University of California, Merced (UC Merced) has received a $568,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a system that will measure and track the amount of solar irradiance that reaches ground level. The three-year grant, funded under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is for a project titled ‘MRI: Development of ASSIST: Affordable System for Solar Irradiance Sensing and Tracking.’
Alberto Cerpa, assistant professor at the university's school of engineering, will lead the research, along with associate professor Carlos Coimbra and assistant professor Qinghua Guo. ASSIST will use a network of sensors that collects data on solar irradiance at ground levels. The sensors will measure and track cloud cover, aerosol content and the presence of gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide in the Earth's lower atmosphere and stratosphere.
ASSIST will work in conjunction with two existing solar observatories, located at UC Merced and UC Davis. The proposed system will be affordable, as it combines the use of a small number of expensive and highly calibrated solar observatories with a larger number of inexpensive nodes that will collect and relay data. ASSIST will integrate stand-alone wireless global irradiance sensors with a new dome sensor, eliminating the need for devices with costly moving parts, such as automatic solar trackers, UC Merced adds.
SOURCE: University of California, Merced