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  High dimensional modelling of environmental conditions for large scale solar

   School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE)

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  Dr Merlinde Kay  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Equity and Diversity at UNSW:

“UNSW was one of the first cohort of research and higher education institutions in Australia to receive Bronze Athena Swan accreditation in 2018. Using the Athena Swan framework, the University built an action plan designed to overcome barriers for women specific to the institution around promotions, flexible work, career development and workplace culture among others.” Aligning with these values, we strongly encourage diverse applications and will prioritise female applicants for this PhD position.

The Project:

The growing awareness of climate change and the decrease in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) energy generation have made solar power the cheapest form of electricity in most countries. The development of large scale Solar PV (1GW-20GW) requires a better understanding of the weather and other atmospheric parameters that can impact a solar farm’s operation. Variability in the weather has a known impact on the energy output of PV technologies. Cloud cover can cause short-term fluctuations in solar output, but the transport of atmospheric aerosols such as dust also has a significant impact. Due to this soiling effect, the energy yield from PV will have reduced outputs by up to 30%. Soiling by desert dust will also greatly impact the lifetime of a solar farm.

We are seeking motivated PhD candidates to develop state-of-the-art ML and clear sky models for assessing the impact that aerosols have on the lifetime of PV. You will join a strong team of talented researchers working to:

  • identify the regions most impacted by aerosols using a variety of satellite, ground and re-analysis data platforms
  • determine the link between aerosols and the solar spectrum and how this could be used in assessing module performance when modelling the PV lifetime
  • to model particle deposition, variable deposition velocities, and the accumulated transmission losses across the solar spectrum that can be specific to a particular solar farm location

You will explore using large scale datasets and various radiative transfer and clear sky models. Through a collaborative environment, you will get access to powerful computational resources, and a range of rich datasets for training ML models.


  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Meteorology, Atmospheric Physics, or Applied Science with a graduation GPA above 8 out of 10 or equivalent.
  • Master’s degree: Priority will be given to those who graduated from a Master’s by research program focusing on renewable energy.

About the Team:

The School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) is one of the eight schools within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia. The school is widely considered the best in the world.

You will join the Energy Meteorology Research Group at SPREE, UNSW, Sydney. We are a diverse, world leading team under the supervision of Associate Professor Merlinde Kay. Our Expertise uses the connection between energy and meteorology to develop models that lead to the promotion of cost-effective and sustainable weather and climate risk management strategies for the Energy Industry. The focus areas extends from fundamental research on weather and climate forecasts to industrial scale and distributed applications of new forecasting technologies, impacts of climate change and storage strategies.

Application Process:

If this project excites you, you can begin the application process by emailing the team ([Email Address Removed]). Please include the following:

  • Up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Full undergraduate and master’s academic transcript
  • Copy of master’s thesis as well as links to publications (if applicable)
  • List of 4-6 referees with official institutional emails 
Chemistry (6) Computer Science (8) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Materials Science (24) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Suitable students will be awarded a full scholarship for 3.5 years (PhD duration in Australia is 3-3.5 years). The scholarship fully covers the university fees and provides an additional allowance to cover living costs.
• Tuition fees: $53,220 per year (2024 rate) (fully covered)
• Living allowance: $37,684 per annum (2024 rate)
• Conference allowance: $3,000 per conference (to support attending a scientific international conference; at least two conferences during the PhD)


Find more related research work published by our group:
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