First northern Solar Energy Regional Test Center opens in Franklin Township

Various solar panels from different manufacturers will be exposed to colder weather to test their effectiveness.
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 7:41 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The U.S. Department of Energy’s newest solar energy Regional Test Center (RTC) was declared open on Tuesday.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Airport Boulevard in Franklin Township.

The goal of the RTC is to see how different solar panels react to various climates.

Panels of different styles and manufacturers line racks at Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APS LABS). These panels are observed by cameras around the clock to detect any changes.

“Understanding how different solar technologies perform in different climates helps us optimize the designs of systems being deployed in particular climatic regions,” said RTC Program Technical Lead Dr. Laurie Burnham.

Michigan Tech staff, industry representatives and state lawmakers met at the Center for a tour and the ceremony. This included MTU President Rick Koubek and U.S. Representative Jack Bergman.

The Center is the only northern site in the solar energy RTC collective.

“We have five such sites across the United States,” continued Burnham. “Each one has the same instrumentation, same operational protocols and maintenance protocols. So, they enable apples-to-apples comparisons from site to site, so we can really investigate and understand how different solar technologies perform in different climates.”

The U.P. was chosen because our temperatures and snowfall are ideal for testing panels in a cold climate. Solar trackers attached to the panels, which keep them angled toward the sun, are also being tested.

“We are building ten rows to test how our solar trackers do in cold climate areas,” said Array Technologies R&D Vice President Kyumin Lee. “We are seeking to develop technologies to respond to snow effectively so that our trackers continue to be a cost-effective solution even in the cold climate areas.”

More rows and panels will be installed at the Center for additional testing before wintertime.

For more information on the ceremony and the Center, click here.

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