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Spotlight: Forecasting Optimal Energy Investments

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Spotlight: Forecasting Optimal Energy Investments

Date Published:
Friday, April 19, 2013

As the world seeks ways to reduce energy costs and speed access to alternative energy solutions, UNC Charlotte researcher Deborah Strumsky is leading a team that will use modeling to forecast optimal investments for the array of solar energy technologies that are emerging.

A bit like people considering a wide range of complex, inter-related factors when building their retirement funds — such as what funds are available to them, the amount of risk involved and how long until they retire — Strumsky and her colleagues will consider how various factors impact the performance of solar technologies. The project will receive $949,131 as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which is investing $9 million in seven projects nationwide.

Using new methods from network theory, performance curve analysis and techniques adapted from the study of biological and ecological systems, the research team will explore how solar technologies in the past have been influenced by improvement in related technologies, public and private research and development investments, and public policy initiatives. By analyzing hundreds of years' worth of patent data and historical cost and production data, the team will construct a network — called a "technology ecosystem” — to forecast and influence technological progress.

"New technologies arise out of the evolution of ecosystems of existing technologies," Strumsky said. "Our research under the SunShot Initiative will use innovative methods to analyze patent and industry data to provide a new detailed picture of the structure and evolution of the solar technology ecosystem."

Strumsky is a faculty member in the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences and also is affiliated with the Ph.D. in Public Policy Program. She will work with researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Oxford on the project, titled Forecasting and influencing technological progress in solar energy.

Photo credit: Nuon