Editor’s note: The following announcement from the Department of Energy provides context on a potentially very virtuous use of advanced data analysis capabilities to help solve real-world challenges regarding energy costs in the US. Before you get too excited about the potential here, remember to read the details. As you dig deeper into the list of projects you will note some potential for continued government-contractor goofiness and waste, like giving $600k to SRI to have them develop new software to read scientific publications. Seems like they could just buy some basic discovery tools for that or if they wanted to really use advanced big data tools could start by leveraging the Apache Hadoop framework first. So read the below but remember, the devil is in the details- bg
Energy Department Announces New SunShot Projects to Harness the Power of Big Data
January 30, 2013 –release
As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the Department today announced seven data-driven projects to unearth new opportunities for reducing costs and accelerating solar energy deployment in the United States. These projects—located in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas—will result in viable methods for dramatically transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers, and policymakers, and speed the commercialization and deployment of affordable, clean solar energy.
“Through powerful analytical tools developed by our nation’s top universities and national labs, we can gain unparalleled insight into solar deployment that will help lower the cost of solar power and create new businesses and jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Projects like these will help accelerate technological and financing innovations—making it easier for American families and businesses to access clean, affordable energy.”
The Energy Department will invest about $9 million across the seven projects announced today. These efforts will help scientists, project developers, installers, and communities work together to discover previously unexplored ways to improve solar cell efficiency, reduce costs, and streamline installation processes.
Harnessing Real-World Data to Solve Industry Challenges
As part of the investment announced today, the Energy Department will provide $7 million to research teams led by Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Yale University and the University of Texas–Austin. These teams will partner with public and private financial institutions, utilities, and state agencies to apply statistical and computational tools to industry problem-solving and lead regional pilot projects across the country to test the impact and scalability of their innovations.
For example, Yale University researchers will partner with SmartPower’s New England Solar Challenge to design and implement innovative strategies that can increase the effectiveness of community-led bulk solar purchase programs. The team from the University of Texas–Austin will work with complex datasets from six Texas utilities to better understand customer needs and identify opportunities to streamline installation and interconnection. Similarly, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, will lead another project with Clean Power Finance to develop a computational model that will analyze data from over 1,300 solar installation companies to establish new types of community- and regional-scale financing structures.
Charting Market Evolution and Technology Innovation
Additionally, the Energy Department is investing $2 million across three projects led by the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and SRI International to analyze decades’ of scientific publications, patents and cost and production data. Through these projects, researchers will be able to obtain a complete picture on the U.S. solar industry, discover methods to accelerate technological breakthroughs, and remove roadblocks to greater cost reduction.
Based in Menlo Park, California, SRI International will develop advanced software that reads and analyzes thousands of scientific publications and patents to discover new ways to speed solar energy technology innovation and commercialization. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina–Charlotte will apply computational tools to patent, cost, and production data to speed up solar technology cost reductions and better forecast future cost reductions for new energy technologies.
The seven projects announced today will provide new insights that could dramatically accelerate the commercialization of affordable, reliable clean energy technologies. See the full list of projects.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Moon Shot” program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race. For more information, visit www.energy.gov/sunshot.