LSU Civil, Environmental Engineering Professor Aly Studies Wind Effect on Solar Panels

Solar panel usage diagramJanuary 29, 2024

BATON ROUGE, LA – As seen in South Louisiana recently, windstorms can wreak havoc on energy sources, leaving residents without power during the coldest—or hottest—of days. One such energy source that could possibly withstand extreme wind and be beneficial to the environment is solar panels. LSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Aly Mousaad Aly is researching the possibilities of solar panel use in the state thanks to a $100,000 grant from the LSU Institute for Energy Innovation.

“This project seeks to support solar deployment by focusing on the challenges and opportunities encountered by Louisiana communities,” Aly said. “Mitigating and adapting to climate change within urban contexts necessitates an increased dependence on clean energy. Substantial photovoltaic (PV) installations are presently experiencing resurgent attention in clean and sustainable energy production. However, the high cost and potential of damage in windstorms bring real challenges for large-scale solar deployment.”

Aly plans to meet these challenges by doing advanced large-scale testing in a controlled environment at LSU’s Windstorm Impact, Science, and Engineering (WISE) Open-Jet Testing facility. The WISE lab provides a realistic representation of wind conditions through large-scale turbulent generation, enabling comprehensive testing of critical infrastructure, from photovoltaic solar panels to high-rise buildings.

“The WISE lab’s unique attributes empower researchers to advance the design and engineering of climate-resilient systems, emphasizing its role in creating a more sustainable and resilient environment globally,” Aly said.

After conducting testing in the WISE lab, Aly will develop recommendations for optimized design and configuration of solar energy systems to maximize power production and reduce wind-induced damage and associated performance degradation. Aly’s recommendations will be based partly on the ongoing wind testing of solar energy systems at the LSU WISE lab and partly based on stakeholders and industry partners.

“Our commitment to collaboration goes beyond words,” Aly said. “Engaging industry partners is a cornerstone of our strategy, ensuring the research aligns with real-world needs. Through structured collaborations, we welcome industry input to shape the project. Detailed plans for collaborative seminars, workshops, and ongoing dialogues with stakeholders underscore our dedication to incorporating diverse perspectives.”

Aly’s project stems from an existing collaboration between industry and academia in the form of an Industrial Ties research project called, “Advanced Hurricane Testing of Critical Infrastructure to Protect the People and Businesses Along the Coast,” with the outcomes providing recommendations for economic and resilient solar installations against severe weather events. A series of seminars and workshops will also take place, with stakeholders providing valuable feedback and recommendations regarding solar deployment across Louisiana.

“Central to our narrative is an earnest call for collaboration that goes beyond words,” Aly said. “We do not just invite passive interest; we actively seek engagement from a broad audience, including professionals from the renewable energy industry, policymakers, environmentally-conscious homeowners, government personnel, and the general public.”

Aly says his research is deeply rooted in real-world challenges, drawing inspiration from instances like the struggles of solar farms in post-hurricane Puerto Rico.

“We understand the critical need for resilient solar energy systems not just in Louisiana but across the nation and globally, especially in the face of severe weather,” Aly said. “Our project subtly aligns with the Department of Energy’s core messaging and aims to be a beacon of innovation.”

Aly believes the project’s potential impact on underserved communities is significant.

“By optimizing solar deployment and reducing costs, solar energy becomes more accessible and affordable, facilitating the transition to a cleaner and sustainable energy future,” he added. “The ultimate goal is to support Louisiana in becoming a pioneering force in sustainable and renewable energy innovation and propel the state towards a more resilient future, bolstering communities and fostering progress on a global scale.”

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Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Manager