Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Article in the Vancouver Sun - Solar road surface to be tested on TRU

The following article about the Solar Compass was published on April 25, 2017.
Researchers at Thompson Rivers University are installing Canada’s first solar electric road surface in Kamloops.
Michael Mehta’s Solar Compass Project will embed 64 super-durable solar panels right outside the main doors of the university’s Arts and Education Building.
“The system will produce enough power to run 40 computers in that building, eight hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Mehta.

To read the full article click here.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A news article about our project

The following story examines in more detail our solar road/path project.

The first solar road in Canada will be built this summer at the Thompson Rivers University campus in Kamloops. 
The Solar Compass Project is due to be installed in June, a year later than expected as newer technology was made available after plans were made. 
Dr. Michael Mehta, the professor leading the project, says this a chance for Kamloops to be on the front lines of a new technology and sustainable power. 
“What we’re really doing is creating the foundation for future smart roads,” he says. "Universities should be about learning and innovation, if we can’t do it here, where else can you do it?"
To read more click here.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Installation of the Solar Compass is on-schedule for later this Spring

The Solar Compass engineering team met with the leadership team of Solar Earth Technologies yesterday to go over final installation details.

We have narrowed down the methodology for installation of the 64 solar modules and made some key decisions.

We have decided to go with a 11mm thick version of the encapsulated polymer module in black. This module is undergoing certification testing and it's our hope that this will be complete over the next 6 weeks. Each module will contain 50 cells in a 5 X 10 configuration. Note the textured surface to reduce dramatically the risk of slipping. This will likely have more traction than the existing concrete in the area.

We also discussed wiring, optimization, and inverter options and are currently leaning toward the use of micro-inverter technology for fault detection and power production diagnostics.

If all goes well, by this Spring or early Summer we will have Canada's first solar road/path in front of the Arts and Education Building at TRU. Below is a photo of the Solar Earth Technologies team at the Solar Compass location.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

An interview with Jason Wang from Solar Earth Technologies

On October 4, 2016, the Solar Compass team had a meeting to go over the new generation product that we'll be using here on campus. A lot of discussion unfolded on the advantages of this new product, timelines, and alternative methods of installation.

Cheryl Kabloona, a team member and community partner with the Kamloops Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, interviewed Jason Wang about the project. You will hear from Jason about the role of his company, the development of different generations of the product, and learn about his passion for this project from this video.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

New generation product under development for the Solar Compass

The Solar Compass project continues to evolve and it will be the beneficiary of a new generation product currently being refined and tested.

Our corporate sponsor, Solar Earth Technologies, has put together a new generation of the solar photovoltaic mosaic.

The first generation product used laminated tempered glass to enclose off-the-shelf solar cells and a texture etched onto the glass for anti-skidding properties.

Solar Earth Technologies has decided to replace that approach with a new generation of the product. This new approach involves using lighter and more flexible materials for encapsulation of high efficiency solar cells. There are many advantages to this new design including:
  • More reliable anti-skidding properties.
  • Higher transparency and therefore higher solar PV conversion gains.
  • Greater robustness to environmental changes.
  • Easier installation and maintenance due to weight savings.
  • Better adaptation to shading situations on the ground.
Solar Earth Technologies will send this new product  for ETL qualification for our project.

As a result of these changes, the new product will not be available for installation this Fall and we will need to wait until the Spring of 2017 when weather is more suitable.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The opportunities and challenges of solar roads/paths

Here’s a wonderful story about the Solar Compass project at TRU, where art, architecture and future-driven solar technologies converge to inspire a transition to a renewable way of living. 

Tom Bennett of the British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association interviews Dr. Michael Mehta about some of the opportunities and challenges associated with moving forward this exciting new project.

To read the article, click here.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Details from team meeting of April 12, 2016

The Solar Compass team had an important meeting on April 12, where we met with four representatives of Solar Earth Technologies, the company that is donating the solar modules.  They toured the campus and we all got a better understanding of the installation process.

At our meeting with the full team in the morning, some very good ideas came up for our promotional efforts.  In particular, we can do a lot with videos: drone footage, time-lapse animation showing the flow of energy, a “how-to” video and GoPro camera are all being considered.  We may also do interviews of the people involved in the project.   

After that, Dr. Junbiao Zhang, of Solar Earth Technologies, gave the group an overview of the company’s products.  In addition to the roadway modules that will be used in the Solar Compass, they’re working on next generation products Solar Deck and Solar Sidewalk.  These will be ready to apply on existing surfaces and can have weight-detecting sensors to activate lights and music.  In designing all of these, the big challenge is to balance three objectives: strength, a non-slip surface, and transparency for maximum electrical generation.

An afternoon meeting with a smaller technical group went into more detail about the installation.  Ben Giudici of Riverside Energy Systems suggested we initiate the application process for one-time safety certification right away.  He also reviewed some wiring options and proposed using optimizers so that, even if one or two modules are shaded, the other modules will continue to produce at full output. 

Brock Nanson, of Certes Applied and Natural Sciences Ltd, and Edward Wang, of Solar Earth Technologies, continued a discussion they had started over lunch, about what kind of foundation will support the modules from below.  It seems that helical piles are the best solution.  This way, height adjustments can be made in future, and there will be air space below the modules for drainage.  
The meeting ended with Solar Earth Technologies taking measurements to order the modules.  The Kamloops technical group will move forward with drawings and engineering on the use of helical piles.

A local distributor for a product called a Krinner Ground Screw will be contacted to explore this option. The following video of their product for solar applications is promising.

Installing the modules into an already-finished surface will not be simple.  But beyond that, the compass shape itself presents special challenges.  Not only do the custom-made modules need to fit the compass points, but also, the installation must avoid destabilizing the pavement surrounding the compass.  We’ll learn a lot as we go.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Team Meeting

We had a great team meeting today for the Solar Compass project at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Solar Earth Technologies Inc brought a sample of the glass-photovoltaic material that will be used for a solar road/path on campus, and lots of great discussion ensued about marketing/communication, electrical issues, engineering, and options for installation. Such an amazing team - a revolution in integrated solar technology is on the way.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

France Will Pave Roads With 620 Miles Of Solar Panels

Thanks to a steep drop in the price of photovoltaic cells, you're more likely to see solar panels on buildings as you drive along.

But what if one day you drove on those solar panels as well?

Embedding solar panels in roadways has been proposed before, but the French government may be about to take the most ambitious step toward that goal yet. To read the full article click here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Story about the solar compass in The Omega

Reporter Jim Elliot from the student newspaper The Omega at Thompson Rivers University wrote the following about the solar compass.

"TRU will soon be home to an innovative piece of solar technology that will both take care of some of the university’s energy needs and make for a prominent piece of campus architecture.
Solar panels will be embedded into the paved decorative compass that lies in front of the Arts and Education building after being awarded a $36,000 grant from the TRU Sustainability Grant Fund.
According to the team of students, staff, faculty and community members led by Geography professor Michael Mehta, who applied for the grant, the compass will feature glass plates thick enough to be walked or driven on with an embedded photovoltaic layer to collect energy from sunlight." 
To read the full article click here.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

CBC article on the solar compass

The following article on the CBC website provides more detail on the project.

To read more go here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Kamloops BC Now Story

"Four new sustainability projects will be coming to the Thompson Rivers University Campus.

The projects were submitted to TRU Sustainability Grant Fund by faculty members and students. Each submission included an original video.
A total of $100,000 is available for the projects which must improve the university’s operational environmental performance, foster sustainable literacy and campus community engagement, advance applied research and demonstrate the viability of sustainability technologies..." To read more click here.

Article in TRU Talk

The following article in TRU Talk, a newsletter produced by the Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association (TRUFA), discusses the solar compass project. To read the article click here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Story In News Kamloops

"A decorative compass in front of TRU’s Arts and Education Building will be soon generating solar energy, a “solar roadway” project believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

The new technology involves thick glass plates that can be walked or driven on and have an embedded photovoltaic layer. The team will install these modules into the pavement at the entrance to AE building, within the decorative compass that is there already and gives the project its name..."
To read more click here.

CFJC-TV Story About The Solar Compass

The following news clip from CFJC-TV in Kamloops reviews the solar compass. To watch the clip click here.

Story in Kamloops This Week

"Work on a solar roadway at Thompson Rivers University is expected to begin in June and finish in the summer.
Michael Mehta, a professor in the geography and environmental studies department, said the project has received $36,000 from the university’s sustainability grant fund, money needed to move forward with installing thick glass plates in the decorative compass area at the entrance to the Arts and Education Building on campus that can be used by pedestrians or vehicles.
Mehta said the $60,000 worth of equipment, all donated by Vancouver-based Solar Earth Technologies, is expected to generate 9,700 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to run 40 computers for eight hours a day..."

To read more click here.

CBC-Kamloops interview about the solar compass

"Imagine if the ground you walk on could produce energy. Well, it's happening. Thompson Rivers University is looking to create a solar road-way right in front of the Arts and Education building. It will be the first of its kind in Canada. Daybreak's Tara Copeland got a preview."
To listen to the story click here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Press Release - March 14, 2016


Solar Compass Project Moves Ahead

March 14,  2016, Kamloops - Thompson Rivers University (TRU) will soon showcase a transformative new “solar roadway” technology, so new that it may be the first in Canada. A team of faculty, staff and students has learned that the Solar Compass project will receive funding of $36,000 from the TRU Sustainability Grant Fund and the project will now go ahead. The new technology involves thick glass plates that can be walked or driven on and have an embedded photovoltaic layer. The team will install these modules into the pavement at the entrance to the TRU Arts and Education (AE) building, within the decorative compass that is there already and gives the project its name: Solar Compass project.

Some of the Solar Compass team at the installation site.  L to R: Dr. Michael Mehta, Claire Irvine, Cheryl Kabloona, Brandan Dallamore, Ben Giudici, Tavis Knox, Carley Rookes, Dr. John Church.  Photo by Bill Hadgkiss

The modules are expected to generate 9700 kWh/year of electricity over the planned 25-30 year lifetime, enough to run forty computers operating 8 hours/day. The project has an educational focus too. A monitoring system will be on display online and inside the AE Building, showing electricity production in real-time with easily accessible historical data. This will be available to a wide range of academic and vocational courses on campus. 

The project team is led by Dr. Michael Mehta of TRU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and includes a number of faculty, staff and students as well as Kamloops community members. Grant funding is the final piece of the arrangement that will make it possible to proceed with installation over the coming year. Dr. Mehta says, “The Solar Compass is an example of how universities can collaborate with the private sector and non-profit sector to develop sustainable energy technologies that have the potential to make a difference. Only by working together can we unleash the power of creativity needed to make a lasting and significant contribution to a world increasingly threatened by climate change.”

Solar Earth Technologies, a corporate partner based in Vancouver, provides the underlying technology and the product modules used in the Solar Compass project. The company plans to revolutionize the infrastructure of Canadian roadways with their Solar-Powered Roadways and Electric Vehicles (SPREV) system, paving roadways and paths with photovoltaic materials. They will donate the solar modules worth up to $60,000 for the pilot project at TRU and provide ongoing consultation on installation and maintenance. The company has also partnered with the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan for engineering trials. The solar modules have a photovoltaic layer with PMS (Photovoltaic Mosaic System) technology and are designed for pedestrian and light-vehicle traffic. 

Jason Wang, Chair of the Board of Directors for Solar Earth Technologies, says, "Solar Earth Technologies is proud to be a partner with Dr. Mehta’s team on this exciting Solar Compass project. We are very much impressed by this team’s creativity, efficiency, and particularly its passion and leadership in practicing sustainable social and community growth. While walking through the TRU campus, I was excited and moved by many details of designs and decorations that are implemented with renewable energy elements on campus. One is immediately assured that this is a serious campus embracing the spirit of sustainability." "The Solar Compass project is a powerful addition to the passion and practice already developed by TRU. Once commissioned, the Solar Compass will represent a new footprint in the journey towards ubiquitous solar energy harvest and utilization.”

Riverside Energy Systems, another corporate partner, will be the consultant and installer of the electrical and PV components for the project, and will provide ongoing maintenance support as required. The Kamloops Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA Kamloops) is a community partner leading the project’s marketing efforts. 

The Solar Compass joins a small handful of solar roadway examples around the world. SolaRoad, a 70 m long bicycle path with embedded solar panels, has been in operation in Krommenie, Netherlands, since late 2014. A similar project called Solar Roadways is underway in the U.S. The French government recently announced that it will complete 1000 km of solar roads over the next five years. One exciting aspect of this technology is its use of existing infrastructure so that additional land space for solar arrays is not needed. Another is its potential as “smart infrastructure,” which pairs electricity generation with vehicle navigation, embedded lighting and signage, and dynamic wireless charging of electric vehicles.

The Solar Compass team looks forward to moving ahead with the project and thanks the TRU Sustainability Grant Fund, Solar Earth Technologies, Riverside Energy Systems and BCSEA Kamloops for their support.

See the project’s video and more information at

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Media contacts

For more information on the Solar Compass project, contact
Michael D. Mehta, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Thompson Rivers University
Tel: (250) 852-7275

For information on the solar modules with PMS technology, contact
Jason Wang
Chair of the Board of Directors
Solar Earth Technologies
Tel: (604) 729-8865

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

About The Solar Compass

The Solar Compass project supports Thompson Rivers University's sustainability trajectory by incorporating a solar path/road in front of the Arts and Education (AE) Building [N 50 40.269, W 120 21.884] . This would be embedded into the existing decorative compass and it would showcase, in an accessible and highly visible location, a new and innovative technology for electricity generation.

This pilot project will enhance the operational performance of the university by providing “green” electricity for the Arts and Education Building on a net-metered basis, promote sustainability literacy and education by showcasing a novel approach for using existing infrastructure for environmental benefit, and advance applied research through strategic partnerships. The main benefit provided by the Solar Compass is to promote educational opportunities that showcase novel and transformative solar photovoltaic options.

The Solar Compass will be a first in Canada, and it is likely to become a focal point for sustainability tourism in the region, and to be a model for larger-scale deployment of this technology in the City of Kamloops and elsewhere. Furthermore, this project will help launch a made-in-Canada approach to solar road and path development with assembly of modules being done fully in British Columbia, and 70% of components manufactured in this province.

The unique configuration and location of the Solar Compass lends itself well to this technological approach, and ties into the aesthetically pleasing design of the campus with a shape that is familiar and symbolic. The Solar Compass emblematically points us in the right direction; namely; toward a future based on innovation, renewable energy, sustainability, and social responsibility. The Solar Compass is a visible reminder that our collective future requires that we look in all directions for inspiration and guidance.

Here is a short video about the project.