First robotic solar system in Europe installed at South West College

Pictured at the installation of the robotic solar system are Alistair Fell (Castillium) Aaron Black (South West College) and Chris Larsen (QBotix)
Pictured at the installation of the robotic solar system are Alistair Fell (Castillium) Aaron Black (South West College) and Chris Larsen (QBotix)

The first of a new generation of solar PV systems has been installed at the South West College campus in Enniskillen.

The 48kW array has been installed to supply renewable power to the new CREST (Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technology) Passive Pavilion being built on the site. The system is designed to fully meet the annual energy requirement of the new Passive Pavilion allowing the building to be Carbon Neutral.

The project utilises an intelligent Robotic Tracking System for the first time in Europe. The robots, which travel on rails between the solar Photovoltaic panels, ensure that the panels are accurately aligned to capture the maximum possible amount of solar irradiation all day, every day.

This new approach of using robots to track the sun like a sun flower, allows the system to maximise energy generation, at significantly lower installation and operational costs than more traditional dual axis tracking systems, which require more infrastructure and maintenance.

Commenting on this new installation Aaron Black from South West College said: “This is a very exciting development for the college and forms part of our drive to build a SMART region in Fermanagh. To be able to install and demonstrate world class, cutting edge equipment like this not only shows our commitment to renewable energy and innovative technology but also offers excellent opportunities for our students to gain knowledge on technology which is at the highest international level.”

The technology has been installed by a partnership of Edinburgh based Castillium and California based QBotix and is the first in Europe using the QBotix technology. The system has already hosted visitors from Australia keen to view the technology involved and the technical details of the installation.

Alistair Fell a Director of Castillium said: “We’re delighted to have installed the first solar photovoltaic Robotic Tracking System in Europe as part of South West College’s new technology campus; the ability to use robots to improve generation from solar PV systems in the UK by between 25% and 35%; at a lower cost than other tracking systems, represents an exciting step forward for the UK.”

The new solar system will also be used as a demonstration and training item for students across the range of renewable energy, manufacturing and electronics based curriculum offered by the college.