August 8, 2011
Over the past seven weeks, I’ve worked on developing more efficient solar photovoltaic systems with a research scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur (affectionately, “KGP”). In particular, my work focuses on minimizing the energy losses that occur in solar arrays from uneven sunlight, panel aging and degradation, and dirt gathering non-uniformly on panel surfaces.
I spent my initial time reviewing the literature on modeling of solar cells and modules, the problems posed by mismatched solar module output, and the strategies employed to mitigate these energy losses. Next, I built a numerical software model to simulate a solar PV system under different conditions. My colleague and I then developed a novel means of improving array power output under conditions of module output mismatch, and used our model to simulate the performance gains our system would provide. We are currently conducting experiments with a solar array on the roof of our department to validate our simulation results.
I’ve found the work environment at KGP to be in some cases quite different to conducting research at Berkeley, but people have been unendingly patient and understanding as I adjust. In my free time I’ve enjoyed frequenting the many late-night greasy-spoon eateries on campus, watching the sunrise from a beach on the Bay of Bengal, strolling the vibrant streets of Kolkata, and taking in the views of the countryside from a bicycle. As I look out at my final week in KGP, I see not just the mountain of work ahead of me—documenting my progress, conducting last minute experiments, polishing my software— but the good friends and memories I’ve made this summer.