NAIT and City of Edmonton collaborate on groundbreaking solar energy research project
The new solar panels on NAIT’s roof are being used to evaluate the potential of the sun to produce green energy in Edmonton, one of the sunniest cities in Canada. The information generated by the solar photovoltaic (PV) reference array system – the only one of its kind in Alberta - will serve as a guide for the construction industry, homeowners and others interested in using solar energy.
“Alberta is an energy superpower. This project builds on that history and capitalizes on an area where we have yet another natural advantage – capturing the sun,” said NAIT President and CEO, Dr. Glenn Feltham. “As one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, we pride ourselves on our applied research capabilities and exploring different forms of alternative energy production. We are excited to be working with the City of Edmonton to provide the information that will lead to greater adoption of solar energy technology.”
Natural Resources Canada has ranked Canadian municipalities on their yearly potential for producing solar energy. Edmonton is ahead of Canadian cities like Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and international locations like Beijing, China and Washington, D.C.
“The City of Edmonton is pleased to support this solar reference array project in cooperation with NAIT,” said Edmonton Coun. Ben Henderson. “Increasing our knowledge about, and adoption of, renewable energies is one of the goals of The Way We Green, our city’s environmental strategic plan. The students who use the information provided by the array will be the experts who lead our adaptation to renewable energies in the future."
The data from the solar reference array will benefit homeowners and industry, becoming a reference for solar PV potential in the Edmonton area and surrounding communities. With this information, a homeowner could accurately determine how much power a residential system would generate, based on location and angle. The array could serve as a model for similar systems through western Canada and the north.
The reference system consists of six PV modules arranged at fixed angles on the roof of the Shaw Theatre at NAIT’s Main Campus, near the corner of Princess Elizabeth Avenue and 106 Street. The angles correspond to those typically used for solar installations in Edmonton. Each of the six modules is paired with a duplicate module placed at exactly the same angle. During the winter months, snow will be cleared from half of the modules. By pairing modules at exactly the same angles, researchers will be able to compare the effect of snow clearing versus snow cover on energy production.
Energy produced by the modules will be tracked and measured. This data will be made available to students in NAIT’s Alternative Energy Technology program, researchers within the NAIT Centre for Renewable Energy Technology, the City of Edmonton and the project engineers at Howell-Mayhew Engineering Inc., who, along with the Solar Energy Society of Alberta, acted as consultants on this project.
“This is a unique municipal post-secondary collaboration that will greatly benefit our students,” said Dr. James Sandercock, chair of the Alternative Energy Technology program. “The design and system evaluation associated with this project mirrors the type of work our graduates will do in solar, geothermal and other alternative energy technologies. We’re very excited about all the possibilities this presents.”
The City of Edmonton has created a web page that provides useful information about solar PV systems. In time, data from the array will be shared through this portal.
The total capital cost of the project is $50,400, with approximately half coming from NAIT and half coming from the City of Edmonton.
To download photos of the solar reference array suitable for publication, please visit NAIT’s Flickr page at www.flickr.com/nait and search “solar reference array.”
NAIT is one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, with almost 80,000 registrations worldwide in key areas including science, technology and the environment, business, health care and trades. Known for real-world education and student success, NAIT also engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. NAIT enrolled its first students - 29 communication electrician apprentices - in 1962 and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.
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