Thompson Rivers University (TRU) will soon showcase a transformative new “solar roadway” technology, so new that it may be the first in Canada. A team of faculty, staff and students has learned that the Solar Compass project will receive funding of $36,000 from the TRU Sustainability Grant Fund and the project will now go ahead. The new technology involves thick glass plates that can be walked or driven on and have an embedded photovoltaic layer. The team will install these modules into the pavement at the entrance to the TRU Arts and Education (AE) building, within the decorative compass that is there already and gives the project its name: Solar Compass project.
The modules are expected to generate 9700 kWh/year of electricity over the planned 25-30 year lifetime, enough to run forty computers operating 8 hours/day. The project has an educational focus too. A monitoring system will be on display online and inside the AE Building, showing electricity production in real-time with easily accessible historical data. This will be available to a wide range of academic and vocational courses on campus.
The project team is led by Dr. Michael Mehta of TRU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and includes a number of faculty, staff and students as well as Kamloops community members. Grant funding is the final piece of the arrangement that will make it possible to proceed with installation over the coming year. Dr. Mehta says,
“The Solar Compass is an example of how universities can collaborate with the private sector and non-profit sector to develop sustainable energy technologies that have the potential to make a difference. Only by working together can we unleash the power of creativity needed to make a lasting and significant contribution to a world increasingly threatened by climate change.”
Solar Earth Technologies, a corporate partner based in Vancouver, provides the underlying technology and the product modules used in the Solar Compass project. The company plans to revolutionize the infrastructure of Canadian roadways with their Solar-Powered Roadways and Electric Vehicles (SPREV) system, paving roadways and paths with photovoltaic materials. They will donate the solar modules worth up to $60,000 for the pilot project at TRU and provide ongoing consultation on installation and maintenance. The company has also partnered with the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan for engineering trials. The solar modules have a photovoltaic layer with PMS (Photovoltaic Mosaic System) technology and are designed for pedestrian and light-vehicle traffic.
Jason Wang, Chair of the Board of Directors for Solar Earth Technologies, says,
“Solar Earth Technologies is proud to be a partner with Dr. Mehta’s team on this exciting Solar Compass project. We are very much impressed by this team’s creativity, efficiency, and particularly its passion and leadership in practicing sustainable social and community growth. While walking through the TRU campus, I was excited and moved by many details of designs and decorations that are implemented with renewable energy elements on campus. One is immediately assured that this is a serious campus embracing the spirit of sustainability.”
“The Solar Compass project is a powerful addition to the passion and practice already developed by TRU. Once commissioned, the Solar Compass will represent a new footprint in the journey towards ubiquitous solar energy harvest and utilization.”
Riverside Energy Systems, another corporate partner, will be the consultant and installer of the electrical components for the project, and will provide ongoing maintenance and warranty work as required. The Kamloops Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA Kamloops) is a community partner leading the project’s marketing efforts.
The Solar Compass joins a small handful of solar roadway examples around the world. SolaRoad, a 70 m long bicycle path with embedded solar panels, has been in operation in Krommenie, Netherlands, since late 2014. A similar project called Solar Roadways is underway in the U.S. The French government recently announced that it will complete 1000 km of solar roads over the next five years. One exciting aspect of this technology is its use of existing infrastructure so that additional land space for solar arrays is not needed. Another is its potential as “smart infrastructure,” which pairs electricity generation with vehicle navigation, embedded lighting and signage, and dynamic wireless charging of electric vehicles.
The Solar Compass team looks forward to moving ahead with the project and thanks the TRU Sustainability Grant Fund, Solar Earth Technologies, Riverside Energy Systems and BCSEA Kamloops for their support.
Visit the project’s website: www.solarcompass.ca
For more information on the Solar Compass project, contact
Michael D. Mehta, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Thompson Rivers University
Tel: (250) 852-7275
For information on the solar modules with PMS technology, contact
Chair of the Board of Directors
Solar Earth Technologies
Tel: (604) 729-8865
Article by Cheryl Kabloona