July 1, 2008 Researchers installed weather stations to track the best locations for taking advantage of renewable resources. Tracking sunlight exposure helps pinpoint the ideal location for solar panels, and measuring wind speed and other weather data highlights the preferred times to open windows or vents for temperature control.
If you're looking for ways to bring your energy costs down you may want to take a look outside. The weather can save you big money if you learn how to work with it.
If professor Jan Kliessl is right this little computer will shave ten percent off University of California, San Diego's energy bill.
From athletic fields to utility poles to a rooftop robot -- Kleissl's engineering students track climate conditions across campus. The cool coastal conditions on one side and hot inland conditions on the other side of campus make UCSD an ideal lab for using weather to cut energy costs.
"I live in the residence halls over there and they don't have air conditioning so I kind of learned to use cross ventilation in the morning and in the evening to try to cool down the place," Roger Huang, UCSD student, told Ivanhoe.
That's one student anticipating the day's weather. Imagine what a 12-hundred acre campus could do with detailed data on temperature, wind speed, solar radiation, and rainfall.
"If you know what the prevailing wind is, you can use that as a way of cooling the building on hot days. You can use how much solar radiation there is to figure out how much the sun will heat the building up," Paul Linden, professor of Environmental Engineering at UCSD, told Ivanhoe.
The weather stations, powered by car batteries and solar panels, transmit data around the clock to a campus computer. That info will determine when to irrigate fields and open vents, where to place solar windows and how to design buildings to take advantage of weather patterns.
"Advanced homes now have their own computer systems that can open windows and close windows, pull shades down and regulate the air conditioning system," Jan Kleissl, assistant professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UCSD, told Ivanhoe.
Kliessl hopes the merging of engineering and meteorology will provide a blueprint for energy conservation in your home and worldwide.
ABOUT SOLAR CELLS: In the future, more homes will most likely incorporate solar cells, also known as photovoltaics. Solar cells are made of semiconductor materials (usually silicon), which absorb sunlight's energy and stores it until it is needed to power something. Unfortunately, present solar cells can only absorb between 15-25 percent of sunlight's energy. This is because it only absorbs visible light; other kinds of light pass right through the cell as if it were transparent.
SENSORS MEASURE WEATHER CONDITIONS: A sensor is a type of transducer: an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another. For instance, microphones convert sound waves into electrical signals, while speakers receive the electrical signals and convert them back into sound waves. There are many different kinds of sensors, but most are electrical or electronic. A photosensor is an electronic component that detects the presence of various wavelengths of light: visible, infrared, or ultraviolet for example. The electrical conductance will change in response to the intensity of the light being detected, and this change is recorded by a computer. At UCSD, they are measuring conditions at many campus locations in order to learn the best places to place solar panels and other technology that will help them save energy.
The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.