Southern Research Institute completes solar research center

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Not-for-profit scientific research organization Southern Research Institute has completed the construction of its solar research center in the U.S. city of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Southeastern Solar Research Center (SSRC) has been designed to focus on the study of solar PV systems and will host a range of research programs and initiatives, the first of which – an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) – focuses on solar PV orientation, tracking and aging.

Michael D. Johns, VP of engineering at Southern Research Institute, remarked that the new facility will accelerate the institute’s research into solar photovoltaics, providing unique data intended to aid utilities in the optimal design of solar PV systems.

"A number of utilities, including Southern Company and its subsidiary Alabama Power, are interested in evaluating the performance and operating characteristics of different configurations for solar PV systems," he said. "The SSRC may provide key insights into their performance in the high heat, high humidity, high precipitation and high pollen environment typical of this area of the U.S.

"We are excited to host this research site, and pleased to be working with EPRI to advance this important technology."

The center itself is considered completely state-of-the-art and boasts a testing area comprising multiple configurations of PV solar panel arrays, microinverters and an advanced energy-monitoring system. The center also has trackers that follow the sun throughout the day, and south-facing solar PV systems designed to accurately evaluate how the afternoon sun – a time of day when electricity use is generally higher – can be better utilized.