Seminar: Vijay Modi

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 12:00pm

Vijay Modi

Professor, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University

Solar without storage: Detecting loads that can adapt to the sun


Solar PV generation is now possible at a very low-cost today. Yet, its benefits are limited to those with a connection to the grid. In the absence of the grid, solar technologies need storage, rendering the power to be prohibitively expensive. The combination of small-scale and battery storage makes such off-grid power 20 to 30 times more expensive than grid-fed solar. This has limited applications to lighting and small electronic/electric loads.

In this talk, I will explore the paradigm of solar without storage in a developing country context where affordability of power is of paramount importance. One application area is that of motor loads. Using remote sensing and machine learning techniques, I will show how one can a) detect small-holder motor loads, b) their clustering, and c) technologies that can leverage unstored solar power to meet those loads.

Vijay Modi is a Professor in Columbia University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and also a member of the Earth and Data Science Institutes and Climate School’s faculty. He directs the Quadracci Sustainable Engineering Laboratory (qSEL). Prof. Modi’s areas of expertise are energy resources and energy conversion technologies. He has more than 30 years of experience in energy resources/conversion applied research, including thermal power generation, gas turbines, solar and wind technologies.  In the last decade, his laboratory has carried out pioneering work in digital mini-grids that integrate electricity supply/demand monitoring, dynamic allocation of energy/power resources to individual customers, and the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) for account management.

Lunch reception to follow in the Global Ecology Lobby. If you wish to attend this seminar virtually, please contact La Chelle Eddines at for Zoom details.