UC Weather Data to Help Develop Energy Plan

Ten University of California-San Diego undergraduate students have designed, built, and deployed a network of five weather-monitoring stations as a key step toward helping the university use ocean breezes to cool buildings, identify the sunniest rooftops to expand its solar-electric system, and use water more efficiently in irrigation and in other ways.

The network, which will be expanded to 20 stations in 2008, is unprecedented in the United States for the density of weather data to be collected.

Project leaders are inviting San Diego-area schools and businesses to make their rooftops available for additional stations to broaden the geographic scope, scientific value, and potential energy savings of the effort.

Professors Jan Kleissl and Paul Linden at the Jacobs School of Engineering and Professors Doug Palmer and Bill Hodgkiss from the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) are mentoring the students. Grants from Wells Fargo & Company and campus groups enabled students to install the wireless weather stations on campus rooftops and poles.

Clouds and fog, sunshine hours, temperature and humidity vary considerably from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the west side of the main campus to sunnier and drier inland areas. Facilities managers plan to use the measurements in real time in a variety of ways.

"The campus wants to know how warm and humid it is so they can open or close dampers that take in outside air, a free commodity to cool buildings," Kleissl said. "There are many applications where detailed weather information can be very useful."

Measurements of soil moisture will be used to activate irrigation sprinklers so that athletic fields are watered when they become dry, rather than on a fixed schedule.

With roughly 11 million square feet of space in 300 buildings on the campus, the weather monitoring stations are expected to yield immediate benefits.

The weather-monitoring instruments, powered by car batteries and textbook-sized photovoltaic panels, are mounted on aluminum tripods. Measurements on building and air temperatures, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and solar radiation are wirelessly transmitted to a campus computer where it is displayed in near real time at http://maeresearch.ucsd.edu/kleissl/demroes.

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