By Joanna Carver/Public Affairs Specialist
For many, solar energy is a solution to the problem of finding clean, renewable energy, as well as a sign of a growing American industry. UTSA Electrical and Computer Engineering assistant professor Hariharan Krishnaswami has some insight into the future of solar energy and how it might soon have coal looking in its rearview mirror. He researches solar forecasting and smart grid technology, and currently is focusing on how to improve the electronics of solar energy systems.
“There’s an energy boom on the way,” he said. “Solar energy has been a growing industry for a while, but it’s just now starting to rise as an option for residential customers.”
The main obstacle to solar energy in homes has been the cost. However, Krishnaswami said, the cost between traditional energy and solar energy is rapidly becoming narrower.
“The price parity between coal and solar is disappearing,” he said. “The goal is to get interest going on a residential scale and show it’s a prudent investment.”
Krishnaswami, who is also a faculty member in the Texas Sustainable Research Institute, conducts part of his research with the solar panels (link) on the roof of the H-E-B University Center, encouraging students to grow their expertise in an expanding industry. Right now, he’s at work on improving the functionality and reliability of solar inverters and how they interact with the grid that powers them.
“We make solar engineers,” he said.
CPS Energy has just announced a plan to give customers a discount on their bill in exchange for letting the company use their rooftops to house solar panels. The plan would forgo the installation costs of solar panels, which is essentially a game changer in the solar industry.
“I feel like we’re coming closer to becoming competitive,” Krishnaswami said.
One of the drawbacks of solar energy, however, is variability. Cloudy days and shading are still a problem.
“It’s an initiative that’s constantly improving,” Krishnaswami said. “People are excited about solar because it’s an American industry and it’s growing.”
Learn more about the Texas Sustainable Research Institute here.