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Solar Panel Technology Corner

November 30, 2015

The Solar Panels

Red River College solar panels

Red River College solar panels

Designed and installed by Solar Solutions in 2002, the Red River College Exchange District Campus had a solar energy system installed on the side of the Princess building that was, at the time, the largest of its kind in Canada. These environmentally friendly solar panels were installed to provide the college with energy that could be collected from the sun and used by Red River College students and staff. As time passed, these solar panels were left to do their job and were otherwise forgotten about.

Laptop connected to control panel

Laptop connected to control panel

This past summer (summer of 2015), a team consisting of Haider Al-Saidi, Miguel Guzman and Sylvia Froese set out to find out more about these solar panels. The team wanted to know how much energy was being produced by the panels at what times, what these panels were powering and how they could use this data for educational purposes throughout the college.

By connecting the solar panel controller to a laptop running specialized software, Miguel, Sylvia and Haider found a way to extract multiple data points from the solar panels such as:

Solar Panel control software showing data gathered from the panels

Solar Panel control software showing data gathered from the panels

Pac: The total energy produced and sent to the grid. Watts are the units used for this
reading.
Vpv: The real time differential potential created by the cells. The units here are Volts.
Ipv: The current coming from solar panels. This is measured in mA (milliamp) units.

After learning that the data could be accessed and analyzed from the solar panels, the next step of the project was to export the data to a server in the college so that the data can be used and represented in different ways.

The Technology Corner

Solar Panel Inverters

Solar Panel Inverters

Now that the data from the solar panels can be accessed and extracted, the next step of the project was to create an area for students to be able to see, in real time, the amount of energy produced by the solar panels in a visual way.

A TV was installed in the hallway beside the solar panel inverters and control panel that displays the amount of energy produced to the grid by the solar panels.

In addition to being able to visualize the energy produced by the solar panels, students will one day be able to tap into that energy to charge their phones, laptops and other devices at this technology corner.

Advanced Applications

Once the data can be easily accessed from a server, the applications are endless. Students can use this data to create new applications and to further the research being done by Haider, Miguel and Sylvia.

Read the Technology Corner Project Blog