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.