LMU Professor, Department of Energy Team Up on Solar Project

Capture2 - LMU Professor, Department of Energy Team Up on Solar Project Capture2a - LMU Professor, Department of Energy Team Up on Solar Project

Todd Otanicar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, has brought Loyola Marymount University into a major national project in the development of concentrated solar power systems. Otanicar has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy. The agreement allows LMU to participate in the Solar Resource and Meteorological Assessment Project, a nationwide solar measuring network run by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “The project represents a significant partnership for my work in the field of renewable energy,” Otanicar said. “NREL is the premier lab for this kind of research.” Otanicar has enlisted undergraduate and graduate students in the solar resource assessment project, which will involve installing a solar radiation monitoring station atop University Hall. The project will provide a wealth of site-specific data essential to the development of concentrated solar power systems. “In addition, we will use the data to assess any local impacts on solar energy such as prevailing wind conditions, fire season and urbanization,” Otanicar said. As one of LMU’s newest faculty members, Otanicar, who earned his doctorate at Arizona State University in 2009, keenly appreciates the importance of hands-on student involvement from both sides of the equation. His students take part in projects ranging from experimental setup and monitoring to advanced numerical modes of concentrating photovoltaic systems. In addition to doing research and teaching, Otanicar is collaborating with LMU’s Facilities Management to develop a new method of harnessing solar thermal energy for heating and cooling systems on campus. The solar panel installation on University Hall is one of the largest systems at any university in the world. Otanicar’s passion for renewable energy made Seaver College a natural choice. “I was attracted to LMU for its commitment to the education of the whole person, as well as the opportunity to build a program in energy,” Otanicar said. “Although my research can be extremely technical, to me it’s fundamental to focus on how it contributes to the sustainability of our planet.”