S&T receives EPA grants for solar research

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On December 30, 2008

Missouri University of Science and Technology was recently awarded two $10,000 grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for research related to solar energy and energy management.

The following are primary investigators on both grants: Dr. Stuart Baur, assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering; Dr. Katie Grantham Lough, assistant professor of interdisciplinary engineering; and Dr. Rob Stone, professor of interdisciplinary engineering.

The researchers are working with students on Missouri S&T’s Solar House Team. The first grant will enable the students to utilize hybrid solar thermal electric panels (STEPs).

Most solar houses use separate systems to generate energy for hot water and electricity. The STEP hybrids incorporate both heating and electricity systems on the same surface.

A student research team will test the energy efficiency of four hybrid panels against standard photovoltaic panels in S&T’s Solar Village. The three houses, soon to be four, in the village are equipped with sensors to detect temperature, solar intensity, fluid flow, and thermal differences.

The results of the experiment will be incorporated into S&T’s design for the 2009 Solar Decathlon, a U.S. Department of Energy competition that his held approximately every two years on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The competition features student-built solar houses from around the world.

Missouri S&T researchers hope STEP hybrids can also be used to assist tornado victims in Caruthersville, Mo. S&T Students will visit with survivors and chronicle their rebuilding efforts in order to identify specific material needs and energy concerns.

The other grant will be used to study climate control efficiencies in homes. Residential climate control and creature comfort needs account for the majority of residential energy use. Under the direction of faculty members, S&T students intend to develop a model for residential building adaptive energy management systems (R-BAEMS), which will allow them to regulate climate control more efficiently.

The energy usage between two similar houses within the S&T Solar Village will be measured by comparing one with R-BAEMS and one with no active system for monitoring climate control efficiencies.

The two projects are scheduled to run through July of 2009.

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