About 6,000 students apply each year to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory internship program. With an acceptance rate of roughly only 15 percent, The University of Toledo’s Jeffrey Kodysh said he was ecstatic to beat the odds and secure a spot at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).“ORNL has a special relationship with our nation’s most important inventions and technologies. It was instrumental in the development of the nuclear bomb and houses the world’s fastest supercomputer,” said Kodysh, a senior majoring in geography and planning. “It’s a great feeling to be an integral part of the exciting heritage of American innovation here.”
The 11-week internship running from early June to mid-August has Kodysh working with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to determine photovoltaic energy potential in urban areas. This effort will allow scientists to better estimate how much sunlight reaches areas in cities where photovoltaic arrays can convert it into electricity.
“Many of our nation’s urban areas have buildings and other structures well-suited to the installation of photovoltaic arrays,” he said. “Rooftops of industrial buildings, barren toll station canopies and unutilized apartment complex rooftops are all examples of areas with such potential.”
Kodysh added, “By creating three-dimensional models of these structures and then simulating the sunlight shining on them, scientists can then begin to have a clearer idea of what energy potentials exist where.”LiDAR technology measures distances between objects with a laser, which is beamed from an emitter and bounced off targeted objects. The time it takes to return and the speed at which the laser beam is traveling is used to calculate the distance. This allows scientists to produce a three-dimensional model of the ground, including buildings.
Exploiting these unused locations for solar energy collection is better than building photovoltaic arrays on land with other crucial uses such as farming, Kodysh said.
Technically speaking, Kodysh is using his geography background to develop a new LiDAR-based methodology for calculating photovoltaic energy potential of specific buildings based on Geographic Information System technology.
He will be taking into consideration photovoltaic limiting factors such as shading from trees or other buildings. Kodysh will use three-dimensional mapping software to look at the LiDAR data and determine what parts of buildings receive sunlight or shade throughout the day by simulating the sun’s path across the sky. This building-specific approach is part of a semiautomated methodology that can then be applied to whole cities.
Even though the appointment is a prestigious one, two professors acquainted with Kodysh aren’t surprised he earned it.
“Jeff isn’t passive about looking for opportunities,” said Dr. Larry Connin, the administrative coordinator for the UT Honors Program and associate director of the UT Office of Undergraduate Research. “When we say in the Honors Program there are many things you can use to enhance your education, I think Jeff has embraced that seriously.”
Dr. Thomas Kvale, the director of the UT Office of Undergraduate Research and professor of physics, expressed similar sentiments about Kodysh. “My interaction with Jeff was through the Toledo Internship Program as the director of undergraduate research. He did a great job with the city internship, and my impression is that laid the foundation for his landing the ORNL internship.”
Working at the lab is stimulating for Kodysh, who said, “The academic energy here is amazing. The lab is filled with intelligent, creative and dedicated persons that are excited about creating an innovative future for energy in both the U.S. and the world.”
He said he hopes to incorporate the experience into his honors thesis — a requirement for graduation from the Honors Program, in which he is enrolled.
Kodysh’s internship is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education.