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

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."


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