Starlight – Retrofit Solar Panels for Streetlights. Part 1

Planning and developing a project such as the Trimmers Solar Farm in is an epic undertaking. Yet it does have an advantage. A Solar Farm is a tested concept. It has been done many times before and so the idea is proven. A project like our Retrofit solar Panels for Streetlights (named ‘Starlight’) is a different matter.  Finding investors to back the project, even after the demonstration of ground breaking innovation, back up by swish video presentations is not enough. It’s a matter of confidence. Someone may get excited and intrigued about such an idea.  But to give their hard earned cash over means is another matter. Proof is needed. I returned to my original place of study at the University of Brighton to see if they can help. Originally I was looking for a partnership to aid develop the project, until a head lecturer of Engineering  made the suggestion to submit the project as a possible final year project for a group of Postgraduate Students. And I did so.

The project has been picked up by a group of four promising students and a meeting has taken place, wherein we talked about the elements needed to move this innovation forwards. That is, proof of concept and feasibility. A simulated pilot study, based in Brighton, is needed to show that the idea is viable. Innovation vouchers has been applied for the sum of £5000, and if successful, will be used for prototyping.

There are many considerations to be made. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has released a document regarding the road map for the UK PV strategy. The document outlines key considerations towards the increases of photovoltaic innovation and deployment. It points towards key issues, such as the increased load on the grid and how this will be dealt with. Starlight (our panels) will primarily be feed into a town or cities local power network. Starlight modules differs form say a Solar Farm which feeds into the grid on a national level, and so will have different technical considerations. On a local level, battery storage banks may be needed to cope with this extra load generated by Starlight modules. Starlight modules are small individual units that will require their own custom microinverters and monitoring technology. They will need to be affordable and resistant to wind buffering and exposure. Due to their urban location, they will need to be secure. These are only a handful of the considerations that will need to be address during this project.

This continuing blog will follow the progress of this project and will be an example to how such proof of concept develops with new innovations. The MSc students have just submitted their proposal to their course leader and already interest from a key member of Brighton council has been noted. It will be exciting to see how this progresses over course.