Solar research grant awarded to minorities

A competitive $750,000 grant was awarded to UTSA on Oct. 30 to fund solar energy research.

The university will be targeting underrepresented minority students who show potential in careers involving the solar energy industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative awarded the three-year grant. Named DISTINCT, “Diversity in Science and Technology Advances National Clean Energy in Solar,” it joins science and technology advances with the creation of a workforce focusing on diversity and innovation.

Its purpose is to train students in the solar energy industry and provide research opportunities.

The DISTINCT grant supports President Obama’s initiative for cutting carbon emissions and supporting renewable energy advances. UTSA and St. Phillips College will combine to achieve three goals.

The first goal is to increase the diversity of students pursuing careers in solar energy research. UTSA and St. Phillips College both have a high number of minority students pursuing STEM-related careers.

Strategies for increasing diversity include incentives, such as providing generous financial aid to students aiming for a career in the STEM areas, and investing more money into attracting students to STEM careers.

The second goal is to provide solar energy research opportunities to faculty and students. UTSA and St. Phillips College currently own impressive photovoltaic equipment that captures data on solar energy.

The DISTICT program will fund the development of photovoltaic system research opportunities for students, which will focus mainly on the improvement of equipment, leading to more efficient outcomes of PV systems.

The third and final goal of the unique DISTINCT program is to enhance and expand the solar curriculum of both UTSA and St. Phillips College. Both institutions will pair up with solar energy stakeholders to create entire courses that teach solar energy theory, practice and policy.

“It is about developing the leaders of tomorrow in PV solar to assure San Antonio and south Texas remain on the forefront of solar technology for years to come, and that solar power continues to grow as a vital energy resource for our future.” said Les Shephard, director of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA and McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering.