University of Vermont

Jeffords Hall

Biodigesters and Solar PV trackers

by Ryan Darlow '12, UVM Clean Energy Fund Intern


After finishing the reports on the solar PV and the report on wind turbines the project has entered its final stages. CHA will be completing final edits of the reports that we have submitted so far. At this point we are editing each other’s reports and ensuring that they are complete. A few smaller reports will be created for some of the less complicated feasibility studies. For instance next week, I will be working on a report discussing the potential for bio-digesters used to break down the compost generated each day at UVM.

This week we also visited AllEarth Renewables, based in Williston Vermont. At their headquarters they assemble their signature product, the AllSun Tracker. These trackers are solar PV tracking devices. This means that they have hydraulics connected to a control system that ensures the panels on the tracker face directly into the sun at all times of day every day of the year. This design of solar tracker yields that greatest efficiency for solar panels. They can produce at least 25% more electricity than a fixed mount panel. Even though these trackers cannot be spaced as close to one another as a fixed mount system, and cost more to install, their increased output can reduce their payback period. Solar trackers have additional moving part compared to their fixed counterparts which means they also require more maintenance than fixed mount units. Learning about these solar trackers and seeing the 2.13 MW solar farm in South Burlington was very exciting and interesting. To date that is the largest solar tracker farm in Vermont. I was impressed how the modular concepts that are applied in the design of each individual unit is also applied on a larger scale system. This allows the design to be more robust and reduces complications with installation.

Learning about these additional types of solar panels and other renewable energy technologies is very interesting. I have less experience with these systems and many questions about why solar trackers may be better than fixed units. Also it was interesting to begin learning about bio-digesters which convert food, animal and plant waste into methane and compost. I am interested in learning about what happens with the feasibility of this system at UVM.