The Power of Partnerships
While the erratic nature of Nova Scotia’s weather may be a regular topic of conversation and source of concern for its residents, a new research partnership between Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and Green Power Labs, Inc. is counting on stormy skies to give them bright results.
The solar energy sector is gaining worldwide momentum and it is a resource from which Nova Scotia could reap significant benefits, both as a consumer and a developer. However, until now there has not been conclusive information on the effects of unique maritime weather characteristics on the performance of solar panels. Some solar-energy systems can be extremely sensitive to the presence of even a small amount of ice or shading on the panels, causing a disruption to their ability to produce electricity or heat. With extreme conditions such as fog, snow, ice, salt spray and rapidly changing winter temperatures, Nova Scotia offers a unique testing ground for the efficacy of solar panels.
Using test sites at NSCC’s new Centre for the Built Environment (CBE) at the Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth, principal researcher Dr. Alain Joseph, along with students from the school’s Applied Energy Research Lab will spend the next two years collecting data and measuring the performance of solar panels in partnership with Dartmouth-based solar energy consultants, Green Power Labs.
Using specialized equipment like heat-sensing cameras, Dr. Joseph and his students will gather data to help determine optimal positioning, maintenance and design of solar panels in order to get the very best production of energy. By measuring how much a panel is compromised by weather it will allow for a more accurate calculation of the return on investment of installation. The findings will be of significant commercial value to Green Power Labs, providing a greater understanding as they plan and implement solar technology for their customers across Canada and around the world.
Helping to facilitate this research partnership were Springboard Atlantic funded NSCC representatives, Anne Campbell and Sarah Galley. Campbell and Galley assisted with a proposal to the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) which resulted in an award of $200,000 through NSERC’s College and Community Innovation (CCI) program to support the solar panel study. Campbell has also provided expertise and guidance in negotiating agreements and navigating the knowledge transfer process.
“This partnership provides an incredibly valuable opportunity for everyone involved,” says Dr. Joseph. “Our students get to participate in a real-world project with a company that is a leader in this field. The findings will enhance Green Power Labs’ understanding of solar technology, allowing them to be more innovative and competitive in the global marketplace. It’s a perfect illustration of the rich and mutually beneficial results that come from research and industry collaboration.”