It’s easier to be green: former Red Deer Polytechnic students honoured provincially for solar energy project
28, Sep, 2021
EDMONTON, Sept. 28, 2021 – With climate issues heating up and the need to reduce carbon footprints more pressing than ever, a former team of Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP) engineering technology students has come up with a bright idea: make installation of solar panels safer, easier and less expensive.
For their green innovation, the former team of Dean Lunde, Alex Morrison, Ethan Fisher, and Ken Wright has been honoured as a provincial finalist for the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta’s (ASET) Capstone Project of the Year Award.
Solar panels attached to the roof of a home harness energy from the sun and convert it into clean electricity. They are durable, long-lasting and low-maintenance. As they’ve gained in popularity due to their effectiveness in mitigating fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprints, their cost per watt has decreased. However, installation is pricy because it requires the service of technicians with specialized skills who charge high hourly rates.
Current roof solar panel designs usually have at least four anchors with flashing for each panel, necessitating the drilling of holes into the roof and additional effort to ensure that those penetrations don’t cause leaks.
The former RDP team sought to prove it was possible to build a clip-type support structure for the solar panels and components. They created a prototype for a mounting system that can be assembled far more easily and quickly than your average piece of IKEA furniture, is simple to install, does not require roof-penetrating anchors, and minimizes the time and tools involved while on the roof of the house. This means that the process costs less, is safer, and optimizes a return on investment.
“It only takes a couple of common tools to assemble it - a screwdriver and wrench - and it can be done easily by two people in 15 minutes,” said Lunde.
“It’s refreshing to see these engineering technology students develop a new take on green technology by making it more affordable and user-friendly,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh.
The use of solar power dates back to 3rd Century BC when Romans and Greeks focused mirrors on torches to light them for religious ceremonies. Fast-forward to 1958 when Bell Labs invented the first solar cell with sufficient efficiency to run everyday equipment.
According to Solar Alberta, Alberta has an excellent, largely untapped solar resource that currently provides less than one per cent of the province’s electrical grid’s make-up. It also has the second highest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, ranking closely behind Saskatchewan.
The former RDP team’s project is one of seven finalists named by ASET for the Capstone Project of the Year Award. The winning project will be announced in late autumn this year.
In addition to handing out the Capstone Project of the Year Award to deserving engineering technology students, the ASET Education and Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships, bursaries and educational funding to enhance and support the education of students pursuing engineering technology studies.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 16,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET