Evaluating Renewable Energy Collection and Consumption through Experimentation


Kevin Martin
Assistant Professor
Department of Technology 


Nicholas Pohlman
Assistant Professor 
Department of Mechanical Engineering 


Project Description: This REU project will focus on experimentation with electric and mechanical hardware for data collection and analysis of energy sources and sinks. The summer research efforts may emphasize one of the following dimensions. In the ongoing part of this project, the relationship between the angle of inclination and the efficiency of a solar photovoltaic (PV) array will be determined. The objective is to determine the change in PV efficiency due to minor errors in inclination from seasonal change. This work will occur with industrial partner at Freedom Fields in Rockford which a demonstration site for a wide variety of solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources. Similar research in clean energy generation will be conducted with biomass transport systems. Electro-mechanical conveyors with variable speed controllers are integrated with high speed imaging to track particles during motion. Standard software packages complete particle tracking for displacement and velocity measurements. The results will identify the metered mass flow rate as a function of system variables, trying to find the best balance necessary for biomass conversion rates relative to losses due to friction and deceleration within the biomass material.

Finally, the utilization of clean energy will be examined through investigating efficiency of current lighting systems including LED, incandescent, and compact fluorescent. Heat sink profiles and efficacy of lighting systems will be measured using infrared cameras and light-meters. The objective is to compare heat sink parameters like material type, fin dimensions, and operating environment as it influences light output. The broader impact of this work is to evaluate energy from source to consumption through efficiency measurements of an array of components. Upon completion, the student will have breadth of exposure to clean energy technologies both commercially available and at the leading edge of research.