MENU
Skip to content Skip to navigation

Donation Brings UC Merced's Solar Program One Step Closer to Providing Sustainable Energy

August 3, 2007

MERCED - The University of California, Merced, the only UC
campus with a designated solar energy research program, has
received a $225,000 donation from an internationally recognized
scientist. The gift will support future solar energy research that
has the potential to alleviate the world’s impending energy crisis.

For two decades, Sarah R. Kurtz, a scientist in the National
Center for Photovoltaics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has studied how to
improve performance and decrease manufacturing costs of solar
cells. Kurtz helped pioneer the multi-junction (GaInP/GaAs) solar
cell, the same cell used by most space satellites, including NASA’s
Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Kurtz’s generous gift will give UC Merced’s solar research
program a significant boost that has the potential to help make
sustainable energy a reality.

“Dr. Kurtz’s visionary donation will have a considerable impact
on our ability to attract and retain high-caliber graduate students
from all over the state, nation and world,” said Dean of the School
of Engineering Jeff Wright. “Her gift will strengthen our existing
program and solidify our position as a leader in solar energy research.”

In March 2007, Kurtz was honored as a prestigious Dan David
Prize Laureate for her work toward the development of concentration
solar power systems using multi-junction solar cells. Kurtz,
together with NREL colleague Jerry Olson, shared the 2007 Dan David
Prize for the Future Time Dimension in the field of Quest for
Energy with NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

The Dan David Prize was founded in 2001 by businessman and
philanthropist Dan David and is headquartered at Tel Aviv
University. Three prizes of US$ 1 million each are awarded annually
for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological,
cultural or social impact on our world. Each year fields are chosen
within the three Time Dimensions - Past, Present and Future. The
laureates for a given year are chosen from these fields.

Kurtz has donated her portion of the prize, $225,000, to
establish the Dan David Solar Endowment Fund at UC Merced. The gift
is being set up as an endowed fellowship to provide financial
support for graduate students interested in studying solar energy.

“I am very pleased that UC Merced has chosen to create a
research program related to solar energy, and especially that this
program focuses on concentrating technologies,” Kurtz said. “No
other university in the country has an effort in this area.”

Kurtz’s gift comes because of her confidence in Professor Roland
Winston’s program on concentrating photovoltaic power. Winston, a
leading solar power researcher heads the university’s renewable
energy efforts.

“Sarah Kurtz’s magnificent gift to UC Merced is extraordinary
and, in my experience, unprecedented,” Winston said. “It is a huge
vote of confidence in our concentrating photovoltaic research
program and at the same time a significant challenge to live up
to.”

“In the past few years, the investment in concentrator
systems using high-efficiency, multi-junction solar cells has
mushroomed,” Kurtz said. “I look forward to the day when this and
other renewable technologies will provide the world with
sustainable energy.”


###