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TRU’s solar compass will produce enough electricity to power a computer lab

Representatives from Thompson Rivers University are officially unveiling the finished solar compass project this week.

The solar compass was completed last week and just needs to pass final electrical inspections before it’s turned on. It is located outside the Arts and Education Building and consists of 64 solar modules that will produce 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Project lead Dr. Michael Mehta said TRU estimates the compass will be produce enough electricity to power at least one of the computer labs in the Arts and Education Building.

Photo credit: Dr. John Church

Those who worked on the project, including Mehta, partners from the university and Solar Earth Technologies and the 30-plus members of the project team, are celebrating the grand opening of the compass at the university on Thursday. Faculty, students and community volunteers have all helped bring it to life.

“We had people from basically six to 80 working on this project in one way or another” Mehta said.

“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.”

The creation of the solar compass on campus follows a smaller solar sidewalk that was completed near the end of the summer. The sidewalk is made up of 16 solar modules and should produce enough electricity to power the Sustainability Office, Mehta said.

“We're looking forward to seeing how it will perform in the spring and summer,” he said. “We haven't had a chance to look at the peak months of production yet.”

Photo credit: Dr. John Church

The solar compass and sidewalk projects are the first of their kind in Canada. A sustainability grant from the university paid for installation and all the modules were donated by Solar Earth Technologies, a startup company based in Vancouver.

“There were no standards in Canada yet for testing things and for approving them for certification for use,” Mehta said, “so that was a lot of the work we had to do was working with the company to develop a product, develop the installation methodology and then work with certifying agencies to test it to the standards that we need. So, we had to create the standard.”

Mehta has been blogging about the solar compass project and its progress. Learn more about the project and how it came together, here.

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