TDC roof in use as solar- and wind-energy prediction test

Brian Corey
University Communications intern
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 11:12am

Electricians from Western Washington University installed solar- and wind-energy prediction equipment at the Technology Development Center on the Bellingham waterfront Friday, making Western the newest location for testing the gear being developed by Western and a consortium of schools in the University of California system.

Many businesses are transitioning to alternative energy, and this equipment tests if the local weather will be able to continuously produce enough electricity to keep the equipment running, said David Larson, of the University of California at Merced.

Larson was on site Friday, March 16, to direct the installation. The equipment has also been placed at four sites in California and one in Hawaii, he said, adding that the Pacific Northwest location will provide an idea of how much solar energy can be produced in a cloudier environment.

“These are real-world tests to see what our equipment can do,” Larson said.

Data gathered from the six test sites, including the one in Bellingham, is online at

The project's goal is to enable researchers to predict weather changes in case alternate energy production needs to be switched suddenly to a back-up source, Larson said. At a hospital, for example, sudden cloud cover could reduce the amount of energy being created at crucial times, he said. If that cloud cover can be predicted, an alternative source can be used to ensure power is not lost.

Helping with the installation at the TDC, located at 1000 F St., were Western Facilities Management electricians Gerry Vermeulen and Doug Salkeld. Through the wind and rain, it took a little over two hours to set everything in place.

The installation is part of an overall plan by researchers at Western’s Applied Materials Science and Engineering Center and their work on alternative energy sources, such as the luminescent solar concentrator. See this story in Western's Window Magazine for more on AMSEC's work in this area.