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Michigan Tech, Sandia Partner on Regional Solar Tech Center

As part of a consortium of research facilities overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy, a new Regional Test Center will study technologies that can increase electrical generation from photovoltaic systems.

Solar panels under the night sky.
Michigan Technological University and Sandia National Laboratories have partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to run a new solar technology research site in Calumet, Mich., the fifth of its kind in the U.S.

According to a news release about a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility on Tuesday, the department's newest Regional Test Center (RTC) features cutting-edge solar energy technologies, such as experimental systems that can increase electrical generation from photovoltaic (PV) systems in northern regions. The announcement said the center was made possible through the RTC program, a consortium established by the Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office and overseen by Sandia that now consists of five outdoor solar research sites across the U.S., including others in Albuquerque, N.M., Cocoa, Fla., Golden, Colo. and Henderson, Nev. Collectively, they represent a national effort to evaluate the performance and reliability of emerging photovoltaic technologies.

The news release said the RTC program gives U.S. solar companies access to research facilities in different climates, along with the technical expertise of Sandia and academic partners like Michigan Tech, to test new solar technologies under rigorous conditions, adding that “pairing industry with laboratory and academic expertise helps drive both product innovation and commercialization of new high-efficiency solar products.”

According to the announcement, the Michigan Tech facility will serve as a unique location to demonstrate the efficiency of new-generation photovoltaic technologies in severe winter environments, as well as to document the energy gains from novel designs. In addition, it said, research is underway at the Michigan RTC to develop new methods of rapid snow removal from solar panels.

The announcement added that the new research facility will play a key role in driving the growth of solar power in northern regions and will provide a space for research and workforce training needed to deploy photovoltaic technologies in rural, underserved regions in the state’s Upper Peninsula.