This research and education project was developed in the context of our new Energy Concentration that is now offered to Mechanical Engineering (ME) students at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo). The paper will discuss how the project was developed, the learning experience of the student participants, the technical achievements of the multidisciplinary team, the resources being utilized and how the system will be used going forward for renewable energy research and education. Dr. Belanger, with ten years of experience in the solar industry prior to joining Cal Poly, understands very well the importance of combining both the “learn by doing” philosophy of Cal Poly and the multidisciplinary aspects of the renewable energy industry into the student development process.
The project is centered on the establishment of a well instrumented micro-grid on campus consisting of solar panels, both tracking and fixed, a small wind turbine and battery storage. During the summer of 2018, a team of two sophomore students coming from the Computer Engineering Program and the ME Program were tasked to modify an existing dual-axis solar tracker and develop a sun tracking controller for it. The multidisciplinary team of professors and students were able to implement a manual control and all the necessary upgrades to the dual axis tracker. The autonomous tracking controller was fully implemented during the academic year 2018-19 by the same team of students and professors.
During the summer of 2019, a comprehensive plan for the implementation of the micro-grid was completed including modeling of a small off grid home to size the components of the system. To reach our goal of building the micro-grid we have initiated a Senior Design Project group of four students to build a versatile fixed mount for solar panels during the 2019-2020 academic year. Using an independent study, we are also including a student interested in instrumentation design. Recently we have contacted the Wind Energy Club at Cal Poly to help design a data acquisition system for the wind energy component of the new micro-grid.
The paper will show how we are integrating on campus resources such as the Cal Poly Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which funded the work in the summer of 2018, senior projects, independent studies, on campus research grants and external funding sources such as PG&E (a driving force behind our new energy concentration) into this project.
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June 22, 2020, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 26, 2021
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