analyses of central and distributed plants. The toolbox supports time-series and steady-state simulations, and accommodates GIS functionality through Google Maps.

Sandia Researcher Profiled as Top Professional in Energy

Ken Armijo Recognized as Top Energy Professional

Sandia researcher Kenneth Armijo was profiled in the fall 2014 edition of Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology magazine. The feature highlights professionals educated at Hispanic-serving organizations in hopes of motivating the next generation of Hispanic students to consider STEM (science, technology, math, and engineering) careers. Armijo supports solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and distributed energy research at Sandia, including PV arc fault and ground fault detection.

Armijo will be recognized at the Emerald Honors and Trailblazers Dinner in Washington, D.C., on February 5.

SolarReserve heliostats

SolarReserve Testing Prototype Heliostats at NSTTF

Concentrating solar power company SolarReserve is testing engineering units at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) operated by Sandia. The company says it decided to test its prototype heliostats at NSTTF because of Sandia’s, “knowledge and reputation in the solar industry, as well as the breadth of resources available for improving and testing new designs.”

SolarReserve is focused on developing advanced heliostat designs and control algorithms that will significantly reduce overall project cost while increasing annual electricity production. SolarReserve heliostat innovation areas include nimble structure design, high precision and efficient drive systems, ultra-light and high reflectivity mirror facets, and various heliostats and collector field control, power and communication systems. Current activities are focused on two types of heliostats: A more traditional design with a foundation and pedestal, with trusses and spars supporting a large (70–120 square meter) multi-faceted mirror array driven by separate azimuth and elevation systems; and a smaller (1–4 square meter) heliostat with an integrated tip/tilt system driving a single facet mirror that can be easily deployed and does not require any onsite manufacturing facility.

Sandia Supports Research on Home Sale Premiums Related to PV Systems

Sandia researcher Geoff Klise was part of a team that investigated whether home buyers are willing to pay more for homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the researchers analyzed approximately 22,000 home sales from 1999 to 2003. Of these sales, 4,000 were homes with PV systems. The study concluded that home buyers have consistently been willing to pay up to a $15,000 premium for a typical PV system. The study also found incremental increases in this premium as PV system size increased. The work is detailed in a report published by Berkeley Lab, “Selling Into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes.” The research was supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

RTC Weather Data

RTC Weather and Irradiance Data Available Online

Weather and solar irradiance data from four of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Regional Test Centers (RTCs) are now available on a dedicated data Web page. The site provides weekly data on global and diffuse horizontal irradiance, ambient temperature, direct normal irradiance, wind speed, humidity, and rainfall for RTC sites in New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Vermont. Users can zoom in on time frames of interest and can export, print, and save data. The data facilitate comparisons among the sites, which are intended to provide divergent climate conditions in which to demonstrate and validate new solar technologies.

The RTCs were established as part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which aims to accelerate solar photovoltaic deployment in the United States. The RTCs provide independent testing and performance data to support commercialization of new technologies and help develop standardized protocols for PV system validation. The centers are co-managed by Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Sandia Research on PV Arc Fault Detection Submitted for U.S. Patent

Sandia researchers recently submitted an application for a U.S. patent related to research on arc fault detection and circuit interruption in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. String- and array-level arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are intended to de-energize the PV system when an arc fault is detected. In the case of parallel arc faults, however, opening the AFCI does not extinguish the arc and can actually make the arc worse, increasing the risk of fire. In order to avoid this, the AFCI must be able to discern between series and parallel faults. Sandia’s patent-pending methods, filed as Identifying an Arc-Fault Type in Photovoltaic Arrays, allow AFCIs to distinguish between series and parallel faults. The research was conducted in collaboration with Tigo Energy.

Recent Publications

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