On Aug. 28, 2019, an influential group pf policymakers, administrators and researchers toured the Nevada Regional Test Center (RTC) in Henderson, Nevada—currently one of several sites managed by Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) for the U.S. Department of Energy—whose mission is to drive technical innovation in the solar sector as part of a broader national effort to lower the cost, increase the efficiency, and further the deployment of solar technologies.
The tour, which was hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and led by Sandia Principal Investigator (PI) Laurie Burnham and Govt. Relations Officer Patrick Sullivan, showcased a multitude of emerging technologies, and the instrumentation and technical methodology developed by Sandia to support world-class research at the site.
One of the driving factors for the tour was a US Congressional requirement issued this summer that the site (along with the other non-national laboratory RTC sites), transition to independent funding and local leadership. According to the U.S. Department of Energy report, “Sustainability Plan for the Solar Regional Test Centers,” the “Florida and Nevada RTC facilities have existing management structures that are broadly compatible with the transition toward self-sufficiency.”
Sandia hopes to remain engaged with stakeholders once the Nevada RTC transition is complete. According to Burnham, Sandia will continue to coordinate industry-funded studies across the five RTC sites to enable the field validation of emerging solar technologies.
“Our role,” Burnham said, “will be to provide the technical expertise needed to ensure data quality across a network of multi-climate research sites. We also look forward to new collaborative research opportunities between Sandia and Nevada institutions, such as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and SNWA.”
Following the tour, participants convened for an in-depth discussion of ways the site could be better leveraged to support Nevada’s goals to move to a low-carbon economy.
“We really wanted the attendees to understand the center’s unique contributions to photovoltaic research and education, and we think we accomplished that,” Burnham said.
SNWA provides and maintains the land on which the Nevada RTC sits, and provides installation services for new systems at no cost; UNLV currently provides the technical support needed to ensure the site matches the operations and maintenance standards of the other RTC sites, the PI said.
“I was impressed at how engaged the group was during the visit, and how many questions they asked,” Gov’t. Relations Officer Sullivan said. “It was a good exchange with really productive conversation about next steps for the center.”
Moving forward, Sandia plans to facilitate the site’s transition to financial independence by making sure local stakeholders are fully engaged, and able to reach their own conclusions about the center’s benefit to the state of Nevada.