Off-the-grid technology can present a problem for operators when it’s also out-of-reach. Toronto’s Clear Blue Technologies Inc. has more than two decades of experience in linking environmentally friendly green energy with the hardware and software necessary to monitor and manage it.
The company has worked with Centennial students and faculty several times over the years, most recently on a new piece of technology, the Macaw charge controller, which communicates vital information on off-grid hardware (including solar and wind-driven equipment) to remote operators. Macaw can provide users with a range of information, from functional problems to data on the amount of energy the green device is saving. Centennial College was instrumental in all facets of the device’s production and development.
Over the course of the project, Centennial did humidity and ambient temperature tests on the equipment, built the mechanical housing for motor generator sets, and installed a UGE wind turbine on campus, adding controllers and sensory equipment for monitoring.
Students fine-tuned campus solar panels by using Macaw algorithms, and designed the protective enclosure for its controller boards, factoring in corrosion, UV, humidity and other variables. Afterward, they built a prototype and tested its ability to communicate.
Co-op student Anna Serbina was involved in the first testing on Macaw. She found that her responsibilities increased along with the challenges did, but says “the teamwork environment was helpful when it came to asking questions.” Anna describes her experience as “extremely hands on.” She is one of three co-op students hired by Clear Blue after their work terms.
The project has also had an impact on Centennial’s curriculum, according to Frank Levstek, innovation program manager for Centennial’s Applied Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Services. College faculty, he says, are using Macaw controllers in labs as a teaching aid.