Senior Thesis Project: Solar Panels at Wells

May 5, 2016
Tyler Morris '16 is testing the effectiveness of methods to increase the output of solar energy arrays.
tyler morris with solar panels

For the past few months, a small solar panel installation outside of Stratton Hall has provoked curious glances and a flooding of questions. The answer is simple: it's an experiment! As his thesis project this year, Tyler Morris '16—who holds a double major in physics and computer science—is testing a pair of photovoltaic panels to examine whether or not solar concentrators can increase the effectiveness of solar power.

The purpose of the experiment was "sparked" by the variety of responsibilities Tyler held during a summer 2015 internship for Revolution Solar, located in Milford, N.Y. During the experience, he was exposed to solar photovoltaics and learned a lot about small-scale residential systems as well as larger commercial systems. This exposure gave him some ideas in thinking about his thesis.

To move forward with his own experiment, Tyler consulted with a few experts in the matter. Early in the process, Nicomedes Alonso, a previous Wells professor, introduced to Tyler the idea of examining whether or not a compound parabolic concentrator can increase output of solar photovoltaics. Tyler brought the idea to his boss, Mary Jo Cronin, at Revolution Solar, and she lent him two solar panels to use for the project.

With continued help from Professor Alonso, Professor of Physics Scott Heinekamp and Associate Professor of Mathematics Thomas Stiadle, Tyler has been analyzing the data and adjusting the setup of the array—for example, changing the reflective surface of the solar panels. Tyler shared his experiential journey with his fellow students and the public in April during the weekly Science Colloquium.

For his outstanding work, Tyler was granted the Wood Prize in Physics & Its Application at Wells' annual Honors Awards Dinner.

Wells College promises a relevant liberal arts and sciences education. Intellectually challenging. Reinterpreted for today. Classroom teaching combined with hands-on learning. Wells graduates enter the world prepared for successful futures.

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