Lighting the way

A solar monitoring and control system helps determine the most efficient use of captured energy

24 | businesslondon.ca | NOVEMBER 2012 FROM LEFT Vinay Sharma, CEO of London Hydro, along with Fanshawe student Jonathan Dayus and chair of industrial research, John Makaran IS SOLAR ENERGY an option in making London's power grid more effi cient? Researchers at Fanshawe College are trying to fi nd out. Working with London Hydro, Fanshawe teachers and students are exploring the potential of photovoltaic (PV) technology to deliver practical and aff ordable power, and their work could have far-reaching eff ects on energy delivery in the years to come. Specifi cally, researchers are looking at ways to help local utilities manage peak demand loads more eff ectively, which could save taxpayers a lot of money in the long term. Several years ago, Fanshawe installed two 440-watt PV arrays on trackers on top of one its buildings. Th e arrays are made up of solar panels and are being used to develop an algorithm that determines how energy from a PV array should be used-whether it should be stored, consumed or sold back to the grid. Th e algorithm will consider climate conditions, energy costs, storage battery charge, energy consumption patterns and other variables that aff ect effi ciency. The project has been successful in developing a real-time monitoring and control system and display that uses information from a weather station and cloud camera or satellite imagery. Th at information is merged with real-time energy prices to monitor energy output from the array and calculate the potential savings from feeding energy back to the grid. Th e system also includes monitoring, control and safety functions not normally found in similar PV array systems. Fanshawe's system is configured to allow a variety of usage combinations. For example, one array can track the sun while the other remains stationary as a way of studying the value of tracking versus non-tracking setups. Panels, inverters and batteries from different manufacturers can also be validated in the system. Vinay Sharma, CEO of London Hydro, is impressed with the scope of the initiative and the results it may achieve. "London Hydro has been very pleased to partner with Fanshawe College in furthering research in green energy technologies," Sharma says. "We are always looking for ways to support ventures that could benefi t our customers. In this case, we are proud to provide sponsorship for the PV array project and hope that the results of the study could provide additional green generation to our distribution system. It is a great example of community innovation in action that has captured our attention and interest."

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