Monday, 27 November 2017

The Solar Compass Gets A New Friction Coating

To provide an extra layer of assurance regarding the safety of this new solar array, our team has applied a new friction coating. Future iterations of the modules should come with this from the factory.

It was a fairly simple process that involved applying an outdoor Minwax urethane to the modules with a roller.

And then sprinkling a light coating of extremely small pieces of ground glass onto the surface. The glass has a green colour to it which has changed slightly the overall look of the array.

The finished product looks like this and it now has a sandpaper like texture. We don't anticipate that this will decrease power output in any noticeable way. Re-application of this product may be required annually but we will evaluate this periodically.

The Solar Sidewalk received the same treatment and it's like walking on sand paper now.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thank You BC Sustainable Energy Association

The BC Sustainable Energy Association was our community partner throughout the Solar Compass/Solar Sidewalk project. They provided us with constant support, encouragement, volunteers who participated in design and installation, and of course wonderful media work including producing press releases, videos, and stories.

Most recently their story about our project stated:
The Solar Compass at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) had its Grand Opening on November 2, a very snowy day in Kamloops. The Solar Compass and the nearby Solar Sidewalk are flagship projects, the first of this kind in Canada. Project lead Dr. Michael Mehta was joined by our major partners, TRU and Solar Earth Technologies (SET), along with other local partners and many of the 30-plus members of the project team.
The Solar Compass shows that we can embed energy generation into everyday things, like the pavement that we walk on.  For Dr. Mehta, “These arrays put solar technologies front and centre in highly visible locations where thousands of people will walk over them each year. As a result, this should help usher in a new era where solar becomes demystified and embraced as a viable and aesthetically pleasing option for generating renewable energy.” 

To read the full story and to see some photos from them, click here.  

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

New Signage For the Solar Compass And Solar Sidewalk

A big thank you to Jim Funk from Funk Signs in Kamloops for making the signage for the Solar Compass and the Solar Sidewalk.

Working with team member Cheryl Kabloona from the BC Sustainable Energy Association (our community partner on this project), Jim printed the following sign on aluminum to be mounted soon near the Solar Compass.

He also made this sign for the Solar Sidewalk which was installed by team member Amie Schellenberg. Both signs use QR Code technology. The bar codes on the bottom right-hand sides of the signs can be scanned with a free app on a mobile device to take the user directly to our website. To learn more about QR technology click here.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

New article in Kamloops This Week about our project

In the November 6, 2017, issue of Kamloops This Week,  journalist Dale Bass wrote the following about the Solar Compass.

It may look like a compass, but the solar installation at Thompson Rivers University is designed to do more.
Ultimately, said Michael Mehta, it could point the way to integrating charging strips in roadways that could charge electric vehicles as they are being driven.
For now, however, the solar compass outside the Arts and Education Building on campus has other purposes, said Mehta, a geography and environmental-studies professor at TRU

To read more click here.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Thank You To All Our Donors, Volunteers, And Contractors

The Solar Compass, and its little sister the Solar Sidewalk, would not have been possible without the assistance of many supporters. On behalf of Thompson Rivers University and the project team, we would like to thank the following for everything they did.

• Solar Earth Technologies [Jason Wang, Brian Johnson, and Oliver Zimmermann and their investors] for donating 64 modules for the solar compass, and 16 modules for solar sidewalk.

• Harrison Industrial Contracting [Karly Marshall] for donating TECK cable, a, electrical cabinet, use of equipment, and various other electrical supplies.

• The Tunneling Company [Shawn Gaunt] for use of their mole and a technician to pull conduit under the existing concrete.

• Wesco Distribution [Brett Middlemiss] for donating conduit.

• The work of contractors including Matt Cardinal and his team for installing modules,  and concrete work byTrevor Wilson of Con-Ex Civil Contractors.

• Thompson Rivers University and the Sustainability Grant for seeding this project. Support from Jim Gudjonson and James Gordon from the Office of Sustainability,

• Warren Asuchak and his team at facilities including the groundskeeping staff.

• Countless hours of volunteer work from TRU faculty (Amie Schellenberg), dozens of students and faculty from Trades and other programs on campus, volunteer work of community members, faculty and staff at TRU (thank you to Gord Setka), and the support of our community partner BC Sustainability Energy Association (Kamloops Chapter).

• Our grant writing team, technical team, and the hard work and support of engineers like Brock Nanson, Ben Giudici, and James Gu. The drone work of John Church who captured stunning images of all stages of construction.

News coverage about the grand opening of the Solar Compass

An article in KamloopsBCNow states the following about our project:
“It's about visibility, making sustainable technologies top of mind, and it's also about moving toward what I like to call embedded infrastructure, where we can add other things into the mix including fiber optics and sensor technology. So the next step for this technology will be to place it actually on roadways to make solar roads.”

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Snow on the Solar Compass

Today is our official Grand Opening celebration for the Solar Compass on campus at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Not to be outdone by our project, Mother Nature decided to give us a real test with a load of snow in the region.

Here's a short video of how people navigate their way over the solar modules during such conditions.

The Solar Compass Opens Up New Pathways For Student Learning

The Solar Compass is profiled in the following article by The University Network.

"TRU students played a significant role in the project as well. Several students served on the grant committee to secure the funds for the project. More than a dozen students from the trades program at TRU worked on the installation itself, including students from electrical foundations who did the wiring and graft work. Some students even took a turn at the jackhammer. 
“For us, it was a perfect opportunity of a project on campus that brings in students for real world learning,” said Mehta. “That almost never happens. If you look at any construction project on campus, it’s independent contractors that are brought in usually under some kind of process and they typically don’t let anyone else in the project for liability and other reasons. In our case, we actively and deliberately included students as part of their training.”

To read the full article click here.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Solar Compass From Above

Vaguely reminiscent of crop circles, and a likely landing spot for future encounters with alien life forms, the Solar Compass looks stunning from all angles. Here are some drone photos taken by team member Dr. John Church.

We are thrilled by how much the Solar Compass fits into campus and never realized how much TRU's campus plan was based on the circle. Here's a photo from Google Earth that shows our architectural splendour and the importance of consistent and thoughtful design on a grand scale.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Almost done

Thanks to the hard work of Matt Cardinal and his installation team, electrician Amie Schellenberg and her team of students and colleagues, and countless other people... the Solar Compass is almost done!

Robert from Facilities at TRU gave it a pressure washing today in preparation for a coat of concrete sealant around the compass.

We passed our rough-in electrical inspection yesterday and are just ironing out some last minute wiring/metering issues before calling for the final inspection. Here's a peek inside the inverter cabinet where a lot of the magic happens.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Racing against old man winter to complete installation of the Solar Compass

As snow fell in many parts of Kamloops last night, contractor Matt Cardinal and his team worked hard into the evening to get our Solar Compass much closer to completion. Some edges still need work, mid-clamps screwed down, and caulking and grout work for finishing. Electrician Amie Schellenberg and her team are working on finishing off the electrical work inside, and if all goes well we will have our electrical inspection done next week.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Solar Compass is profiled in The Omega

The Solar Compass was profiled in TRU''s student newspaper, The Omega. The article states:

TRU’s solar compass project is wrapping up construction and offering not only a renewable energy source, but marking a milestone for sustainability on campus. The project will use the existing compass on the sidewalk outside the Arts and Education building as a platform for the new technology.
“The inspiration initially came from using that shape, but it’s also symbolic in a way, because a compass points you in the direction that you want to go. It’s pointing us in the direction of a future based on sustainability,” said Michael Mehta, a geography and environmental studies professor at TRU.
Mehta is the project lead and faculty advisor on the solar compass project.
“There will be 62 solar modules on the compass running radially from the centre and it’ll look quite dramatic,” Mehta said.
The compass modules each produce 80 watts of power, making it approximately a 5,000-watt system.

To read the full article click here.

CBC Radio-Kamloops Story About The Solar Compass

The Solar Compass project was featured on CBC-Radio Kamloops.

In this story you will hear from students involved in the project, electrician Amie Schellenberg, and project lead Michael Mehta.

Click here to listen.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

TRU's Solar Sidewalk Featured In University Affairs

An article in Canada's preeminent academic magazine, University Affairs, profiles our solar sidewalk system at Thompson Rivers University.

To read the article, click here.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Update on construction progress

The Solar Compass ground work is complete. Channels have been carved into the existing concrete surface, a vault has been placed in the centre as a pull through for wiring, conduit has been laid and brought into the building, and bridge work has been completed to support modules where they come together across channels. Tech cable has also been run inside the building to eventually connect micro-inverters to a nearby electrical room.

Photo credit: Dean Airini from TRU

PV Wire will be pulled through conduit on Thursday, and the process of mounting the modules will also start that day and likely continue on Friday and possibly the weekend.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Solar Compass Project Has Started

With the help of dozens of volunteers [including many students from TRU's trades programs and other parts of campus], generous corporate donors, and the hard work of Trevor Wilson of Con-Ex Civil Contractors, the Solar Compass is beginning to take shape.

Trevor Wilson

Here's a nice story about the project.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Some Early Observations On Performance Of The Solar Sidewalk

As a pilot project, the solar sidewalk was designed and built to provide experience and data prior to building the full Solar Compass on campus at Thompson Rivers University.

It was intentionally placed in a challenging location to test the limits of the technology with respect to shading from trees, buildings, and parked cars. If it can work in this location, solar sidewalks and perhaps even solar roads can work almost anywhere.

Each of the 16 modules making up the solar sidewalk is composed of 20 solar cells, and each solar cell is individually optimized with a shunting diode to bypass cells that are shaded or otherwise obstructed.

To build the solar sidewalk we connected together 4 sets of 4 modules in series with each set going to its own dedicated micro-inverter.

Since the Sun's path creates shadows at different times of the days on the sidewalk  we are able to assess using an online monitoring interface just how these impairments influence power production.

Below is an example of the shadowing that is common on the solar sidewalk. When this happens, the group of 4 modules in that series drops off significantly in power production while the other modules outside of that shaded zone make power.

As the angle of the Sun changes throughout the day relative to the solar sidewalk, the shadow pattern shifts. By the end of the day, all of the module sets produce relatively the same amount of power. The screenshot below is from our monitoring equipment and it shows how things begin to balance out throughout the day. Cell level and micro-inverter level optimization is what makes this project truly special.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

CBC Interview On The Solar Sidewalk

Project lead Dr. Michael Mehta speaks with CBC's Jenifer Norwell about the solar sidewalk. To hear the interview, click here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Shape Of Things To Come

Our team is working hard coordinating the installation of the Solar Compass to be built on campus in the next few weeks. This project is based on the installation methodology developed during the solar sidewalk project, and it will turn this space in front of the Arts and Education Building into a renewable energy showcase.

The location currently looks like this.

But it will soon look like this!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Guided tour of the solar sidewalk - Sunday September 24 between 11-2

The solar sidewalk project team is proud to be part of a special weekend event known as Green Energy Doors Open.

Between 11AM-2PM on Sunday September 24 you can join us on a guided tour including a behind-the-scenes look at the technology and how it works.

You can find the Solar Sidewalk by referring to the following map. Due to construction on campus, only the Westgate access off McGill Road is open.

To learn more, and to see a list of other projects on tour that weekend, visit the following webpage of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. The registration site for this tour can be found here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Canada's First Solar Sidewalk Built at Thompson Rivers University

On July 27, 2017, construction of Canada's first solar sidewalk began on campus at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. This 16 module sidewalk is approximately 40' long and the 1.28 kW DC array is expected to produce around 1300 kWh/year. It is a grid-tie system which works without batteries, and it is connected directly to House 4 - the home of the university's Office of Sustainability. We are going through BC Hydro's net metering program.

The solar sidewalk is the prototype for the much larger Solar Compass project that will start at the end of September 2017. It provided our team with an opportunity to develop a quick, low-cost, and aesthetically pleasing installation methodology that takes advantage of existing infrastructure.

Here's the sidewalk before installation. We intentionally picked a challenging location with lots of shade from trees, buildings, and parked vehicles to test out the technology. In the real world, things get in the way!

With the help of a local concrete company, a channel was cut into the existing sidewalk. This channel is approximately 2" deep and 5" wide. It is the raceway for our wiring.

Oliver Zimmermann from Solar Earth Technology (below) hand fabricates bridges from recycled plastic 2X4s. These bridges provide support between modules across the span of the channel and allow us to create a continuous watertight seal around the modules.

We were lucky enough to have two electricians and one electrical engineer working on this project including TRU electrical foundations faculty member Amie Schellenberg, Ben Giudici from Riverside Energy, and staff electrician Gord Setka. Three dedicated TRU electrical students also did a lot of the grunt work. Thanks Eli, Cody and Bryan. Here's Amie working on the wiring.

Once the surface was prepared and wiring connected, the modules were ready to be glued down. They are only 1/4" higher than the existing sidewalk.

For the sidewalk we decided to frame the entire array with stainless steel. Using conductive metals like this required that the equipment have a common and continuous bond. Here's a photo of the first module with bonding. You'll see a bonding ribbon that connects to a green wire that ultimately goes back to the equipment located in the basement of House 4. A big thank you to Harrison Industrial Contracting Inc in Kamloops for donating the bonding ribbons for this project. They responded instantly to our last minute search for these items to keep the project moving forward.

The solar sidewalk project is also located in front of the university's Daycare Centre. Here a youngster tried out the sidewalk in bare feet. He was one of the first people to ever walk on it! The surface of the modules is designed with a surface texture that gives them excellent slip resistance.

Project lead Dr. Michael Mehta stands beside the sidewalk after a long first day of work.

And, the team from Solar Earth Technologies look on proudly at their newest project. They kindly donated the modules to the university, and have worked closely with the project team to make this a reality after 2+ years of development and planning. From the left to right is Brian Johnson, Oliver Zimmermann, and Dr. Jason Wang.

One of the unique features of the solar sidewalk is that the modules have been specially designed for pedestrian traffic. Normally, a solar module used on the ground - where shading and debris are common - would suffer from significant power loss. These modules have cell-level optimization and each of the 20 cells per module have something called a "shunting diode" to bypass cells that are shaded. This prevents the entire module from experiencing reduced power output. You can see the little rectangles in the corners of each cells - these are the diodes.

Here's what the finished solar sidewalk looks like with its stainless steel frame. For the Solar Compass project we are going frameless!

Solar modules produce DC power yet homes and businesses typically use AC power. The wiring from the solar sidewalk goes underground through conduit into House 4 where it runs into a set of micro-inverters to make the power usable. We used recently released, high-performing micro-inverters made by Enphase Energy called the IQ 6+.  Here's what they look like when all the wiring is done. There is also an internet-based monitoring system that will be made public soon.

Our team is now getting ready for a 64 module array - the Solar Compass. It will be located here on campus.

Thank you to our team of volunteers, Solar Earth Technologies, TRU for funding the installation of this project through a sustainability grant, and our community partner - the Kamloops Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

Stay tuned!

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.