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UC Merced Connect: Campus to use rooftops to generate electricity

UC Merced is doubling down on its solar commitment.

The campus will install rooftop solar systems on up to 11 main campus buildings and the chancellor’s residence, moving the campus closer to meeting its Triple Zero commitment and saving money.

“Through proactive and entrepreneurial efforts such as this, UC Merced can save considerable money and it can move a step further toward its Triple Zero goals,” said Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Michael Reese.

The systems, which will cover more than half of the campus’s buildings, should be up and running by spring.

The campus has a 1 megawatt solar field just south of the main campus, which provides 15 percent of its annual energy requirement and half of the daily demand on sunny days.

Campus energy experts estimate the project will double the solar energy produced on campus.

Photovoltaic systems on the roofs of 11 campus buildings and the University House would generate more than 1 megawatt of electricity, and demonstrates UC Merced’s commitments to sustainability and environmental stewardship, and to making the campus more energy independent and helping reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, part of the Triple Zero commitment.

The campus has vowed to consume zero net energy and produce zero waste and zero net emissions by 2020. Sustainability is a major component in campus operations, from the landscaping and the recycled materials used in buildings to purchasing practices.

New big-data program draws NSF funding

As the world continues to amass more digital data every day, thousands of skilled mathematicians will be needed to slice it into meaningful pieces that can help power the information economy.

With the help of an $880,000 grant, three of UC Merced’s applied math faculty will help prepare some of those future data analyzers.

“Every business right now is trying to predict consumer intent and producing huge amounts of data,” Professor Arnold Kim said. “The challenge is: How do we analyze all that data and extract useable information? We’ve got all this information and computational tools, and it’s flipping us on our heads.”

The grant is to help engage students and teachers in the relatively new field of computational and data-enabled science – the analysis of big data.

The five-year grant from the National Science Foundation allows about 10 students each year to conduct research and work with faculty and area businesses to help solve real-world problems. When they complete the program, the students will be highly skilled in a field that’s in high demand, the professors said.

Regional businesses and industry can benefit from this well-trained pool of prospective employees, complementing one of UC Merced’s missions to help diversify and improve the economy of the Central Valley.

The NSF grant will pay for Kim and his School of Natural Sciences colleagues, professor Roummel Marcia and lecturer Yue Lei, to lead a multi-pronged program called data-enabled science and computational analysis research, training and education for students, or DESCARTES.

DESCARTES will offer $4,500 a year for three years and research opportunities for students accepted into the program, add an emphasis track to the applied math major and offer a summer workshop series for area high school teachers to help them understand the world of opportunities open to students who excel at big-data analysis.

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