Interviewer: Leo, please give a brief introduction of your career as a researcher, where did you started your Ph.D. and until the moment that we are today in your Marie Curie?
Leo: I started my Ph.D. in Scotland in 2011. My background is renewable energy, I’m an engineer and over there is Scotland I started working on concentrators for the photovoltaic which, technology where you focus the light on the photovoltaic cells to increase the amount of energy and efficiency on renewable technology.
I completed my degree in 2015 and after that, I moved to the US where I changed my topic. I moved from the design and development of technologies into more data analysis, and I was in the USA for three years. And towards the end of my experience there I contacted my current host and we work together on an idea that will bring together with the experiences I was taking in the US as well as the skills of the facilities that we had. Here we are now again working on PV performance and analysis and soiling in particular.
Interviewer: Great. So tell me, please, a brief description of your project for everybody that is listening to us in three or five minutes.
Leo: Okay perfect, so let’s start from the definition of soiling that is really the main area that we are researching. Soiling consists of the accumulation of dust and particles on the surface of the solar modules. Because of the layer of dust that you might have on the modules, you have less energy than the module is able to produce because a part of the light is absorbed or reflected instead of converting into PV.
So the goal of our project is to have companies to better monitor soiling to better understand the value of soiling, as well as to be able to predict in advance the amount of soiling that we’ll see and also to predict in advance where is the best moment clean and when is the nature of cleaning events such as rainfalls will occur. This is important because even if it seems like a side issue soiling can have a significant impact on the production of energy.
I think in the proposal we wrote that actually working on two of the key research issues for 2020, because we are not helping improving an ability renewable energy market, but at the same time we are trying to make it possible to produce more energy with the same amount of PV modules that we have already deployed, and therefore we are helping to improve the efficiency of the materials which is another key issue of H2020.
Soiling is an issue that of course worldwide in different seasons and therefore there is a global interest in that, and as I said there is a lot of interest from PV companies because it affects the revenues from two sides but because you have a loss in performance as well as because the cost of cleaning PV modules. Therefore we are looking for that spot where the cost of cleaning is lower than the number of revenues you are gaining because of renewable energy and soiling.
Interviewer: Great, thank you. So my understanding well, I understand because we worked together on it, but for the people to get an idea of the impact, the big impact of your project is that it is a universal solution applicable to all solar panels, right? Explain a bit about this big impact.
Leo: the final result of our work will be a model as you said can be used for any PV module installed worldwide. That will help read and monitor the current state of soiling you PV module but as well we’ll try to predict in advance how much soiling we’re going to see in the near future and if and when cleaning will be in optimal, and as I said optimal handling of soiling that will be possible to our to work too will benefit everyone because when that level increases Solar or for the whole tight share in our energy production market without the need for installing new PV modules.
And at the same time we will help investors and PV stakeholders to increase the revenue and this will also the second the fact of making PV module more appealing for the investor and therefore hopefully increasing the number of the PV capacity.
Interviewer: So Leo, what are the specific objectives that you define for your project?
Leo: Yes, so we have three main work tasks, I mean we are five work task but three are really research related in our project each of them has one main objective. So for example, in the first part, we were working toward improving the solid instruction mechanism potentially also with the use of artificial and other networks that will make it possible to identify issues that produce a power loss but are not soiling related for example, in investor failures or shadings.
Then we have a second bigger work package that will make it possible to correlate soiling with environmental parameters such as rainfall and dust. This will be possible especially with our partnership with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, where we will bring our knowledge about soiling and they will bring their knowledge about dust mechanism and transport.
And then we have a third work package in which we will try to teach in into this energy predictive model also the economic part. Try to again understand which is the cost of cleanings, which is the revenues that we can get from a clean module and therefore being able to understand when is the best moment.
Interviewer: How is it going right now? In which state you are working today?
Leo: I think I am really working on the Cyber work package. I am doing some projects right now with the relationship between rainfalls, and soiling and also working a bit on the completion. I am having some fun with stochastic weather generators tools, learning new methods, to predict in advance how a year of rainfall will be, and try to see how that correlates with the soiling data we have and we can use that to predict in advance our soiling profile.
We are having some interest from other parties so we are able to establish collaborations and bringing in new data.
Interviewer: Great, so you are accomplishing your milestone, the five milestones.
Leo: Yes, that is the feeling.
Interviewer: Excellent, so Leo could you tell us a bit about the PI, okay? Dr. Eduardo Fernandez, how did you decide to work with him?
Leo: So yeah I have two PIs, also Florencia Almonacid.
She’s a professor here and a researcher at this university. We have been working together for a long time but like never in this institution, from the time that I was a Ph.D. in Scotland, and later in England where he visited us. I was also working on concentrators photovoltaic. So when I went to the U.S.A and I started working on is this new different aspect of solar energy. I started thinking about scratching a draft of this project. I started talking with him, we had a very good relationship before and that definitely helped and therefore this way we were able to identify and to really build the best browser, you know the three of us could do. I really think you know what project is tailored to my skills, but also make it possible to use for example to share our knowledge of artificial networks and Eduardo’s knowledge about PV performance, the different performances for photovoltaic.
They were aware of all the facilities that the university could put in. I say facilities but we are not talking about instruments and equipment but also staff and initiatives that would be beneficial for the application.
Interviewer: Yes because the center that you are working in is one of the best center focusing energy in Andalusia. It is also positive for the Marie Curie evaluation to be in a good place.
Leo: Yes, exactly. Eduardo, I just want to highlight that you know along with all the scientific side they really understood also the importance of the broad scientific part of the Marie Curie. So pointing out to the simulation activities that were carried out by the University, actually diverting our collaborators for the second plan. So oh yeah, I’m not saying is the only way but you know, knowing that so well was a very good way for us for doing the Marie Curie project.
Interviewer: Great! So, Leo, people don’t know that we worked together, so you are a premium client of SACSIS. So we work together on the proposal and we were discussing a lot about mounting all the different sections and scientific and non-scientific that is also very important for the evaluation. So which ones were the main barriers that did you find out when preparing the proposal before collaborating with us, with SACSIS?
Leo: The main issue from my experience again you know this is just experience, it was reading those twelve pages of proposals. Some questions, some sections seem very like each other, very similar and so I thought you know what you guys were really understanding what the reviewer wanted to see the different sections, which was very important for us.
And also really to understand the importance of not only the scientific side, which is very well are worth it, but sometimes the difference might be in the marks can be really down in silent PV disseminations. An outreach for example, but not only those, and you guys were really helpful identifying and also evaluating some outreach proposals we had to introduce us to other ideas. We came obviously with the project but there was a collaborative effort to make it clear for the reviewer, making sure that he was getting what it was he or she or they were expecting. And also making sure that the results of our work where of interest for the opportunities and were available.
Interviewer: That was our result because we were very lucky; we got it on the first shot.
Leo: Yes, that wasn’t what we had expected but it was very good.
Leo: We were very happy to see some of the past that we work together, highlighted and commended by the reviewers. I think our risk assessment was very appreciative by the reviewers. On a few other parts that we work together on were, I think made the difference.
Interviewer: Which one was the most valuable help that you received from our premium services?
Leo: So you know the good stuff about working with him as I was a part. We were working together but by this time I was learning how to write, so I’m not sure if I’m really able to identify one step as more important than the other. We started with a review and we ended up with the proofreading, that also you know was an important step but in the middle, there were a lot of comments and suggestions from you.
Yeah, we have to I would say choose all the sections regarding highlighting the background, identifying the contribution of the different team members which you know, might take a lot of space, but are very important because you have to prove to the reviewers that you are the right guy for the project, but also the host has the right infrastructure and the right knowledge. I think you were you know very helpful in helping us with that understanding which was the right plans of each section because the 12 pages became a nightmare 18:39 [Inaudible] of writing the proposal.
But at the same time being able to reduce at minimum the text while keeping all the major information and that happened in the central part of the proposal but also throughout it, from the various chapters in which reproduce the topic to the very last where you have to explain how the project evolved.
Sorry that very classic because yeah as a researcher you know you might have very good ideas, but you might not be able sometimes to express those especially where you are confined to very specific instructions and to a very limited number of pages.
Interviewer: It is very important what you said because you as a scientist and this is what we found every day. All the scientists want to write science but the Marie curie proposal is not all in science; and the other thing, the other part of my proposal is also very important because it’s almost 50% of the weight in your score.
Interviewer: So you have to be very careful also on that and all together make a correct proposal.
Interviewer: This is difficult because it’s ten pages; it’s very difficult as you know. So this is the main difficulty that many other types of research that we work on found and also you with us, you feel and suffer yourself this way.
So Leo, just for finishing, because I don’t want to take too much of your time today; So which three main advice can you give to the people, researchers that are thinking of applying for a Marie Curie fellowship in the next call.
Leo: So the first part that really comes to my mind is tailor, which means tailor the proposal to your experience, your skills and tailors your host institutions. I think that a key issue in the proposal. Try to show that obviously you know is probably the best person that can bring it up, but show why the synergy between you, your host, your team members, and your second man is really bad the best cooperation you can do to have a successful program.
I think that’s probably the first one will comes to my mind. The second one yeah we probably I like the importance of outreach and you know dissemination, that can gain a lot of points. Think a bit outside of the box, there are a lot of opportunities right now from point of science to the European searcher nights to do dissemination but those are not the only ones. Don’t really be ingenious and think about you know how you want to disseminate your research and how you can maximize the results of your work. For example one of the negative points that the reviewers were not getting how we wanted to exploit our results, not academically, but for example, commercially or through products.
The third suggestion that I have is to start very early because it seems like 10 pages might be easy to fill but it is not. In my experiences, I try to reduce the amount of text we, resizing figures, only by the same time trying to keep all the concepts in the proposal.
I think we started you know early enough, I worked throughout the summer and still you know the first days of September I was still working on the proposal, uploading it, so you know the earlier the better.
Interviewer: Yeah, this is our advice; now start as early as you can because it’s not an easy proposal. In fact, the space is so short that you have been so concise. It is very difficult to get all the right information on 10 pages only. So any recommendations: You do not have to do this?
Leo: I would say if you have a good project, a good background, don’t think they are enough. They’re a very good start that will make your proposal very promising but there are other issues that the reviewers will look for and that you know for young researchers are not necessarily clear; so keep in mind that every point makes the difference. I think my sector, the threshold was around 92%, so that’s the amount that can make a difference, so all the aspects must be taken with the same importance. Don’t think that just a good project will be enough for the Marie curie.
Don’t forget that you are the main researcher but it is really a team effort. So don’t be scared asking your potential host, your potential University, or the search Institute to help you and to give your ideas and suggestions, because you know there is a lot at stake and there are of opportunities out there.
Interviewer: Leo, thank you very much.
Leo: Thank you.
Interviewer: This interview was very, very interesting. Your project and of course, you deserve the best for you and for your project and thank you very much for being today with us.
Leo: Thank you very much for your help. You have been very helpful.