North America's first solar powered sidewalk installed at TRU

By Vanessa Ybarra
July 28, 2017 - 5:30pm Updated: July 29, 2017 - 6:42am

KAMLOOPS — Two years into the making, a solar electric road surface was installed at Thompson Rivers University this week.

The project is the brainchild of an Environmental Studies professor at the University and is being touted as the first of its kind in North America.

It isn't your average electrical job.

TRU Geography and Environmental Studies Professor Michael Mehta, along with electronical students and instructors, wired the final pieces pieces of North America's first solar sidewalk at TRU Friday.

"It's exciting," said Mehta. "After two years of planning and a lot of meetings with our team, to be able to do this and see it in place is incredibly gratiying."

The solar sidewalk project is meant to demonstrate the role sidewalks and other everyday structures can play in conserving energy.

"Think of all the parking lots we have, driveways, sidewalks," said Mehta. "All of these places are just sitting there. They could be doing a lot more than just being driven or walked on."

For the past week, Mehta and TRU staff have been installing 16 solar modules donated from a Vancouver company onto one of the campus's sidewalks.

The panels collect the sunlight and then electrical wires underneath the surface transmit and convert the energy to the adjacent Sustainability Office. 

"It will power all the lights, computers, refrigerators, fans, pretty much everything in the building," said Mehta.

I've never worked on anything like it," said TRU Electrical Instructor Amie Schellenberg.

The solar sidewalk project is a test run for the Sustainability Department.

Their hope is to install a 64 solar panel courtyard outside the Arts and Education building by the end of summer.

Jim Gudjonson, Director of Sustainability at TRU, says the affordable cost of solar-powered products has been a big incentive in going more green.

The campus also installed a solar-powered roof atop its Student Union building in 2014.

"A lot of people think its stil really expensive but just in the last few years the costs have gone down by half so all of a sudden it's a lot more economical," said Gudjonson.

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