Solar Day - Open to the Public

Austin Solar Day

June 3rd, 2012 | 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Austin Convention Center.

High School Projects

Travis High School

Energy in this present world is a luxury. Those who have it feel that it will never go away. Those without, believe it will never come to them. The technology that is commonplace in developed nations is hard to obtain in third world countries, leaving even the simplest of tasks a difficult burden. If technology is available, how is it to be powered? A simple solution could help those that are in desperate need of access to energy. A little sunlight in fact, could provide hours of power to thousands of people worldwide. By taking a commonplace 12V marine battery, attaching it to generic solar panels and charger, we will power multipurpose electrical outlets, which can give anybody the opportunity to access a dependable and efficient power source for their basic daily needs.


Copperas Cove High School

Problem Statement: Can we develop a cost effective heating and surface water reclamation system necessary to support a greenhouse production while maintaining a zero carbon footprint?

Procedures: A single photovoltaic cell is used to power two 12 volt marine pumps for circulation of heated water through the closed loop system along with the surface water reclamation system. Surface water will first pass through the three stage purification/filtration system (gravel, sand and charcoal), then stored in recycled barrels for later use in support of the growing plants. Thermal energy is concentrated in a solar collector consisting of a wooden box covered with recycled glass panels which heats water inside a closed loop system made from recycled ABS pipe. Once heated, the water is circulated from the solar collector through a series of additional pipes that are buried under 12 inches of soil inside the green house. By circulating the heated water through the closed loop system, heat energy is stored in the soil. Stored heat energy then radiates into the green house thereby protecting plants from potential freezing temperatures.

Taylor High School

The B.L.A.D.E.'s have been donated a 1999 GMC Safari van and are working diligently to transform it into an AEV (Alternative Energy Vehicle). The club, primarily made up of 10th grade students, is learning about the practical uses of solar energy each week as they come together after school to solder 6" x 6" polycrystalline wafers and build 144 watt solar panels. Solar panels (4) that the club fabricates, will be mounted on the AEV to charge a bank of (8) 6-volt deep cycle batteries connected in a series-parallel circuit. The batteries will be charged through voltage regulators and then wired to inverters. The inverters will then be wired to a couple weatherproof receptacles cut into the van. DC amp and volt meters will also be mounted to display the charging current and voltage of each panel.

Ultimately, the use of the AEV is for the club to show movies in community parks with a projector, DVD player and amplifier plugged into weatherproof receptacle and powered off the solar charged batteries. The club has also expressed a desire to install a 46" LED television and gaming system powered off the solar charged batteries. The AEV will incorporate underneath LED, Green (school color) lighting along with a few internal LED lights.

Future plans are to experiment operating a dehumidifier off the solar powered batteries to extract water from humidity in the air.We're excite to participate in the IEEE HS PV competition!


Keystone High School

Microbial contamination of water has been a severe concern in all populations across the globe. Some more affluent communities are able to pay for water treatment however this can be costly and not always effective depending on the post treatment containment system. This project focused on creating a small, cost efficient, solar-powered water treatment system for a small community. The system consists of 3 main components: a solar panel, an electrical storage system (battery), and a water treatment filter. The water treatment filter consists of a PVC tube with a pre-filter, which can easily be replaced by any scrap cloth, and a layered system of alternating conductive and nonconductive mesh. The conductive mesh is tied to the electrical power source so that the layers alternate in electrical polarity thereby creating electrical fields between each layer. Since each treatment filter is simple, easy to construct, low cost, and has an easily replaceable pre-filter it is ideal to distribute to each family in a community who can then use it at a central electrical storage station. The concept of this filter was designed with third world communities in mind.

Stony Point High School

The Stony Point High School Photovoltaic team strives to achieve energy independence and sustainability though the efficient use of clean energy options. The 2012 project focuses on essential communication ability in time of disaster. The advent of the Internet and wireless communication has lead to an increased role of technology during disaster relief. The project focuses on providing energy and communication when the local infrastructure is unable to support local users. A simple solar energy setup provides the essential electricity to power a satellite Internet connection or bridge from cellphone towers. This setup allows for communication with nationwide disaster efforts as well as businesses who rely on communication. Together the system will provide communication when the demand is crucial.

Bowie High School

The efficiency of different organic dyes in dye sensitized solar cells was tested. These cells were first made by Gratzel. They are cheaper than silicon based cells and absorb sunlight similar to photosynthesis. The hypothesis was if the efficiency was tested, then the blackberry dyed cell will be more efficient because, of higher concentrations of anthocyanins.

These cells were made in the lab, two conductive glass plates were used in each cell. Two plates were assembled, one covered with absorbed dye in sintered Titanium Dioxide and the other with graphite. A Redox Electrolyte was added to begin electron flow in each of the cells. Blackberry and Raspberry juice were tested, and non-dyed cells were the control. Multimeters were used to record voltage produced by each cell in sunlight. On average, blackberry: 0.19V, raspberry: 0.17V and non-dyed cells: 0.08V.

Blackberry dyed cells produced the highest amount of voltage it was concluded that they were more efficient than raspberry and non-dyed cells, this proved the hypothesis. To further prove the hypothesis different dyes with anthocyanins can be tested. If dye sensitized solar cells become more efficient, solar energy may become a better replacement for fossil fuels and slow down global warming.

Renaissance High School

This project measured the impact of solar panels on the inside temperature of buildings. Experiments showed that solar panels placed directly on top of conventionally tiled roofs did not lead to a significant change on the inside temperature of a structure. However, when the solar panels were raised slightly, the inside temperatures of conventionally tiled structures were 33% lower. When the panels were placed at a 45 degree angle and windy conditions were simulated, the inside temperatures decreased another 10%. [On the other hand, windy conditions on roofs with no solar panels actually increased the inside temperature of buildings.] Optimally placed solar panels actually proved to keep conventionally-tiled structures as cool or cooler than structures with aluminum or thermoplastic roofs.

To accurately measure the differences in inside temperatures (the dependant variable), a structure was built that kept all factors constant with the exception of the independent variables (the different kinds of roofing with and without solar panels and with solar panels at different angles).

This experiment showed that in addition to the benefits of producing energy, solar panels can in fact keep structures cooler and thus significantly decrease the amount of energy needed in the first place.

Pflugerville High School

No abstract.


Speaker’s Corner Abstracts

Photovoltaics 101
Dr. Ryne P. Raffaelle

The solar cell industry has grown at an astonishingly high rate over the past decade. This growth has been both in what one could consider the “traditional” areas such as flat panel crystalline silicon solar arrays, as well as in “new” technologies such as thin films. A review of the basic fundamentals of photovoltaics, which highlights the past developments in the photovoltaic landscape, will be provided. The various technologies we have today will be compared and contrasted and some predictions on what we are likely to see in the future will be presented.

PV Myths
Brent Nelson
National Center for Photovoltaics
National Renewable Energy Lab

An overview of the most common criticisms of photovoltaic (PV) technologies will be presented, along with a short account of the actual facts for each criticism and references to technical details addressing those criticisms. The myths fall into the following general topics: significance of PV technologies, required area for large scale deployment, environmental impacts, energy balance, PV economics, system siting, aesthetics, reliability, the intermittent nature of the solar resource, and overstatements of PV’s potential.

Career Opportunities in the Solar and Smart Grid Industries
Michael Kuhn, President and CEO

The solar industry has grown at an astonishingly high rate over the past decade. The non-renewable dominated past led by oil, coal and natural gas is being augmented by the vision of a sustainable renewable energy future. The solar industry is not only about installation but production, design, sales, marketing and more. Smart grid offers new career opportunities for professionals from electric power grids to consumer devices.
At Austin Solar Day, Michael Kuhn will discuss what is happening in the solar and smart grid industry, what is creating the growth, and what career opportunities are available now. We will provide an overview of the four types of solar and smart grid career pathways including Component Production, System Design, Marketing/Sales/Permitting, and Installation & Operations.

Women in Photovoltaics
Veronica Bermudez

During several critical moments all around history, women have been called to join the workforce to success in the challenge created by the situation. One of the clearest examples of this was during WWII, where women were running hard industry to keep economy alive and to supply needs generated by war. Many of them left their homes to become engineers, mechanicals, technicians, plumbers, and aviators… They proved their capacities and passed the exam with a really high note. At present humanity is facing one of the most important and amazing challenging in history, energy supply and energetic model should be changed to assure the capacity of the Earth of providing a green atmosphere for future generations. To cover the present and growing energetic demand and to success in implementing it within an energetic sustainable model, workforce has been identified as one of the critical points. Within workforce women should assume their role given by the fact that they are at least half of the brains in the world. We, women need to be conscious that our male colleagues need us, challenge is really important to let it rely in half of existing population.

PV Watts
Brent Nelson
National Center for Photovoltaics
National Renewable Energy Lab

PVWATTS is an Internet-accessible software program that allows users to easily calculate the energy production and cost savings for grid-connected PV systems. An overview of the most common uses of PVWATTS will be presented, along with some general tips on its use. References to more sophisticated tools for those requiring more greater control over input parameters will be provided.

Philip Kuhn

Recent advances in electrical topologies have enabled a new generation of safer, more reliable solar rooftop systems, powered by PV microinverters. For the first time, AC modules give PV system installers the option to install solar modules with no DC wiring or DC components. In addition to their well-known energy harvest and installation time savings benefits, AC modules have significant advantages in safety over traditional DC-based PV systems - making them ideal for residential and school PV installations. This 15 minute presentation, given by Terence Parker, would review those advantages specifically in the areas of shock hazards, fire prevention/arc faults, and rescue worker safety.

Ideal Power Converters
Paul Bundschuh

PV modules have traditionally dominated PV system costs. The industry has responded to this need through module efficiency improvements and module price reductions, which together have contributed to dropping the cost of PV modules by about half (in $/W) over the past 18 months.

Today the industry is continuing to pursue module efficiency and cost improvements, but these components no longer dominate installed system costs. Today the most expensive part of PV systems is Balance-Of-Systems (BOS) costs which include the PV inverter, other non-module hardware components, and installation. The industry has traditionally put less emphasis on BOS cost reduction compared to module cost reduction, but this is now changing as BOS costs have become the bottleneck to further reduction in installed system costs ($/W) and generation costs ($/kWh).

Austin Chamber of Commerce
Jose Beceiro

Austin, TX is known as “The Clean Energy Capital of the World.” Austin is a global leader in the clean technology revolution and is a cleantech center of innovation that is developing new markets for solar energy. Austin is deploying solar across the region to reduce peak energy demand, reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment, and also generate and distribute energy more cleanly and efficiently while keeping the cost of energy affordable. Austin is also leading the world in smart grid technology research. The Pecan Street, Inc. smart grid technology consortium is focused on designing a new smart grid energy system and utility business model in partnership with Austin Energy, the City of Austin, Austin Technology Incubator, UT Austin, and the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab. The Pecan Street, Inc. organization was awarded a $10.4 million DOE grant to develop a smart grid demonstration project at the Mueller Development. The demonstration project consists of 200 homes and will scale up to 1,000 homes in the next 2 years. Pecan Street’s demonstration project is regarded as the most advanced real world smart grid field trial in the world generating the most comprehensive data set of home energy performance data in history.

Austin Community College
Alberto Quiñonez

Dr. Alberto Quiñonez, Department Chair of Electronics and Advanced Technologies will talk about the department’s role in educating and training for the burgeoning PV industry. The department offers both an AAS degree and certificate in Renewable Energy Technology. This program was developed through cooperation with local business and industry and government support. Moreover, the department has engaged in PV skill development opportunities through grant funded externships and internships, acquisition of equipment and training modules and through partnerships with industry, non-profits, local, state and federal agencies. Please come hear how the department of Electronics and Advanced Technology continues to be a key player in education and training for local PV businesses.

Austin Community College District, with an enrollment of over 45,000 and 90 Associate degree majors in Applied Science Technology, is the premier technical educator for the greater Austin - central Texas region, serving an 8 county area with over 1.6 million people.

Austin Energy
Tim Harvey

The Austin City Council has set a 35% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for Austin Energy with a solar goal of 200 megawatts capacity in the community by 2020. Austin Energy has installed demonstration solar projects at schools, libraries, community centers and other municipally owned facilities.

Austin Energy's Solar Rebate Program offers a $2.50 per watt incentive to eligible residential who install photovoltaic (PV) systems on their homes. Rebates are limited to $15,000 per home installation per fiscal year with a lifetime maximum of $50,000 per site, recognizing that some residential customers build out a home solar system in stages.

Rebates will only be paid for approved systems installed by approved solar contractors according to the established technical requirements. All systems must conform to the utility's equipment and installation standards in order to qualify for a rebate. These standards include the use of pre-approved equipment; equipment warranty requirements; and the use of a program approved, NABCEP certified and appropriately insured solar installer. Participants must meet a detailed set of home energy efficiency requirements in order to qualify for a solar rebate. The energy efficiency requirements include standards for both new and existing homes.

GAF Solar
Michelle Meier

The most common installation method is to mount PV panels on a rooftop rack a few inches off of the roof deck. Homeowners often reach out to solar integration companies for this type of installation - however, most of these companies have little or no experience in the roofing industry.

GAF and its contractors have received a number of calls from customers experiencing roofing leaks after installing solar panels through these non-roofing solar companies.

It is not common practice for solar installers to accept any responsibility if the roof leaks, or to repair or replace the roof under the PV solar system. If a roof needs to be replaced, the PV solar system will have to be removed and reinstalled. Many of the smaller solar installation companies have failed and as a result are not available to correct their work. All this has created a terrible dilemma for homeowners.

As a purely practical consideration, the life of the roofing system should at least equal, if not exceed, the life of the solar system. GAF Solar is working with GAF Solar Elite Contractors to offer a comprehensive solution that helps alleviate the risk of roofing problems that are caused by the installation of solar.

NSF EPSCoR Green Renewable Energy-Efficient Nanoplasmonic
(GREEN) Solar Cells Center - University of Arkansas
John Martini

Solar energy is being used in a broad range of applications across industry and residences alike. From heating water for home use to creating utility scale electricity - solar energy application is growing. And as energy costs continue to rise, more individuals and business are looking to decrease energy costs and reduce the impact on the environment. The geographic location of Arkansas makes it almost ideal for solar power applications. It is expected that there will be an increase in the demand for solar power in Arkansas and the surrounding areas as new technologies reduce the overall costs of solar powered systems. The content of this course covers the principles of photovoltaic (PV) electricity and how to effectively incorporate it into stand-alone or utility-connected electrical systems as well as providing lab exercises that will provide the students with hands-on applications (using a lab panel that combines solar panels and balance-of-system (BOS) components). An educated and trained workforce will be needed to install, operate and maintain these solar power systems. This need will provide jobs and opportunities for new electronics/electrical technicians and current technicians whose jobs may have been eliminated.

Texas Solar Energy Society
Lucy Stolzenburg

As the primary state-wide nonprofit agency dedicated to promoting renewable energy, the Texas Solar Energy Society serves its members by educating the public on the benefits and importance of solar technologies, particularly photovoltaics. Educational and outreach initiatives include home tours, renewable energy fairs, presentations, student grants, and many other events and educational opportunities undertaken by TXSES and our regional chapters.

As a chapter of the American Solar Energy Society, we in turn have local chapters in Houston, North Texas, Austin, and San Antonio, all of whom are active in their own communities with educational outreach programs at civic and trade events.

As of November 2011, we extended our partnership with Austin Energy on a DOE/Solar America Cities grant with a curriculum writing contest for teachers in the five school districts served by AE. The Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) and TXSES have worked to create renewable energy lesson plans for all grade levels, which are available at The Infinite Power of Texas.

TXSES’ members include PV and related system manufacturers, integrators, suppliers, and consultants. Together we can continue the vital effort of promoting the use PV technologies.


Speaker’s Corner Schedule

For more information on how to get involved as an Austin Solar Day sponsor and/or exhibitor, please contact:

Edward J. Simburger
Austin Solar Day Chair
[email protected]

Bill Stueve
Austin Solar Day Committee
[email protected]